memorandum by Mr Flego, rapporteur
Having presented his report on the state of media
freedom in Europe (Doc.
) at the Parliamentary Assembly’s first part-session
of 2013, my colleague Mr Mats Johansson (Sweden, EC) tabled a new
motion on the protection of media freedom in Europe on 30 January
2013 (Doc. 13124
). The Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media
appointed me rapporteur on this subject on 25 April 2013. On 30
September 2013, the motion for a resolution “Use of physical force
against journalists: a challenge to democracy” (Doc. 13274
), was referred to the committee to be taken into account
in the preparation of the present report, as well as the motion
for a resolution on “Harassment of investigative journalists in
Azerbaijan reporting on corruption” (Doc. 13570
) on 3 October 2014.
For the preparation of this report, the committee and its
Sub-Committee on Media and Information Society held five hearings,
- 25 April 2013 in Strasbourg,
- Mr Enzo Iacopino, President
of the Italian Order of Journalists, Rome;
- Mr Jean-Paul Costa, former President of the European Court
of Human Rights, President of the International Institute of Human
- 22 May 2013 in London (House of Commons), with:
- Mr István Hegedűs, former Member
of the Hungarian Parliament and President of the Hungarian Europe
- Ms Francesca Fanucci, Senior Associate at Free Expression
- Mr Andrew Gardner, Researcher, Amnesty International,
- Mr Michael Harris, Head of Advocacy, Index on Censorship,
- Mr William Horsley, Media Freedom Representative of the
Association of European Journalists and International Director of
the Centre for Freedom of the Media, University of Sheffield;
- 6 November 2013 in Belgrade (National Assembly of the
Republic of Serbia), with:
Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Vienna;
- Mr Mogens Blicher-Bjerregård, President of the European
Federation of Journalists, Brussels;
- Mr William Horsley;
- 8 April 2014 in Strasbourg, with:
- Professor Herdis Thorgeirsdottir, Vice-President of the
- Mr Johann Bihr, Director for Europe and Central Asia,
Reporters without Borders, Paris;
- Mr Andrei Aliaksandrau, Belarusian Association of Journalists,
- 12-13 May 2014 in Istanbul, with:
- Ms Füsun Erdoğan, Turkish journalist;
- Mr Mustafa Balbay, Turkish journalist and Member of the
- Mr Ricardo Gutierrez, General Secretary of the European
Federation of Journalists, Brussels;
- Professor Wolfgang Benedek, University of Graz and expert
for the European Commission;
- Mr William Horsley.
4 In order to inform the committee about current violations
of media freedom, Mr William Horsley was commissioned to prepare
a factual background report (AS/Cult (2014) 25) and update it. I
express my gratitude to him for his thorough work and good co-operation.
In addition, the committee deeply appreciated the discussions
- Mr John Whittingdale
OBE, Chair of the Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport of
the House of Commons (London, 12 May 2013);
- Ambassador Laurent Dominati, Permanent Representative
of France to the Council of Europe, and Ambassador Gea Rennel, Permanent
Representative of Estonia to the Council of Europe and Thematic Co-ordinator
on Information Policy of the Committee of Ministers (Strasbourg,
25 June 2013);
- Mr Nebojša Stefanović, Speaker of the National Assembly
of Serbia (Belgrade, 6 November 2013);
- Ambassador Jocelyne Caballero, Permanent Representative
of France to the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 8 April 2014);
- Ms Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni, Deputy Secretary General
of the Council of Europe (Strasbourg, 8 April and 24 June 2014;
Istanbul, 12 May 2014);
- Dr Tayfun Acarer, President of the Information and Communication
Technologies Authority of Turkey (Istanbul, 13 May 2014).
6 As rapporteur, I addressed the thematic debate on the safety
of journalists held by the Committee of Ministers in Strasbourg
on 12 December 2013 and the Round Table on this subject organised
by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg on 19 May 2014. I also addressed
the exchange of views on legislative aspects of media freedom in
the Western Balkans and Turkey, organised by the Sub-Committee on
Human Rights of the European Parliament in Brussels on 19 June 2013.
7 This preparatory process contributed to the establishment
of an information platform on serious violations of media freedom
in Europe by the Council of Europe as from 2015, which shall involve
several major non-governmental organisations (NGOs) working to promote
media freedom. Furthermore, an early warning mechanism for such
violations may be created in this framework, enabling the various
Council of Europe bodies to react to situations and cases of concern.
violations of media freedom in Europe
Based on the factual background report by Mr William
Horsley, the committee discussed in detail the serious violations
of media freedom which have occurred between December 2012 and November
2014, namely since the adoption of Resolution 1920 (2013)
on the state of media freedom in Europe. I am very grateful
for the substantial work by Mr William Horsley and appreciate all
contributions received through the above mentioned meetings. I am
also grateful for the written information received by the Hungarian
and Turkish parliamentary delegations.
2.1 The context
In January 2010, the Assembly Recommendation 1897 (2011)
called on the Secretary General of the Council of Europe
to establish a system of regular collection, analysis and dissemination
of information on violations of media freedom in the Council of
Europe region. Four years on, member States have signalled their support
for actions in line with the earlier Assembly proposal, which said
that evidence of major violations or threats, and the remedies required,
should be sent out regularly for the attention of the governments
and parliaments of member States.
10 The Committee of Ministers Declaration on the protection of
journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors of 30
April 2014 highlighted the primary responsibility of national governments
by urging member States to review on a regular basis their own fulfilment
of their positive obligations to protect journalists and other media
actors from attack and to end impunity. The Declaration supports
the creation of an Internet-based platform to publicise possible
infringements of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human
Rights (ETS No. 5, “the Convention”) (freedom of expression) as
they occur, and holds out the prospect that further measures will
be adopted to ensure those protections. In addition, the Secretary
General has proposed a specific monitoring mechanism, with the ability
to react rapidly to urgent challenges, to prevent violations of Article
10 and Article 11 (freedom of assembly and association) of the Convention.
11 There is ever increasing international awareness of the importance
of ensuring the safety of journalists because of their role in bringing
accountability and transparency on behalf of the public. In particular,
in December 2013, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a
Resolution on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity.
It calls on States to put in place a wide range of protections in
law and practice to prevent violence against journalists and media
workers and ensure effective investigations in such cases. Notably,
the resolution proclaims 2 November as the International Day to
End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. In March 2014, the
United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on the
promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful
protests. It calls on States to pay particular attention to the
safety of journalists and media workers in view of their specific
role and vulnerability.
12 Since 2012, the United Nations has worked to implement its
Action Plan on the safety of journalists and the issue of impunity,
which involves many United Nations agencies, States, NGOs and media
organisations. The Action Plan calls for positive contributions
from the Council of Europe and other regional organisations.
2.2 Deaths of journalists
13 During the past two years in Europe, at least 15
journalists and media workers have died because of their work. The
deaths of eight journalists occurred in Russia and five journalists,
a member of a television crew and a fixer-interpreter were killed
14 On 7 July 2012, Alexander Khodzinsky, an investigative reporter,
was stabbed to death in Irkutsk, (Russian Federation). A local former
deputy mayor was convicted of the killing. A possible link with
Mr Khodzinsky’s journalistic work exposing local corruption was
not established in court.
15 On 5 December 2012, Kazbek Gekkiyev, an All-Russia State Television
and Radio Company (VGTRK) television presenter, was shot dead in
Nalchik, in the North Caucasus Kabardino-Balkar Republic. The Committee
to Protect Journalists (CPJ) reported that several other journalists
from the same company had left their jobs after receiving threats.
