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30 Oct 2020 Lvl. 1
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 05 Oct 2018 n° 107/2018 Turkey

Saudi Journalist Disappears During Visit to Saudi Consulate in Turkey

Source of threatUnknown
CategoryImpunity for murder
Partner Index AEJ EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner Index AEJ EFJ/IFJ
A Saudi journalist who is a fierce critic of the Saudi regime vanished on 2 October 2018 during a visit to a Saudi consulate in Turkey, the Washington Post reported. Jamal Khashoggi is a regular contributor to the Washington Post, in which capacity he has for the past year documented the changes taking place in Saudi Arabia, where the authorities under Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman claim to be implementing a reform process. He disappeared after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, where according to the Washington Post he went “to complete routine paperwork”. Khashoggi was accompanied to the consulate by his fiancée, who was not allowed to go inside with him. He was also required to surrender his mobile phone on entering the building. As of 5 October, Khashoggi had not re-emerged from the building and there was no further word from him.
Updates
New 30 Oct 2020
Two years after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and given the final verdict issued by the Riyadh Criminal Court, the partner organisations decided to transfer this case to the category of “Impunity for murder”, emphasising that in order to prevent impunity, every person involved in a crime must be brought to justice, and convicted.
New 23 Oct 2020
On 20 October 2020, Khashoggi’s fiancée Hatice Cengiz and Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), an advocacy organisation Khashoggi founded before he died, sued Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and over 20 other Saudis for damages over their involvement in Khashoggi’s killing before a District of Columbia federal court. The lawsuit was filed under the Torture Victim Protection Act and the Alien Tort Statute, which give United States courts jurisdiction over certain types of offences located in other countries.
New 08 Sep 2020
On 7 September 2020, the Riyadh Criminal Court issued final verdicts in the case regarding the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, sentencing five defendants to the maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Another person received a 10-year sentence, and two others were ordered to serve seven years in prison. The names of the defendants remain undisclosed. In December 2019, the Court had ruled that the killing was not premeditated, paving the way for Khashoggi’s heirs to pardon the killers and sparing them the death penalty. In a statement, Fahrettin Altun, Director of Communication at the Turkish Presidency said : "The final verdict that a Saudi court issued [today] regarding journalist Jamal Khashoggi's execution inside the Kingdom's consulate in Istanbul fell short of meeting the expectations of Turkey and the international community", adding "We still don't know what happened to Khashoggi's body, who wanted him dead or if there were local collaborators, which casts doubt on the credibility of the legal proceedings in KSA. We urge the Saudi authorities to cooperate with the ongoing murder investigation in Turkey."
03 Jul 2020
On 3 July 2020, the trial in absentia of 20 Saudi in connection with the killing of Jamal Khashoggi started in Istanbul. In March , the Istanbul prosecutor has indicted former deputy head of Saudi Arabia's general intelligence, Ahmed al-Asiri, and former royal court adviser Saud al-Qahtani of instigating "premeditated murder with monstrous intent", and 18 other men on charges of carrying out the murder. If convicted, they face possible life sentences.
27 Dec 2019
On 23 December 2019, the Riyadh Criminal Court sentenced five individuals to death for "committing and directly participating in the murder of the victim", according to the public prosecution's statement.Three others were handed prison sentences totalling 24 years for "covering up this crime and violating the law", while three were found not guilty. A total of 31 individuals were investigated over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and 21 of them were arrested. Eleven were eventually referred to trial at the Riyadh Criminal Court. The Turkish foreign ministry said the decision of the Saudi court " is far from meeting the expectations of both our country and the international community for enlightening all aspects of this murder and for the manifestation of justice."
14 Mar 2019
On 14 March 2019, the Committee to Protect Journalists in collaboration with 10 human rights and press freedom groups sent a letter to the House Foreign Affairs Committee aiming to urge congressional action in the pursuit of justice for murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
22 Oct 2018
On 22 October 2018, Saudi Arabia admitted that the journalist was killed in the Saudi consulate on 2 October by a “rogue operation”, arrested 18 people involved in the operation and fired top security officials. On 23 October, Turkey’s President addressing the legislators from the Justice and Development Party, called the killing a political murder and stated that the Turkish intelligence and security institutions have sufficient evidence showing the murder was planned and that “pinning such a case on a handful of security and intelligence members will not be sufficient to satisfy the international community”.
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30 Oct 2020 Lvl. 1
State replied
Alert created on: 26 Feb 2018 n° 18/2018 Slovak Republic

