PRESS FREEDOM NEWS 2015

POLAND

SEEMO reacts against increase of political influence over media in Poland

Vienna, 30 December 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed its disapproval of a new bill proposal in Poland regarding media freedom. On 29 December, the majority party introduced the bill rather suddenly, claiming that it was the first stage of a public media reform.

Under consideration for immediate adoption by the government, the bill proposal would transfer control over management and supervisory board member appointments at the public broadcaster from the National Broadcasting Council to the Minister of the Treasury.

If the bill is passed, it will be effective immediately and all current management would be dismissed.

“The proposed changes seem to be a powerful weapon for the government. Unfortunately, I have little faith that politicians want to increase the power and freedom of media. Usually bills like this are a blatant attempt to diminish freedom of speech and curb critical journalism. We call on authorities in Poland to revoke this proposal and focus more on other issues”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

SEEMO supports Turkish journalist Sedat Ergin

Vienna, 30 December 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed by new details regarding the recent lawsuit against Hurriyet daily Editor-in-Chief Sedat Ergin.

Ergin was charged with insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan through alleged offensive and false reports by incorrectly paraphrasing Erdogan in the daily’s reports on an attack on 6 September. In the attack, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) killed 16 Turkish soldiers during a confrontation in Daglica, near the Iraqi border.

The prosecution demanded five years and four months in jail for Sedat Ergin. His lawsuit has been merged with that of Ekrem Dumanli, former editor-in-chief of Zaman daily, which paraphrased the same speech of the President.

“We are deeply concerned regarding these allegations and charges”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SERBIA

SEEMO supports Serbian journalist Zeljko Bodrozic

Vienna, 29 December 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern over problems encountered by local journalist Zeljko Bodrozic on 28 December in Kikinda, Serbia, and calls for an official, independent investigation of the case.

Bodrozic, editor of local daily Kikindske and vice president of the Independent Association of Journalists of Serbia (NUNS), was taken into custody on 28 December in Kikinda. Police officers arrived at the Kikindske premisesand arrested Bodrozic for not paying a parking ticket worth approximately 75 EUR.
Bodrozic tried to explain to the officers that he could easily pay the fine, but they insisted on leading him to the police car in handcuffs. Bodrozic refused, leading to a quarrel between the journalist and his colleagues and the officers. He was eventually escorted to the police car and station without handcuffs.
After three hours, including an interrogation for “obstructing officials in performing their duty”, Bodrozic was released. He paid the ticket fine, which local officials insist was the sole basis for the journalist's arrest. However, Bodrozic says that it may have been due to the fact that one of his arresting officers was previously the subject of an article in Kikindske.
SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI). SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

POLAND - RUSSIA

SEEMO is asking for free work for journalists in both countries

VIENNA, 21 December 2015 – The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today condemned Russia’s expulsion of a Polish journalist in retribution for Poland’s decision to expel a Russian journalist for as-yet unexplained allegations of espionage.

Russian authorities on Friday summoned Waclaw Radziwinowicz, the Moscow correspondent for Polish daily newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, to the foreign ministry, where he was informed that his press accreditation had been withdrawn and that he must leave the country within 30 days.
A Russian foreign ministry spokesperson told the Associated Press that the decision to expel Radziwinowicz was made “on the principle of reciprocity”, referring to Poland’s expulsion of Leonid Sviridov, a reporter with the Kremlin-funded Rossiya Segodnya news service.

Polish authorities last year labeled Sviridov a threat to the country’s security, but never released evidence supporting that claim. Sviridov, who denies having acted as a Russian agent, left Poland on Dec. 12.
“We are extremely disappointed by this development, which serves only to deprive the Polish public of independent information on Russian politics and government actions,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. “Given the heightened tensions between Russia and Poland in recent years, both nations should take greater steps to ensure more understanding of their actions and policies by their neighbors, not less.

“We urge Russian authorities to reverse the decision to expel Mr. Radziwinowicz. Likewise, we call on Polish authorities to provide specific evidence justifying their decision to expel Mr. Sviridov and, failing that, to reverse that decision as well.”

Reports indicated that the order expelling Radziwinowicz from Russia cannot be appealed and that he was told he could face criminal charges if he fails to obey it.

Gazeta Wyborcza Deputy Editor-in-Chief Piotr Stasinski, a former member of IPI’s Executive Board, said that Radziwinowicz has served as the paper’s Moscow correspondent for more than 18 years and that Russian authorities threatened to withdraw Radziwinowicz’s accreditation several times during that period.
Stasinski said the paper considered that pressure to be a response to Radziwinowicz’s critical coverage of Russian politics and creeping authoritarianism under President Vladimir Putin, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and its support for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

“This [expulsion] amounts to an absurd pretext to get rid of a critical journalist who was explaining Russian affairs to the Polish public without even a shade of self-censorship or the Kremlin's official propaganda,” Stasinski commented. “The understanding and deconstructing of Putin's Russia was a trade and mission of Waclaw Radziwinowicz; a trade and mission that he was deprived of by a regime that fears the truth about itself.”

SERBIA

SEEMO dissatisfied with treatment of media in Serbia

Vienna, 21 December 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the growing number of cases in Serbia where journalists are being insulted, attacked, or pressured. SEEMO has also expressed concern regarding a recent physical attack involving a journalist in the town of Bela Crkva, Serbia.