16 On 8 April 2013, Mikhail Beketov, former editor-in-chief of KhimkinskayaPravda newspaper,
died from causes attributed to injuries suffered in a brutal attack
at his home in Moscow in 2008 which left him brain damaged and severely
disabled. Mr Beketov campaigned to expose alleged corruption linked
to a development project that threatened the Khimki forest. His
car had been set on fire and he was threatened with a criminal defamation
17 On 18 May 2013, Nikolai Potapov was shot dead in the Stravropol
region of western Russia. The International Press Institute (IPI)
linked Mr Potapov’s death with his exposure of alleged corruption
by local officials in a local newspaper.
18 On 9 July 2013, Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev, deputy editor of
the Novoye Delo newspaper,
was shot dead in his car near Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan.
He had received threats and survived an assassination attempt in
19 On 16 December 2013, Arkadiy Lander, the former editor of
the Sochi newspaper Mestnaya,
died from complications attributed to severe injuries, including
a fractured skull that he suffered when he was savagely beaten by
unknown assailants in 2010. Mr Lander had stated his belief that
he had been attacked in connection with his work as a journalist.
20 On 5 April 2014, Vasily Sergienko, a journalist for the local Nadrossia newspaper and member of
the right-wing Svoboda party, was found dead near his home in Korsun-Shevchenkovskiy
in central Ukraine. He had been abducted outside his home one day
earlier and his body showed signs of torture.
21 On 24 May 2014, Andrea Rochelli, an Italian photojournalist
who contributed to news outlets including Newsweek and Le Monde, was killed in a mortar
attack in Sloviansk, eastern Ukraine.
22 On 24 May 2014, Andrei Mironov, a Russian human rights activist
who worked as Rochelli’s interpreter and fixer, also died as a result
of the military action in Sloviansk.
23 On 19 February 2014, Vyacheslav Veremiy, a correspondent of Vesti newspaper, died in Kyiv from serious
injuries he received the night before, when he and his colleague
Oleksiy Lymarenko were attacked and beaten by unidentified masked
24 On 17 June 2014, Igor Kornelyuk, a reporter for the pan-Russian
State television company VGTRK, and Anton Voloshin, a member of
the same team, were killed in an artillery or mortar attack near
Luhansk in eastern Ukraine.
25 On 30 June 2014, Anatoly Klyan of Russia’s State-owned Channel
One television station died in Donetsk (Ukraine) from bullet wounds
sustained when a bus he was travelling in came under fire, the CPJ
26 On 1 August 2014, 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.
27 On 6 August 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
28 On 23 October 2014, Ferdi Özmen, a 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.
29 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.
30 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 Declaration
of the Committee of Ministers of 30 April 2014 also encourages member
States to contribute to concerted international efforts to enhance
the protection of journalists. It describes the United Nations Plan
of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity
as an urgent and vital necessity.
31 On 2 November 2014, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
delivered a message marking the first United Nations-backed International
Day to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. 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.
32 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, public commitment to combating 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.
33 UNESCO reported in October 2014 that the Council of Europe
member States Bulgaria, Georgia and Greece 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. Twenty-seven States failed to do
34 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 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.
- in Azerbaijan: Elmar
Huseynov, 2 March 2005; Rafiq Tagi, 23 November 2011
- in Belarus: Aleh Byabebib, 3 September 2010
- in Greece: Sokratis Giolias, 19 July 2010
- in Russia: Paul Klebnikov, 9 July 2004; Pavel Makeev,
21 May 2005; Vagif Kochetkov, 8 January 2006; Ivan Safronov, 2 March
2007; Magomed Yevloyev, August 31 2008; Telman Alishayev, 2 September 2008;
Natalya Estemirova, 15 July 2009; Abdulmalik Akhmedilov, 11 August
2009; Gadzhimurad Kamalov, 15 December 2011; Kazbek Gekkiyev, 5
December 2012; Mikail Beketov, 8 April 2013; Akhmednabi Akjmednabiyev,
9 July 2013
- in Serbia: Bardhyl Ajeti, 25 June 2005
According to the 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 Pukanić, 23 October 2008
- in Russia: Anna Polikovskaya, 7 October 2006; Anastasia
Baburova, 19 January 2009
- in Serbia: Duško Jovanović, 28 May 2004
- in Turkey: Hrant Dink, managing editor of the Turkish-Armenian
weekly Agos, was shot and
killed in Istanbul on 19 January 2007. He had received numerous
death threats from nationalist Turks. Several people, including
the young gunman who carried out the killing, were convicted in
connection with the murder; but public officials, including members
of the security forces, suspected of complicity or trying to impede
the investigation, have escaped without punishment. In 2010, the
European Court of Human Rights found Turkey in violation of the
European Convention on Human Rights for failing in their duty to protect
the journalist’s life and freedom of expression, and the right to
effective investigation. Following the decision of the Bakırköy
Heavy Criminal Court of Istanbul to charge nine high-ranking officials
for failing to prevent the murder of Hrant Dink, the Ministry of
Justice of Turkey has overturned an objection by the Chief Prosecutor's
Office in October 2014 and thereby allowed those prosecutions to
- in the United Kingdom: 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 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.
37 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 Ćuruviya in 1999. One
of the indicted men is believed to be on the run and living in an
38 The work of Serbia’s Commission of Inquiry into Unsolved Murders
of Journalists, which was established in 2013, is credited with
helping to achieve this progress in the case of Ćuruviya. However,
obstruction on the part of former State officials has been identified
as an ongoing barrier to progress in other cases.
39 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 Vujasinović’s death as a suicide.
40 An intensive investigation into the murder of Milan Pantić,
a crime reporter who was killed in 2001, is ongoing. For the past
four years, Veran Matić, a prominent journalist and head of the
Commission of Inquiry, has required round-the-clock police protection
because of credible threats to his personal safety. Matić identifies
the murder of journalists and the toleration of impunity as a root
cause of a corrupting mentality that fosters further brutality and
injustice in the societies concerned.
41 The Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (IAJS)
has expressed very serious concerns that a culture of impunity continues
to exist, and that it is still the root cause of widespread fear
and insecurity among independent Serbian journalists.
42 One glaring example is that of the vicious attack in New Belgrade
on 3 July 2014 by a group of men against Davor Pašalić, the editor
of the news agency FoNet. Pašalić was attacked and severely beaten, suffering
head and face injuries. Despite official statements promising an
urgent investigation into the crime, two months later no progress
had been made in identifying the attackers.
43 IAJS has published online details of 71 incidents of violence
and intimidation against journalists in Serbia between 2012 and
August 2014, including nine 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
44 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 Montenegran commission is to be composed
of representatives of government ministries, the Prosecutor’s office,
police, NGOs and journalists, including Mihailo Jović, editor-in-chief
of the Vijesti newspaper,
and other media figures.
45 The new body is charged with investigating, among others,
the killing in May 2004 of Duško Jovanović, the editor-in-chief
of the daily newspaper Dan.
Jovanović was killed with an automatic weapon in front his newspaper
building in Podgorica.
46 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 a ten-year period from
2004 to 2014. The report stated that a third of those recorded attacks
took place in 2013.
47 The investigation into the murder of Jovanović has resulted
so far in one conviction, 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 Softić 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
48 The Council of Europe 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
49 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 journalists’
organisations in a number of European States.
