3 December 2014 Update Report on The Protection of Media Freedom in Europe, commissioned by the Rapporteur on Media Freedom of the the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (pace)



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3 December 2014
Update Report on The Protection of Media Freedom in Europe, commissioned by the Rapporteur on Media Freedom of the the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media
By William Horsley, Vice-President and Media Freedom Representative of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Overview of major concerns during the period from June to November 2014
As the end of 2014 approaches the threats to the physical safety of journalists and the oppression of independent journalism in Europe are more acute and widespread than at any time in recent memory.
This report summarises the most significant incidents and developments since the previous background report of 17 June 2014 and should be read in conjunction with that report. It also identifies important shortcomings in those protections and suggests some measures and approaches which may be taken to remedy them.
Among the major causes of the worsening environment for journalists are the acute dangers arising from the armed conflict in Ukraine and coercive attempts by governments to limit and control the flow of information; excessively restrictive laws on counter-terrorism, national security and defamation; the arbitrary misuse of state powers by governments and legislatures in some European states; and persistent failures by state authorities to take necessary actions to ensure the physical protection of journalists and to put an end to patterns of violence and harassment directed at journalists for the purpose of preventing them from reporting on matters of public interest.
The Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, stated on 3 November 2014 that last year more than half of all the cases of injuries to journalists were caused by the actions of police. This was clearly unacceptable and it should stop, he said.
The Commissioner referred to the excessive use of force by Turkish police against demonstrators and journalists during the Gezi Park protests in 2013, the use of rubber bullets and stun grenades by security forces in Ukraine during demonstrations in Kyiv in February, 2014, and cases of police beatings of journalists and photographers during demonstrations in Spain at the end of March this year even though the media workers had identified themselves as members of the press.
The Commissioner was speaking at a Seminar and Inter-regional Dialogue held at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, organised by the Council of Europe, the Centre for Freedom of the Media at the University of Sheffield, UNESCO and the European Lawyers Union. The event marked the first official UN-declared International Day to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
Faced with such dangers, threats and constraints, journalists’ associations and Non-Governmental Organisations across Europe have expanded their monitoring, analysis and publication of data on attacks of all kinds on journalists and media outlets. They have raised their voices, urgently calling on the Council of Europe member states to take actions to protect journalists’ safety and press freedom in accordance with their obligations.
The increasing use of modern technologies for bulk surveillance of the electronic communications of media workers, combined with cases involving the misuse of state powers to access such data and the monitoring and harassment of critical journalists, have undermined the security of journalists’ data and communications. Exposing journalists to such surveillance endangers their ability to maintain the confidentiality of their sources, which the European Court of Human Rights has identified as one of the essential foundations of media freedom on which democratic societies depend.
The Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on risks to fundamental rights stemming from Digital Tracking and other Surveillance Technologies on 11 June 2013 stated that broad surveillance of citizens could have damaging effects on democracy. In particular, these practices can undermine the confidentiality rights associated with certain professions, such as the protection of journalists’ sources, and can threaten the safety of the persons concerned.
In the UK, concerns have increased after revelations in recent weeks that police have frequently used powers under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to secretly access the phone records of journalists. In one case this was done in order to find and dismiss police officers accused of leaking information embarrassing to the police in a politically charged case involving the forced resignation in 2012 of a cabinet minister, Andrew Mitchell.
The UK government has naturally insisted on the necessity to maintain counter-terrorism measures to keep populations safe and preserve national security. However, following the disclosures in materials sent to the media by the former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden, objections have been raised by parliamentarians and former cabinet ministers as well as civil society and media organisations, that the huge quantities of communications data harvested under the RIPA legislation have increasingly been used by law-enforcement agencies for their own purposes without adequate controls; and these have placed important democratic rights at risk without adequate safeguards or public debate.
Stronger means of enforcing safeguards and guarantees for journalists and whistle-blowers have been called for in the UK and elsewhere. An example of the working of effective safeguards is the operation of the Norwegian Parliamentary Intelligence Oversight Committee, which in September 2014 ruled that one of the country’s intelligence agencies had exceeded its authority by carrying out unlawful surveillance on nine journalists. The committee is made up of seven members including independent experts who have the appropriate security clearance as well as political or public figures. Serving members of parliament are excluded in order to preserve the committee’s independence from the government of the day.
The broad range of formal and informal pressures and constraints gives rise to climates of fear and often to self-censorship which have the effect of deterring journalists from reporting matters of important public interest.
Against this background on 30 April 2014 the Committee of Ministers’ issued a Declaration on the protection of journalists and other media actors. It described as ‘alarming’ the situation of increasing threats to journalists and others who perform public watchdog functions, and urged member states to fulfil their positive obligations to protect journalists and other media actors.
Of special importance is the Committee of Ministers’ invitation to member states to review at least once every two years the conformity of domestic laws and practices with these positive obligations. They include the duty to put in place measures of protection against physical violence and to carry out prompt and effective investigations of violent attacks.
National legislatures may be expected to play an important role in such reviews of legislation and government practices, and in exercising parliamentary oversight over the conduct of the executive powers of states, especially in sensitive areas for freedom of expression and media freedom such as intelligence-gathering and surveillance, anti-terrorism laws, restraints and oversight over law-enforcement agencies, and restrictions on peaceful protest and assembly.
Members of the Parliamentary Assembly have welcomed the plans of the Council of Europe to establish an online Freedom of Expression Platform which may serve as an early warning and rapid response mechanism for the security of journalists and the protection of media freedom.
In order for such a system of collection, analysis and dissemination of information on violations of media freedom to be effective, it is important that the evidence of violations and clear guidance concerning the remedies required should be brought directly to the attention of the governments and parliaments of member states. A proposal for such a procedure was already expressed in the PACE Recommendation 1987 of 2010.
Deaths of journalists between June and November 2014
Since the middle of June 2014 six more deaths of journalists have been reported, including those of four Russian journalists in the conflict area of eastern Ukraine, one Russian journalist in the Russian North Caucasus Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, and a political blogger in Turkey. These killings bring to at least sixteen the number of journalists and media workers killed in the course of their work since July 2012 – a period of about two and a half years.
On 17 June 2014 Igor Kornelyuk, a reporter for All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, and Anton Voloshin, a sound engineer and member of the same TV team, were killed in an artillery or mortar attack near Lugansk in eastern Ukraine.
On 30 June 2014 Anatoly Klyan of Russia’s state-owned Channel One TV station died in Donetsk, Ukraine from bullet wounds sustained when a bus he was travelling in came under fire in

Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, CPJ reported.


On 1 August the body of Timur Kuashev, a reporter for the North Caucasus magazine Dosh and other outlets, was found in Nalchik, the capital of the Kabardino-Balkar Republic, a day after he had gone missing. Kuashev had reportedly received several threats to his life in recent years.
On August 6 2014 Andrei Stenin of the Russian news agency Rossiya Segodna was killed near Donetsk. UNESCO reported that Stenin was travelling in a convoy of civilian vehicles which came under shell fire.
On 23 October 2014 Ferdi Ozmen, an influential Turkish political blogger and social media activist, was reportedly forced by an unidentified gunman to get out of his car in Istanbul and was shot. He died later of his injuries in hospital. In June 2013 Ozmen had been summoned to a court in Istanbul to face a charge of insulting the then Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The growing scale of acts of violence and intimidation against journalists
In spite of many protests by journalists’ organisations and NGOs, and interventions by independent authorities including the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muiznieks, and the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media (OSCE RFOM), Dunja Mijatovic, dozens of violent assaults in Europe against journalists have been recorded in the past five-month period covered by this update report.
The majority of such attacks, as well as cases of threats of violence, intimidation and harassment, continue to go unpunished.
For example, the organisation Ossigeno per l’Informazione has published the names of 2000 reporters and media workers who it says have been victims of violence or abuse over the past six years because of their work. Many of those cases have never been reported, Ossigeno says.
The Institute of Mass Information in Ukraine, which monitors all forms of attacks, says that so far in 2014 it has recorded 281 cases of assaults against media workers and seven cases of murder.
The Independent Association of Journalists in Serbia has reported 18 physical assaults, verbal threats and other abuses against journalists from the start of 2014 to the end of August.

The very large number of assaults on journalists which required hospital treatment or an extended absence from work include these examples:-


In Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 23 June 2014 writer and columnist Slavo Kukic suffered head injuries when he was assaulted in Mostar by an attacker wielding a baseball bat. A criminal investigation was reportedly initiated.
On 4 July Italian journalist Antonio Papaleo was stabbed by a gang of youths in Phuket, Thailand, sustaining serious body wounds and later undergoing an operation to remove his damaged spleen. Papaleo secretly filmed evidence that was accepted by a court in Hong Kong leading to the conviction of a Slovak man on money-laundering charges. During the judicial proceedings Papaleo received threats of violence, although evidence was not found linking the knife attack to his investigative work.
In Azerbaijan, on 21 August 2014 Ilgar Nasibov, a prominent journalist and contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Turan News Agency, was attacked by a group of unidentified assailants at his office in the Resource Center for Development of NGOs and Democracy in Nakhichevan. He reportedly suffered serious injuries including concussion, broken cheekbones, nose and ribs. Nasibov had been threatened and assaulted several times before, and in 2007 he received a one-year suspended sentence after being convicted of libel.
In Russia a large number of violent attacks have been recorded which apparently targeted journalists who have reported critically about aspects of Russia’s involvement in the conflict in Ukraine.
In Saratov in south-western Russia on 26 August investigative journalist Alexander Krutov of Obshchestvennoye Mneniye magazine was brutally beaten and stabbed by a gang of unknown assailants near his home, OSCE RFOM reported. Krutov has been attacked several times before without the assailants being brought to justice.
On the same day in the Pskov region of western Russia Vladimir Romensky of Dozhd TV, Ilya Vasyunin of Russkaya Planeta, Nina Petlyanova of Novaya Gazeta, Irina Tumakova of Fontana.ru, as well as Sergey Kovalchenko and Sergey Zorin of Telegraph, were attacked and intimidated by a number of individuals. Romensky and Vasyunin were reportedly told to abandon their work and leave Pskov.
On 16 September in Astrakan in southern Russia a BBC cameraman was assaulted and his camera was smashed. The incident occurred while BBC correspondent Steve Rosenberg and the team were investigating reports, which have been denied by the Russian authorities, that Russian soldiers who were sent to Ukraine to support the separatists were killed there and that their bodies were buried in Russia, while families were kept in ignorance of the circumstances of the soldiers’ deaths. The BBC team was detained and questioned by police for four hours, during which other recording equipment in their vehicle at the police station was reportedly electronically wiped.
On 29 August Lev Schlosberg, a journalist with Pskovskaya Guberniya newspaper who had reported on the deaths of Russian soldiers allegedly killed in the conflict in eastern Ukraine, was attacked near his house. He suffered concussion and a broken nose.
In Kosovo on 27 October 2014 Milot Hasimja, a journalist with Klan Kosova TV station, was attacked by a man who stabbed him repeatedly in the neck and head. The attacker was overpowered, and police are reported to be treating it as a case of attempted murder which may be linked to Hasimja’s media reports.
Impunity: symptom of an environment where journalists are at risk
Well-documented evidence shows that impunity related to serious crimes against journalists including murder remains prevalent in Europe. Impunity is the failure by state authorities to conduct proper investigations in order to prosecute and punish those responsible for serious crimes and abuses.
It encourages further violence and intimidation against journalists because the perpetrators do not fear being caught and punished. Impunity is also a symptom of systemic failures of justice and a lack of the independence of judiciaries.

The Council of Europe and the United Nations have emphasised that it is the responsibility of States to investigate and prosecute crimes against journalists and to eradicate impunity. The 30 April 2014 Declaration of the Committee of Ministers also encourages member States to contribute to concerted international efforts to enhance the protection of journalists. It describes the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity as an urgent and vital necessity.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivered a message marking the first UN-backed International Day to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November 2014. In it he stressed the damage inflicted on the democratic fabric of societies as a result of impunity: ‘Nine out of ten cases go unpunished. As a result, criminals are emboldened.  People are scared to speak out about corruption, political repression or other violations of human rights. This must stop,’ Mr Ban said.

It is important that the Council of Europe and the international community have repeatedly identified the fight against impunity as a high priority for the protection of democracy and human rights. However until now the public commitment to combatting impunity has not been matched by the necessary actions in Europe or further afield.

UNESCO publishes details online of information provided voluntarily by states, and the UNESCO Director-General issues a report once every two years on the Safety of Journalists and the Danger of Impunity. The 2014 Report by the UNESCO Director-General was due to be formally presented and a debate was due to take place on related issues -- including the judicial follow-ups or the lack of them -- at UNESCO headquarters in Paris on 20-21 November 2014.

UNESCO reported in November 2014 that Council of Europe the member states Bulgaria and Georgia were among those which had failed to provide information on killings of journalists in their jurisdictions in response to requests from the UNESCO Director-General. In total, 35 out of 62 states which were contacted for information about journalists’ murders since 2008 provided information on the judicial processes of the cases, UNESCO reported. Twenty-seven states did not.