Reporter Stefan Cvetkovic stated that he was attacked on Saturday, 19 December by unknown perpetrators who destroyed his car. The incident occurred after Cvetkovic was called a “foreign spy” and “legitimate target” by local government officials. His investigative work has been causing dissatisfaction among local politicians, including one who allegedly called Cvetkovic “a spy funded by the Soros Foundation”.

SEEMO calls any on members of the local political community who are exerting pressure on Cvetkovic to stop immediately.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA / FYROM

Bad Practices, Bad Faith: Soft Censorship in Macedonia

Vienna, 15 December 2015 - A new report released today by WAN-IFRA, the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), details how the practice of soft censorship is undermining the media industry across Macedonia.

“Bad Practices, Bad Faith: Soft Censorship in Macedonia” outlines how financial incentives and partisan influence are increasing in the country. The ubiquity of such practices diminishes the credibility and independence of media and is curtailing the essential role the press has in fostering democratic development by reducing the space for public discussion and debate..

The new report is available to download below.

Extensive interviews 
with media experts, editors and journalists in the country reveal that pluralism and independent editorial perspectives represented in Macedonia’s media have drastically decreased. The report outlines how this decline coincided with the rise to power of the current ruling party in 2006, and has accelerated with its efforts to dominate the country’s media space through new laws and increasingly partisan use of state resources to support ‘friendly’ media outlets.

Official soft censorship, or indirect censorship, is defined as “an array of official actions intended to influence media output, short of legal or extra-legal bans, direct censorship of specific content, or physical attacks on media outlets or media practitioners.”

The financial realities of Macedonia’s small media market force many media outlets to depend
 on state funding to remain financially viable. Government-friendly media are bolstered by various means, particularly with the allocation of official funds, advertising, campaigns, and subsidised projects. This generates an environment in which partisan political and business interests set the media agenda and can directly shape reporting.

“As demonstrated through our previous investigations, research in Macedonia shows that harsher, more overt methods of media control are shifting towards subtler yet still very powerful tools associated with soft censorship practices,” said Andrew Heslop, WAN-IFRA Press Freedom director. “Independent media outlets struggle for survival through increasingly restricted advertising revenues, a daunting prospect for hopes of a sustainable future in a market the size of Macedonia.”

The report recommends action to reverse the erosion of media freedom in the country. All state funding for media outlets, including advertising, grants and other subsidies should be entirely transparent and allocated through fair processes supervised by independent bodies and institutions.

Equally, legal and institutional guarantees on freedom of expression compatible with EU standards must be fully implemented in law and respected in practice

Through detailed research into soft censorship practices globally, WAN-IFRA and CIMA are drawing attention to the kinds of widespread and deleterious problems facing independent media that rarely generate the same level of international outrage as direct attacks on the press. The findings and recommendations of the soft censorship research series aim to contribute to the implementation of fair and transparent rules that are necessary for the development of independent media sectors around the world.
A country report detailing soft censorship practices in Bulgaria will be published in January 2016.

WAN-IFRA also collects and regularly publishes updated information on the misuse of financial and administrative powers to manipulate reporting, which can be found - together with the soft censorship report series – online at www.softcensorship.org and on the Twitter feed @SoftCensorship. All materials are free to download and share.

The report:
http://www.wan-ifra.org/sites/default/files/field_article_file/Soft%20Censorship%20Macedonia%20Dec%2015.pdf

GREECE

New cases

VIENNA, 14 December 2015 – The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today expressed solidarity with two foreign photojournalists physically assaulted on the Greek island of Lesbos while attempting to cover the ongoing refugee crisis.

According to local media reports, AFP photographer Aris Messinis and American freelancer Nicole Tung were ordered by a volunteer aid worker on Friday, Dec- 4 to stop photographing refugees on the beach near Eftalou. When Messinis and Tung protested, the volunteer instructed Greek lifeguards to “kick these people out”. Words were exchanged between Messinis and the lifeguards, one of whom eventually punched Messinis and with the help of colleagues threw him to the ground.

Tung told the Hellenic Photojournalists Association (EFE) that when she began to take pictures of the assault, the volunteer knocked her camera to the ground and pushed her down. She said she then saw one of the lifeguards place Messinis in a chokehold, which photographs published in Greek media corroborate. According to Tung, one of the lifeguards also threatened her and Messinis with a knife.

IPI recognises that some local commentators have apparently defended the actions of the volunteer and the lifeguards on the basis of claims that the photographers had invaded the refugees’ privacy. In her comments to EFE, which were later provided to IPI, Tung strongly denied such claims.

 

“A lot of insults were being heard, but Aris was also trying to explain that if a refugee, family, woman, man, etc. personally asking us to not take pictures, fine – we respect that”, she told EFE. “It is not up to the ‘authority’ of the lifeguards or other volunteers there to decide what to do with the press. Moreover, many of them have no concept of what the press is there for, and still more don’t understand that the reasons they’re even there is because they saw Aris’s pictures, and many other photographers images, in the first place.”

In a statement, the EFE expressed “deep concern about the emergence of self-claimed defenders of refugees, who consider they are entitled to control media coverage of the refugee crisis by imposing arbitrary restrictions on press freedom.” An EFE representative told IPI that the organisation felt compelled to speak out on behalf of Messinis and Tung although the two, as foreign correspondents, are not affiliated with EFE.

“Photojournalists have played an invaluable role in informing the Greek and European public debate about the refugee crisis, in many cases by visually capturing the depth and degree of human suffering involved," IPI Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen said. "Any attempt to prevent photojournalists from doing their jobs is therefore automatically a cause for concern."

