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19 Sep 2019 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 10 Feb 2017 Malta

Malta Economy Minister Issues four Libel Suits and Warrants Against Blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ CPJ Index IPI RSF
Partner EFJ/IFJ CPJ Index IPI RSF
Malta Independent journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia is having her bank accounts frozen with precautionary warrants for 47,460 EUR after a court upheld on 8 February 2017 a request by Maltese Economy Minister Chris Cardona and his consultant Joe Gerada to issue garnishee orders alongside four libel suits they have filed against her.

The journalist is sued for publishing on her blog an article reporting that both men visited a brothel in Velbert (Germany) while on government business. Cardona has denied the allegation.

According to media reports, the effect of the precautionary warrants on her assets means her bank accounts will remain frozen until the case is concluded and that could take many years.

In a statement published on her blog, Daphne Caruana Galizia denounced an attempt to gag the press. The Institute of Maltese Journalists called on the minister to reconsider his action, highlighting the exaggerated nature of the legal action.
Updates
13 Sep 2018
34 libel proceedings remained open against Caruana Galizia after her assassination on 16 October 2017 and are pending before the domestic courts. Among them, one case brought by Malta's Prime Minister Joseph Muscat; two cases brought by Minister for Tourism Konrad Mizzi; two cases brought by the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff Keith Schembri; one case brought by former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank Alfred Mifsud; one case brought by the head of Malta's 2015 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting task force Phyllis Muscat; and 19 cases brought by businessman Silvio Debono.
16 May 2018
A new revised Media and Defamation Bill enacted on 13 May 2018 decriminalises defamation. In addition to abolishing criminal libel, the Act removes references to offending “public morals or decency”, prevents plaintiffs from filing garnishee orders against journalists and only allows applicants to file one libel suit per story.
31 Mar 2017
On 11 March 2017 Silvio Debono, owner of real estate investment company DB Group, filed 19 libel cases against journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Galizia published a number of articles about Debono cutting a deal with Malta's government to take over a large tract of public land in a high value coastal area on which he plans to build a Hard Rock Hotel and two towers of flats for sale. In her statement, Daphne Caruana Galizia said that the libel suits are all about the same subject, "taking advantage of the fact that the law allows them to sue for each comment, article or blog post even if the subject matter and the author are the same." “The cases will drag through the courts, it will cost me around €8,000 merely to file my responses, and anybody else would have been intimidated into submission,” she added.
Follow-ups
19 Sep 2019
New CoE Human Rights Commissioner calls on Maltese authorities to withdraw posthumous defamation lawsuits against the family of Daphne Caruana Galizia and to amend legislation on defamation.
16 May 2018
OSCE representative welcomes decriminalization of defamation in Malta, urges dismissal of civil defamation lawsuits against Caruana Galizia’s heirs
16 Feb 2017
OSCE Representative for Media Freedom urges authorities in Malta to protect independent journalists and free expression
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18 Sep 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 18 Sep 2019 France

Belgian Journalists Nicolas Lahaut and Adrien Heylen Fined and Detained by the Police

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
On Saturday 7 September 2019, on the Champs Elysées, at the Arc de Triomphe, in Paris (France), Belgian journalists Nicolas Lahaut and Adrien Heylen were arrested by the French police while covering a 'Yellow Vests' demonstration for the Belgian political magazine "Wilfried". The police immobilised the two journalists and several demonstrators for more than two hours. Nicolas Lahaut and Adrien Heylen showed their press cards to the police, who nevertheless refused to release them and imposed on them a fine of 135 euros for "participation in a prohibited demonstration".
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18 Sep 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 18 Sep 2019 Germany

AfD’s Politician Björn Höcke Threatens Journalist of ‘Massive consequences’ over Interview Questions

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Mr. Höcke, AfD’s lead candidate in the state of Thuringia, walked out of an interview with journalist David Gebhard of the German state broadcaster (ZDF), threatening the journalist with ‘massive consequences’.