50 Another unresolved case concerns Georgiy Gongadze, editor
of Ukrainskaya Pravda, abducted
and murdered in Ukraine in 2000. In 2013, after delays and failures
in the justice system that were condemned in a ruling by the European
Court of Human Rights, a former police chief, Olexiy Pukach, was
convicted of the killing. Suspicions remain that the murder was
ordered by a senior political figure and that justice has yet to
leading to prosecution or conviction in formerly unresolved cases
51 In Serbia, in June 2014, four former State security
officers including the former security service chief, Radomir Marković,
were charged with the killing of Slavko Ćuruvija, publisher and
editor of the Dnevni Telegraf newspaper.
Mr Ćuruvija was shot dead outside his apartment in Belgrade in April
1999. The Slavko Ćuruvija Foundation set up by members of his family
said the prosecutions should help to uncover the “dark links between
politics and crime” behind the murder. In 2013, the Serbian Government
established a Commission of Inquiry into Unresolved Murders of Journalists
with powers to interrogate current and former public officials in
order to expose past cover-ups and to assist in bringing those responsible
to justice. It is headed by a leading investigative journalist,
52 In December 2013, a Russian businessman was sentenced in a
Moscow court to seven years in jail for inciting the murder in 2000
of Novaya Gazeta journalist
Igor Domnikov. Mr Domnikov was targeted because of his investigative
reporting about the actions of corrupt officials in Lipetsk in western
Russia. In 2007, five members of a criminal gang had been convicted
in connection with the murder.
2.5 The growing scale
of acts of violence and intimidation against journalists
53 In spite of many protests by journalists’ organisations
and NGOs, and interventions by independent authorities including
the Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, and the Representative
on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation
in Europe (OSCE), Dunja Mijatović, dozens of violent assaults in
Europe against journalists have been recorded in the past five months.
The majority of such attacks, as well as cases of threats of violence,
intimidation and harassment, continue to go unpunished.
54 For example, the organisation Ossigeno per l’Informazion has
published the names of 2 000 reporters and media workers whom 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,
according to Ossigeno.
55 The Institute of Mass Information in Ukraine, which monitors
all forms of attack, says that in 2014 it recorded 281 cases of
assaults against media workers and seven cases of murder.
56 The Independent Association of Journalists in Serbia has reported
18 physical assaults, verbal threats and other abuses against journalists
between January and August 2014.
57 The very large number of assaults on journalists which required
hospital treatment or an extended absence from work include the
58 In Bosnia and Herzegovina, on 23 June 2014, writer and columnist
Slavo Kukić suffered head injuries when he was assaulted in Mostar
by an attacker wielding a baseball bat. A criminal investigation
was reportedly initiated.
59 On 4 July 2014, Italian journalist Antonio Papaleo was stabbed
by a gang of youths in Phuket (Thailand), sustained serious body
wounds and later underwent 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.
60 In Azerbaijan, on 21 August 2014, Ilgar Nasibov, a prominent
journalist and contributor to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and
the 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 and 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
61 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.
According to the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, in
Saratov (south-west Russia), on 26 August 2014, investigative journalist
Alexander Krutov of Obshchestvennoye
Mneniye magazine was brutally beaten and stabbed by a
gang of unknown assailants near his home. Krutov had been attacked
several times before without the assailants being brought to justice.
62 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 the Telegraph,
were attacked and intimidated by a number of individuals. Romensky
and Vasyunin were reportedly told to abandon their work and leave
63 On 16 September 2014, in Astrakan (southern Russia), a BBC
cameraman was assaulted and his camera was smashed. The incident
occurred while BBC correspondent Steve Rosenberg and his 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.
64 On 29 August 2014, Lev Schlosberg, a journalist with the 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.
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
2.6 Issues of pressing
concern in Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan
66 In Ukraine, an extraordinarily intense wave of attacks
against journalists and media organisations has accompanied recent
political events and, since March 2014, an international dispute
and armed conflict on parts of Ukrainian territory. More than two
thousand people have died and more have been injured or displaced.
67 Between January and 5 June 2014, Ukraine’s Institute of Mass
Information (IMI) recorded 236 physical assaults against members
of the media, including about 40 cases of abductions or unlawful
detentions of journalists and attacks on media offices in eastern
Ukraine and Crimea. In 2013, IMI recorded 101 cases of attacks,
of which 48 occurred in the month of December.
68 On 2 March 2014, about 30 masked men stormed and briefly occupied
a journalist building, the Center for Investigative Journalism,
in the Crimean administrative centre, Simferopol. In the days before
and after the internationally unrecognised referendum in Crimea
on 16 March, dozens of physical attacks on media workers and cases
of harassment and confiscation of equipment took place. Those targeted
included staff of regional media including Inter, STB, and 5 Channel,
as well as CNN and AP Television News and freelance journalists. The
terrestrial signals of Ukrainian television stations in Crimea,
including Inter, Briz, 1+1, 5 channel, 1st National and STB, were
cut off and replaced with the Russian channels NTV, 1st channel,
Rossiya 24, Rossiya RTR, TNT and Zvezda.
69 Since then, representatives of mainstream Ukrainian media
have faced intense hostility and a high risk of assault or detention
when seeking to cover events in Crimea. On 11 May 2014, a film-maker,
Oleg Sentsov, was arrested on suspicion of terrorism. On 12 May
2014 a report issued by the OSCE on its recently concluded human
rights mission in Ukraine found evidence of systematic intimidation
of journalists and of “pro-Maidan” activists across eastern Ukraine,
often with the complicity of local authorities. Many acts of violence
were linked to the attempt by separatist and pro-Russian militias
to establish autonomous local administrations in eastern Ukraine
and to disrupt the Ukrainian presidential election held on 25 May.
70 Four journalists were injured in violent attacks on a pro-Maidan
demonstration in Luhansk on 9 March 2014. The following day anti-Maidan
groups stormed the private TV station IRTA TV, allegedly because
it had broadcast footage showing the attack of the day before. Among
the Ukrainian media workers who have been abducted or held hostage
in eastern Ukraine are Yuri Leliavski of the TV station ZIK and
Serhiy Shapoval, a journalist for the Volyn Post website. Mr Shapoval
was held for three weeks and interrogated in Sloviansk. He was reportedly
given electric shocks, had his palms cut and was forced to make
a statement on camera saying that his abductors were peaceful and
71 Simon Ostrovsky, an American reporter for Vice News, was taken
captive on 21 April 2014 by the pro-Russian self-declared mayor
of Sloviansk, Vyacheslav Ponomarev, and held for three days before
being freed. Mr Ostrovsky had tweeted from a press conference that
Mr Ponomarev had threatened to throw journalist out for “provocative”
questions about the former mayor being held under guard.
72 The OSCE mission reported testimony from local people that
many anti-Maidan demonstrators in eastern and southern regions of
Ukraine were bussed in and remunerated for their part in the actions
73 In May 2014, many national or regional Ukrainian TV channels
were cut off in eastern Ukraine, including 1+1, Inter, STB, TVi,
112Ukraina, Channel 5, Novy Kanal, ICTV, TET and Ukraina; other
local TV channels were also closed down in eight cities in the eastern
regions. In early June, many media outlets in eastern Ukraine, including Donetskiye Novosti, Donbass and Vecherniy
Donetsk were forcibly closed because of threats and demands
for changes of editorial policy by armed or violent groups identified
as pro-Russian. Dozens of Ukrainian journalists were forced to leave
the area or to quit their homes there to escape from intense hostility
and threats by militant groups. In recent weeks, many Russian journalists
have been prevented from entering Ukraine to work, and some have
been detained by the authorities.