Voluntary action by Council of Europe member states to provide prompt and full information in the context of this process would be in accordance with the pledges that have been made.
Russia sent a report stating that prison sentences were handed down in connection with the cases of six of the 16 journalists identified by UNESCO as having been killed in Russia since 2006.
In October 2014 the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) published a highly informative special report ‘The Road to Justice: Breaking the Cycle of Impunity in the Killing of Journalists’. It provides the following names and dates of death of 17 journalists who were murdered in Europe between 2004 and 2013 with complete impunity. They are:-
In Azerbaijan: Elmar Huseynov, March 2, 2005; Rafiq Tagi, November 23, 2011
In Belarus: Aleh Byabebib, September 3, 2010
In Greece, Sokratis Giolias, July 19, 2010 [author’s note: the CPJ Report preceded subsequent information concerning a case or cases in Greece]
In Russia: Paul Klebnikov, July 9 2004; Pavel Makeev, May 21 2005; Vagif Kochetkov, January 8, 2006; Ivan Safronov, March 2 2007; Magomed Yevloyev, August 31 2008; Telman Alishayev, September 2 2008; Natalya Estemirova, July 15 2009; Abdulmalik Akhmedilov, Aug 11 2009; Gadzhimurad Kamalov, December 15 2011; Kazbek Gekkiyev, December 5 2012; Mikail Beketov, April 8 2013; Akhmednabi Akjmednabiyev, July 9 2013
In Serbia: Bardhyl Ajeti, June 25 2005
According to CPJ, five journalists were murdered during the same 10-year period with partial impunity – meaning that one or more perpetrators were brought to justice but the masterminds or others who are thought to bear responsibility for the killing remain unknown or unpunished. They are:-
In Croatia: Ivo Kupanic, October 23, 2008
In Russia: Anna Polikovskaya, October 7, 2006; Anastasia Baburova, January 19, 2009
In Serbia: Dusko Jovanovic, May 28, 2004
In Turkey: Hrant Dink, January 19, 2007
In the UK the murder in 2001 of Martin O’Hagan, a journalist who worked for the Sunday World newspaper in Northern Ireland, remains unresolved. O’Hagan was shot in September 2001 near his home in the town of Lurgan. Other staff on the paper who named O’Hagan’s alleged killers were subsequently threatened or attacked. For thirteen years the Police Service of Northern Ireland has failed to make progress in investigating the murder.
In Serbia, as was noted in the June 2014 Report, four former state security officials were this year charged in connection with the killing of journalist and editor Slavko Curuviya in 1999. One of the indicted men is believed to be on the run and living in an African country.
The work of Serbia’s Commission of Inquiry into Unsolved Murders of Journalists, which was established in 2013, is credited with assisting to achieve this progress in the case of Curuviya. However, obstruction on the part of former state officials has been identified as an ongoing barrier to progress in other cases.
The investigation into the murder in Dada Vujasinović, a reporter who was killed in her apartment in 1994, has been complicated by the lack of due diligence by the law-enforcement authorities who had initially registered Vujasinovic’s death as a suicide.
An intensive investigation into the murder of Milan Pantic, a crime reporter who was killed in 2001, is ongoing. Veran Matic, a prominent journalist and head of the Commission of Inquiry, requires round-the-clock police protection, as he has done for the past four years, because of credible threats to his personal safety.
Matic identifies the murder of journalists and the toleration of impunity as a root cause a corrupting mentality that fosters further brutality and injustice in the societies concerned.
The Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (IAJS) has expressed powerful concerns that a culture of impunity continues to exist, and that it is still at the root cause of widespread fear and insecurity among independent Serbian journalists.
One example is that of the vicious attack on 3 July 2014 by a group of men against Davor Pašalić, the editor of the news agency FoNet. Pasalic was attacked and severely beaten, suffering head and face injuries, in New Belgrade. Despite official statements promising an urgent investigation of the crime, two months later no progress had been made in identifying the attackers.
IAJS has published online details of 71 incidents of violence and intimidation against journalists in Serbia between 2012 and August 2014, including 9 cases of actual physical assaults.
Those statistics indicate that in Serbia, as in several other European states, violence and threats of violence against media workers, and impunity related to them, is a widespread and entrenched reality which needs to be confronted by additional sustained and determined measures.
A new and positive development is the decision by the government of Montenegro in December 2013 to establish a Commission for Monitoring Investigations of Violence against Journalists, on similar lines to the Serbian Commission. The Montenegrin commission is to be composed of representatives of government ministries, the Prosecutor’s office, police, NGOs and journalists, including Mihailo Jovic, editor in chief of Vijesti newspaper and other media figures.
The new body is charged with investigating, among others, the killing in May 2004 of Dusko Jovanovic, the editor in chief of the daily newspaper Dan. Jovanovic was killed with automatic weapon in front his newspaper building in Podgorica.
A report on Prosecution of Attacks on Journalists in Montenegro was published in January 2014 by the Human Rights Action NGO in Montenegro. It detailed 30 cases of intimidation, death threats and violent attacks against journalists over ten year period 2004 to 2014. The report stated that a third of those recorded attacks took place in 2013.
The investigation into the murder of Jovanovic has resulted so far in one conviction which has been described as questionable. Other perpetrators including those who ordered the killing have still not been identified.
Significant progress was however made in the case of the brutal attack on the newspaper journalist Tufik Softic by two masked assailants wielding baseball bats close to his home on 1 November 2007. In July 2014 three men were reportedly arrested on charges of the attempted murder of Softic.

However, the Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern that in Montenegro new cases that illustrate the lack of safety for journalists and impunity are accumulating on top of the old ones.


Issues arising from alleged failures of law-enforcement action to investigate and prosecute threats and acts of violence against journalists continue to be a source of acute concern to representative journalists’ organisations in a number of European states.