Slovak Investigative Journalist Ján Kuciak Killed at Home

Source of threatUnknown
CategoryImpunity for murder
Partner Index Article 19 AEJ CPJ ECPMF EFJ/IFJ INSI IPI PEN RSF
Partner Index Article 19 AEJ CPJ ECPMF EFJ/IFJ INSI IPI PEN RSF
Investigative journalist Ján Kuciak, who had been reporting on tax fraud, was shot dead at his home, news website Dennik N reported, citing the Interior Ministry. According to Dennik N, the murder took place in the journalist’s house in the village of Veľká Mača 5 km east of the capital Bratislava, some time between 22 and 25 February 2018 . Kuciak was shot in the chest and his fiancée was shot in the head. Kuciak worked for Slovak news website Aktuality.sk.
Updates
New 30 Oct 2020
More than two years after the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak, and given the outcome of the trial held before the Specialised Criminal Court of Pezinoc, the partner organisations decided to transfer this case to the category of “Impunity for murder”, emphasising that in order to prevent impunity, every person involved in a crime must be brought to justice, and convicted.
New 03 Sep 2020
On 3 September 2020, citing a lack of evidence, a Court in Pesinok acquitted businessman Marián Kočner who had been accused of masterminding the murder of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée. The judges also cleared co-defendant Alena Zsuzsová of involvement in the killings. A third defendant, Tomáš Szabó, who was accused of being at the murder scene and driving the getaway vehicle, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for his role. State prosecutors pledged to appeal the verdict acquitting the suspects.
07 Apr 2020
On 6 April 2020, the Specialised Criminal Court in Pezinok sentenced Miroslav Marček, a former soldier, to 23 years in prison for the killing of journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée. Marcek had admitted killing Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova.
02 Jan 2020
On 30 December 2019, a senate of the Specialised Criminal Court (STS) in Pezinok (Bratislava region) sentenced Zoltán Andruskó to 15 years in jail for the premeditated murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak. The verdict is final, as Zoltán Andruskó consented to a plea bargain. He is the only one of the five people charged in connection with the murder who has cooperated with the investigators. He confessed to having acted as the go-between passing the murder order from Alena Zsuzsová, a close collaborator of Marian Kočner, who faces charges of ordering the murder of Ján Kuciak, to the hitmen, Miroslav Marček and Tomáš Szabó.
20 Dec 2019
On 19 December 2019, the Special Criminal Court in Bratislava accepted the indictment of four suspects accused of ordering and carrying out the murder of Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová. The decision paves the way for trial to begin on 13 January 2020.
21 Oct 2019
On 21 October 2019, a Slovak prosecutor charged four persons in the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak.
14 Mar 2019
On 8 March 2019, the prosecutor's office formally charged businessman Marian Kočner with ordering the murder of Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová.
01 Oct 2018
On 27-28 September 2018, the Slovak police detained nine suspects in connection with the murder of the journalist and his fiancée. Four of them were later charged and put into police custody on the grounds that they might try to influence witnesses if freed on bail.
State replies
19 Mar 2019
Statement of the Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the Council of Europe
27 Feb 2018
Statement of the Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the Council of Europe
Follow-ups
23 Aug 2019
On 22 August 2019, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) evaluated the effectiveness of the existing framework to prevent corruption in central government and law enforcement agencies and published a series of recommendations aimed at strengthening transparency, integrity and accountability in public life.
14 Mar 2019
OSCE Representative commends indictment against instigator of murders of journalist Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová in Slovakia
22 Feb 2019
CoE Human Rights Commissioner encouraged by the various developments in the murder investigations, which so far have led to the arrest of four persons suspected of being involved in the murders, and the possible identification of one person who may have ordered them. However, she calls for extreme vigilance to guarantee the independence of the investigation.
01 Oct 2018
OSCE media freedom representative welcomes important progress in investigation of murders of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová in Slovakia.
16 Mar 2018
Following his country visit in the Slovak Republic, the Commissioner calls for a prompt and effective investigation in the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak in order to identify and punish the perpetrators, but especially those who ordered the murders. He also calls for an urgent public discussion about media freedom.
02 Mar 2018
OSCE media freedom representative calls for full and transparent investigation of journalist’s murder at meeting with Slovak Prime Minister Fico
01 Mar 2018
PACE President condemns murder of investigative journalist in the Slovak Republic
26 Feb 2018
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media representative strongly condemns murder of investigative reporter Kuciak in Slovakia
26 Feb 2018
"If death of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak is linked to his journalism, it would be an unprecedented attack on freedom of the press and democracy".
26 Feb 2018
Human Rights Commissioner: "I will raise the issue during upcoming visit to the country."
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30 Oct 2020 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 24 Sep 2020 n° 110/2020 Bulgaria