74 Marat Saychenko and Oleg Sidyakin, who work for the Russian
TV station LifeNews, were arrested by Ukrainian armed forces on
18 May 2014 near Kramatorsk, where they were filming the activities
of pro-Russian rebels. They were taken to Kyiv, interrogated by
the Ukrainian security service and accused of assisting terrorism.
After a week, they were sent back to Russia, following interventions
from the United Nations and the OSCE.
75 Some transmissions from Russia into Ukraine were also halted
after the Ukrainian authorities asked cable operators to stop broadcasting
several Russian TV channels, including Rossiya 24, ORT, RTR Planeta and
MTV-Mir, citing reasons of national security.
76 On 6 March 2014, a statement by Ukraine’s Institute of Mass
Information, Telekritika and independent media experts detailed
what they called “misleading and manipulative reports” and active
propaganda about events in Ukraine in Russian media, including four
television channels and two leading news agencies as well as newspapers
and other news outlets. They claimed that the Russian Government’s
argument for deploying troops in Crimea was based on bogus footage.
The television report in question was shown on Russian television
channel Russia One. It purportedly showed Russian military killed
during a shootout at the Council of Ministers in Simferopol, Crimea.
Later analysis of the footage showed that the scene described in
the Russian television report as a major armed assault on Crimean
elected politicians was a small staged event, and the events did
not occur as portrayed. In other cases, footage and factual reports
alleging that large numbers of Russian-speakers were fleeing beyond
Ukraine’s borders out of fear for their safety later proved to be
false; in some cases, the images used were taken from archived film
of events in other places and wrongly linked to current events inside
77 The OSCE Mission to Ukraine observed that propaganda in the
media contributed to the worsening of the security situation for
the inhabitants of the affected areas. Such media falsifications,
especially when linked to the repeated use of insulting and inflammatory
language in the context of armed conflict containing features of
an inter-communal dispute, might even be considered as hate speech
or as incitement to violence. The large number of such cases in
the context of attacks against journalists in parts of Ukraine raises
concerns about the scale of political interference in the editorial
policies of some Russian media, especially in view of the accumulated
evidence of official constraints and harassment directed at independent
Russian media outlets, which appear to limit the possibilities for
citizens of Russia to receive critical reports about domestic and international
78 The OSCE report also notes allegations of distortion of facts
made by some local people interviewed in eastern Ukraine. The OSCE
said it was a matter of concern that attempts to counter propaganda
have resulted in the imposition of restrictions on broadcast media
by the Ukrainian authorities.
79 On 19 March 2014, a group of people, including a member of
parliament of Ukraine’s Svoboda party, entered the Kyiv offices
of the State broadcaster, assaulted the acting president of the
company, accused him of airing anti-Ukrainian programme content,
and forced him to sign a letter of resignation. The intruders filmed the
incident themselves and later posted it online. An official investigation
into the incident was promptly announced.
80 Both the Ukrainian authorities and the Russian de facto authorities in Crimea after
its unlawful annexation denied entry to journalists. Between 20
and 24 May, in the days immediately before the Ukrainian presidential
election, at least five TV crews and five journalists were refused
entry to Ukraine, including reporters from the Echo of Moscow radio
station and Kommersant FM radio.
81 During the so-called Euromaidan protests in Kyiv’s Maidan
(Independence) Square between November 2013 and the change of government
in Ukraine in February 2014, journalists suffered many attacks and
serious injuries inflicted by security forces and organised pro-government
gangs in Kyiv and elsewhere. On 1 December 2013, more than 40 journalists
and camera staff were beaten by police using deliberate violence. Each
case of assault and injury was documented by Ukrainian media and
NGOs in an effort to ensure that those responsible would eventually
be held to account.
82 Near Kyiv, on 25 December 2013, a group of men pursued investigative
journalist Tetyana Chornovol, dragged her out of her car and savagely
beat her, causing concussion and severe facial and other injuries.
On the night of 18-19 February 2014, as the political crisis came
to a head, the Media Law Institute recorded 46 injuries among media
workers in one 24-hour period. The Ukrainian Media Law Institute
said that security forces had fired rubber bullets at the heads
of members of the media in Maidan Square, resulting in seven persons
losing their sight in one eye.
83 The Commissioner for Human Rights, after a country visit to
Ukraine in February 2014, also reported seeing injuries that showed
a clear pattern of the heads and faces of journalists having been
targeted by armed police. The Media Law Institute noted that security
forces failed to respect the professional status of journalists who
wore jackets clearly identifying themselves as members of the press.
84 Following the change of government in Kyiv, the parliament
adopted, on 17 April, a law designed to transform the State broadcasting
system into a public service broadcaster, known as the National
Public Service Broadcasting Company of Ukraine, which is to be independent
of the well-documented political influences of the past. The current
government has promised improved accountability related to attacks
against journalists and an end to censorship. Leading NGOs, including
the Media Law Institute, have proposed their own candidates for
the main media regulator, the National Council for Television and
85 On 5 September 2014, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of
the Media identified eight 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.
86 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
87 In June 2014, Amnesty International published a report entitled
“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.
88 On 9 September 2014, the Representative on Freedom of the
Media 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. The Representative on Freedom of the Media described such
incidents as attempts to silence critical voices.
89 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
90 Ukrainian law-enforcement officers have raided or obstructed
the work of several critical media outlets including the Vesti newspaper in Kyiv. The OSCE
Representative on Freedom of the Media has also expressed concern
about the detention and expulsion of a number of Russian journalists
in Ukraine since early 2014.
91 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.
92 However, little or no progress has been made towards bringing
to justice those responsible for those and other co-ordinated attacks,
including those using firearms, against journalists during the popular
uprising against the former government which collapsed in late February
93 The Media Law Institute in Kyiv 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.
The Media Law Institute cited examples of alleged manipulation and
falsification of images and factual information in a number of Russian
television 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.
94 On 12 August 2014, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the
Media expressed concern about a Ukrainian draft law to allow the
authorities to ban television and radio transmissions on grounds
of national security, saying it would curtail the free flow of information
and ideas and thus 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
television channels that were banned in Ukraine.
95 On 10 November 2014, RT (formerly Russia Today) was found,
following an investigation by the United Kingdom media regulator
Ofcom, to be in breach of broadcasting regulations on impartiality
for its coverage of the Ukraine crisis.
– Russian Federation
96 Independent journalists and media in Russia have
faced increasing threats to their safety and security during the
past two years, because of a persistent climate of impunity concerning
past attacks against journalists, as well as the harsh application
of laws on freedom of expression, peaceful protest and the Internet, and
oppressive administrative and political pressures on journalists
and media organisations.
97 Failure to bring to justice those responsible for many unsolved
murders of journalists from past years continues to undermine confidence
in the independence and effectiveness of Russia’s judicial system
in those cases. There has been no progress in bringing to justice
those responsible for the murder of Paul Klebnikov, the founding
editor of Forbes Russia in 2004, and the murder in Chechnya in 2009
of Natalia Estemirova, a journalist and prominent member of the
human rights organisation Memorial.
98 In 2014, eight years after the killing in October 2006 of Novaya Gazeta journalist Anna Politkovskaya, five
men were convicted and sentenced to lengthy jail terms; but the
masterminds or instigators of the murder have still not been brought
to justice. An earlier trial of suspects in Ms Politkovskaya’s murder
collapsed because of the lack of evidence presented by the prosecution.
In December 2012, a retired police lieutenant-colonel, Dmitry Pavlyuchenkov,
was also convicted and given an 11-year sentence. However, criticism
was levelled at the judicial authorities for agreeing a plea deal
with the convicted man that, as it was alleged, may have enabled
a cover-up of the identity of the real instigators of the crime.
