memorandum by Andrew McIntosh, rapporteur
This report follows my earlier report which led to
Assembly Resolution 1535
on threats to the lives and freedom of expression
of journalists. It is structured in accordance with the basic principles
stipulated in Assembly Resolution
on indicators for media in a democracy, using
three basic categories of violations.
- Category A covers the most severe and damaging violations
of media freedom, including physical assaults and murder, intimidation,
impunity for crimes targeting journalists and the application of excessively severe
penal laws to protect state officials from the level of criticism
which is to be expected in a democracy (Resolution 1636 (2008) paragraphs
8.1, 8.2 and 8.14).
- Category B applies to governments’ dealings with the media
in law and administration. These indicators concern violations of
media freedom arising from the misuse of governmental or other powers
to direct the media, especially in elections (Resolution 1636 (2008) paragraph
8.5), interference with media freedom through ownership, control
and regulation (paragraphs 8.7, 8.15 to 8.19 and 8.22 to 8.24),
the damaging impact of laws on anti-terrorism, extremism and state
security on freedom of expression, access to information and confidentiality
of sources (paragraphs 8.3 to 8.10 and 8.24) and the independence
of public sector broadcasting (paragraphs 8.20 and 8.21).
- Category C covers the need for diverse media ownership,
(Resolution 1636 (2008) paragraph
8.18) professional and ethical conduct on the part of media owners,
managers, editors and workers (paragraphs 8.12, 8.13, 8.21 and 8.26),
decent working conditions (paragraph 8.11), procedures to deal with
disputes and complaints (paragraph 8.25) and effective national
reviews of the condition of media freedom.
2. I wish to express my deep appreciation to William Horsley,
International Director of the Centre for Freedom of the Media at
the University of Sheffield and Media Freedom Representative of
the Association of European Journalists, who was commissioned to
prepare a substantial background report on serious violations of
media freedom in Europe between 2007 and 2009. This explanatory
memorandum uses parts of the background report.
3. For the preparation of this report, the Sub-Committee on the
Media held a hearing on media freedom in Luxembourg on 26 October
2009. I appreciate the substantial contributions made during this
hearing by Marc Gruber from the International Federation of Journalists,
Danièle Fonck, Alvin Sold and Michal Musil from the European Newspaper
Publishers’ Association, Boyko Boev from Article 19, Boris Bergant
from the International Press Institute/South East Europe Media Organisation
and Olivier Basille from Reporters Without Borders. The hearing
was kindly hosted by the Chamber of Deputies of Luxembourg.
4. On this occasion, the German journalist Hans-Martin Tillack
handed over to the Council of Europe an original copy of the “European
Charter on Freedom of the Press” prepared and signed by many leading European
journalists. The charter was received during that meeting of the
Sub-Committee on the Media in Luxembourg by the Chairman of the
Committee of Ministers, Mr Samuel Žbogar, Minister for Foreign Affairs
of Slovenia, as well as myself on behalf of the Assembly.
5. This symbolic reminder of the need to respect media freedom
in any democracy reflected the desire of media and their organisations
that the Council of Europe increase its efforts. It was a reminder
that constant attention is necessary in order not to put democracy
at stake by neglecting serious violations of media freedom. Democracy
and media freedom are core values of the Council of Europe.
A: murders, violence against journalists and the most serious violations
6. Harassment of journalists and direct controls on
the media intensified around the time of the February 2008 presidential
election. Several journalists, including photographer Gagik Shamshyan,
were injured in assaults by police during protests after the election.
The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that a reporter,
Lusine Barseghyan, was assaulted while attempting to document abuses
at a Yerevan polling station. During a three-week long state of
emergency all independent reporting was banned. In March 2007 similar
government controls on the media were imposed during a temporary
state of emergency under the previous administration.
7. Several other journalists suffered assaults in 2008, including
Hrach Melkumyan, Yerevan bureau chief of Radio Free Europe/Radio
Liberty and Edik Baghdasaryan, editor of the online news magazine Hetq and chair of the Armenian Association
of Investigative Journalists.
8. On 30 April 2009 Argishti Kivirian, editor of the online news
website Armenia Today, was
attacked by three unknown assailants outside his home in Yerevan,
leaving him with severe injuries. He was reportedly beaten on his
head and body with clubs or wooden poles and one of the attackers
also fired gunshots, which caused no injuries. Colleagues said they
believed the attack was related to his work.
9. The Azerbaijan authorities have been accused of arbitrarily
imprisoning journalists and mistreating them in jail. On 17 August
2009 Novruzali Mamedov, the editor of a defunct minority newspaper Talyshi Sado, died in a Baku prison,
where he had been serving a ten-year sentence since February 2007.
The CPJ had protested that Mamedov was jailed on fabricated charges,
including treason. The Paris-based International Federation for
Human Rights alleged that he was tortured in jail. Several international
groups claimed that he had also been denied necessary medical treatment
while suffering from ill health in prison. A prison spokesman said
the cause of his death was a stroke. Talyshi
Sado stopped publishing soon after Mamedov was jailed.
10. Police brutality is alleged in the case of Emin Huseynov,
head of the Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety in Azerbaijan,
who suffered head injuries when he was reportedly struck by police
with the butt of a gun in a Baku police station on 14 June 2008.
Huseynov was covering an event at a Baku cafe when it was raided
by police. Officials later attributed his injuries to self-harm.
11. The 2005 murder of Elmar Huseynov, editor-in-chief of the
journal Monitor and leading
advocate of democratisation, remains unsolved. Huseynov was killed
outside his home in the run-up to elections in 2005. International
media monitoring groups have alleged that government officials were
involved in Huseynov’s death.
12. Eynulla Fatullayev, the editor of Gundelike
Azerbaijan and the Russian-language newspaper Realny Azerbaijan, has been in prison
since his conviction in April 2007 over allegations he made in newspaper
articles that Elmar Huseynov’s murder was ordered by high-ranking
officials. International PEN and the CPJ denounced as “politicised”
Fatullayev’s convictions for terrorism and inciting ethnic hatred.
In total he received an eight-year jail sentence. Earlier he had
been given a suspended sentence after being found guilty of defaming
the interior minister. CPJ states that he had received death threats.
His newspaper’s offices were also shut down.
13. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media reported that
in May 2007 another RealnyAzerbaijan reporter, Uzeyir Jafarov,
had been almost beaten to death.
14. On 21 April 2009, three journalists serving jail sentences
on defamation and other charges were released. The World Association
of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) on 24 September 2009 called
for the release of a further five editors, journalists and bloggers
from prison. WAN-IFRA claimed that all five were being punished
for criticising the government, and it deplored the “pervasive climate
of intimidation and fear” in the media environment of Azerbaijan.
2.3 Bosnia and Herzegovina
15. In September 2008, death threats were received by
several radio and print journalists who covered an event in Sarajevo
focusing on gay rights.
16. On 7 April 2008 Georgi Stoev, a newspaper columnist
and author of several popular books about organised crime in Bulgaria,
was shot dead in a street in Sofia; CPJ reported that he had predicted that
he would be killed for his writings. No suspects were identified.
17. Ognyan Stefanov, the editor of the investigative website Frognews
was left unconscious for three days and was critically injured after
being attacked with hammers by masked men outside a restaurant in
Sofia on 22 September 2008. Reporters Without Borders (RWB) reported
that Stefanov’s injuries included two broken legs and a broken arm.