“In this case, there may be understandable tension between the press and those involved in humanitarian assistance. However, we unreservedly condemn the violence against Mr. Messinis and Ms. Tung, which should not be tolerated by the Greek authorities. Moreover, we remind that those involved in humanitarian assistance, however praiseworthy their efforts, are not entitled to decide the limits of press freedom."

Separately, IPI noted with concern reported attempts by the Greek police to prevent media coverage of the removal of refugees from the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). According to EFE, two journalists and two photojournalists who had arrived at the border town of Idomeni last Thursday morning to cover the operation were arrested and taken to a local police station ostensibly in order to verify their identities, a practice known in Greek as prosagoges.

In a statement, EFE called the police’s action a “flagrant violation of freedom of the press” and rejected the police’s argument that the removal of the journalists had been necessary for the latter’s safety. The organisation also decried what it termed the “manipulation of public opinion”, referring to photographs taken by police of the border operation and circulated in the place of media coverage.

GREECE

SEEMO urges Greek authorities to end media freedom restrictions

Vienna, 10 December 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned recent behaviour of Greek institutions and police forces towards media workers.

On 9 December, riot police forces started removing migrants stranded on the border between Greece and the Republic of Macedonia / Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Traffic was blocked while migrants protested and occupied the border for not being allowed to cross into the Republic of Macedonia / Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, in an effort to travel to northern European countries.

Journalists who were live-tweeting and trying to report on the incident from the Idomeni camp near the border were removed from the area. Four journalists and photographers were arrested.  They were then taken to a police station several kilometres away from the border, prohibited from using their cameras and instructed to delete the material they had recorded.

All the media workers were released soon after, but were not allowed to go back to the border and report.

"We urge the Greek authorities to allow free reporting on matters like the incident at the border, which are vital to the public interest”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said today.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

HUNGARY

Dissappointment over the decission of the Parliament

VIENNA, 9 December 2015 – The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today expressed disappointment over the decision of the Hungarian Parliament’s Justice Committee not to advance a bill that would have repealed criminal defamation and established safeguards against the abuse of civil defamation law.

Last month, IPI joined 29 other international press freedom and freedom of expression organisations in writing to the Committee’s chairman, Gyorgy Rubovsky, in support of the measure. The groups stated that the measure would promote “the right of Hungarian citizens to participate in public debate without fear of punishment”.

The Justice Committee on Nov. 30 declined to send the bill to the full Parliament for consideration, according to the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), which had spearheaded the reform effort.
Dalma Dojcsák, head of the HCLU’s freedom of speech programme, told IPI that the bill aimed to counter the abuse of Hungary’s defamation laws by politicians. “It is a trend, especially in small towns all over Hungary, that public officials initiate legal proceedings after being publicly criticised,” she said.

According to IPI’s research on defamation laws in Europe, defamation and libel remain criminal offences in Hungary, punishable with imprisonment for up to two years under certain conditions. Defaming public officials does not itself carry more severe punishment. However, Hungarian law provides that while prosecutions for criminal defamation must generally be carried out privately by the victim, cases in which the victim is a public official are to be tried by a public prosecutor.

This imbalance, Dojcsák explained, facilitates the filing of defamation claims by public officials, with the state “taking over the burden of prosecution”. She noted: “The police will conduct the investigation, the prosecutor will make the accusation, and the complainant does not have to pay for all this. Indicted people will be fingerprinted and photographed, as if they had committed some serious crime.”

In proposing the repeal of criminal defamation and libel, the bill considered by the Committee would have rendered this advantage moot. However, the measure also sought to amend the Hungarian Civil Code by prohibiting public officials from initiating defamation claims for criticism related to their public or official activities.

“We’re disappointed that the Justice Committee of the Hungarian Parliament failed to act on an important proposal to protect the free flow of news and information in Hungary and to bring the country’s laws more closely in line with international standards on freedom of expression,” IPI Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen said. “The abuse of defamation laws in Europe is being increasingly recognised as a threat to the public’s right to participate in open debate and the media’s ability to hold those in power accountable. We urge Hungarian lawmakers to reconsider this measure in the future.”

The HCLU recently launched a campaign called PolitiKuss (“shut up by politicians”), which highlights examples of cases in which Hungarian officials and government bodies have turned to civil and criminal defamation laws as a response to criticism.

IPI’s “Out of Balance” report last year revealed that the vast majority of EU member states retain criminal defamation laws, which represent a disproportionate interference with freedom of expression. However, recent years have seen clear steps toward legal reform, with the repeal of criminal defamation in Ireland, the United Kingdom, Romania and non-EU-members Norway, FYROM/Republic of Macedonia and Montenegro.

The abuse of civil defamation claims, including via vexatious litigation and exorbitant compensation claims, remains an equal cause for concern from a press freedom and freedom of expression standpoint. IPI and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) last month welcomed the Greek government’s proposal to overhaul the country’s current civil defamation law, known by journalists as the “press-killer”.

SERBIA

Behaviour of public officials towards media workers in Serbia unacceptable

Vienna, 6 December 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was appalled by sexist comments a high-ranking public official in Serbia made when referring to a female journalist.

Defence Minister Bratislav Gasic was speaking to a group of journalists in the town of Trstenik after a visit to a local factory. During his statement and questions with the press, B92 journalist Zlatija Labovic knelt in order to avoid obstructing cameras filming Gasic. The Minister said, “I like female journalists that kneel down easily”.

“Statements like this are unprofessional and unacceptable from a public official. This behaviour must be addressed, considering Gasic’s position as a Minister.” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

ROMANIA

SEEMO calls for protection of Romanian journalists in surveillance case

Vienna, 6 December 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed its support for Romanian journalist Catalin Tolontan of the Gazeta Sporturilor newspaper.