Bulgarian Reporter Martin Georgiev Summoned for Questioning over Request for Comment

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner CPJ AEJ IPI
No state reply yet
Partner CPJ AEJ IPI
On 14 September 2020, police in Sofia summoned Martin Georgiev, a crime reporter at the local daily Sega, for questioning after he e-mailed the Ministry of Interior for comment on alleged police brutality amid recent anti-government protests. On 2 September, riot police had beaten and pepper sprayed demonstrators and reporters, as CPJ documented at the time.
In his request for comment, Georgiev sent questions about alleged police brutality, photos from social media and news stories depicting officers’ use of pepper spray and brass knuckles, and questions about the legality of police actions.
At the police station, officers told Georgiev that they treated his request for comment as a criminal complaint, and questioned him about the protests and asked him to provide an official statement. When Georgiev refused to speak without a lawyer present, the officers released him after about half an hour.
“As a crime reporter, I usually send hundreds of questions every year to the police and the Ministry of the Interior,” Georgiev told CPJ. “I see this questioning as a warning that journalists are not supposed to ask certain questions to the police.”
In a statement, the Association of European Journalists(AEJ) in Bulgaria said that, instead of answering the reportert’s request, the questioning was “an attempt at intimidation and repression, which probably aims to make the media not interested in such illegal actions of the police.”
A Ministry of the Interior spokesperson said that police treated Georgiev’s questions as a complaint and summoned him because his e-mail included photos of police officers committing “possible violations”. CPJ e-mailed the Ministry of Interior for comment, but did not receive any reply.
Updates
New 30 Oct 2020
On 22 October 2020, police again summoned Georgiev for questioning over his journalistic work, an act Sega editor-in-chief Teodora Peeva described as intimidation. At the police station on 26 October, Georgiev was told he was summoned in connection with a complaint lodged by a guard working for the National Security Service, stating that someone had published information from the public registry about his properties, from which he had received threats online. The same guard had previously been involved in a scandal when he had been photographed throwing the national flag on the floor during an incident at the residence of the leader of the DPS political party, which is a crime in Bulgaria. Teodora told CPJ that Sega was one of many outlets that had reported on the incident and published the photo of the guard throwing the flag but Sega never published the name of the guard on their website or Facebook page. Georgiev did not post anything about the guard on his Facebook page either. As part of standard research, Sega had looked up the name of the guard in the public register, which any citizen of Bulgaria can do, but nothing was published. A prosecutor then decided to check the names of everyone who had looked in the public register, which requires users to leave their name, and Georgiev was one of three people who did so. Teodora said there was no basis under the law for such a summons. “As [Georgiev] is only 23 years old and has not had a lot of experience with such situations, they try to scare him”, she said, adding that he had been told at the questioning that the request had come from a prosecutor.
Follow-ups
27 Oct 2020
New CoE Human Rights Commissioner calls for “a comprehensive response” to counter SLAPPs effectively.
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30 Oct 2020 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 30 Oct 2020 n° 131/2020 Russian Federation

Police Detain, Interrogate Journalist Yana Toporkova, Raid Her Home

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner CPJ
No state reply yet
Partner CPJ
On 2 October 2020, three men in plainclothes who identified themselves as police officers raided journalist Yana Toporkova’s flat in the village of Yablonovskiy, seized her laptop, phone, router, and notes, and detained her, according to news reports. Following the raid, the officers drove Toporkova, a reporter for the news agency Region Online, to Cherkessk, a city more than 300 kilometres from Yablonovskiy, where they questioned her as a witness in an investigation into alleged false information published on Instagram by the news website Politika 09. CPJ documented that in June, Russian authorities opened an investigation into the website for allegedly “disseminating false news” in its reports on the COVID-19 pandemic, charges which the outlet denied.