18. RWB reports that on 9 February 2007 two men threatened to
throw acid at Maria Nikolaeva after she had co-written a critical
article about a project to build a block of flats on Bulgaria’s
largest protected site, the nature reserve in Strandja on the Black
19. RWB concluded that investigative journalism and media pluralism
in Bulgaria are seriously threatened by organised crime and various
forms of pressure from political and business quarters, and said
that self-censorship had grown more common because of the evident
risks to journalists’ safety following the murder of Stoev and the
attack on Stefanov.
20. On 23 October 2008 Ivo Pukanić, the owner and editorial
director of the Croatian political weekly Nacional,
and Niko Franjic, the newspaper's marketing director, were killed
by a bomb which exploded under the editor's car outside the newspaper's
offices in Zagreb. These were the first murders of media workers
since the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Nacional has
a reputation for reporting on crime, corruption and human rights abuses.
Criminal gangs are believed to be responsible, and five men have
been charged in connection with the murders. Pukanić had earlier
received death threats. The World Association of Newspapers (WAN)
had earlier criticised the poor record of Croatia's law-enforcement
agencies in prosecuting those who attack journalists.
21. The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed
alarm over death threats received in 2008 by Drago Hedl, journalist
with the weekly Feral Tribune,
who had investigated war crimes against civilians committed in 1991,
and Vedran Strukar, of Europe Press Holdings, whose family members
were also threatened with violence.
22. In August 2008, four journalists were killed and
at least 10 others were injured while reporting on the conflict
23. On 10 August 2008 Alexander Klimchuk, the head of the Tbilisi-based
Caucasus Images photo agency and Grigol Chikhladze, a freelance
worker for the same agency, were killed while trying to enter Tskhinvali
in South Ossetia while on assignment for the Russian news service
24. On 12 August 2008 Stan Storimans, a Dutch cameraman for RTL
television was killed in a military attack on the Georgian town
of Gori and his reporter colleague Jeroen Akkermans was injured.
A Dutch Government inquiry found that Russian cluster munitions
were responsible for the death and injury, but the claim was disputed. Akkermans
has lodged a complaint against Russia over the attack with the European
Court of Human Rights.
25. On 6 September Giorgi Ramishvili of the Rustavi 2 television
station was killed, reportedly shot while filming around the Georgian
village of Shavnabada near Tbilisi.
26. On 7 November 2007, during popular protests against the Government
of Georgia over alleged corruption and abuses of power, a large
force of armed troops stormed the privately owned Imedi television station,
which had been a focus for airing the views of the political opposition.
The troops detained and threatened hundreds of staff and destroyed
much of the station’s equipment, forcing it to stop broadcasting.
A number of employees were assaulted by riot police after being
ejected from the building. Human Rights Watch and other international
organisations questioned the legality of the operation, which the
government claimed was prompted by a threat to national security.
When the station was allowed back on air five months later it was
under different ownership and had softened its critical stance towards
27. Article 19 accused the Georgian Government of breaking its
commitment to freedom of expression by suppressing the media during
the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2008, as well as
the August 2008 conflict with Russia.
28. The Georgian authorities were strongly criticised by international
monitoring organisations for censorship of the media, including
the blocking of Russian-language broadcasts, at the time of the
29. Journalists’ groups voiced serious concern after
four armed men invaded the private broadcaster TV Alter in Athens on 17 February
2009, fired several shots and threw an explosive device at the building
shouting threats at the journalists there. They reportedly called
themselves the “revolutionary sect”. The motive for the attack was
not made clear.
30. On 22 June 2007 a brutal assault was inflicted on
Iren Karman, a woman journalist who was investigating alleged corruption
involving criminal gangs related to oil deals done in the 1990s.
She was abducted in Budapest, severely beaten, and left on a bank
of the Danube suffering from head wounds and internal bleeding,
31. Senior Italian prosecutors say that murder threats
and physical assaults are commonly being used by criminal elements
including the Mafia, to force Italian journalists to stay silent
about organised crime.Writer
and journalist Roberto Saviano, the author of the book entitled Gomorra, has been forced to live
under police protection since October 2006 after receiving threats
because of his investigations into the Neapolitan Mafia, the Camorra.
RWB estimates that 10 other journalists have also had to seek police
protection because of personal threats.
32. On 2 September 2007 two men were discovered trying to place
a home-made bomb under the car of Lirio Abbate, a correspondent
in Palermo for the national news agency ANSA. That followed publication
of his book Complici [The
Accomplices] dealing with connivance between the political world
and the Mafia.
33. Police were accused of using excessive force, assaulting
and arresting a number of journalists during post-election demonstrations
on 8 April 2009 and in the following days. The government stopped
a number of Romanian and other foreign journalists from entering
the country around that time and detained others who were already
34. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media complained
to the government about the police behaviour and the restrictions
on reporting. He also called on the journalists reporting on the
street protests and clashes to do so objectively, without inflaming
35. The lengthy catalogue of violent deaths among journalists
in Russia is an affront to the principles of the Council of Europe,
including the right to life and to freedom of expression. These
documented cases seem to show persistent and careless violation
of the requirement to protect journalists against physical attacks,
and a habitual failure to deal with assaults and threats adequately
through the courts.
36. On 2 March 2007 Ivan Safronov, a military affairs correspondent for
the Kommersant newspaper,
died after falling from the fourth floor of his apartment block
in Moscow. Investigators attributed the death to suicide, but his
family and friends stated their belief that he was killed because
of his work. He had been preparing to publish articles revealing
evidence about questionable arms sales to the Middle East. The CPJ
and others called for a full investigation. However, no suspects
are being sought.
37. On 5 April 2007 Vyacheslav Ifanov, a cameraman for the independent
television station Novoye Televideniye Aleiska in the Siberian city
of Aleisk died in his car garage and was declared to be the victim
of self-induced carbon monoxide poisoning. However, the CPJ reported
that family members said they had found wounds on his body and that he
had received death threats. Ifanov was killed the day after his
television station broadcast a report about an earlier attack on
him in January, in which he suffered concussion after a group of unidentified
men wearing camouflage uniforms had beaten him, allegedly warning
him to stop his investigative reporting work or face worse punishment. No
suspects were identified.
38. On 21 March 2008 Ilyas Shurpayev, a television reporter for
Russia's Channel One who had reported widely from the Russian Republic
of Dagestan, was stabbed and apparently strangled in his Moscow apartment.
Three suspects were arrested and accused of his murder and of theft,
and sentenced to long prison terms. The CPJ reports that Shurpayev had
described himself as having been branded as a dissident. He was killed shortly
after he had written an article for a newspaper in Dagestan which
had rejected his writing as too controversial. Three men were convicted but
further investigations are called for.
39. Also on 21 March 2008, Gadzhi Abashilov, the head of the state
radio and television company in Dagestan and a former deputy information
minister there, was shot dead in his car in the capital, Makhachkala. His
driver was badly injured. No suspects were identified.
40. On 31 August 2008 Magomed Yevloyev, the publisher of the popular
independent news website Ingushetia.ru was was shot dead while in
the custody of officers of the Ministry of the Interior after his
arrest at the airport of the Ingush capital, Nazran. Contradictory
official statements were made about the killing but it was later
announced that one of the officers would be charged with negligent
homicide. Yevloyev's family have demanded the investigation should be
extended to seek those responsible for ordering the killing. They have taken their
appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. Preliminary hearings
opened in 2008. Yevloyev and his website were known for his work exposing
official corruption, alleged election fraud and human rights abuses
41. In 2007 the website's chief editor, Roza Malsagova, left Ingushetia
after saying that she had been assaulted by Ingush authorities and
had received physical threats. She also faced criminal prosecution
for distributing allegedly extremist materials and inciting ethnic
hatred. The Moscow-based SOVA Center for Information and Analysis,
which monitors issues of xenophobia and civic freedoms in Russia,
said in a report on 29 July 2009 that while various charges used
to prosecute Ingushetia.ru were unfounded, certain texts published
there did contain xenophobic statements against Ossetians. It also
reported that the website had since been allowed to reopen as Ingushetia.org.