Tolontan was allegedly followed by an unidentified man and woman, who were spotted surveying the journalist’s home by a neighbour on the night of November 24-25 in Bucharest, Romania.

Tolontan and his colleagues have published investigative stories about the tragic Colectiv club fire on 30 October, when 60 people died. The articles raised questions about the role that authorities might have played in the tragedy, alleging that the General Inspectorate for Emergency Situations (GIES) failed to ensure proper safety precautions in the public space.

Tolontan discovered that even though authorities first claimed the fire department had no information about the concert before it took place, a fax was sent to the authorities beforehand by the concert organizer. Authorities then confirmed receipt of the document and allegedly began an internal investigation.

"I urge the authorities to investigate what happened in front of the home of Catalin Tolontan on the night of November 24-25 and inform the public about the results of the investigation”, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

HUNGARY

SEEMO expresses support for Hungarian journalist Gergely Nyilas

Vienna, 6December 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed its full support for Gergely Nyilas, a journalist working for the Hungarian news portal Index.

In August 2015, Nylias reported on the treatment of refugees arriving in Hungary. He registered as a refugee from Kyrgistan in order to better understand the situation and story. However, after he revealed this information, he was charged for lying to law enforcement officials and forging official documents. The charges were dropped due to public outcry, but prosecutors still issued a reprimand against the journalist.

Nyilas says that he acted in order to obtain information that was in the public interest. Hungarian authorities countered that Nyilas’ articles do not provide information of vital public interest.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

SEEMO urges Turkey to alleviate pressure on journalists

Vienna, 3 December 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern regarding the recent deterioration of the media atmosphere in Turkey. The country already faces many issues regarding media freedom and freedom of expression, but has witnessed a significant increase in devaluing of human and journalists’ rights.

On 26 November, two media workers from the daily Cumhuriyet were arrested for reporting on trucks containing weapons that were allegedly being sent to Syrian rebel forces in connection with Turkey’s National Intelligence Agency. Editor-in-chief Can Dundar and Ankara Bureau Chief Erdem Gul now face charges including potential life imprisonment.  They were accused of publishing confidential information, political and military espionage, as well as being the propaganda vessel of a terrorist organization.

Following this, another tragic event occurred on 28 November, when Tahir Elci, a Turkish human rights lawyer and defender was assassinated with a single bullet to the head in Diyarbakir, south-eastern Turkey. The horrifying event took place right after a press conference Elci held that day. The circumstances surrounding his death remain unclear.

On 2 December, a Danish journalist claimed in a series of tweets that he was severely assaulted by a group of Turkishsoldiers while crossing the Turkish border into Syria. Nagieb Khaja, a freelance journalist covering conflict in the region, posted a photo of himself with severe facial bruises. Khaja stated that he identified himself as a journalist and showed his press card to authorities at the border, but they beat him regardless.

"We appeal to authorities in Turkey to drop charges against Can Dundar and Erdem Gul from Cumhuriyet, do all they can to find the perpetrators of the gruesome murder of Tahir Elci and to investigate the case of Nagieb Khaja and punish those responsible for his senseless beating", SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

Arrest and detention

VIENNA, 27 November 2015 – The arrest and detention of two prominent Turkish journalists on groundless charges of aiding a terrorist organisation, espionage and disclosure of classified documents marks a disturbing new low in Turkey’s sustained assault on media freedom, the International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) said today.

Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, Erdem Gül, were arrested yesterday and placed in pre-trial detention on the orders of an Istanbul criminal court.
Dündar and Gül face life imprisonment if convicted.

“The court says that Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dündar and Ankara Bureau Chief Erdem Gül have been imprisoned for spying, for being members of a terrorist organiation and for revealing state secrets,” IPI Turkish National Committee Chair Kadri Gürsel said.

“But we know that they have been put in jail simply for their factual reporting on the secret arms transfer to Syria, which undoubtedly constitutes a liability for the [ruling] AKP government. Their arrest constitutes an unpredecedented degradation in the agonising state of press freedom in Turkey and a new extreme in the criminalisation of journalism in the country.”

IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi added: “The arrest and imprisonment of Can Dündar and Erdem Gül for publishing information on a matter of urgent and undeniable public interest make it clear: press freedom in Turkey is no longer simply under threat; it is in danger of being completely extinguished. We urge the international community to send a strong signal that such breaches of fundamental rights and liberties will not be tolerated and we call on Turkey to release both journalists without delay.”

The case has its origin in a video published by Cumhuriyet on May 29, 2015 that the paper said showed evidence that Turkey’s intelligence agency, MIT, was secretly sending weapons to Islamist rebel groups in Syria. The video purports to show Turkish security forces opening trucks en route to Syria belonging to MIT that contained crates of weapons and ammunition.

Turkey’s Interior Ministry rejected assertions prompted by the video and insisted that the trucks were in fact conveying humanitarian aid to the Turkmen community in Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has suggested that the weapons were placed on the trucks by adherents of the religious movement led by his ally-turned-foe Fethullah Gülen in order to discredit him. Turkish authorities have designated the Gülen movement as a terrorist organisation.

Erdoğan recently responded to a question about the videos by asking: "What difference would it make whether the trucks contained weapons or not?” He chracterised Cumhuriyet’s publication of the video as a “betrayal”.