Toporkova told CPJ that during the drive to Cherkessk, the police officers told her that they had tapped her phone, and tried to persuade her to work with them generally and in relation to the Politika 09 investigation. When they arrived in Cherkessk at about 9 p.m., the officers took Toporkova to the Ministry of Interior’s Centre for Combatting Terrorism, where they played a recording of a July 2020 phone conversation she had with a friend, she said, adding that the audio did not link her to Politika 09. She was then released and told to come back the next day. On 3 October, officers interrogated Toporkova at the Investigative Committee office in Cherkessk in the presence of her lawyer, Aleksey Shestak. After questioning, the officers released her, saying that she was considered a witness in the investigation into Politika 09. Toporkova told CPJ that she had no connection to Politika 09 and that as of today, her working equipment had not been returned.

Aleksey Avanesyan, another lawyer representing Toporkova, told CPJ that he had filed a request to the Karachay-Cherkessia Investigative Committee to return Toporkova’s equipment and reimburse 1,000 rubles (€11) she spent on transportation home from the interrogation, as mandated by Russian law. He also asked the Investigative Committee to present the court’s approval of the warrant for the raid on Toporkova’s flat, and protested that police took the journalist to an interrogation site without any previous warning or summons. Avanesyan told CPJ that he still has not received any response from authorities. CPJ e-mailed the Investigative Committee of Karachay-Cherkessia for comment but did not receive any response.
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30 Oct 2020 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 30 Oct 2020 n° 131/2020 Italy

Italian Journalist Mimmo Rubio Threatened over Coverage of COVID-19 Protests and Organised Crime

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryAttacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists
Partner CPJ
No state reply yet
Partner CPJ
On 19 October 2020, a group of about 20 people driving scooters and demonstrating against the COVID-19 lockdown in Arzano, in southern Italy, staged a protest at journalist Mimmo Rubio’s home and a nearby government building, shouting threats and insults at the journalist and yelling for him to leave the city, which forced Rubio to barricade himself in his home, according to news reports.

Rubio works as a freelance journalist who manages Arzano News, a Facebook page covering local issues, including organised crime and protests against COVID-19 containment measures. Senator Sandro Rutolo told Federazione Nazionale Stampa Italiana (FNSI), an independent trade group, that he suspected the threats were linked to local organised crime. According to a report by Ossigeno, an organisation that tracks violence against journalists, Rubio is worried about his safety and that of his mother, who lives with him, and he was assigned special police protection on 22 October. Rubio confirmed the reports to CPJ but declined to comment further.

Previously, on 16 October, Rubio had been surrounded, threatened, and insulted by a group of anti-lockdown protesters while covering a demonstration, according to a report by Sindacato Unitario Giornalisti della Campania (SUGC), a regional trade group. Before that, he had received dozens of threatening letters including envelopes containing bullets from local organised crime groups, and in 2018 people had exploded fireworks outside his home. CPJ e-mailed the municipal police in Arzano for comment but did not receive any reply.
Freelancers

Key information :

Mimmo Rubio works as a freelance journalist who manages Arzano News, a Facebook page covering local issues
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30 Oct 2020 Lvl. 1
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 30 Oct 2020 n° 131/2020 Poland

Gazeta Wyborcza Journalists Magda Kozioł and Joanna Urbańska-Jaworska Assaulted by Masked Men while Covering Women’s March

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryAttacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists
Partner IPI Article 19 AEJ
No state reply yet
Partner IPI Article 19 AEJ
At around 8.30 p.m. on 28 October 2020, Gazeta Wyborcza journalist Magda Kozioł was hit in the stomach and thrown to the ground as she tried to film a group of 30 black-clad men during a woman’s march in Wrocław. She was treated in hospital for minor injuries, according to Piotr Stasiński, Gazeta Wyborcza deputy editor. During the same incident, Gazeta Wyborcza reporter Joanna Urbańska-Jaworska was dragged and thrown to the ground by another masked man, who knocked the camera out of her hands. The situation was filmed by a reporter from Radio GRA and both incidents were reported to the police. Gazeta Wyborcza reported on 29 October that a man suspected of carrying out the attack on Kozioł was detained by the police and had belonged to a football hooligan group. “We stand in protest against the barbaric attack and guarantee that we will do everything to ensure that the perpetrators responsible for the assault face justice,” Gazeta Wyborcza said in a statement. The two journalists had been covering the women's march and had noticed the presence of masked men who had joined as part of counter demonstrations.
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29 Oct 2020 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 29 Oct 2020 n° 129/2020 Hungary