42. On 2 September 2008 Telman Alishayev, a presenter on TV-Chirkei
in Makhachkala, Dagestan, was shot in an attack by two assailants
while driving his car and died the next day. He had reported critically
about the ultra-conservative Wahhabi sect of Islam and received
death threats. The investigation continues.
43. On 5 January 2009 Shafig Amrakhov, editor of the online news
agency RIA 51, died six days after he was shot in the head several
times with a gun using rubber bullets at his home in Murmansk. The
CPJ reports that he had made public criticisms of the Murmansk governor
shortly before his murder and had been denied accreditation to attend
President Vladimir Putin's last press conference in that office
in February 2008. Mr Amrakhov had suffered a serious injury in an
earlier assault in 1997. No suspects were identified.
44. On 19 January 2009 Anastasia Baburova, a reporter for the
independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was
shot and fatally wounded in a Moscow street by a man wearing a ski
mask; she had attended a press conference with a leading human rights
lawyer Stanislav Markelov, whom the gunman shot dead first and who may
have been the main target of the shooting. A prosecutor said one suspect
whose identity is known to the authorities is being sought. The
45. On 30 March 2009 Sergey Protazanov, a layout designer for Grajdanskoye Soglasye/ [Civic Concord], a
critical local newspaper in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, died two
days after he was attacked close to his home, according to what
he told the newspaper's editor Anatoly Yurov. The International
Federation of Journalists (IFJ) reported that investigators made
contradictory statements about the manner of his death, and then
determined that he had died from a stroke after falling downstairs.
The Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF) and IFJ reported information
that Protazanov had been preparing newspaper coverage of alleged
fraud in recent local mayoral elections. Anatoly Yurov had also
been stabbed in an attack in February 2008. Six months after Protazanov's
death no criminal case has yet been opened.
46. On 30 June 2009 Vyacheslav Yaroshenko, the editor-in-chief
of Korruptsiya i Prestupnost [Corruption and
Crime] died of head injuries he reportedly suffered during an attack
by unknown assailants at the entrance of his apartment building
in Rostov-on-Don. Police said it was likely that Yaroshenko died
from a fall downstairs, but his colleagues and international organisations
suspect he was murdered and allege negligence by the investigators. He
had published reports about alleged corruption involving law enforcement
agencies in the city. No criminal investigation has been opened.
47. On 15 July 2009 Natalia Estemirova, who worked in Chechnya
for the human rights organisation Memorial, was abducted in a street
in Grozny. Her body was found, with bullet wounds to the head and
heart, in neighbouring Ingushetia later the same day. An investigation
was ordered but several international organisations cast doubt on
its impartiality. Estemirova had published articles implicating forces
loyal to the Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov in torture and other
severe human rights crimes. After her death, Russian human rights
figures called for local law-enforcement forces to be investigated
in connection with the murder. No suspects have yet been identified.
48. After Estemirova's death, Memorial said it would be forced
to withdraw from Chechnya because of the unacceptable risk to the
lives of its staff. She had contributed articles to Novaya Gazeta and is the fifth journalist
writing for the paper to be killed since 2000.
49. On 11 August 2009 Abdulmalik Akhmedilov, deputy editor of Khakikat [Truth], a newspaper published
in the Avar language of Dagestan, was shot dead by unknown assailants
as he left his home in Makhachkala. GDF and IFJ reported that eye
witnesses said his attackers used a car with tinted windows and
no number plates. Investigators were quoted as saying they would investigate
various possible motives for the murder. The chief editor of Khakikat, Ali Kamalov, alleged it
was politically motivated. Akhmedilov had criticised federal and
local law-enforcement bodies for suppressing religious and political
dissent under the guise of an anti-extremism campaign. Investigations
50. Of all these cases only one – the death of Ilyas Shurpayev
– has resulted in a legal conviction. Following the murder of Abdulmalik
Akhmedilov in Dagestan, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the
Media, Miklos Haraszti, sent a letter to the Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov saying that the Russian Government must publicly acknowledge
that the campaign against journalists and human rights activists
in the Russian Federation is intolerable, adding that the highest
levels of law enforcement must be taken to task after proving unable
to resolve earlier cases. Mr Haraszti called for an action plan
to put an end to what he termed a “human rights crisis”.
51. The situation in Russia today for independent-minded and inquiring
journalists was described in September 2009 by a representative
of the Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations (CJES), Oleg
Panfilov, as a “constant state of fear”. CJES estimates that several
hundred Russian journalists have chosen to go abroad because of
risks to their personal safety and the severe limits placed on their
professional freedom inside Russia, while others have abandoned
52. Independent Russian journalists are united in saying that
self-censorship is now widespread among Russian media workers, driven
by the fear of violence following the multitude of assaults on inquiring journalists.
In 2008, 69 other physical assaults and 35 cases of threats to the
safety of journalists in Russia were recorded by the IFJ and the
GDF, confirming Russia's reputation as the most dangerous country
in Europe for journalists.
53. Among the most severe was the apparent murder attempt on 12
November 2008 against Mikhail Beketov, editor-in-chief of the independent
newspaper Khimkinskaya Pravda in
the Khimki area of Moscow. He was beaten unconscious outside his
home by unknown attackers using metal bars. The assault left him
with life-threatening head injuries and doctors had to amputate
one of his legs. Colleagues reported that he had been warned of
a plan to murder him so as to stop him reporting on alleged official
corruption and his car had been set on fire. Beketov had investigated
alleged official corruption related to a motorway construction project through
a local area of protected forest which was opposed by local people.
54. On 3 February 2009 Yuri Grachev, 72-year-old editor of a Moscow
area newspaper Solnechnogorsky Forum,
was beaten unconscious outside his home near Moscow. He had published
articles that were sharply critical of local officials’ conduct
in recent elections.
55. On 10 March 2009 Vadim Rogozhin, an investigative journalist
and managing director of Vzglyad [View], a media holding company
in the southern city of Saratov, was attacked outside his apartment
by two assailants and critically injured by blows to the head with
a blunt axe. He had reported on alleged corruption in the regional government
and security agencies.
56. On 12 March 2009 Maksim Zolotarev, editor of the independent Molva Yuzhnoye Podmoskovye [Molva South]
newspaper in Serpukhov near Moscow, was beaten by attackers with
clubs outside his apartment. He subsequently said that he had quit
journalism because of intimidation. The CPJ reported that Zolotarev described
the attack as retaliation for the paper’s reporting on corruption.
57. The public condemnation by elected political figures of violent
crimes against media workers is essential to create the necessary
political climate to deter any recurrence of such outrages. The
first recorded response to Anna Politkovskaya’s death from the then
President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, provoked international dismay:
the Russian leader spoke dismissively about the murdered journalist
as someone with minimal influence in Russia.