Erdoğan had vowed in a television interview with state broadcaster TRT in June 2015 that the journalist who wrote the piece would pay a “heavy price”. Erdoğan filed an individual criminal complaint against Dündar under Turkey’s broad anti-terror law, accusing Dündar and Cumhuriyet of “joing[ing] the actions of the members of the organization who searched the trucks and plott[ing] with fabricated evidence to create a perception in the scope of a planned setup as if the Republic of Turkey has been helping terrorist organizations”.

According to Turkish media, shortly before Dündar was taken into custody, he told reporters: "We are accused of ‘spying’. The president said [our action is] ‘treason'. We are not traitors, spies, or heroes; we are journalists. What we have done here was a journalistic activity.”

He added: "We came here to defend journalism. We came here to defend the right of the public to obtain the news and their right to know if their government is feeding them lies. We came here to show and to prove that governments cannot engage in illegal activity and defend this.”

UKRAINE

Conditions for journalists in the Ukraine worrisome, conclude SEEMO members

Vienna, 25 November 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has expressed concern regarding the turmoil journalists face in the Ukraine.

On 21 November, Hulsum Khalilova, a journalist with ATR TV, was assaulted during clashes between Ukrainian security forces and the Civil Blockade of Crimea action in Chaplynka, close to the Ukraine-Crimea administrative border. She was hit in the stomach with a gun while reporting. According to one representative of ATR, the journalist was attacked by Ukrainian special forces.  SEEMO has urged that this attack be swiftly investigated.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission. KOSOVO

SEEMO urges investigation of Kossev attacks

Vienna, 24 November 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) urges authorities in Kosovo to investigate and resolve cases of pressure and attacks made on the Kossev news portal.

The vehicle of Kossev journalist Nevenka Medic was set on fire in the early hours of 24 November. The fire allegedly ignited because of electrical issues inside the vehicle, but there has been speculation that the incident could be related to other attacks directed at the staff of the portal. Prior to this incident, the Kossev offices were shot at by unknown perpetrators. No one was injured  in the incident, but when they arrived to work in July, 11 journalists noticed several gunshots had been fired into the walls and through the windows of the premises. Only a month later, reporter Svetlana Jevtic was physically attacked and verbally insulted by an employee of the Kosovo Property Agency.

"We call the authorities to protect the Kossev journalists, and create a safer environment for all media workers in Kosovo”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission. GREECE

SEEMO criticizes decision of Greek institutions

Vienna, 23 November 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) asks for the release of official details about two foreign journalists arrested in Chalkidiki.

On 23 November in the city of Polygyros in Northern Greece, American Angela Anderson and Italian Francesca Pagani were arrested for allegedly recording trial proceedings, which is against the law in Greece. The case being tried was against several Greek citizens and activists engaged in protesting the exploitation of gold mines for ecological reasons.

The judge accused the two journalists of filming inside the court room, while they claim to have been filming outside of it.

The judge immediately ordered them to be put on trial and afterwards arrested, following which they were detained in the Polygyros police department in. Their equipment was confiscated.

 "SEEMO is asking authorities to release more details about this case. It is not acceptable to block journalists’ reporting in connection with a court case.” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

KOSOVO

“End quarrels within RTK” insists SEEMO

Vienna, 20 November 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed its deep concern regarding recent developments in the Kosovo public broadcaster RTK.

RTK General Director Mentor Shala wrote an open letter that addressed the public broadcaster’s workers, informing them that he was elected for another three-year term. However, instead of focusing on the work and future of RTK, the letter contains accusations against members of the board of the Independent Trade Union of RTK.

Shala said that the Trade Union is attempting to destabilize RTK, naming particularly Hisen Berisha and Bekim Hasani, and accusing them of misinterpretation and blackmail. A letter by Mr Berisha was recently published in which he addresses alleged nepotism and corruption in RTK.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

RUSSIA

Steps against Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF)

VIENNA, 20 November 2015 – The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today joined international free expression defenders in condemning Russia’s move to stigmatise prominent Russian media freedom watchdog the Glasnost Defence Foundation (GDF) as a “foreign agent”.

Russia’s Justice Ministry yesterday added GDF to its list of “foreign agents” under a 2012 law requiring non-profit organisations that receive foreign donations and engage in political activity to register using that term. NGOs and others required to register are subject to financial audits and issue biannual reports on their activities, in addition to identifying themselves with the phrase "foreign agents” in their materials.
Russian journalist Galina Sidorova, a member of IPI’s Executive Board and the chair of the Foundation for Investigative Journalism - Foundation 19/29, Russia, said today: "For the 25 years of its existence the Glasnost Defense Foundation has done more for advocacy of press freedom, support of independent media, protection of journalists and development of the civil society than any other NGO or professional journalist body in Russia.
"For the last two years the GDF and Foundation 19/29 have been partners in a training program for investigative journalists and bloggers in the Russian regions. There is both irony and hypocrisy in the Ministry’s move, since this very partnership was specified as one of the reasons for its decision to include the GDF in the ‘foreign agents’ list, insofar as Foundation 19/29 had been inserted there earlier last May.
"The Russian government and legal institutions have lately been pursuing an unprecedented attack on independent media and freedom of expression, which they are now trying to mask with the rhetoric of necessity to fight terrorism and extremism. This case against GDF reflects the dramatic and deteriorating situation that independent media and journalists are facing these days in Russia.”
IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis echoed Sidorova’s comments.
"For nearly 25 years, GDF has worked to defend the rights of journalists and protect media freedom across Russia, providing legal assistance to journalists and conducting research into ‘hot spots’ where abuses of media freedom most often occur,” he noted. "This move is the latest in a systematic campaign of harassment and intimidation targeting independent media and civil society in recent years, and will only serve to further hinder the ability of people in Russia to freely share and receive information in the public interest.”
The Kremlin has claimed the 2012 legislation is needed to safeguard Russia from foreign attempts to sway domestic politics. However, the term "foreign agents” carries a Soviet-era connotation of espionage and those who work for organisations that refuse to comply with the demands can be punished with heavy fines or prison sentences.