Attacks, abductions and interference with media on the territory of Ukraine
Subsequent to the numerous abductions and other attacks on journalists in Russian-occupied Crimea and in areas of conflict in eastern Ukraine which were detailed in my report of June 2014, a further unknown number of Ukrainian journalists have been kidnapped and forcibly detained by pro-Russian armed groups in eastern Ukraine.
On 5 September 2015 OSCE RFOM identified 8 journalists who were being held against their will at the time or who had been abducted and later released: Yegor Vorobyov, Roman Chermsky, Sergei Dolgov, Yury Lelyavsky, Yevgeny Shlyakhtin, Yevgeny Tymofeyev, Anna Ivanenko and Nazar Zotsenko.
The Ukrainian Institute of Mass Information reported that between April and August 2014 as many as 62 journalists had been captured or held hostage by pro-Russia separatists. The fate of several of those journalists is unknown at the time of writing
In June 2014 Amnesty International published a report ‘Abductions and Torture in eastern Ukraine’ which documents cases of torture, ill-treatment and threats of execution inflicted on many of the several hundred persons abducted by armed separatist groups in eastern Ukraine, including 39 journalists up to that date.
On 9 September 2014 OSCE RFOM expressed urgent concern about the intimidation of independent by the de facto Russian authorities in Crimea, including the six-hour detention and interrogation of Yelizaveta Bohutskaya, a freelance journalist, and the summoning for questioning of staff from the Crimean Centre for Investigative Journalism. OSCE RFOM described such incidents as attempts to silence critical voices.
Over the past several months the de facto authorities in Crimea and the Ukrainian authorities have enforced selective bans on the entry of journalists. The Ukrainian security service has reportedly banned several dozens of Russian media workers from entering Ukraine, citing threats to national security.
Ukrainian law-enforcement officers have raided or obstructed the work of several critical media outlets including Vesti newspaper in Kiev. OSCE FROM has also expressed concern about the detention and expulsion of a number of Russian journalists in Ukraine since the early part of 2014.
Officials of the incoming Ukrainian government have pledged to take action to investigate and punish law-enforcement officers and others who are suspected of responsibility for causing many serious injuries among journalists during the Maidan square protests against the former Ukrainian government in early 2014. At least seven journalists lost sight in one eye after they were reportedly shot in the face by fire directed by state security officers.
However, little or no progress has been made towards bringing to justice those responsible for those and other coordinated attacks, including those using firearms, against journalists during the popular uprising against the former government, which collapsed in late February 2014.
My June 2014 background report summarised a series of excessively intrusive laws and measures adopted by the Russian authorities whose effect has been to exclude or limit access to the media market by many independent sources of news and information.
In late June Russia adopted a law providing for sentences of up to five years in prison for the offence of public incitement of ‘extremism’. The European Commission for Democracy through Law – the Venice Commission – stated that the Russian law is too imprecise and it could impose disproportionate restrictions on freedom of expression.
On July 21, 2014, President Vladimir Putin approved legislation that bars privately-owned television channels from obtaining revenues from commercial advertising, on which many depend to survive. The law does not apply to public and state-controlled channels, which are known to follow editorial policies approved by the Kremlin.
On October 14, Russia adopted a law to restrict foreign ownership of all forms of media to a maximum share of 20 percent. Currently no restrictions apply to print media, and foreign stakes in radio and television are capped at 50 per cent.
The legislation is expected to be phased in over the next two years. It represents a severe restriction on the possibilities for independent media to operate in Russia’s media environment and so an impoverishment of media plurality. It appears likely to exacerbate the narrow concentration of media ownership and control in the hands of a small group of owners allied with, or beholden to, state authorities.
The Russian authorities have spoken publicly of an ‘information war’ over the conflict in Ukraine, which involves Russian media that are controlled or influenced by government authorities disseminating news and opinions sharply at variance with the information available from independent sources, including the OSCE’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine.
On 9 November 2014 the OSCE mission reported that its members had observed two unmarked military convoys of 17 trucks each, including artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, moving westwards in the eastern outskirts and territories of Donestsk.
The 9 November report was one of several by the SMM around that time which indicated substantial movements of Russian men under arms and heavy weapons entering Ukraine from across the Russian border, according to reports by the international media, NATO and other sources.
The Russian authorities have continued to deny the presence or participation in the fighting in Ukraine of any Russian military forces.
The Media Law Institute (MLI) in Kiev made a statement on 23 September 2014 protesting against what it said was the role of elements of the Russian media in fuelling the conflict in Ukraine, including by means of propaganda for war and incitement to hatred and violence.
MLI cited examples of alleged manipulation and falsification of images and factual information in a number of Russian TV broadcasts, and urged the international community in the context of the Ukraine conflict to distinguish between media and journalists who act in good faith, performing the important role of reporting for the public good, and those which behave as ‘propagandists’. The statement urged the denial of membership in professional journalistic and media associations of media workers who deliberately violate professional journalistic standards.
On 12 August 2014 OSCE RFOM expressed concern about a Ukrainian draft law to allow the authorities to ban TV and radio transmissions on grounds of national security, saying it would curtail the free flow of information and ideas and so be a violation of international standards.
But on 10 September Ukraine’s media regulator, the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting announced a list of 15 Russian TV channels that were banned in Ukraine.
On 10 November 2014 RT (formerly Russia Today) was found, following an investigation by the UK media regulator Ofcom, to be in breach of broadcasting regulations on impartiality for its coverage of the Ukraine crisis.
Recent developments in Turkey
