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15 Mar 2019 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 25 Feb 2019 Poland

Polish Party Leader Initiates Libel Charge Against Critical Newspaper

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner IPI AEJ
Partner IPI AEJ
Jaroslaw Kaczyński, the leader of Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party (PiS), has initiated a criminal libel charge against the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza for publishing reports about his reported involvement in the construction of a 190-meter-tall skyscraper in Warsaw. The Polish state-owned news agency PAP reported that the newspaper would be subject to public prosecution based on the defamation complaint filed by Kaczyński due to the existence of a “legitimate public interest”. Under Article 212 of the Polish Penal Code, defamation committed via mass media can result in a fine or up to one year in prison. Gazeta Wyborcza had reported on Kaczyński’s plans to build the skyscraper on a plot of land the newspaper said was given to him by political allies. Construction was to be undertaken by a company called Srebrna, closely linked to PiS, and with the help of a credit line given by a bank recently brought under state control. The newspaper also published several hours of recordings between Kaczyński and a businessman whom Kaczyński has reportedly refused to pay. Gazeta Wyborcza has said its reporting was fully substantiated and called the libel charge “an attempt to stifle criticism by the press, and in doing so to deprive the public of important, concrete allegations”. Article 212 has been the target of several failed repeal efforts in the past due to its use in stifling free expression.
State replies
15 Mar 2019
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15 Mar 2019 Lvl. 1
State replied
Alert created on: 30 Nov 2018 Ukraine

Journalists Attacked by Far-Right Radicals

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryAttacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ Index
Partner EFJ/IFJ Index
On 18 November 2018, two Ukrainian and a Canadian journalists have been attacked in Kyiv by right-wing groups participating in counter-rally on Transgender Commemoration Day. The peaceful rally was attacked by mobilised ultra-right groups and was disrupted. People were attacked with teargas, smoke bombs. Among those who were injured there were journalists.
Margareta Bondari, aged 19, freelance journalist with Spilka magazine, was attacked by three men when she was leaving the site and got injuries caused by pepper spray. In the course of the next days, she was personally targeted by Yevgen Karas, the leader of the S14 ultra-right group, through media and social networks. Margareta Bondari was subjected to intimidation campaign early this year when she exposed facts of deliberate arson of Roma houses in Kyiv.
Bogdan Aminov, aged 22, a journalist with Newsone TV channel, was also attacked during the counter-rally. According to him, his official complaint to the police is not being investigated.
Canadian journalist Michael Colborne was also assaulted with pepper spray and punched in the face by two counter demonstrators near a metro station, suffering a swollen lip and cuts on his face from his broken glasses. The Police said they opened an investigation on Michael Colborne’s attack, classifying it as hooliganism.
State replies
15 Mar 2019
New Reply from the Government of Ukraine
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15 Mar 2019 Lvl. 1
State replied
Alert created on: 25 Jan 2019 Ukraine

Kherson daily “Novyi Den” Tear-Gassed and Shot at During Press Conference

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryAttacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Partner EFJ/IFJ
The National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU) reported that on 18 January 2019, during a press conference hosted by the press club of the daily “New Day” (Novyi Den) in Kherson, Ukraine, the newspaper came under attack from unknown assailants using rubber bullets and tear-gas from outside the building, before entering. One journalist present suffered chemical burns as a result. The police later arrested and released Kyril Stremousov, head of the Khersonian regional Socialist Party on charges of hoooliganism for the assault.
State replies
15 Mar 2019
New Reply from the Government of Ukraine
Follow-ups
25 Jan 2019
New Alarmed at attack on office of Novyi Den newspaper, the OSCE Representative on Media Freedom calls on the authorities to fully investigate and prosecute the attackers.
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15 Mar 2019 Lvl. 2
State replied
Alert created on: 21 Jan 2019 Ukraine