Police Question Journalists over an Article

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner CPJ IPI
No state reply yet
Partner CPJ IPI
On 26 October 2020, the business crime unit of the Fejér County police, summoned Gabriella Horn, a reporter for the investigative news outlet Átlátszó, to appear for questioning. The move followed a summons for questioning to Balázs Gulyás, a reporter for the independent news website Magyar Hang, on 22 October 2020. Magyar Hang and Átlátszó said that the summonses followed their publication on 8 May and 15 May, respectively, of reports on two military-grade armoured vehicles parked on the estates of a company owned by Lőrinc Mészáros in the town of Bicske, on the basis of drone footage.

Mészáros is a former gas pipe-fitter and a friend of Prime Minister Viktor Orbán who successfully went into business. Horn and Gulyás said they were summoned as witnesses in a criminal probe into suspected illicit data collection by unknown perpetrators — a criminal offense punishable with a maximum prison sentence of three years, according to section 422 of the Hungarian criminal code. According to Horn, the questioning — where she appeared without a lawyer — ended with signed testimony in which police asked why she wrote her article, why she thought it was newsworthy, who her sources were, who made the drone footage, and who authorised the publication of the article. In the testimony, Horn told police that she “wanted to verify information swirling in the press about armoured vehicles stationing on the estate and find out how dangerous the vehicles are, as she thought this fact might be of interest for the public. This was confirmed by the high number of visitors the article attracted.” Horn refused to answer questions about her sources but named the cameraman who made the footage and the editor-in chief of Átlátszó, who authorised publication. Gulyás said that police told him the investigation followed a criminal complaint filed by a company owned by Mészáros refused to answer any questions concerning his sources, on who made the recording and who authorised the article, and included a paragraph in his testimony protesting the interrogation as judicial harassment and an attack on press freedom. Balázs Tóth, Átlátszó’s lawyer, said the police investigation is unfounded as the journalists did not use drone recording to invade privacy but to verify information of public interest.
In reply questions from CPJ, Lieutenant Colonel Tamás Henyecz of the business crime unit of the Fejér County police stated that his investigation proceeded under a particular law regulating criminal procedures. On 5 May 2020, before the publication of the article, the communication department of Mészáros Group wrote to Magyar Hang to state that its use of assets was legal and had been reported to the authorities. Quoting section 2(48) of the Hungarian civil code, the e-mail requested Magyar Hang to ask for approval prior to producing and using video or audio recording, adding: “in the absence thereof, its disclosure constitutes an infringement.”
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27 Oct 2020 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 30 Sep 2020 n° 112/2020 Slovenia

39 Lawsuits against Journalists from Necenzurirano

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner Index ECPMF IPI
Partner Index ECPMF IPI
Rok Snežič, a friend and tax policy adviser to Prime Minister Janez Janša, has filed 39 lawsuits against three journalists from the online news outlet Necenzurirano.si.

Primož Cirman, Vesna Vuković and Tomaž Modic are facing 13 criminal defamation lawsuits each over a series of articles relating to Snežič’s business dealings and connections to a 2017 Bosnian loan to Janša's Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), worth €450,000. Under Slovenian law, criminal defamation is punishable with a fine or up to a year in prison.

The articles were initially published on Siol.net, and later on Necenzurirano.si. Since March 2020, when Janša's government came to power, Snežič repeatedly mentioned his intention to file the lawsuits in various media linked to SDS, Snežič's family members, and Hungarian companies linked to Viktor Orbán.

Cirman and his colleagues said the lawsuits are an effort to intimidate by draining them of time and money, and by attempting to damage their professional reputations.

The journalists have also been subject to smear campaigns in recent months. In August 2020, Snežič accused them of “cheating the taxpayers” and made sexist remarks about Vesna Vuković, accusing her of being an “intimate friend” of a former president of the Executive Council of the then-Socialist Republic of Slovenia.

In a 25 September statement, the Slovene Association of Journalists cautioned that the initiation of civil and criminal proceedings against journalists “may be abused to intimidate and financially and administratively deplete the media.” Prime Minister Janša subsequently retweeted a post from an SDS party member, who had tweeted “Panic!” along with a link to an article that accused the Association of putting “pressure on the court”.