In Turkey a positive development for freedom of expression was the decision on 2 October 2014 by the Turkish constitutional court to rescind additional online censorship and surveillance powers which the government planned to award to the country’s High Council for Telecommunications (TIB). The court ruled that the proposed extra powers, to order the immediate blocking of websites on national security or public order grounds without the permission of any court and to gather all Internet users’ communications data, were unconstitutional.
The release of dozens of journalists from pre-trial detention in 2014 was welcomed in the June Report to the Committee.
The Turkish Independent Communication Network (BIA), a monitoring organisation, stated on its Bianet news website that reported that at the start of October 2014 19 journalists were still detained in Turkish jails, including four journalists who are awaiting the completion of their investigation or trial processes.
Twelve of the 19 are reported to be Kurdish media workers who are convicted or charged for having ties with illegal organisations, according to the Anti-Terror Law and the Turkish Penal Code.
Bianet stated that a year earlier there were as many as 66 journalists in Turkish prisons. The same organisation has documented 21 assaults on journalists in Turkey between July and September 2014, and reports that since the start of 2014 the Justice Ministry has approved 79 prosecution requests against journalists under Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, which makes it a criminal offence to insult Turkishness or Turkish state institutions.
International PEN has voiced strong concern over the 11 month and 20 days suspended sentence handed down in late September to the journalist and writer Erol Ozkoray after he was found guilty of defaming the current President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in a book about the 2013 Gezi Park protests. The conviction means that Ozkoray would have to serve the sentence in jail if he is convicted of criminal defamation again in the next five years.
International PEN called for the suspended sentence to be lifted.
The European Court of Human Rights has placed strong emphasis in its judgements on the adverse effects of criminal sanctions in defamation cases, and warned of the disproportionate chilling effect of criminal sanctions, especially custodial sentences.
Council of Europe member states are strongly urged to decriminalise the offences of defamation and insult and to ensure that excessive fines and other costs are not ordered in civil defamation proceedings.
Since June 2014 concerns have grown more intense among Turkish and international media organisations, journalists’ associations and others about a series of inflammatory verbal attacks by leading Turkish political figures directed at journalists whose work displeases the authorities.
In August 2014 the then prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking at a political rally in southern Turkey, referred to Amberin Zaman, the Turkey correspondent of The Economist newspaper, as a ’shameless militant woman disguised under the name of a journalist’.
The prime minister’s aggressive language against a respected journalist triggered a flood of insults and violent threats against the journalist on social media. The Economist said in a statement that the intimidation of journalists has no place in a democracy.
In September Mr Erdogan 2014 made another fierce verbal attack in response to an article in the New York Times by the newspaper’s reporter Ceylan Yeginsu about the recruitment of Turkish citizens by the Islamic State.
Soon afterwards the New York Times revealed that the woman reporter had received thousands of social media messages that threatened her safety. It also charged the Turkish authorities and media outlets with mounting a coordinated campaign to intimidate and attack the motives of the reporter.
Later Reporters Without Borders, Article 19 and English PEN wrote an open letter to Mr Erdogan asking him to use his influence as Turkey’s president to foster a culture in which Turkish journalists and writers can exercise their freedom of expression without fear of intimidation.
The European Court of Human Rights has stated that the limits of acceptable criticism are wider for a politician than for a private individual, because of the close scrutiny that a politician should expect by virtue of his public role.
Recent developments in Azerbaijan
In Azerbaijan, on 30 October journalist Khalid Garayev, who works for an opposition-oriented newspaper Azadig, was sentenced to 25 days in jail on charges of hooliganism and disobeying police which human rights monitoring organisations describe as spurious. The survival of the newspaper has been put at risk by the reported freezing of its bank account in November 2012, and the imposition of heavy fines resulting from a series of court cases brought by people described as close to the government. Reporters Without Borders said that the exorbitant fines were a deliberate attempt by the authorities to weaken the newspaper. RWB observed that most other opposition newspapers in Azerbaijan have been closed and broadcast outlets are all controlled by the government.
On 10 November 2014 the OSCE’s Representative on Freedom of the Media criticised repressive actions against independent media and advocates of freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, following the imposition of a travel ban on blogger Mehman Huseynov. Huseynov was detained on that day at Baku airport and stopped from flying to Tblisi to attend a conference at the invitation of the OSCE.
Khadija Ismailova, a journalist with Radio Azadliq and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty who in 2012 was the victim of a blackmail attempt which critics say was orchestrated by the authorities, was also prevented from participating in the Tblisi event because of travel restrictions imposed on her earlier.
On 12 November 2014 human rights organisations in the Human Rights House Network and the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders called on the president of Azerbaijan to order the immediate release of all the jailed civil society actors in the country. They include human rights defenders Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif Yunus, who were arrested in July and August on what the civil society groups described as fabricated charges, as well as human rights defender Rasul Jafarov, human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev, and election monitors Anar Mammadli and Bashir Suleymanli.
On 24 October, following a visit to Azerbaijan the Commissioner for Human Rights deplored the arrest and detention, he said, of virtually all of the civil society partners of his Office. The Commissioner pointed to the need to reform Azerbaijan’s NGO laws, whose requirements for registration have the effect, he said, of driving some NGOs to operate on the fringe of the law.
Speaking at the event in Strasbourg on 3 November, the Commissioner remarked that in Azerbaijan journalists who express critical views are often harassed with legal challenges. He added that at least eleven journalists are currently in prison because of their reporting.
A recently issued report by Article 19 on the situation of independent media and human rights actors in Azerbaijan alleged that the Azerbaijani authorities have unleashed a vicious attack on civil society, in which NGOs, journalists and other critical voices are being removed from public life by harassment or by imprisoning them.

