In 2011, the Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), registered 684 press freedom violations in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, the Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
Press freedom violations include: imprisonment; detention; physical assaults; travel bans; political, business and religious pressure; threats made by email, letter, telephone, or in person; bomb attacks; attempted assassinations; criminal charges; and house arrests.
SEEMO did not always react publicly to these violations: in some cases, journalists on the ground preferred result-oriented quiet diplomacy, rather than public protests. In those cases, SEEMO representatives met with government and political leaders in order to solve specific issues raised by journalists.
The source of threats and pressures is diversified: politicians, business groups, often linked to mafia-style business dealings, religious organisations, actors, musicians, etc.
The above-mentioned cases do not include other types of control exerted on the media, in the form of inadequate media laws, pressure by media owners on editors and journalists, or blackmail by advertisers and other economic groups. While in some countries media –related laws have been improved, in others they have worsened.
SEEMO-registered violations for 2011 do not include ongoing court cases initiated against journalists before 2011.
In addition, economic issues further complicated journalists’ activities: obscure media ownership structures and hidden interests; problems with collective contracts or the lack of any contracts; and poor salaries.
SEEMO will continue to closely monitor the situation in the region as well as promote quality journalism. In 2012, SEEMO will conduct press freedom missions to Serbia and Bulgaria. In support of quality journalism, SEEMO will organise two conferences - the III South, East and Central European Investigative Journalism Days in Moldova, and South East Europe Media Forum - as well as Belgrade Media Days and Istanbul Media Days, events designed for professionals and journalism students.
“The fight for press freedom is a daily struggle. We still have a long way to go,” declared Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General.