In a 26 September tweet, the State Secretary for national security, Žan Mahnič, called for an investigation into Necenzurirano.si.
State replies
27 Oct 2020
Follow-ups
27 Oct 2020
New CoE Human Rights Commissioner calls for “a comprehensive response” to counter SLAPPs effectively.
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27 Oct 2020 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 15 Jul 2020 n° 84/2020 Poland

Warsaw Publishing House Broken into and Vandalised

Source of threatUnknown
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner Article 19 IPI
Partner Article 19 IPI
On 7 July 2020, unknown perpetrators broke into the headquarters of Maxmedia Publishing House in Warsaw, stole equipment and vandalised the walls. MaxMedia houses the “Fakty” Social Dialogue Magazine, VIP Magazine, Investment Market, and The Ambassador publications. The assailants broke the equipment, destroyed the server room, smashed furniture, and stole external hard drives from laptops and computers. A section of the wall at the reception was spray painted with a swastika. The message “Fakty TVN out” was painted nearby. It is believed that the perpetrators mistakenly targeted the office, believing it to be that of the major Polish television networks TVN, whose flagship news programme is called Fakty. The small "Fakty" Social Dialogue Magazine run by Maxmedia focuses on issues including economy, politics and social affairs, and has no link to TVN. The attack on the editorial office took place amidst a climate of hostility and verbal attacks on the media by politicians during the recent presidential election.
State replies
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27 Oct 2020 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 15 Jul 2020 n° 82/2020 Malta

British-Azerbaijani Businessman Threatens Defamation Actions against Five Media Outlets

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner ECPMF Article 19 Index
No state reply yet
Partner ECPMF Article 19 Index
Between 1 May and 26 June 2020, US-based law firm Lambert Worldwide and UK-based law firm Atkins Thomson sent letters to Times of Malta, MaltaToday, Malta Independent, Lovin Malta and The Shift News in relation to their reporting and journalistic enquiries on a wind farm deal in Montenegro and alleged connections between British-Azerbaijani entrepreneur Turab Musayev and Maltese business owner Yorgen Fenech, who is charged with complicity in the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.

On 1 May 2020, Lambert Worldwide send a “courtesy request” to Malta Today in relation to an article published on its website mentioning Mr. Musayev. It demanded that the media outlet remove the article or undertake actions such as “de-indexing the article, or perhaps, removing our client’s name from the article.” It further stated concern about the contents of the article and asserted that their client had suffered personally and professionally from its publication. However, the letter confirmed that “they are not permitted to reveal any details at this time,” and stated that “this letter does not constitute a notice of intent to take legal actions.”

On 29 May 2020, Times of Malta started to receive similar letters, after its journalist had sent questions to Mr. Musayev. Atkins Thomson wrote that: “not for the first time, we are concerned that you are in possession of confidential material and documentation, probably gathered illegally, and that you may unlawfully misuse the same.” The letter further stated that the lawyers will take all necessary steps to prevent defamation of their client. On 5 June 2020, Atkins Thomson contacted Times of Malta again, writing: “the fact that you still ask so many questions of our client proved beyond doubt that your research and information is wholly inadequate for your predetermined purposes,” and requesting Times of Malta to reveal its journalistic sources.

On 24 June 2020, Atkins Thomson sent another letter, contesting an opinion piece and news article published on Lovin Malta, and claiming that the articles were causing harm in London, where Mr. Musayev moved to in 2007 with his family. The lawyers requested Lovin Malta to withdraw the articles from its website and social media platforms, publish a retraction and apology, remove references to Mr. Musayev on Google and social media platforms, pay substantial compensation for the harm caused, and pay their client’s legal costs. On 26 June 2020, Atkins Thomson sent similar letters to Malta Today, Malta Independent and The Shift News, stating: “we have written to a number of publications and are taking legal action against others. We are currently considering your article. We will take all necessary action to protect and/or restore our client’s reputation if you publish any material that is defamatory of him.”
Follow-ups
27 Oct 2020
New CoE Human Rights Commissioner calls for “a comprehensive response” to counter SLAPPs effectively.
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Follow-ups to alerts Follow-ups to alerts

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

5 March 2016