GDF has received funding from organisations based outside of Russia, including George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the MacArthur Foundation. Yesterday’s decision by the Justice Ministry came after an "unscheduled inspection” of the organisation.

BELARUS

Problems in Belarus - IPI report

Vienna, 20 November 2015 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) presents a IPI report about Belarus.

Do recent events indicate that Belarus could fully turn towards Europe and pull away from Russia politically? In the last few months, a number of developments have excited observers in international media and revitalised old debates about the former Soviet country’s future. But despite positive indications, a broader view suggests that this prediction may be overly optimistic.

In the judgment of most media freedom or democracy indexes, the Eastern European country is labelled as one of the worst in Europe and in recent years Belarus has shown no tangible progress towards establishing a free media atmosphere.

One of the most important recent events was certainly the Oct. 11 presidential election, which was broadly perceived as neither free nor fair. Belarus’ leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, who first took office in 1994, is often called "Europe’s last dictator” by critics. It was, therefore, not surprising that he was re-elected for a fifth term in office with a landslide 83.5 percent of the vote.

According to a report on media coverage of the recent elections prepared by the Belarusian Association of Journalists’ (BAJ), state-owned media only served Lukashenko and gave no voice to opponents. Further, it presented the country’s current situation as being extremely successful. Although independent media outlets had a more balanced coverage, they were unable to have an impact throughout the country, because they were given limited space in which they could operate.

The U.N. special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Miklós Haraszti, criticised the situation and the fact that audiovisual media is owned and controlled by the state, with the result that the public did not have a democratic chance to inform itself about other political parties.
“The election process was orchestrated, and the result was pre-ordained,” Haraszti said in a statement. “It could not be otherwise, given the 20 years of continuous suppression of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association, which are the preconditions for any credible competition.”

Another recent event that raised hopes for Belarus was the awarding of the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature to Belarusian investigative journalist Svetlana Alexievich. Despite the country’s unfree media atmosphere and the overall lack of independent journalism, Alexievich – whose work during the course of her career included interviews with the survivors of conflicts and disasters, such as the Chernobyl disaster, during the Soviet period – became the 14th woman to win the 8 million kroner (approximately €860,000) prize and the first journalist to do so.

Her win had a tremendous impact, not only because she has been persecuted by the current regime and was formerly forbidden from making public appearances, but also because of her stance towards the Belarusian government.

Recent statements that she has given in the media reveal that she is extremely critical of Lukashenko and Russia. In one of her first public comments after winning the award, Alexievich said she would not vote in the elections "because we know who will win". One day before the elections, she told reporters in Berlin that "it plays absolutely no role how we will vote" and she continued to criticise the electoral process as being entirely under the control of the president.

International observers and Belarusians alike have expressed great happiness and hope at her success. Catherine Taylor, the deputy director of English PEN, said that she hoped the award "will further highlight the civil and political injustices in Belarus and go some way to bringing about the restitution of free speech and freedom of expression for all Belarusians".

The final important event in recent months was the EU’s suspension of sanctions against Belarus, which included an arms embargo, a trade ban on arms-related services, financial restrictions, travel bans and asset freezes. The sanctions, tightened most recently following the government’s crackdown on anti-regime demonstrators in Minsk in 2010, targeted Lukashenko and some 200 other individuals and 18 entities.

However, the recent move relaxed sanctions against 170 individuals, including Lukashenko, and three companies. It followed the release of political prisoners in Belarus, the country’s hosting of the Ukraine peace talks and the non-violent atmosphere that accompanied the elections.

According to EU diplomats, the suspension can be seen as a reward for Belarus’ perceived opening up to Europe. They say it also signals a new strategy by the EU to engage, rather than isolate, Eastern European countries. The suspension process began at the end of October and is expected to last until February, but could be terminated should new human rights abuses occur.

Artyom Shraibman – a political correspondent and editor for major Belarusian informational portal TUT.BY in Minsk and a former political correspondent at leading independent Belarusian news agency BelaPAN – told IPI in an interview that he agrees with the EU’s approach.

“If we look back in history, the worst human rights record was seen in the country exactly in the times when the country was isolated from the West by the war sanction....,” he said. “The country needs to be europeanised in a way, and this can’t happen if it is focused only on the eastern vector of its foreign policy.”

Nonetheless, the question whether the aim of the sanctions was reached has always been controversial. Some observers say they believe that the impact of the sanctions has not been as strong as expected, given that there are alternative trade routes between Belarus and Russia. Therefore, since the overall effect has not led to any revision of the policies in Belarus, let alone regime change, the sanctions should not be considered as overly important.

Moreover, one of the reasons for lifting the sanctions, the non-violent electoral atmosphere, has been widely criticised, as there is effectively no opposition in the country given the very deep crisis it is currently experiencing. While Lukashenko’s suppression was effective, the opposition itself also could not find a common leader and gain peoples’ confidence, aggravating the situation.