Article 19 cites the case of the investigative journalist Idrak Abbasov, who has alleged that he was tortured at the Ministry of National security in 2009 and was also brutally attacked and beaten in April 2012 by security guards of the state oil company, SOCAR. Article 19 reports that the authorities have not begun any investigation into the torture allegations, and that no proper investigation has been conducted into the attack in 2012, in which Abbasov himself has said he believes his attackers had intended to kill him. In May 2014 Abbasov applied to the European Court of Human Rights to hear his case that the state had failed to conduct an effective investigation.


Recent developments in Hungary
On 28 July 2014 European Commissioner Neelie Kroes renewed her strongly-worded criticism of Hungary’s 2010 media laws, including the establishment of a system of overall media regulation that she said was subject to political interference by the governing party, Fidesz.

Mrs Kroes described the advertising tax that was adopted in June 2014 without significant debate as a threat to a free and plural media, because she said its goal was obviously to drive the foreign broadcaster RTL out of Hungary. RTL is seen as one of the few TV channels which do not support Fidesz, and it is the one hardest hit by the new tax.


Following the Hungarian parliamentary elections on 6 April 2014 the OSCE/ODIHR (Office for democratic Institutions and Human Rights) Limited Election Observation Mission on 11 July published its final report, stating that biased media coverage as well as restrictive campaign rules had given the main governing party an undue advantage in the poll.
The Mission’s media monitoring of the campaign showed that three out of five TV stations displayed a significant bias towards Fidesz. The allocation of state advertising to certain media also undermined pluralism and heightened self-censorship among journalists.
The OSCE/ODIHR report recommended that in future public media should be subject to strict rules prohibiting government interference, and the legal provision for ‘balanced coverage’ should be overseen by a genuinely independent body.
The report also recommended that Hungary’s criminal defamation law should be repealed and that civil law sanctions should be made strictly proportionate to the actual harm caused.
Conclusions and recommendations
The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media is reminded that on 19 September 2014 the UN Human Rights Council adopted a new Resolution A/HRC/27/L.7 on the safety of journalists. The Resolution calls on States to adopt strategies for combating impunity for attacks against journalists, including the creation of special commissions or investigative units; a specialised prosecutor; the training of members of the judiciary regarding he safety of journalists; and early warning and rapid response mechanisms to give threatened journalists immediate access to measures of protection.
Council of Europe member states should also take note that UN General Assembly Resolution 68/163, adopted without a vote on 18 December 2013, expressed the common understanding of the international community regarding the expansion of the range of actors who may legitimately be said to engage in the function of journalism, as a result of sweeping technological and social changes.
Significantly, the UN General Assembly Resolution also acknowledged that ‘journalism is continuously evolving to include inputs from media institutions, private individuals and a range of organisations that seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, online as well as offline, in the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression… thereby contributing to shape public debate’.
The Parliamentary Assembly has long urged the establishment of an online platform to share and disseminate current information about suspected serious infringements of legitimate freedom of the media. The commitment by the Council of Europe to establish a Freedom of Expression Platform making use of information from trusted non-governmental and journalistic partner organisations is a welcome development. Its effectiveness will depend on the extent to which the operation of the platform is followed up by swift and coordinated measures to protect the safety and work of journalists in the member states.
A Council of Europe committee of experts on protection of journalism and safety of journalists has been set up by the Council of Europe to assist in drafting a full set of recommendations to be submitted to the Committee of Ministers during 2015, following up the CM’s Declaration of 30 April 2014. The committee’s work follows the adoption of a political declaration and resolutions at the Council of Europe ministerial meeting in Belgrade in late 2013, which called for political commitment and additional efforts by member states to counter what was called the unacceptable situation of growing violence and harassment directed against journalists and other media actors.
In 2014 the European Commission has funded four pilot projects to enhance and defend media freedom and pluralism. They include a real-time online mapping of violations of media freedom and pluralism in EU member states and candidate countries on http://mediafreedom.ushahadi.com/ , jointly managed by Index on Censorship and Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso; and a Safety Net for European Journalists on http://www.balcanicaucaso.org/eng/Media-Freedom-Net , which monitors verifies and publicises violations of media freedom in Italy, South East Europe and Turkey, and seeks to provide practical support to journalists.
In the UK, in the light of concerns about the misuse by police of powers to access the phone data of journalists, the government has promised to review the relevant provisions to ensure that specific considerations must be given to communications data requests involving those, such as journalists, in sensitive professions.
However, media and civil rights groups have called for more substantial reforms, including guarantees that the behaviour of government agencies will be transparent and subject to proper oversight; and especially that the protection of journalists’ sources should be firmly enshrined in law.
Notably, the Netherlands government has undertaken to enact a law containing specific provisions to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources. The work followed a number of judgements by the European Court of Human Rights which found the Netherlands in violation for failing to respect the principle of confidentiality when investigating or monitoring the activities of journalists.
The Committee attaches high importance to the timely and full implementation of judgements by the Strasbourg Court. The attention of the Committee is drawn to recent significant judgements from the Court regarding access to the Internet, the protection of journalists’ rights regarding information about intelligence services, and the watchdog role of non-governmental organisations:-
In Ahmet Yildirim v. Turkey (18 December 2012) the Court explicitly recognised the right of individuals to access the internet. In its ruling against the wholesale blocking of online content (on Google Sites), it asserted that the internet has now become one of the principal means of exercising the right to freedom of expression and information.