99 The government’s failure to punish many officials who commit
abuses fuels a climate of impunity, especially with regard to violent
crimes against journalists. The Committee to Protect Journalists
lists Russia (the only European country named) in tenth place in
its 2014 Global Impunity Index, which identifies the countries where
murders of journalists are most likely to go unpunished.
In its Resolution
, the Parliamentary Assembly called on the Russian authorities
to properly investigate the case of Sergei Magnitsky, the lawyer
who died of abuse and neglect in pre-trial detention in 2009. Mr
Magnitsky sought to expose official corruption in Russia; his arrest,
alleged torture and eventual death in prison are liable to deter
others who wish to publicly expose misuses of official power or
consider them as an important source of information for news media.
The Russian President’s own human rights council concluded that
Mr Magnitsky was probably beaten to death in prison, but in March
2013 the Federal Investigative Committee reportedly closed its investigation
into his death without finding evidence of criminality.
101 Independent and critical journalists in Russia have frequently
been subject to unprovoked assaults, including many by police or
security forces, as well as arbitrary arrests. In 2013, the Glasnost
Defense Foundation reported 63 physical attacks against journalists
as well as 24 prosecutions, 34 threats of violence and 19 cases
of journalists being dismissed from their jobs because of critical
reporting. Examples of serious assaults include the brutal beating
on 1 April 2013 of Andrey Chelnokov, head of the Novosibirsk Journalists’ Union.
Mr Chelnokov was missing for ten days before being found with concussion,
broken ribs and a broken nose. No arrests were made.
102 On 22 October 2013, journalist Sergey Reznik was attacked
in Rostov-on-Don by two unidentified men wielding baseball bats.
He suffered head and neck injuries. The attack followed Mr Reznik’s
publishing of a blog post in which he accused a judge of corruption.
The journalist was himself prosecuted and later sentenced on charges
including insulting a public official and bribery.
103 The Russian authorities also use excessively restrictive laws
to curtail freedom of expression and public protests. In June 2012,
a new anti-protest law dramatically increased fines for those taking
part in public protests that do not conform to very strict conditions;
the maximum fine was raised to 300 000 roubles (about US$9 000)
– which is more than the average annual salary. In 2013, President
Putin announced a ban on demonstrations and rallies in Sochi during
the Sochi Winter Olympics in early 2014.
104 Russia’s 2012 law on NGOs which receive foreign funding and
are deemed to be engaged in political activity has been harshly
applied to many independent civil society organisations which play
a vital part in fostering open public debate on issues of public
interest in Russia. The law, which obliges those groups to register
as “foreign agents”, has led to legal proceedings against some which
refused to register. Some groups have been forced to close down;
hundreds of others have been subjected to intrusive inspections.
In 2013, the election-monitoring group Golos was among the civil
society organisations that were suspended and fined US$10 000 after
refusing to register as a foreign agent.
105 Russia’s extremism law provides a very broad definition of
extremism, and gives courts the power to close down any media organisation
deemed to have broken the law, without appeal. A State communications regulatory
agency, Roskomnadzor, regularly issues warnings to newspapers and
websites. Two warnings in one year can lead to closure, so the very
existence of the draconian law can to lead to self-censorship.
106 In February 2014, a new Internet law came into force, giving
the government stronger powers to block websites. In March 2013,
Garry Kasparov’s website, Kasparov.ru, and other independent websites
were blocked. Roskomnadzor said they had been added to the register
of banned content at the request of the prosecutor-general’s office
for issuing calls to participate in “unauthorised mass actions”.
The blog on Livejournal by the anti-corruption campaigner and opposition
figure Alexei Navalny was also blocked. In May, President Putin
signed an extension of the Internet law to oblige bloggers with
more than 3 000 followers to register as mass media, and to be subject
to other regulations applying to large media outlets.
107 During 2013, several more laws were adopted which further
restrict free expression and public discourse: a “propaganda law”
against public displays of support for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual
and trans-sexual) groups, a law against offending religious sentiments
and a law criminalising calls for separatism in Russia, which carries
a maximum penalty of five years in prison.
108 In recent months, the Russian Government and its allies have
further extended their grip on influential media outlets. In December
2013, the government closed the largest State-owned news agency,
RIA-Novosti, which was reputed to produce relatively balanced coverage
of political matters. It was replaced by a news agency called Rossia
Segodnya (Russia Today), which was placed under what is perceived
as more firmly pro-Kremlin management. RIA-Novosti itself characterised
the decision as pointing to “a tightening of State control in the
already heavily regulated media sector”.
109 In March 2014, Galina Timchenko, the editor of the independent
news website Lenta.ru was suddenly dismissed after the site received
a warning from Roskomnadzor for interviewing a Ukrainian ultra-nationalist leader.
110 In April 2014, Pavel Durov, the founder and owner of Russia’s
most popular home-grown social network site, VKontakte, left Russia
after he was forced to sell his shares in the company. He said he
took the decision after receiving a demand to hand over privater
user data and in the light of sweeping new restrictions on Internet
111 Russia’s leading independent and critical television channel,
Dozhd (Rain), has been at risk of going out of business since February
2014, when cable and satellite providers said they would no longer
carry the channel’s output. In addition, Dozhd faced tax inspections
and a sudden loss of advertising. The owner of Dozhd said its rejection
by distributors was the result of political pressure.
112 In late June 2014, 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
(Venice Commission) stated that the Russian law is too imprecise
and it could impose disproportionate restrictions on freedom of
113 On 21 July 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.
114 On 14 October, Russia adopted a law to restrict foreign ownership
of all forms of media to a maximum share of 20%. Currently no restrictions
apply to print media, and foreign stakes in radio and television
are capped at 50%.
115 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
thus 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, the State authorities.
116 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 to Ukraine.
117 In Turkey, more than 20 journalists are still in
prison at the time of writing, although many others have been released
from pre-trial detention because of judicial reforms which, if continued,
could lead to a major improvement in the security and working environment
for free and independent media. At present, journalists in Turkey
still face threats to their safety and professional independence
from overly restrictive laws, hundreds of questionable criminal
investigations and a number of new prosecutions of journalists,
limitations on access to the Internet, improper government interference
with the work of the media, and intolerance of criticism on the
part of the government.
118 Journalists released from pre-trial detention in May 2014
include seven Kurdish journalists and Füsun Erdoğan, who spent eight
years in pre-trial detention on what she claims were false charges
of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order by violence
and membership of an outlawed Marxist party. The government continued
to assert that most or all of the journalists in Turkish jails had
committed crimes unrelated to their profession.
119 Notable positive reforms include the recent reduction in the
maximum period of pre-trial detention from ten years to five years,
a new provision that the Turkish Constitutional Court can hear individual
appeals, and the abolition of special courts which have conducted
the controversial trials of hundreds of people, including journalists
and military personnel accused of being part of anti-government
plots. However, in March 2014, the government also increased its
control over the Supreme Board of Judges, giving rise to fears of
more political interference in the justice system.
120 The fourth judicial reform package of April 2013 contained
improvements related to freedom of expression, including an easing
of severe restrictions on reporting statements by illegal organisations (Article 6/2,
Anti-Terror Law) and narrowing the scope of the offence of making
terrorist propaganda (Article 7/2, Anti-Terror law and Article 220/8
of the Penal Code). However, the reforms have not halted many prosecutions,
including some targeting journalists, on charges of membership of
an armed organisation (Article 314). The much-criticised Article
301, which criminalises insults to the Turkish nation, was not amended.