The politician had sat for an interview aired on 15 September 2019, in which he was asked about a comparison between his rhetoric and that of Adolf Hitler. During the interview, Mr. Höcke’s aide reportedly interrupted, asking the interview to be restarted on the grounds that the questions ”had strongly emotionally affected” the politician. When his request was turned down, Mr. Höcke walked out, telling the journalist that he "may yet become a politically interesting person in this country”.
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18 Sep 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 18 Sep 2019 Ukraine

Ukrainian Court Rules to Block Access to 17 Online Media

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
On 23 July 2019, the Pechersk District Court in Kyiv ruled to block access to 17 online media, including news portals and blogger platforms korrespondent.net, enigma.ua, trident-ua.info, informator.news. The court justified the closure of these information sites by the fact that they disseminate texts relating to slander or defamation. The closure imposed by the court is not restricted to these controversial articles, but applies to the entire content of these sites. The National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU) denounced the disproportionate nature of this court decision. The owners of the closed websites have lodged an appeal. Their lawyers have denounced the delaying tactics that have so far prevented the appeal court from ruling.
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18 Sep 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 18 Sep 2019 France

Threats to the Independence of the Daily "Le Monde"

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
On 10 September 2019, 460 journalists from the daily "Le Monde" co-signed an opinion column calling for the preservation of their editorial independence. On 13 September 2019, 500 prominent figures co-signed another opinion column asking the newspaper's shareholders to recognise an "approval clause", in order to preserve the editorial independence of the newspaper's editorial staff.
After selling 49% of its "Le Monde" shares to Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky in October 2018, French businessman Matthieu Pigasse remains unclear about the future of the company "Le Nouveau Monde", which is a shareholder of the daily. "Le Monde" journalists demand an "approval clause", which would subject any share acquisition by a new major shareholder to a vote by the editorial board.
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18 Sep 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 18 Sep 2019 Belgium

Police Detained Spanish Photojournalist Romy Arroyo Fernandez at Protest

Source of threatState
CategoryDetention and imprisonment of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Spanish photojournalist Romy Arroyo Fernandez was arrested by police in Brussels and briefly detained at a police station over a gas mask in her backpack.

Ms Fernandez was in central Brussels to cover a planned protest by the far-right. As she was leaving the area to cover another event, she was stopped by police officers, despite visible press signs on her clothing. Ms Fernandez showed her passport, her union press card and IFJ’s International Press Card. She also agreed to their request to check her backpack in which she had protection equipment for covering protests, including a helmet, a gas mask and protection glasses. She was then informed that it is illegal to carry a gas mask in Belgium. After a body search in the police van, Ms Fernandez was taken to a police station at Etterbeek, where she was detained for hours before being released. She was detained for some time together with protesters who had been arrested too.
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18 Sep 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 18 Sep 2019 Croatia

Journalist Gordan Duhaček Fined for ‘Anti-Police’ Twitter Message

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Gordan Duhaček, a reporter for Index.hr, was arrested by Zagreb police at the airport when he was about to take an official flight on Monday 16 September 2019. Duhaček was eventually released and found guilty of insulting the police in two posts on his Twitter feed and was charged with a symbolic fine of 100 euros for one of the posts. The journalist denounces that he was sprayed with tear gas on the floor and that he was told in a police car that this was happening to him because he was resisting the system. Duhaček wrote on Twitter in 2018: "Not everyone will resist the system. ACAB!" (All Cops Are Bastards), in which he commented on an incident of excessive police violence at a Zadar night club. The second tweet was a satirical cover of the patriotic song "Vilo Velebit", in which he used the word 'shit' several times, in reference to news reports that Plitvice Lakes, one of the country's main tourist attractions and best known natural parks, regularly discharges local sewage into a nearby lake. The verdict of this last post will be delivered on Thursday. Duhaček has been prosecuted on the basis of an article of the Law on Offences against Public Order and Peace, a fact that represents a threat for the freedom of expression the country.
Follow-ups
18 Sep 2019
OSCE Media Freedom Representative raises serious concern about lawsuits and brief detention of journalist in Croatia.
18 Sep 2019
The arrest and fine of Croatian journalist Gordan Duhacek for his posts on Twitter amount to pure intimidation of the press, says CoE Commissioner.
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18 Sep 2019 Lvl. 1
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 07 Apr 2015 North Macedonia

Call for Review of the Trial Process which Led to the Conviction of Macedonian Journalist Tomislav Kezarovski

Source of threatState
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ RSF
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ RSF
The Macedonian investigative journalist Tomislav Kezarovski was arrested in May 2013 for allegedly revealing the identity of a protected witness in an article published in 2008 in the magazine “Reporter 92”. Kezarovski's article allegedly revealed the identity of a protected witness, who later admitted to having testified against the defendants under duress. The witness had however not yet been given protection at the time the article was written and in 2013 admitted having given a false statement under pressure from the police. Kezarovski was sentenced in October 2013 to four and a half years in prison. Following international protests he was held under house arrest and returned home on 1 November 2013 after 172 days in detention. On 16 January 2015, the Skopje Court of Appeal reduced Kezarovski’s to two years but upheld his conviction. The EFJ and the IFJ sent a joint letter to Macedonian Prime Minister, Mr. Nicola Gruevski, demanding the review of Kezarovski’s trial process.
Updates
New 18 Sep 2019
On 17 September 2019, the Skopje Court of First Instance ruled that the action brought by Kezharovsky to review his conviction was time-barred.
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18 Sep 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 24 Sep 2018 Croatia