58. However at a press conference in January 2007 President Putin
expressed concern about her death and described the problem of the
persecution of journalists in Russia as one of most pressing facing
his government. The record of killings and assaults on journalists
in Russia calls for unambiguous condemnation and determined executive
leadership. President Dmitry Medvedev, who took over that office
in 2008, has condemned violence against journalists in strong terms,
but appropriate legislative and political reforms have yet to follow.
2.12 Attacks on human
59. Murders and acts of violence against prominent human
rights defenders, including lawyers, in Russia have further eroded
the possibility for a free press to continue to exist, both because
those attacks spread fear and because journalists depend on a small
number of determined and authoritative individuals for reliable information
from dangerous regions, including Chechnya.
60. International condemnation and outrage followed the street
killing of prominent human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, shot
in January 2009 together with Anastasia Baburova, and the death
of Zarema Sadulayeva, who worked for a children's charity in Chechnya
and was killed there on 12 August 2009 together with her husband.
61. The risks to the safety of those who take a public stand for
freedom of speech and conscience in the face of threats or coercion
were again demonstrated by threats made in late September 2009 to
the life of Alexander Podrabinek, a former anti-communist dissident
and freelance journalist, by the right-wing pro-Kremlin youth movement
Nashi. Podrabinek wrote an article on a news website criticising
Russia’s Soviet past, including the crimes of Stalinism, and accusing
the present Russian Government of seeking to rehabilitate the image
of the Soviet Union. He and his family went into hiding after Nashi
members threatened to sue him and staged menacing protests outside
his home, and personal details including his home address were posted
on other Internet sites.
2.13 Serbia and KosovoNote
62. Physical assaults and serious threats against journalists
continued to be reported in Serbia and Kosovo, mostly related to
residual nationalist and political tensions. In Serbia, the SEEMO
reported that the editor of RTV TNT in Bela Crkva, Stefan Cvetkovic,
was assaulted on 18 July 2008, apparently on account of his on-air reports.
In September 2008 a group of nationalist protestors forced their
way into the Beta news agency in Belgrade to demand coverage of
their protests against the arrest of the war crimes suspect Radovan
Karadžić. In March 2008 SEEMO reported that two senior editors of
the weekly Nedeljni Telegraf had
received death threats.
63. In Kosovo, death threats were made against the television
presenter Jeta Xharra in June 2009 following her investigative reports
on the public television channel RTK about limits on press freedom
in Kosovo and alleged atrocities committed by the Kosovo Liberation
Army in the conflict of the late 1990s.
64. The armed Basque separatist organisation ETA has
continued to attack and threaten journalists who criticise its use
of terrorist violence and extortion.
65. Among the most recent incidents of violence directed against
the media in the Basque country were an explosion at the EiTB public
broadcasting headquarters in Bilbao on 31 December 2008 and another
against a television transmission facility in Hernani on 16 January
2009. The attacks caused significant damage but no injuries.
66. RWB reported that as a result of these incidents journalists
have for many years been intimidated into compromising the way they
report on ETA, and that in May 2008 around 40 of them in the Basque
country were obliged to live under police protection.
67. On January 19 2007, Hrant Dink, the editor of the
bilingual Armenian-Turkish magazine Argos,
was shot dead outside his Istanbul office. The trial of 18 defendants
68. The behaviour of Turkish police during the investigation and the
conduct of the trials of suspects in Hrant Dink's murder have given
rise to complaints of negligence, obstruction and collusion on the
part of members of the security forces. A number of other senior
public officials were removed from office on the grounds of dereliction
of duty. In early 2007 Turkish television broadcast video footage
of several police and gendarmerie officers posing for a photograph
with Ogün Samast, who was under arrest for shooting Hrant Dink.
69. The Turkish Government, under international pressure, amended
Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code on 30 April 2008, but the
changes have been widely criticised as inadequate. The original
wording criminalised “denigration of Turkishness, the Republic,
the institutions and organs of the State”. The new wording substituted
“Turkish nation” for “Turkishness”. The maximum sentence was reduced
from three to two years' imprisonment, and the amended law says
that prosecutions must first be approved by the Minister of Justice.
Previously it had been possible for nationalist-minded lawyers to
instigate prosecutions themselves.
70. The changes have not substantially reduced the number of court
cases in which writers or journalists have been prosecuted for their
published opinions. The Turkish monitoring organisation Bianet reports
that between April and June 2009 125 people, 57 of them journalists,
were on trial for expressing their opinions.
71. International PEN reported in September 2009 that there are
currently more than 70 outstanding cases of journalists and writers
facing criminal investigation or trial in Turkey for expressing
their opinions. Of those, 27 individuals face possible criminal
prosecution under Article 301. International PEN says at least seven applications
for criminal investigation under the amended Article 301 are currently
under consideration by the Ministry of Justice. So far no prosecution
under the amended article has been confirmed.
72. The Article 19 organisation reports that other frequently
used provisions of the penal code used to prosecute journalists
and writers are Article 216, prohibiting “inflaming hatred and hostility
among the people”, and Law 5816, which criminalises “insulting the
memory of Ataturk”. The largest number of charges brought against
journalists for “speech crimes” relate to Kurdish issues.
73. RWB reported two more recent attacks on journalists. Haci
Bogatekin, owner of the fortnightly publication Gerger Kirat, was injured and his
camera was broken in an attack on 28 July 2009, while reporting on
a fire at a controversial waste site in the south-eastern province
of Adiyaman. RWB alleged then that beatings were commonly being
ordered or carried out by local officials as a means to silence
journalists. And on 6 July 2009 Durmuş Tuna, the owner of local Söke Gerçek newspaper in south-western
Turkey, suffered a broken arm in an assault by a group of men. He
had reported on corrupt practices in the local government.
74. In Ukraine, three former police officers were convicted
in March 2008 for the murder of Georgiy Gongadze and the investigation
has gathered momentum.
75. In September 2009 the European Court of Human Rights ruled
against the Government of Ukraine for failing to protect the life
of the journalist or to conduct an effective investigation into
his murder for some years after it took place. A more open political
climate now prevails, matched by a lively independent media sector. In
a second Interim Resolution CM/ResDH(2009)74 in September 2009,
the Committee of Ministers welcomed recent progress in the investigation,
including the rearrest of the fugitive former general, Oleksiy Pukach,
the superior of the convicted former policemen.
2.17 United Kingdom
76. In September 2007 a death threat was received from
a presumed loyalist paramilitary group in a message sent to a Northern
Ireland television studio. It was accompanied by a bullet and bore
the name and address of Robin Livingstone, the editor of the Andersonstown News. RWB criticised
the police’s failure to bring to justice the killers of the Belfast
journalist Martin O’Hagan, who was murdered by a group believed
to be loyalist paramilitaries in September 2001. RWB called on the
police to do more to protect journalists and prosecute those responsible
for attacks on them, and welcomed new inquiries focusing on O’Hagan’s
writings on alleged collusion between the security forces and paramilitary
77. Belarus, which is not a member state of the Council
of Europe, is ranked in 188th place out of 195 countries in Freedom
House’s Global Press Freedom Ranking for 2009, judging it to have
the worst record of any country in Europe. Reporters Without Borders
said on 12 February 2008 that the free press there had virtually
disappeared because of regular administrative harassment and a repressive
framework of laws. The government has recently indicated its willingness
to allow some independent newspapers to be published and sold.
78. Article 19 reports several recent attacks on journalists,
including an assault on photographer Uladzimir Hrydzin on 16 April
2009 and the detention and confiscation of equipment from journalist
Siarhei Panamarou and his crew on 17 April 2009.