It was used to open more than 30 new cases in 2012 and 2013. An
investigation was launched against the editor and a journalist of Agos, the magazine of the murdered
former editor Hrant Dink, after they criticised the Dink trial verdict.
121 During the large-scale Gezi Park protests in 2013, the independent
media monitoring organisation Bianet reported that police assaulted
at least 105 journalists while they were covering the events. Police
also detained 28 journalists, some of whom were held overnight and
questioned. Few police or public officials have been publicly held
to account for such actions, leading to a climate of impunity and
a loss of public trust in law-enforcement forces. The government’s
concerted efforts to suppress coverage of the Gezi Park events amounted
to an attempt at large-scale censorship.
122 On 11 June 2013, at the height of the protests, the broadcast
media regulator RTUK (High Board of Radio and Television) instructed
Ulusal TV, Halk TV, EM TV and Cem TV not to broadcast reports about
the demonstrations because they would incite violence. Under this
pressure, many television stations stopped reporting on the protests
in which tens of thousands of Turks participated over a period of
several weeks in Istanbul and other cities.
123 Pressure among Turkish broadcasting and newspaper journalists
to censor their own output have also become widespread out of fear
of loss of employment or other reprisals. In the past several years,
many leading Turkish journalists have been summarily dismissed from
their jobs by their employers, apparently as a consequence of direct
interference or pressure from high government officials. Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has acknowledged that he telephoned several
media owners or editors personally to influence their output. It
emerged much later that during the Gezi Park protests the Prime
Minister made a phone call from Morocco to a top manager of the
Cener group which owns the Haberturk TV news channel, and instructed
him to change an item of news which displeased him.
124 During the past year a number of allegations of corruption
involving members of the government and members of their families
have surfaced on the Internet, especially on social media. Against
the background of much diminished public trust in Turkey’s mainstream
media because of censorship and self-censorship, the Internet has
become an important vehicle for those who wish to publish and receive
information of public interest that may be unwelcome to government
authorities, including information about alleged cases of official corruption.
125 The government has used its legal powers to block many news-related
and file-sharing websites, including bloggers’ sites and YouTube,
on the basis of laws on insult and Turkish national identity, national security
and the long-standing ban on criticism of Atatürk. Since 2009 the
number of Internet sites blocked in Turkey is estimated at over
50 000. According to official sources, 81.9% of these sites have
been blocked on grounds of obscenity, 9.6% for abuse of children,
4.6% for prostitution and 1.4% for breach of privacy. In March 2014,
during the campaign period before the Turkish municipal elections
on 30 March, Twitter was blocked after Prime Minister Erdoğan vowed
to “wipe out Twitter” because users were spreading allegations of
high- level corruption which he denied. President Abdullah Gül personally
used Twitter to publicise his belief that a complete ban on Twitter
was unacceptable as well as technically impossible. A court in Ankara
ruled against the ban of Twitter and, on 2 April 2014, the Constitutional
Court upheld that judgement.
126 In December 2012, the European Court of Human Rights ruled
(in Ahmet Yıldırım v. Turkey)
that blocking access to an online platform called Google sites without
a strict legal framework regulating the scope of the ban and allowing
for a judicial review was a violation of the right to freedom of
127 The Turkish Grand National Assembly adopted in 2014 some revisions
to the Law No. 5651, which make it possible to shut down websites
faster; but the new law also requires faster court decisions on
such measures. In view of past practice of blocking websites in
Turkey, this revision has been criticised.
128 In March 2014, the government announced details of a wide-ranging
Human Rights Action Plan designed to harmonise Turkish laws with
the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, following numerous
rulings by the Court finding violations by Turkey concerning freedom
of expression, freedom of assembly and judicial standards. The pace
of implementation of the Action Plan is likely to depend on the political
will of the Turkish Government. The ongoing reluctance of the European
Union to open formal negotiations with Turkey on Chapter 23 of the
European Union accession process, dealing with the judiciary and
fundamental rights, has the potential to act as a brake on progress.
129 Several Turkish and foreign journalists in Turkey have become
victims of hate campaigns on social media, including multiple threats
of violence, after senior Turkish public figures singled them out
for insult or condemnation because of their reporting. Following
the Soma coal mine disaster in May 2014, the Turkey correspondent
of Der Spiegel magazine, Hasnain
Kazim, left the country after reportedly receiving over 10 000 threats
on Facebook and Twitter over his reports covering the disaster,
in which he cited a strongly worded criticism of the Turkish prime
minister uttered by a local miner at the time of Mr Erdoğan’s visit
130 Prime Minister Erdoğan accused the BBC Turkish service of
hiring actors to pose as relatives of dead Soma miners after the
BBC broadcast a video clip that showed two women relatives of miners
who died in the disaster saying that they would not vote for Erdoğan's
ruling AK Party again because of its controversial response to the
loss of life in the disaster. The BBC denied manipulating the news
item, but subsequently the BBC woman reporter, Rengin Arslan, became
the target of an extremely unpleasant smear campaign on social media,
accompanied by further accusations in pro-government media outlets.
131 These cases demonstrate the necessity for public figures to
refrain from abusing their elevated status to use intemperate or
inflammatory language against any journalist or media organisation,
and to apologise fully and promptly when their statements are shown
to be unproven.
132 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.
133 The Turkish Independent Communication Network (BIA), a monitoring
organisation, stated on its Bianet news website 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.
134 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.
135 PEN International has voiced strong concern over the 11 month
and 20 day suspended sentence handed down in late September to the
journalist and writer Erol Özkoray after he was found guilty of
defaming the current President of Turkey, Mr Erdoğan, in a book
about the 2013 Gezi Park protests. The conviction means that Özkoray
would have to serve the sentence in jail if he is convicted of criminal
defamation again in the next five years. PEN International called
for the suspended sentence to be lifted.
136 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
137 In August 2014, the then prime minister Erdoğan, 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”.
138 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.
139 Reporters without Borders, Article 19 and English PEN wrote
an open letter to Mr Erdoğan 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
140 Independent journalists and media in Azerbaijan have
faced aggressive attempts to silence critical voices. These include
multiple cases of physical attacks, detention and imprisonment on
what are thought to be fabricated charges and cases of judicial
harassment and attempted blackmail by persons associated with the
141 The killings of journalist and editor Rafiq Tagi in 2011 and
Elmar Huseynov in 2005 remain unsolved and unpunished, contributing
to a climate of impunity that tends to protect the powerful from
accountability and effective justice. The International Federation
of Journalists reported 15 assaults on working journalists in 2013.
142 On 25 April 2014, the Yeni Musavat newspaper
reporter, Farahim Ilgaroğlu, was beaten and punched in the face
in an unprovoked attack outside his Baku home by an unknown assailant
who asked him to confirm his name before assaulting him.
143 In November 2012, Farahim Ilgaroğlu, together with Turan Information
Agency reporter Etimad Budagov, Media Forum correspondent Amid Suleymanov
and Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) correspondent
Rasim Aliyev, were beaten by police and arrested when they were
covering an opposition rally in Baku, despite wearing clearly marked
The Commissioner for Human Rights, in his observations on
the human rights situation in Azerbaijan in April 2014, deplored
the rising trend of unjustified or selective criminal prosecutions
of journalists and others who express critical opinions. His assessment
echoed that of Assembly Resolution
of January 2013 on the honouring of obligations and
commitments by Azerbaijan. The Commissioner referred to the arrest of
blogger Omar Mammadov in January 2014 and online activist Abdul
Abilov in November 2013, both on dubious charges of drugs trafficking,
and of Parviz Hashimli of the Bizim Yoi
in September 2013 for alleged possession of weapons. The Commissioner
refuted earlier objections voiced by the Azerbaijani authorities
that the journalists in jail in the country had all been prosecuted
for offences unrelated to their professional activity.