Belarusian Journalist Pavel Karnazytsky Deported from Ukraine

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Partner EFJ/IFJ
On 2 January 2019, officers of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) arrested Belarusian journalist Pavel Karnazytsky, founder of the Ukrainian newsportal Glavnovosti and deported him to Belarus. SBU accused him of spreading anti-Ukrainian propaganda and fake news. According to their statement: “Special services found out that a foreigner living in Ukraine illegally, publicly disseminated fake information. In particular, during speeches on some television channels, he questioned the internationally recognized evidence of the presence of the aggressor country troops in the temporarily occupied territories of our country. Also, Mr Karnazytsky repeatedly published anti-Ukrainian materials on media resources controlled by the terrorist organisations “DPR” and “LPR”,”.

Pavel Karnazytsky lived in Ukraine since the end of the 90s, when he left Belarus. His lawyer stated that Karnazytsky had left Belarus because of political persecution.
State replies
15 Mar 2019
New Reply from the Government of Ukraine
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14 Mar 2019 Lvl. 1
State replied
Alert created on: 26 Feb 2018 Slovak Republic

Slovak Investigative Journalist Killed at Home

Source of threatUnknown
CategoryAttacks on physical safety and integrity of journalists
Partner Index Article 19 AEJ CPJ EFJ/IFJ INSI IPI PEN RSF
Partner Index Article 19 AEJ CPJ EFJ/IFJ INSI IPI PEN RSF
Investigative journalist Jan 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 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
27 Feb 2018
Statement of the Permanent Representative of the Slovak Republic to the Council of Europe
Follow-ups
14 Mar 2019
New OSCE Representative commends indictment against instigator of murders of journalist Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová in Slovakia
22 Feb 2019
New 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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14 Mar 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 14 Mar 2019 Turkey

Turkey Revokes Press Accreditations of Foreign Correspondents

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
German journalists were compelled to leave Turkey on Sunday, 10 March 2019, after their press accreditations were not renewed for 2019 without any explanation. Thomas Seibert, reporter at the Tagesspiegel newspaper, was a long-term correspondent in the country. Jörg Brase was head of public broadcaster ZDF’s Istanbul office. The Turkish embassy in Germany tried in vain to make a deal to have the correspondents replaced, Tagesspiegel’s editor-in-chief reports. A third journalist, Halil Gülbeyaz, with public broadcaster NDR also had his accreditation refused and is not allowed return to Turkey. On 13 March 2019, Brase’s accreditation was renewed, after 20 freedom of expression and human rights organisations had urged Turkey to rescind the decisions. The status of Seibert and Gülbeyaz remains unclear.
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11 Mar 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 21 Jan 2019 Belgium

Multiple Complaints Filed Against Investigative Journalists David Leloup and Tom Cochez

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
Several complaints have been filed against Belgian investigative journalists David Leloup and Tom Cochez by companies or individuals belonging to the political and financial community of the city of Liège. Following the publication of a series of articles between April 2017 and December 2018, in the weekly "Le Vif-L'Express", regarding a corruption case involving Socialist MP Alain Mathot and the Nethys company’s business, led by Stéphane Moreau, former socialist mayor of the city of Ans, David Leloup has been the target of five complaints and two threats of complaints, within little less than a year, between 5 January and 28 December 2018. The journalist must answer criminal charges following a complaint filed by the Semeb company. Four complaints were also filed with the Journalistic Ethics Board (CDJ) by Alain Mathot and by the Nethys SA and Ogeo Fund companies. Brussels businessman Dominique Janne and Ogeo Fund threatened the journalist with two additional judicial complaints.
The journalist Tom Cochez is also targeted by two ethical complaints and faces two threats of judicial complaint, including one targeting the Flemish online investigative media Apache, which collaborates with Le Vif-L'Express on the above-mentioned investigation cases. The Belgian Association of Professional Journalists (AJP) is worried about this multiplication of complaints targeting those journalists. The AJP provided David Leloup with a lawyer, in order to respond to the judicial harassment he is obviously subjected to.
Updates
New 11 Mar 2019
On 8 March 2019, the Belgian association for the support of journalists and whistleblowers Xpress revealed that Nethys' and Stéphane Moreau's lawyer served a formal notice to the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) to remove all references to its clients in the alert published on the Council of Europe Platform to strengthen the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists. The EFJ did not answer the demand.
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11 Mar 2019 Lvl. 1
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 11 Mar 2019 Croatia