Ales Antsipenka, head of BAJ’s media monitoring group, told reporters late last month that the election “was such a quiet affair” because of the lack of real competition or public discussion of serious economic problems, the marginalisation of opposition forces, and state media censorship, which left out voters’ critical remarks about Lukashenko.

What are the current major "pressure points” on independent journalism in Belarus?

According to information shared by BAJ, the key issues in Belarus are that media freedom remains limited, independent newspapers suffer from uneven competition with state-run press, and some newspapers cannot obtain the right to be distributed through the networks of state monopolies, such as press distributor Belsayuzdruk and postal service Belposhta. There is no independent radio – only Poland-based Radio Racyja, which is available across most of Belarus, but only online – and the only TV channel with alternative views is Belsat, which is also based in Poland.

Shraibman also pointed to Internet freedom as a major problem.

“On January 1, 2015, the amendments to the media legislation were enacted and they provided that now all the Internet resources that distribute news are considered media, and can be shut down basically without a judicial decision,” he said. “So, the Ministry of Information can on its own decide some sites can be blocked on the basis of each information and, quote, ‘being harmful to national interests’.”

Shraibman added that he believed that, with this quite-broad description, authorities might use the legislation whenever it suits them. He said that, if not a trend, this possibility presented at least the most urgent and recent challenge to media freedom in the country.

He also emphasised the challenging situation of freelance journalists who work for media registered abroad.

“If the foreign media is not registered in Belarus, it doesn’t have its offices registered in Belarus, working for them is punishable by a fine and several of my colleagues have received those fines,” Shraibman recounted. “It is not enormous sums of money, but still unpleasant to work like this sometimes on a regular basis. This happened to my colleagues working for TV channels or radio stations operated from Poland.”

From Shraibman’s point of view, the recent events of the presidential elections, the lifting of EU sanctions and the success of Alexievich, although increasing hopes, does not seem to have had any lasting effect.

“I think as long as the sanctions are being suspended only for four months, the government will generally tend to refrain from using excessive force and excessive suppression, both to political activists and to journalists of the independent or oppositional media,” he said. “So, I think generally as long as the political system is unchanged, the situation of the press freedom will also hardly undergo any significant changes, [at least not] any visible [from a foreign standpoint] for example.”

Accordingly, it appears that Belarus still has a long way to go in order to solve its many challenges to media freedom, which also include denial of accreditation to media representatives, bureaucratic methods to deny information, impunity for crimes against journalists and limited access to information. Under the circumstances, it seems unlikely that Belarus will turn fully towards Europe as long as Lukashenko continues to lead the country.

GREECE

Mission to Greece - results

Vienna, 16 November 2015 - New draft legislation intended to combat the abuse of Greece’s civil defamation law in cases involving journalists marks a step in the right direction, but must be complemented by the repeal of criminal defamation, the International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) said today following a joint three-day visit to Athens.

The bill, introduced by Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos and currently undergoing an open consultation period, would reform Greece’s Law on the Press, widely known in the Greek journalistic community as the “press killer”. Paraskevopoulos told the IPI/SEEMO delegation that the proposed changes would scrap the law’s minimum limit for compensation in defamation cases and institute a mandatory 20-day pre-trial period during which the impugned media outlet would have the opportunity to publish a retraction. If a retraction is published, plaintiffs would be barred from pursuing damages in court except in the case of material harm, which is generally difficult to prove.

Paraskevopoulos said that the minimum compensation requirement “does not conform to the proportionality principle” and he described the retraction period as a way to combat the “ease” of taking journalists to court.

IPI and SEEMO representatives welcomed the proposal as a move in the right direction.
“The low threshold for filing defamation claims against journalists in Greece’s civil courts is producing a industry of vexatious claims against the press at a time in which the country needs investigative journalism and a watchdog media more than ever,” IPI Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen, who led the mission, said. “We are grateful to Minister Paraskevopoulos for recognising this problem and for taking concrete steps to combat it. At the same time, we urge lawmakers to closely involve journalists and civil society in the drafting process so that their concerns and further suggestions are taken into account and that the changes will actually amount to an improvement in practice.”

However, during audiences with both the Justice Minister and with the Hellenic Parliament’s Standing Committee on Justice, Order and Transparency, IPI and SEEMO representatives underscored that any reform of Greece’s defamation laws will be inadequate unless it includes the repeal of the country’s criminal defamation laws, which continue to be used actively against the press.

In March 2015, a court sentenced investigative journalist Kostas Vaxevanis to a suspended prison term of 26 months over an article that analysed a prominent businessman’s alleged involvement in the 2012 to 2013 Cypriot financial crisis. Following the verdict, which Vaxevanis has appealed, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic reiterated a standing call on Greece to remove defamation from its penal code.

Members of the Standing Committee on Justice defended existing criminal laws, pointing out that no journalist has gone to prison for defamation in recent memory. They also noted that in practice all prison sentences for crimes against honour are either suspended or converted into a fine according to Greek penal law.

But Griffen countered that those arguments “do not survive scrutiny”, commenting: “Numerous human rights bodies as well as the European Court of Human Rights – including in a case involving Greece – have already determined that prison sentences for defamation are prima facie disproportionate regardless of whether they are actually carried out. Moreover, those convicted are still burdened with a criminal record.”

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic added: “IPI and SEEMO call on Greece to fully repeal its criminal defamation laws, which are not acceptable in a modern democracy. There is no reason that Greece cannot follow the lead of other European states that have already done so, such as Cyprus, Ireland, Norway, Romania, Serbia and the United Kingdom. Greek lawmakers should consider both the chilling effect that the threat of imprisonment can have on Greek citizens’ right to freedom of expression as well as the negative example that its laws set for other states.”