145 The sentencing in May 2014 of Parviz Hashimli, the editor
of the independent news website Moderator, to eight years imprisonment
for smuggling and possessing weapons was criticised by the European
Union and many human rights monitoring organisations as an injustice
based on fabricated evidence. Mr Hashimli is known for his critical
reporting about corruption and human rights abuses in Azerbaijan,
including issues related to the actions of Azerbaijan's President,
Ilham Aliyev. The Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety described
the arrest of Mr Hashimli in September 2013 as a deliberate warning
to journalists in the run-up to an election.
146 President Aliyev was re-elected for a third term in October
2013 in elections which, according to OSCE election monitors, was
marred by allegations of candidate and voter intimidation and a
restrictive media environment, including intimidation, arrest and
use of force against journalists and human rights and democracy
activists online and offline. The OSCE monitored the output of six
television channels during the election campaign and reported that
92% of coverage was dedicated to the incumbent President, with the
rest to the remaining nine candidates (Final Report on Azerbaijan
Presidential election by the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions
and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR), 24 December 2013).
147 The Committee to Protect Journalists reported in May 2014
that 10 journalists were currently in detention or serving jail
sentences on spurious or politically motivated charges: Sardar Alibayli;
Nijat Aliyev; Araz Guliyev; Parviz Hashimli; Fuad Huseynov; Hilal
Mammadov; Rauf Mirkadirov; Faramaz Novruzoglu; Tofig Yagublu; and Avaz
148 Since 2012, a disturbing smear campaign has been conducted
against Khadija Ismayilova, a leading investigative journalist with
Radio Azadliq and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, apparently aimed
at stopping her from publishing reports about the business dealings
of the country’s president and members of his family. Ms Ismayilova
became the target of gross invasions of her privacy and in March
2013 intimate images of her, recorded secretly at her home, were
posted on the Internet in an evident attempt to discredit her. The government
failed to identify or punish those responsible for the illegal surveillance
and intrusion into her privacy. In October 2013, Ms Ismayilova asked
the European Court of Human Rights to order the Azerbaijan authorities
to take action to protect her from violence, threats and invasions
of her privacy.
149 There have been positive indications that Azerbaijan’s Supreme
Court has recommended amending the law on insult and defamation
to conform with rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. However,
criminal sanctions for defamation, including up to three years’
imprisonment, have not yet been removed. In 2013, the government
extended the scope of legal sanctions for defamation to include
expressions on the Internet. Civil defamation actions have resulted
in high fines against media organisations, which have threatened
the survival of some, with a wider chilling effect on media freedom.
Article 106 of the Constitution and Article 323 of the Criminal
Code, which prohibit insulting the honour and dignity of the President,
represent excessive limitations on freedom of expression.
150 On 30 October 2014, journalist Khalid Garayev, who works for
an opposition-oriented newspaper Azadig,
was sentenced to 25 days in prison 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.
151 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.
152 Khadija Ismailova was the victim in 2012 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.
153 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.
154 On 24 October 2014, 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 fringes of the law. Speaking 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 11 journalists are currently in prison because
of their reporting.
155 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 imprisonment. 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
2.7 Significant cases
and issues in other regions of Europe
156 In many other parts of Europe, the work of journalists
and their safety are routinely endangered by acts and threats of
violence, combined with excessively restrictive laws and various
forms of serious official harassment and obstruction. A climate
of intimidation or repression is often made worse by extremely low
rates of success in solving and prosecuting crimes and abuses where
journalists are the victims (impunity).
157 The difficult overall environment for media freedom in Europe
is reflected in the most recent report “Freedom of the Press 2014”
by Freedom House, the US-based monitoring organisation. Freedom
House assessed Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine as
being in the “Not-Free” category, while Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, the
Republic of Moldova, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”,
Montenegro, Romania and Serbia were all placed in the “Partly-Free”
158 Among the most significant weaknesses in the framework of
protection is the failure of the majority of Council of Europe member
States to decriminalise insult and defamation, despite frequent
requests to do so from international NGOs and inter-governmental
organisations, including the Council of Europe and the OSCE.
159 Many European States have ineffective or overly restrictive
laws on freedom of access to information as well as overly restrictive
laws on State secrecy, national security and counter-terrorism.
In those conditions journalists in some countries are especially
vulnerable to official hostility or prosecution when seeking to
report sensitive matters in the public interest.
160 The rapid expansion of surveillance of electronic communications
by State agencies has in many cases been directed at journalists
and human rights defenders, and criminal investigations and prosecution
of bloggers have increased. The editor of the Guardian newspaper,
Alan Rusbridger, has voiced the fear that unless surveillance and
monitoring of online communications is curbed, it may become impossible
for journalists to keep the identity of their sources secret. That
would expose both journalists and information sources to risk, and
severely hamper investigative journalism.
161 In January 2014, a press freedom mission to London by global
press freedom organisations including the World Association of Newspapers
criticised what they called United Kingdom Government interference
in the editorial independence of the Guardian after
it published stories revealing the extent of the digital surveillance
programmes of both the United Kingdom and the United States. The
United Kingdom Government defended its use in August 2013 of anti-terrorism
legislation in the detention, questioning and seizure of materials
at Heathrow airport from David Miranda, the partner of the journalist
responsible for many of the reports, Glenn Greenwald; as well as
the sending of government officials to the Guardian’s offices
to order the destruction of a computer hard drive. The Guardian claims the government exerted
undue pressure to try to prevent the publication of matters of legitimate
public interest. A British parliamentary committee has called for major
reforms to strengthen the independent oversight of the British security
and intelligence agencies. The Home Affairs Committee said, in May
2014, that the present system was out of date and so ineffective
that it undermined the credibility of the intelligence agencies
and the parliament.
162 A growing trend of special concern over the past two years
is the growth of self-censorship, which has been reported by journalists’
organisations themselves. That “chilling effect” is the result of
coercion or inducement by powerful media owners or public officials
which can present journalists with an unwelcome or impossible choice
– to act as a mouthpiece for one of the powerful factions in the
society or to face serious threats to their security or livelihood.
Sweeping changes in the media market and technologies, together
with austerity policies everywhere, have made media organisations
less economically stable, more vulnerable to pressures, for example
due to the loss of commercial advertising and public subsidies,
and therefore more open to improper influences.
163 The future of public service broadcasters and those who work
for them is also under increasing threat. In Greece the public broadcaster,
ERT, was abruptly and controversially closed down in June 2013 by
the government, citing mismanagement and the need for sweeping economies.
A new, much smaller national broadcaster, NERIT, came into being
in June 2014.
164 In Belarus arbitrary detentions, arrests and harassment of
journalists continue to be routinely reported. The country’s extremism
law criminalises independent journalism, including activities and
publication of materials that belittle the honour of the country
or its president or incite hooliganism for political motives. The law
deters independent reporting through the threat of closure of media
165 Andrzej Poczobut, a Belarusian journalist who since 2011 has
been repeatedly charged with defaming the president, was finally
released from a three-year suspended sentence in September 2013
when the prosecution dropped the charges against him for lack of
166 In Armenia, a decline in the number of physical assaults on
journalists has been recorded in the past two years. But several
journalists were attacked around the time of the presidential election
in February 2013. Later reports showed that nobody was prosecuted
for the attacks because of lack of evidence.