President of the Croatia Journalists’ Association Threatened with Dismissal

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ AEJ Index
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ AEJ Index
On 12 September, journalist Hrvoje Zovko, president of the Croatia Journalists' Association (CJA), decided to resign as deputy editor-in-chief of public TV channel HTV4. Hrvoje Zovko has been a journalist and an editor for public TV HRT for 20 years. Zovko explained in a statement the reasons for his move, citing pressure, censorship and unprofessional choices of topics. On 13 September, Zovko's editor-in-chief, Katarina Perisa Cakarun, accepted his resignation, while criticizing his trade union involvement as chairman of CJA. On 14 September, the management of HRT decided to launch a dismissal procedure against the journalist, on the basis of a report by Katarina Perisa Cakarun. CJA called on the management of HRT to stop the dismissal procedure, which is seen by CJA as an act of retaliation against Zovko, and an act of intimidation against all HRT journalists affiliated to CJA.
Updates
New 17 Sep 2019
On 17 September 2019, the Croatian Radio-Television HRT filed a new lawsuit for alleged defamation (criminal offense under Article 149 of the Criminal Code) against the president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND/CJA), Hrvoje Zovko. This is the third lawsuit filed by the public television administration against the president of the HND/CJA.
11 Jun 2019
In February 2019, the Zagreb Municipal Court held a preparatory hearing in the proceedings initiated by HRT against HND/CJA. A peaceful settlement to the dispute was proposed by HRT.
09 Jan 2019
The management of the Croatian Radio-Television HRT filed a lawsuit for alleged criminal offences against its honour and reputation by the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND/CJA), its President Hrvoje Zovko and the President of the HND/CJA Branch at HRT, Sanja Mikleušević Pavić. HRT claims a financial compensation of 500,000 kunas (67,000 EUR). The Western Balkan’s Regional Platform for Advocating Media Freedom and Journalists’ Safety asked the HRT to withdraw the filed lawsuits as soon as possible and to stop pressuring HND/CJA, and harassing representatives of the journalists’ association.
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17 Sep 2019 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 06 Feb 2019 Slovak Republic

Slovakia Seeks to Introduce Right of Reply for Politicians

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner IPI AEJ
Partner IPI AEJ
Lawmakers in Slovakia are considering a bill that would legally mandate a right of reply for politicians and public officials who claim their honour or reputation has been damaged in media reports. The measure was introduced by members of the country’s ruling Smer party after former Prime Minister Robert Fico said at a rally in December that measure should be introduced to end “media terror and lynching”. Slovakia’s current Press Act provides a right of reply but contains a clause excluding public officials and high-ranking politicians from having recourse to it. The current bill would terminate that exception and require media outlets to publish a reply by individuals, including public officials and political leaders, who claim their rights to dignity, honour or privacy were violated by “factual statements” in “periodical press or news agency items”. Media that fail to publish a reply can be ordered to pay damages up to nearly 5,000 euros. The country’s ruling parties are also toying with the idea of extending the right of reply to opinion pieces and establishing a state media council despite the fact that Slovakia already has a media council consisting of lawyers, former journalists and other professionals. Slovakia’s Press Act already contains a right of correction that all individuals, including politicians and public officials, can use.

The bill has been condemned by the Slovak Press Publishers’ Association and comes as media continue to unearth details about the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kucikak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová, on 21 February 2018, the reverberations of which led to the resignations of Fico and other Smer officials last year. Journalists have recently published details about the communication of top politicians with Alena Z., an alleged middlewoman in the murder, and revealed that a high-ranking police official may have given an order to screen Kuciak through police databases.
Updates
New 17 Sep 2019
State replies
04 Jul 2019
Follow-ups
27 Mar 2019
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media publishes legal review of amendments on the right of reply to the Slovak Press Statute, urges further changes.
11 Feb 2019
OSCE Media Freedom Representative calls for repeal of Slovak Press Act amendments on right of reply.
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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”.
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1 October 2018