79. Article 19 and others have pressed the Belarus authorities
over their continuing failure to resolve the October 2004 murder
of journalist Veranica Charkasava and the disappearance in July
2000 of cameraman Dmitri Zavadski.
2.19 Attacks and threats
against journalists from religious circles following the Danish
80. The Muhammad cartoons controversy in 2005 and 2006
gave rise to large and violent protests across the Muslim world
and in some European cities, representing a challenge to Europe’s
liberal concept of press freedom from the Muslim religious minority
within Europe. That segment of society demonstrated its demand for
limits to freedom of expression to take account of special religious
81. Media freedom suffered because some figures at the centre
of the dispute, including a number of Danish cartoonists, were forced
into hiding by threats of violence by Islamic extremists, and newspapers
in some countries such as the United Kingdom appeared to exercise
self-censorship out of fear of reprisals.
82. However, the reprinting of the cartoons in newspapers in most
European countries demonstrated the strength of public feeling in
favour of the free expression of ideas, even when they may cause
offence. The principle that defamation laws can apply only to individuals
but not to a religious faith such as Islam has also been publicly
reaffirmed. Many states have engaged in new forms of dialogue among
religious and other civic groups which have sometimes contributed
to better mutual understanding between people of different faiths and
convictions. If that continues, the principle of free expression
will be well served.
83. Potential risks to individuals’ safety still persist. In Denmark,
a fresh plot was discovered in February 2008 to kill Kurt Westergaard,
who drew the much-criticised turban cartoon. He complained that
he was again forced to be a fugitive in his own country.
84. In Sweden in August 2007, some Muslim groups condemned another
cartoon by Lars Vilks in the newspaper Nerikes
Allehanda depicting the prophet Muhammed. The cartoon
was said to have been printed, such as the earlier Danish ones,
to highlight the issue of self-censorship and freedom of expression.
The cartoonist received threats and several art galleries refused
to show Vilks’ work for fear of reprisals.
85. In France, Robert Redeker, a philosophy professor, was also
forced to seek police protection after he received threats to his
life on account of a column he wrote in Le
Figaro newspaper in September 2006 on how the free world
should respond to Islamist intimidation. A young Moroccan man was
arrested in Libya in early 2007 and admitted calling, on an Islamist
website, for the professor to be killed.
86. In the United Kingdom, Martin Rynja, owner of independent
publishing company Gibson Square, suffered an arson attack on 27
September 2008, when petrol was poured through the letterbox of
the publishing house, which is also his home, and set alight. In
2009 three Muslim men were each sentenced to four-and-a-half years
in prison for the attack. It followed Rynja’s publication of The Jewel of Medina, a fictional
account of the relationship between the prophet Muhammad and his
very young wife Aisha.
3 Category B: the
state’s relationship with the media and serious violations of journalists’
freedom of information and expression
87. The evidence of this report indicates that governments
themselves are most responsible for encroachments on the standards
of media freedom upheld by the Council of Europe. The removal of
many of the impediments to free, plural and professional media therefore
lies in their hands.
88. The International Press Institute, which represents editors,
media executives and leading journalists, stated in its review of
2008: “The gradual backslide in European press freedom continued
this year, as governments further dented journalists' right to protect
the confidentiality of their sources, strengthened and applied criminal
defamation legislation, and used counter-terrorism as a pretext
to stifle free speech.”
89. Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, many traditional
political party structures in Europe have been swept away and replaced
by new ones and fierce contests have intensified among competing
political forces to control, influence or directly own mass media.
90. This pattern of extreme antagonism between rival political
forces and their media allies lies behind a series of numerous displays
of intolerance on the part of elected politicians towards critical
media in recent years. Political leaders have not only stepped up
attempts to dominate the news agenda by exerting influence on public
sector broadcasters and other “friendly” media. They have also been
quick to prosecute journalists for defamation or other offences,
The Council of Europe and the OSCE, through its Representative
on Freedom of the Media, have both identified the dangers for freedom
of expression arising from the exercise of state power, especially
in the following areas, whose importance is emphasised in the list
of indicators given in Resolution
: pressures on the media in elections, the
use of criminal laws and administrative means to block journalistic inquiry,
the impact and uses of the Internet, and manipulation of public
3.1 Restrictions, harassment
and media bias in elections
92. Fair access to the media for all candidates, especially
at times of elections, is central to the workings of democracy.
That principle has however been violated in a number of post-communist
member states, where international election monitors have found
evidence of serious distortions and bias in media reporting on elections.
In some cases they have been unable to carry out their work because
of a lack of co-operation from the host governments.
93. In Armenia the mass protests following the contested victory
of Serzh Sargsyan in the presidential election of 19 February 2008
prompted the declaration of a state of emergency, including provisions
for strict censorship of all publications for twenty days. Several
media outlets closed down in that time rather than submit to censorship.
A report by the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) of 5 December
2008 revealed that most leading newspapers and broadcasting organisations
openly took sides between the pro- and anti-government political
forces while covering these events, showing that media independence
from political authorities in Armenia had been effectively blocked
in a climate of extreme political polarisation and mutual antagonism.
94. For the Azerbaijani presidential election on 15 October 2008,
the Parliamentary Assembly’s election observation mission found
that candidates were able to convey their messages to voters without
impediment. But it reported that in the four weeks before the election
public television devoted 51% of its coverage to the incumbent president,
Ilham Aliev, and his supporters, which was positive or neutral,
while only 12% was devoted to all the other political parties together.
Some journalists who had criticised the authorities were charged
with criminal offences or faced civil lawsuits, some of them resulting
in prison sentences and fines.
95. In the case of the Belarus parliamentary elections of September
2008, the Parliamentary Assembly pointed to the lack of pluralist
information for voters as one of the serious flaws which undermined
the election result.
96. In Russia, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
found that in the period preceding the Duma elections of December
2007 as well as the presidential election of 3 March 2008, numerous
violations, including harassment of media outlets, legislative limitations,
and media bias took place, which prevented fair and equal media
access. The governing United Russia Party and its chosen candidate
Dmitry Medvedev were given extensive and favourable coverage on
Russia’s national television channels, far out of proportion to
that given to the rest.
97. This contributed to the conclusions of international observers
that the Duma elections failed to meet many international standards
for democratic elections, and that the presidential election was
not free and fair, in part because of the unequal access of the
candidates to the media.
98. The well-documented existence of formal or informal blacklists
of individuals who are effectively barred from appearing on mainstream
media in Russia represents blatant bias and a violation of Council
of Europe standards,
3.2 The impact of anti-terrorism,
anti-extremism laws and security laws on media freedom and challenges
to the confidentiality of sources
99. The rule in democratic states is that laws for the
protection of state secrets, national security or against incitement
to hatred must respect the right to freedom of expression and can
only be overruled in exceptional cases.
100. That principle was upheld in the Committee of Ministers’ 2005
Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Information in the Media
in the Context of the Fight against Terrorism. It
says that states should not introduce any new restrictions on freedom
of expression and information in the media unless strictly necessary and
proportionate. It also reaffirmed that states should respect the
right of journalists not to disclose their sources of information
beyond what is permitted in the European Convention on Human Rights
and refrain from exerting any kind of pressure on them.
101. Yet in numerous cases states have been accused of prosecuting
journalists without due regard for the principle that reporting
such matters may constitute a genuine public interest. Respect for
the confidentiality of journalists’ sources has also been challenged
repeatedly in the courts.