167 In Bulgaria, two cases were reported of threats to investigative
journalists, apparently intended to deter them from exposing corruption
or wrongdoing. In July 2012, Spas Spasov, a journalist for the Capital and Dnevnik newspapers
in the city of Varna received a postal threat related to his reports
about alleged corruption in a local construction project. In 2013,
investigative Bulgarian journalist, Hristo Hristov, whose work focuses on
the secret files and alleged crimes of the former Communist State
Security Agency, received several threats to his life and safety,
which he reported to police.
168 In June 2013, a survey of over 150 journalists by the Bulgarian
Section of the Association of European Journalists showed that more
than four fifths of them assessed the Bulgarian media environment
as subject to undue pressures on media workers. More than six out
of ten said internal pressures from managers or editors was the
source of improper distortions of editorial content.
169 In Spain, several cases of violence and intimidation by police
against journalists covering demonstrations in Madrid on 29 March
2014 were denounced by the OSCE’s Representative on Media Freedom
as well as Spanish journalistic organisations. Five journalists,
Gabriel Pecot, Mario Munera, Juan Ramón Robles, William A. Criollo
and Raul Capin were reportedly attacked by police officers and prevented from
taking photographs and gathering information, despite identifying
themselves as members of the press.
170 During the past two years, the Federation of Associations
of Spanish Journalists (FAPE) has continued to protest against the
arbitrary practice by government ministries and political parties
of seeking to deny journalists the chance to ask questions or to
gather their own recordings or interviews at certain news conferences
and during coverage of election campaigns. The journalists’ federation
alleges that journalists were denied the chance to question spokespersons
of the governing Popular Party for a period of several weeks at
the height of a scandal concerning alleged unlawful financing of
political parties, thus blocking open debate on matters of evident
public interest. The government has been made aware of the complaints
and has yet to respond to them adequately.
171 In Greece, firebomb attacks took place on 16 January 2013
outside the homes of five current or former journalists in Athens,
including staff members of Athens News Agency, ERT public television,
Alpha TV and Mega TV.
172 Kostas Vaxevanis, the editor of a Greek investigative magazine,
was twice tried and threatened with a jail sentence on charges of
violating privacy for publishing the names of more than 2 000 Greek
nationals holding Swiss bank accounts. Mr Vaxevanis said he had
published the list to expose the inaction of government authorities
concerning evidence of possible tax evasion by powerful figures
in society. He was acquitted for the second time in an appeal court
in November 2013.
173 Italy’s use of criminal sanctions in defamation cases has
been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights as disproportionate.
New legislation has been drafted which would finally remove the
sanction of imprisonment, but further improvements are needed to
provide adequate safeguards against spurious claims and the awarding
of excessive fines and damages against defendants, who have in the
past often been representatives of the media.
Following Assembly Resolution
, the Venice Commission adopted, on 6-7 December 2013, an
Opinion on defamation legislation in Italy and found: “Making the
requirement of proportionality of sanctions and the criterion of
the economic condition of the journalist more explicit in the defamation
provisions would, alongside the general proportionality principle
in the Italian legal system, help avoid the application of excessive fines
and ensure the proportionality of damage awards. Also, the introduction
of a temporary ban on the exercise of the journalistic profession
for repeated defamation should be reconsidered, as it may lead to
media self-censorship and may have a chilling effect on investigative
175 The National Federation of the Italian Press (FNSI) has protested
against excessive restrictions on freedom of expression. On 9 September
2013, police searched and seized computer equipment in the office in
Reggio Calabria of L’Ora della Calabria journalist
Consolato Minniti, after he published secret details of an investigation
into organised crime.
176 In Montenegro, the high incidence of violent attacks on journalists
gives cause for concern. On 3 January 2014, Lidija Nikcević, a journalist
of the Dan newspaper, was
attacked by a masked assailant wielding a baseball bat in front
of her office. She suffered concussion as well as head and body
injuries. On 13 February 2014, a Vijesti company
car was set on fire in Podgorica. It was the fifth time that a car
from Vijesti was destroyed.
177 In “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, international
protests followed the four-and-a-half year prison sentence given
in October 2013 to journalist Tomislav Kezarovski for articles he
wrote in Reporter 92 magazine
revealing the first name of a protected witness in a 2008 murder
case. The journalist had argued a public interest defence for publicising
the fact that police had presented a false protected witness against
the accused in the case. Mr Kezarovski was later freed from jail
and placed under house arrest pending the hearing of his appeal.
178 In November 2012, the Netherlands was found to have violated
the right of the newspaper De Telegraaf and
two of its journalists to keep their journalistic sources secret,
after the security agency unlawfully wiretapped the journalists’
communications, arrested them for several days and demanded that
they reveal the source of the information they had published about
an embarrassing security failure by the agency. Later the Dutch
Government committed to adopting legislation to adequately protect
journalistic privilege on confidential sources. The promised new
law is still awaited.
179 Hungary introduced a package of media laws in 2010 and 2011.
Following a detailed opinion by the Commissioner for Human Rights
in 2011, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the
Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister held several consultations in early
2013 regarding different issues of this media legislation. As a
result, the Hungarian Parliament made certain amendments to previously
challenged provisions in April 2013. However, the Hungarian legislation
is still having a chilling effect on media freedom and independence
despite the subsequent amendments. Problems include the vaguely
defined requirement on “balanced content” for print media, the potential
for high fines on journalists for violating media laws, and the
continuing lack of safeguards to guarantee the independence of the
Media Authority and the Media Council.
180 On 28 July 2014, European Commissioner Neelie Kroes renewed
her strongly worded criticism of Hungary’s 2010 media laws, including
of the establishment of a system of overall media regulation that
she said was subject to political interference by the governing
party, Fidesz. Ms 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
television channels which do not support Fidesz, and it is the one
hardest hit by the new tax.
181 Following the Hungarian parliamentary elections on 6 April
2014, the OSCE/ODIHR Limited Election Observation Mission published,
on 11 July, 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 television stations
displayed a significant bias towards Fidesz. The allocation of State
advertising to certain media also undermined pluralism and heightened self-censorship
182 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 be repealed and that civil law
sanctions be made strictly proportionate to the actual harm caused.
183 While greater attention to serious violations of
media freedom is paid by international organisations, the situation
of media freedom has not improved in Europe. The deaths of journalists
and the physical attacks against them are an alarming sign that
more must be done by governments and parliaments in member States; as
well as by the Council of Europe.
184 Positive action by member States in favour of media freedom
should encourage others to follow in this direction. I can mention
the establishment by Serbia in 2013 of its Commission of Inquiry
into Unresolved Murders of Journalists, as well as the various revisions
of internationally criticised media legislation in Hungary and Turkey.
The latter revisions were the result of close co-operation with
the Council of Europe.
185 Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights being
the supreme legal norm of freedom of expression and information
throughout Europe, the Council of Europe has to assume its key role
in defending this fundamental right, without which there can be
no functioning democracy and no popular scrutiny of the rule of
186 Although few member States have shown a higher quantity and
intensity of possible violations of media freedom, all member States
of the Council of Europe must be called on to strengthen the protection
of media freedom domestically through law and practice, as well
as internationally through the Council of Europe.
187 A new feature of such action will be the Internet-based platform
to record and publicise possible infringements of the rights guaranteed
by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Some years after
this idea was launched by the Assembly, it will become an important
structural interface for greater co-operation with major media freedom
NGOs. The Assembly must closely follow the implementation of this initiative
and actively contribute to it.