Wave of Lawsuits Against Journalists in Croatia

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ
According to the Croatian Journalists’ Association (CJA), there are more than 1,160 ongoing lawsuits against journalists and news outlets in the country. Many cases filed by politicians, public figures and corporations include the offence of ‘shaming’ which is still part of the Croatian Criminal Code. Most of the court cases involve compensation claims for alleged non material damages such as “mental anguish” or “tarnished reputation". On Saturday 2 March 2019, hundreds of journalists led by the CJA rallied in Zagreb to protest against this wave of lawsuits targeting the media. The protest was called after Croatian public broadcaster HRT itself filed 36 lawsuits against its own journalists and others, including CJA head Hrvoje Zovko and CJA branch in Public Service Media, who complained of censorship. “I urge HRT to engage in a constructive out-of-court dialogue with journalists and resolve the current disputes,” reacted on 6 March the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir. “It is commendable that the reconciliation process has started in some of the cases and this will hopefully result in the dropping of all charges against journalists.”
Follow-ups
11 Mar 2019
New OSCE Representative concerned about numerous lawsuits against journalists in Croatia and disputes involving public service broadcaster HRT.
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08 Mar 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 08 Mar 2019 Ukraine

Ukraine Places Entry Ban on Austrian Correspondent

Source of threatState
CategoryOther acts having chilling effects on media freedom
Partner IPI EFJ/IFJ
No state reply yet
Partner IPI EFJ/IFJ
Ukraine has placed an entry ban on Austrian correspondent Christian Wehrschütz, who has reported from the country since 2014 for the Austrian national public broadcaster ORF. The Austrian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that Ukrainian authorities had confirmed the ban. Ukraine’s SBU security service has accused Wehrschütz of illegal entry into the disputed Crimean peninsula – a charge Wehrschütz has disputed – as well as “anti-Ukrainian propaganda”, according to media reports. Authorities had previously denied Wehrschütz accreditation to report from the eastern part of the country. An expert on eastern and southeastern Europe, Wehrschütz has reported for ORF in the region since 1999, based mainly in Belgrade. Since 2014, he has regularly reported from the front lines in Ukraine. That year, he was named as “Journalist of the Year” by Austria’s trade magazine for journalism for his coverage of the conflict.
Follow-ups
08 Mar 2019
New OSCE Media Freedom Representative calls on Ukrainian authorities to reverse entry ban for Austrian journalist.
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08 Mar 2019 Lvl. 2
No state reply yet
Alert created on: 08 Mar 2019 Albania

British Journalist Targeted by Smear Campaign

Source of threatNon-state
CategoryHarassment and intimidation of journalists
Partner EFJ/IFJ Index
No state reply yet
Partner EFJ/IFJ Index
A British journalist working in Albania for the web portal exit.al has been the target of a smear campaign following a statement given to Russia Today on 23 February 2019 related to the protests hitting the country.

Alice Taylor recently wrote about vote rigging, violence at protests and the government's links to organised crime and money laundering. Asked to comment about the state of corruption in Albania and the current developments in the country, Alice Taylor said to Russia Today that allegations of corruption can easily be documented with evidence showing links between the current government, organised crime, money laundering and drug trafficking. In her statement, she also questioned the fairness of the 2017 elections which confirmed Edi Rama as Prime Minister for a second term.

The next day, dozens of local portals started publishing photos accusing her to be linked to and paid by Russia, or that her portal is linked to the opposition party. Her partner was also targeted on social media platforms.

The journalist also informed that her residence permit was refused on 6 March after being approved some weeks before.
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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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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”.

17 October 2017