Examples of judicial investigations of journalists on security-related
charges that seem to violate agreed standards on access to information
and freedom of expression include:
- Germany: in June 2007 the Federal Intelligence Agency
began criminal investigations of 17 prominent journalists, seeking
evidence to prosecute them for revealing state secrets, after politicians
had leaked details of the German intelligence agency’s role in assisting
the secret United States programme of “extraordinary renditions”
of terrorist suspects. The cases were dropped;
- Ireland: on 4 August 2009 the Supreme Court upheld the
right of the editor of the Irish Times,
Geraldine Kennedy, and reporter Colm Keena, to keep the identity
of their sources secret, after they refused to reveal the source
of an article about payments to the former Irish Prime Minister
- The Netherlands: security officials secretly monitored
the conversations of staff at De Telegraaf newspaper
to try to identify the source of a leak, and arrested and detained
two journalists. An attempt to prosecute them was rejected by a
- Russia: the Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations
says that some 60 journalists have faced criminal investigation
or prosecution in the past year under the law against extremism,
which contains a definition of extremism that includes criticism
of public officials. Recently, however, several proposed amendments
which would have further tightened the legal constraints on media
reporting were rejected by the Duma or the Supreme Court;
- Switzerland: three SonntagsBlick reporters
were prosecuted in 2007 for revealing evidence of the secret United
States prisons for terror suspects in European Union countries.
The journalists were acquitted in a military court;
- Turkey: on 22 August 2009 the Günlük newspaper
was shut down for publishing an article deemed to constitute propaganda
for a terrorist organisation. The article by a Toronto University
academic, Professor Amir Hassanpour, referred to Turkey’s policies
limiting the use of the Kurdish language as “linguicide” and mentioned
the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, the PKK, which is banned as a terrorist organisation
in Turkey and the European Union;
- United Kingdom: the Northern Ireland correspondent of
the Sunday Tribune, Suzanne
Breen, was charged in 2009 for refusing to reveal the source and
details of her contacts with the paramilitary Real IRA, after she
reported its admission of responsibility for the killing of two
British soldiers earlier in the year. The judge acquitted the journalist,
citing Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and
saying that her life would be at risk if she handed over the material.
103. Governments in other member states have adopted a range of
other laws in the name of national security or protecting the public,
which are seen as curtailing the freedom of journalists and media organisations
to hold power to account and promote open debate.
104. Spain: International PEN reported in December 2007 that a
number of journalists and writers, among more than 60 people, were
convicted on charges of terrorism for allegedly supporting the armed
separatist group ETA. Some of the journalists worked for the Basque
105. European Union states: serious concerns have been raised by
civil rights and media watch groups concerning the European Union
directive on the retention of personal data on telephone, e-mail
and Internet communication. It is feared that they could enable
governments to easily identify journalists’ confidential contacts
with sources. The European Union’s directive on data retention is
now in force. It requires telecommunications providers across Europe
to collect and retain information on all users’ activities and keep them
for at least six months. The degree of access by state authorities
to the data varies in different countries.
106. Those concerned for media freedom welcomed the long overdue
judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in 27 November 2007
awarding substantial damages to the former Stern magazine correspondent
in Brussels, Hans-Martin Tillack. The Court ruled that Belgian police
had violated his right to free expression when in 2004 they seized
his papers and equipment on suspicion of bribing European Union officials
for information. Tillack had published reports on irregularities
in the European Union’s anti-fraud office OLAF.
107. The European Union is called on, as a supranational organisation
with effective governmental powers, to show a keen awareness of
its responsibilities regarding the legitimate freedom of the media
to report on matters of public interest.
3.3 Internet and new
108. The rapid spread of the Internet and digital mobile
media has had a liberating effect on the overall media landscape.
The new technologies have broken the traditional hold of a limited
number of newspapers and television and radio stations on media
markets. The infinite expansion in the number of broadcasting channels and
online information sources available to all has brought an extraordinary
expansion of choice, and access to information on demand.
109. However, a Freedom House (FH) report “Freedom on the Net:
A Global Assessment of Internet and Digital Media” concerning Internet
and digital media in selected countries, published in March 2009,
found that governments in Europe have adopted various means for
controlling Internet and mobile phone technologies, including surveillance
and the application of laws requiring service providers to retain
records of communications traffic.
110. In Estonia, several media websites as well as those of government
and public offices were the target of massive cyber attacks in April
and May 2007. Suspicions were raised about Russian involvement but
no definite explanation was forthcoming. The attacks followed strong
condemnation by some sectors of opinion in Russia of Estonia’s decision
to move a war memorial – a statue of a Soviet soldier – from central
Tallinn to another location.
111. FH found that the Russian Government had launched at least
seven criminal cases against bloggers and citizen journalists. In
one case a blogger, Savva Terentyev, was convicted in July 2008
of denigrating the dignity of the police and sentenced to one year
on probation. Since 2000 all Internet service providers have been
obliged to install a software system which gives the police and
internal security service access to Internet traffic. Current laws
allow the government to intercept Internet traffic without a warrant.
112. In Turkey, government censorship of Internet sites is widespread.
FH reported that more than 1 300 websites had been blocked by the
Turkish telecommunications authorities as of 1 December 2008. The
video-sharing website YouTube has remained banned since May 2008
after the site had featured material apparently deemed insulting
to Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish Republic. Other social networking
sites such as MySpace and Twitter have also been affected.
113. The potential for monitoring users and infringements of privacy
have led concerned groups to warn about dangers to the ability of
journalists to safeguard the confidentiality of their sources of
information. FH reported that in the United Kingdom in 2007 there
were more than 500 000 requisitions of communications data from telephone
providers, including mobile phone companies, and Internet service
providers. The contents of e-mails and other data can only be obtained
with a warrant from the Home Secretary (Interior Minister.)
114. FH also reported that freedom of expression in the United
Kingdom has been threatened by the growth of so-called libel tourism,
whereby litigants in other countries have successfully brought lawsuits
in Britain to silence and intimidate journalists and other content
producers. The United Kingdom is seen as having favourable libel
laws for litigants and anyone may sue in a British court provided
that the contested material has been accessed in Britain. FH states
that this appears to have had a powerful inhibiting effect on investigative
journalists and others, and may result in widespread self-censorship.
3.4 Political pressures,
use of libel laws, and favouritism and exclusion of selected media
115. In a democracy, reasonable dealings between journalists
and politicians and government officials require political openness.
However, in some European countries public officials have instead
made the relationship into one of open hostility and antagonism.
This has sometimes led to the enactment of oppressive press laws,
discriminatory access to information and press events, and in some
cases to a climate of intimidation incompatible with European standards.
116. The Assembly has noted that a high number of court cases involving
prosecutions of journalists under defamation and other speech offence
laws is a sign of problems with the framework of law. Yet in March
2007 the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media found that
at least 36 Council of Europe member states still have criminal
penalties for defamation, despite appeals to downgrade it to a civil
117. Special provisions for extra penalties in cases of insults
to senior public officials are also commonplace, contrary to rulings
by the European Court of Human Rights.
118. In Azerbaijan, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
has criticised the continued imprisonment of two bloggers, Emin
Abdullayev and Adnan Hajizade, charged with hooliganism, terrorism
and tax evasion – the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
called these “trumped-up charges” and has called for an end to official
harassment of both men.