In Bucur and Thoma v. Romania (8 January 2013) the Court considered that the general interest in the disclosure of information revealing illegal activities within Intelligence Services was so important in a democratic society that it prevailed over the interest in maintaining public confidence in the security and intelligence services. The Court found that the sanction against the whistleblower who informed the media about the illegal activities by intelligence services in his country amounted to a violation of Article 10.

In a judgment in the case of Youth Initiative for Human Rights v. Serbia (25 June 2013), the Court of Human Rights has reaffirmed the importance of NGOs acting in the public interest : “when a non-governmental organisation is involved in matters of public interest, such as the present applicant, it is exercising a role as a public watchdog of similar importance to that of the press”.

The government of Ukraine is urged to cooperate closely and fully with the inquiries of the Council of Europe’s International Advisory Panel which is overseeing the investigations into violent incidents arising out of the Maidan protests in Kyiv from November 2013 to February 2014. The Panel’s task is to establish whether the investigations are adequate and effective.


It is disappointing that the planned mission of the Panel to Kyiv at the end of June had to be postponed to the end of July owing to the inadequacy of the responses of the Ukrainian authorities, including the Prosecutor’s Office, the Ministry of the Interior and others. By mid-October the lack of progress was still evident regarding any criminal investigations related to the ordering or use of excessive and deliberate force by the authorities of the time which resulted in the deaths of scores of citizens and severe injuries to dozens of members of the media.
The government of Turkey is urged to continue and speed up the programme of judicial reforms, especially those which are designed to bring the country’s laws and practices into conformity with European Convention on Human Rights standards on freedom of expression and media freedom. In particular, Turkish political leaders are encouraged to repeal legislation that enables a very large number of criminal investigations and prosecutions of journalists, to refrain from ordering the large-scale blocking of internet sites, and to exercise self-restraint so as to avoid intemperate insults or attacks against journalists which carry the risk of provoking hate speech attacks in media and on social media.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on Counter-terrorism, Ben Emmerson, issued a report on the use of mass digital surveillance for counter-terrorism purposes on 15 October 2014. In it he said that the recently revealed practices of indiscriminate bulk accessing of data from the Internet pose a direct and ongoing challenge to an established norm of international law. He stated that the development by US and UK government agencies of interception programmes developed such as Prism and Tempora effectively does away with the right to privacy of communications on the Internet altogether.
Emmerson argued that there is an urgent need for states to revise national laws regulating modern forms of surveillance to ensure that these practices are consistent with international human rights law.
The writer commends these and other issues and cases outlined in this Report to the attention of members of the Committee for their consideration.

William Horsley is concurrently the international director of the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM), University of Sheffield. Further information about the Seminar and Inter-regional Dialogue co-organised by CFOM, the Council of Europe, UNESCO and the European Lawyers Union may be obtained from the website http://www.cfom.org.uk/ .
Further details on the cited rulings from the European Court of Human Rights on ‘The Right to Freedom of Expression and Information under the European Human Rights System : Towards a more Transparent Democratic Society – Dirk Voorhoof’ on http://inforrm.wordpress.com .


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