119. In Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose business
empire includes several of the most popular television channels
and a number of news publications, has used that position to bolster
his political image in ways which have been sharply criticised in
Italy and abroad. Critics say his excessive media influence distorts the
way his government’s difficulties and personal scandals affecting
him are reported to Italians through the media. In the past he has
threatened critical journalists with exclusion from access to his
press appearances. In 2009 he started lawsuits against the Spanish
newspaper El País over publication
of embarrassing photos of one of his parties; against the French
weekly Le Nouvel Observateur over
an article alleging links between Italian politicians and Russian
mafia elements; and against two Italian newspapers, including La Repubblica, for repeatedly printing
a series of questions for him to answer concerning his private life
and public duties. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
has called on Mr Berlusconi to drop the civil libel actions. He said
the lawsuits were an abuse of media freedom because the persistent
posing of questions is an important part of the media’s “corrective
120. In Lithuania a press law was passed in 2009 limiting freedom
of expression by making it a crime to hold someone up to ridicule.
The law was presented as a measure to protect children against the
detrimental effects of public information. But there are concerns
that it could limit satirical speech and prevent the press from exercising
its right to criticise and the public’s right to receive such content
121. In Russia, Article 19 and other organisations have protested
on a continuing basis against the government’s use of laws on criminal
defamation, extremism and national security to intimidate and prosecute journalists.
122. Many media and other international organisations that promote
open exchanges of all kinds with Russia are shocked that contracts
with international broadcasters, including the BBC and Radio Liberty/
Radio Free Europe, for re-broadcasting programmes from abroad via
good-quality FM frequencies have been ended, depriving Russians
of an established source of information and contact beyond Russia’s
123. In Slovakia Prime Minister Robert Fico branded parts of the
media as political opposition and was accused of refusing to speak
to the more critical journalists. A Press Act granting a blanket
right of reply to any person mentioned in newspaper articles has
been criticised as being potentially crippling to press freedom.
124. In Slovenia more than 500 journalists signed a petition in
late 2007 against interference in the independence of the media,
including senior staff appointments by Prime Minister Janez Janša’s
government. For many months the government refused to discuss the
issues with journalists’ representatives. A Finnish television journalist,
Magnus Berglund, who in September 2008 disclosed alleged corruption
by senior Slovene public officials through an arms deal with Finland,
learned in July this year that he was being charged by Slovenian
prosecutors with defamation.
125. On 13 November 2007 a cartoonist Guillermo Torres and writer
Manel Fontdevila were fined €3 000 in Spain for defaming Crown Prince
Felipe in a cartoon published in the satirical weekly El Jueves. The whole week’s edition
was ordered to be taken off the newsstands on the grounds that it
insulted the royal family.
126. In Turkey, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and members
of his government have been seen to conduct a campaign of harassment
of the country’s largest media conglomerate, the Dogan Media Group, which
has taken an oppositional stance towards the present government.
The prime minister has called publicly for readers to boycott its
publications. And in 2008 several journalists working for the Dogan
Group, including the newspaper Milliyet,
complained that they were denied accreditation or access to press
events with Prime Minister Erdoğan after he was reported to have
ordered them to be blacklisted.
127. In September 2009 the Turkish Finance Ministry imposed a crushing
fine amounting to €1.74 billion for alleged tax irregularities on
the business. Shortly afterwards reports said the fine was being
increased further by some 30% to take account of interest and penalty
charges. The International Press Institute’s National Committee
in Turkey said that the size of the combined fines demanded by the
government exceeded the total value of the media group itself, and
therefore amounted to a direct seizure and liquidation of a media organisation.
The European Commission has condemned the fine as excessive and
a danger to media pluralism and to freedom of speech.
128. In January 2009 the International Press Institute criticised
attempts to prosecute Turkish cartoonists for lampooning senior
government figures. In January 2008 two cartoonists for Cumhurryet, Musa Kart and Zafer Temoçin,
faced criminal proceedings over caricatures of Turkey’s president,
on the grounds that they insulted the head of state. Such actions
contradict rulings by the European Court of Human Rights, which
say that state officials shall not be protected against criticism
or insult at a higher level than ordinary people.
3.5 Public service
129. The Council of Europe reaffirmed, in the political
declaration made at the ministerial conference in May 2009, that
public service media are a fundamental part of the media landscape
in the democratic societies of Europe. Their importance lies in
their guaranteed editorial independence and institutional autonomy,
which helps to ensure media diversity. The ministers stressed that
by virtue of their statutory independence and public role, public
service television and radio broadcasting media can counterbalance
the misuse of power in situations of strong concentration of the
130. The need to protect public service broadcasting (PSB) against
political interference by means of statutory rules and an internal
culture of fairness, balance and independence should be underlined.
131. But the survival of Europe’s long-standing model of PSB, based
on independence bolstered by public consent and financed by a licence
fee system, is threatened by commercial competition, falling audience shares
and political meddling.
132. The Open Society Institute (OSI), in its 2008 study “Television
across Europe: More Channels, Less Independence”, found that the
politicisation of regulatory bodies has escalated across Europe.
133. Clear examples of politicisation of public broadcasting, it
says, are to be seen in Poland, Romania and Slovakia. Poland’s new
media law abolishes television and radio fees from 2010, replacing
them with subsidies. In July 2007 the OSCE Representative on Freedom
of the Media expressed concerns that the reforms fail to secure
the financial and editorial independence of PSB, and will hasten
the services’ transformation into commercial entities.
134. OSI criticises the politicised appointments and lack of expertise
of the members of the broadcasting councils of Bulgaria, the Czech
Republic and Romania. In Lithuania, OSI says, public hostility to
the licence fee and planned budgetary cuts point to the long-term
decline of PSB. Ukraine has been asked to amend its law on television
and radio broadcasting to lessen the current powers of the president
to appoint members of the board.
135. In Italy, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose business
interests also include many of the country’ private broadcasting
channels, has blocked the passage of strict provisions on conflict
of interest. A bill to guarantee the public broadcaster RAI’s independence
from political influence failed to be enacted.
136. In Germany and Austria, the established system whereby the
senior management and editorial appointments in public broadcasting
reflect the strength of rival political parties can be criticised
for undermining journalistic independence by openly taking account
of political affiliations. In Austria some broadcasting journalists
have questioned the guidelines on news coverage which take account
of political factors in deciding on coverage and running orders
on news bulletins.
137. The independence of PSB in France is threatened, Article 19
says, by a new system imposed in 2009 by President Sarkozy whereby
he himself may appoint the head as well as the top broadcasters
of the French public television broadcasting networks. The changes
provoked a lengthy strike of Radio France Internationale staff in
March 2009, protesting against 200 expected job losses.
138. Russia’s state-dominated broadcasting structure is far from
the concept of PSB based on clear impartiality rules and statutory
139. Armenia, Azerbaijan and Belarus all maintain tight state controls
over the management and work of their national television systems.
Each is under pressure, however, to relax that stranglehold step
by step. Armenia is being strongly pressed to permit the popular
independent television channel A1+, whose broadcasting licence was
taken away in 2002, to be awarded a new one in line with a ruling
of the European Court of Human Rights.
4 Category C: journalists
and civil society, professional standards and ethics
140. The freedom and integrity of the media are also threatened
from within by intense economic pressures, professional or ethical
misconduct and the loss of public trust which results from those
4.1 Economic and ownership
141. Digital and mobile technologies have dramatically
changed the information landscape, with new media formats and delivery
platforms on the Internet and the new concept of “free news” for
all consumers. Old media business models are failing. The new media
blur the distinction between traditional broadcasting or print journalism
and personal communications through “convergence”. They also blur
the line between professional journalism and “citizen journalism”
or social networking. These things represent big challenges for
media freedom and independence, and for quality journalism.
142. The drastic fall in advertising and sales revenues for mainstream
media has been made more acute by the financial crisis of late 2008.
143. Media freedom is directly challenged when media outlets are
taken over by owners whose main goal is either political advantage
or financial profits, rather than the long-term welfare and reputation
of the organisation and its employees.
144. In France, the ownership of several leading national newspapers
has recently moved into the hands of business conglomerates with
much publicised ties to the government. In June 2007 France’s three
main media unions voiced concern about the danger of media manipulation
by big business interests, and called for new guarantees of editorial
145. Elsewhere, including in Italy and Russia, media observers
identify the phenomenon of a “fusion of political and media power”
in the hands of particular individuals or political forces, which
hampers media pluralism and independence.
146. The International Federation of Journalists has also raised
the alarm about the growing insecurity of journalists’ jobs and
the big increase in the number of journalists obliged to work as
freelancers or on short-term contracts, making them more vulnerable
to pressures to adapt their work to please editors or their news sources.
147. In many states trade unions still complain of unfair treatment
or lack of recognition, when they demand that work contracts or
guarantees of editorial independence are fulfilled. In Turkey in
June 2009, broadcasting members of the journalists’ trade union
Tüm Haber Sen issued a statement protesting against effective government
control of the public broadcaster TNT.
4.2 Professional and
ethical misconduct, public trust in media and national reviews of
laws restricting freedom of expression
148. Media freedom in a democracy depends in part on the
maintenance of good professional standards, which in turn fosters
public trust. In states which enjoy a free press self-regulation
is widely accepted in place of state controls and intervention.
149. However, only about half of the Council of Europe member states
have press councils or other self-regulatory bodies which can claim
to have effective authority and clear ethical as well as legal standards
for the practice of journalism. In many cases the protection of
privacy is weak and inadequate.
150. All over Europe leading media outlets, including public broadcasters,
have been criticised for lapses in journalistic standards, including
misleading reporting, manipulation of television quiz shows for
the sake of ratings or profit, an excessive focus on celebrity and
sensational crime or the failure to keep up standards of taste and
151. Acknowledging this, the IFJ in 2008 launched an Ethical Journalism
Initiative to recover standards of truth, fairness, independence,
and professional social responsibility. The IFJ stated that many
media have failed to meet important challenges. Instead of raising
awareness and challenging ignorance about people from other racial
or faith backgrounds, it says, many media stoke the fires of intolerance
and racism. Such behaviour helps to bring journalism into disrepute
especially if, as in a number of unfortunate cases, it involves
152. The Association of European Journalists, in a 2008 survey
on trust in media across Europe, found that a major reason for the
decline in that level of trust is the popular belief that journalists
do not report truthfully and independently. The AEJ highlighted
the resignation of eight journalists working for Russian state television in
protest against a new policy of excluding from the airwaves a list
of opposition figures on an official “blacklist”.
153. In most states, keen debates about the media have focused
on high-profile disputes between mainstream media and politicians,
and on other issues such as digital switchover. Genuine reviews
of the condition of media freedom and the causes of major violations
could have positive effects, provided they are conducted fairly
and with full participation by genuinely independent media as well
as politicians and officials. To have credibility, the reviews must
lead to the repeal or correction of laws and practices which are
shown to break states’ commitments on freedom of expression.
154. It is important that states promptly and willingly fulfil
their commitment to conduct thorough and open reviews of their national
laws to ensure that any impact of anti-terrorism measures on the
right to freedom of expression and information is consistent with
Council of Europe standards, as agreed in the relevant resolution at
the May 2009 Reykjavik ministerial conference (document MCM (2009)
011, Political declaration and resolutions).
155. Among the most important elements for fostering media freedom
is the recognition that accountable and properly-funded public service
broadcasting, whether on existing or new platforms, has a valuable
place in the media landscape. It needs to be promoted in some European
states and protected in others.
Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Reference to committee: Doc. 11505, Reference
3419 of 14 April 2008
Draft recommendation adopted
unanimously by the committee on 8 December 2009
Members of the committee:
Mrs Anne Brasseur, (Chairperson),
Mr Detlef Dzembritzki (1st Vice-Chairperson), Mr Mehmet Tekelioğlu (2nd Vice-Chairperson),
Mrs Miroslava Němcová, (3rd
Vice-Chairperson), Mr Florin Serghei Anghel, Mr Lokman Ayva, Mr
Walter Bartoš, Mrs Deborah
Bergamini, Mrs Oksana Bilozir, Mrs Guðfinna S. Bjarnadóttir, Mrs
Rossana Boldi, Mr Petru Călian (alternate: Mrs Mihaela Stoica), Mr Joan Cartes Ivern,
Lord Chidgey, Mr Miklós,
Csapody, Mrs Lena Dąbkowska-Cichocka,
Mr Joseph Debono Grech, Mr Daniel Ducarme, Mrs Anke Eymer, Mr Gianni Farina, Mrs Blanca Fernández-Capel Baños (alternate:
Mr Gabino PucheRodriguez-Acosta), Mrs Emelina FernándezSoriano,
Mr Axel Fischer, Mr Gvozden Srećko Flego,
Mr Dario Franceschini, Mr
José Freire Antunes (alternate: Mr José Luís Arnaut),
Mr Martin Graf, Ms Sylvi Graham, Mr Oliver Heald, Mr Rafael Huseynov,
Mr Fazail İbrahimli, Mr Mogens Jensen, Mr Morgan Johansson, Mrs
Francine John-Calame, Mr Jón Jónsson, Ms Flora Kadriu, Mrs Liana
Kanelli, Mr Jan Kaźmierczak,
Miss Cecilia Keaveney, Mrs Svetlana Khorkina, Mr Serhii Kivalov,
Mr Anatoliy Korobeynikov, Ms
Elvira Kovács, Mr József Kozma, Mr Jean-Pierre Kucheida, Mr Ertuğrul Kumcuoğlu, Ms Dalia Kuodytė, Mr
Markku Laukkanen, Mr René
van der Linden, Mrs Milica Marković,
Mrs Muriel Marland-Militello, Mr Andrew McIntosh,
Mrs Maria Manuela de Melo,
Mrs Assunta Meloni, Mr Paskal Milo, Ms Christine Muttonen, Mr Tomislav Nikolić,
Ms Anna Ntalara, Mr Edward O'Hara,
Mr Kent Olsson, Mrs Antigoni Papadopoulos, Mr Petar Petrov, Mrs
Zatuhi Postanjyan, Mrs Adoración
Quesada Bravo, Mr Frédéric Reiss, Mrs Mailis Reps, Mrs Andreja Rihter, Mr Nicolae Robu, Mrs Tatiana
Rosova, Mrs Anta Rugāte, Mr Leander Schädler, Mr André Schneider,
Mr Predrag Sekulić, Mr Yury Solonin, Mr Christophe Steiner, Mrs
Doris Stump, Mr Valeriy Sudarenkov,
Mr Petro Symonenko, Mr Guiorgui Targamadzé, Mr Latchezar Toshev, Mr Hugo Vandenberghe, Mr
Klaas De Vries, Mr Piotr Wach,
Mr Wolfgang Wodarg.
NB: the names of the members who took part in the meeting
are printed in bold
Secretariat of the committee:
Mr Ary, Mr Dossow, Mr Fuchs