IPI and SEEMO’s visit to Greece was prompted in part by concerns that the country’s overly plaintiff-friendly defamation laws were allowing powerful figures to punish or suppress unwanted media investigations through the threat of financial ruin. Civil lawsuits claiming hundreds of thousands or even millions of euros in damages are not uncommon, journalists from various print and web outlets, as well as representatives of the country’s national federation of journalists’ unions, told the IPI/SEEMO delegation.

Defence lawyers are often successful in beating back claims against the press. But the IPI/SEEMO delegation was also presented with troubling examples of court rulings that appear to ignore standards on freedom of expression. In one case, a group of journalists from the coastal city of Volos was sued by a local businessman and his wife for €3 million over an article that the national federation says relied on official police and judicial documents. In 2007 an appeals court sentenced each defendant to pay damages of €45,000, a decision whose consequences continue to reverberate. One of the journalists involved told the delegation he was still paying off an emergency loan from the national federation that had prevented his home from being seized upon execution of the verdict.

Griffen and Vujovic were joined in Athens by Boris Bergant, former vice-president of the European Broadcasting Union and a member of the SEEMO board, and Radomir Licina, editor of the Serbian daily Danas and a former IPI Executive Board member. In addition to defamation laws, the mission also focused on police violence against reporters and photojournalists; thorny questions of ownership and trust in the Greek media landscape; and governance of the country’s revived public broadcaster. An analysis on these and other issues will be published in the coming weeks.

ALBANIA

SEEMO worried by media situation in Albania

Vienna, 11 November 2015 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed by recent negative developments in Albania.

On 10 November around noon, a police officer arrested a cameraman who was reporting in Tirana for Albanian TV channel ABC. The ABC TV crew was filming a story near the premises of the police station when the incident occurred.

“SEEMO would like to remind authorities in Albania that critical speech and freedom of expression are not to be censored. We urge authorities to conduct an investigation of this case, and to hold the responsible police officer accountable”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

SEEMO deeply concerned by government scrutiny of media in Turkey

Vienna, 6 November 2015 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is alarmed by the tension and aggression expressed towards media workers and media outlets in Turkey, especially those under the control of the ruling party during the current pre-electoral period.

On 28 October, police raided the offices of two television channels that belong to the Ipek Media Group, Kanalturk and Bugun TV, following a court order that accused the critical outlets of “terror propaganda”. A crowd formed in front of the premises during the raid, but was scattered after special operations officers used water cannons and tear gas to disperse it. Allegedly, several journalists were taken into custody, while others were prohibited from entering their offices.

On 3 November, Editor-in-Chief Cevheri Guven and Managing Editor Murat Capan of Nokta Magazine were arrested and detained after the release of the publication’s latest issue on charges of inciting armed conflict against the government. Turkey’s Parliamentary elections were held on 1 November, and the ruling party was re-elected. The magazine featured a cover showing President Erdogan and a caption saying that November 2 is the beginning of a civil war in Turkey. Police notified the magazine that the publication would be taken off shelves due to a court ruling, which proceeded the detention of the two editors and also banned access to the Nokta website.

On 6 November, Bianet reporter Beyza Kural was detained by police officers while covering protests in Istanbul. Police officers threatened her and attempted to seize her equipment. Kural was released when her colleagues and protesters present during the incident intervened.

“No good news from Turkey. The threats of detention, arrest and intimidation that Turkish journalists must face on a daily basis are incomprehensible. We call on authorities in Turkey to immediately stop their attempts to pressure journalists and the media”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission. BULGARIA

SEEMO concerned with recent Bulgarian media developments

Vienna, 1 November 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) calls on authorities in Bulgaria to investigate cases of intimidation and threats against journalists in order to secure free reporting.

Dimitar Stoyanov, investigative journalist of web portal Bivol, filed a complaint with police claiming that he was being followed and intimidated because of his work and research.

He also reported to authorities that unknown perpetrators had broken into his home and searched it.

Stoyanov had been working on an investigation into the disappearance of 26 million EUR in European Union funds meant to be spent on food for the poor.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

BULGARIA

SEEMO condemns national television station-only coverage

Vienna, 23 October, 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the decision of the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prohibit filming for most media outlets during an election night press conference on 25 October.

National television stations will be the only ones allowed to film the conference, while local outlets will be denied that right. After several TV stations, as well as the Ombudsman, filed a complaint against this decision, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement claiming that there are no restrictions for media representatives, but the press centre within the National Palace of Culture (NDK) would only allow cameramen from national televisions to attend.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

MONTENEGRO

SEEMO appalled by incidents against media workers in Montenegro

Vienna, 19 October 2015 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is alarmed by a rise in oppression and censorship of journalists in Montenegro.

On 17 October, Drazen Zivkovic from the daily Dan, and Gojko Raicevic from the news portal IN4s were arrested and detained while covering public protests in Podgorica. Raicevic, who is also the editor of IN4S, was released shortly after his detention, while Zivkovic was held in police custody for several hours.

On 18 October, an undisclosed perpetrator threw stones at the building of TV Pink M, causing material damage as well as injuries to Editor Ivana Drobnjak. Drobnjak received medical help after the attack, and the police arrested a suspect in the case.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

SEEMO condemns actions of political officials toward media

Vienna, 14 October 2015 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns recent behaviour of Bosnian Minister of Security Dragan Mektic toward journalists.

During a press conference on 12 October in Banja Luka, Mektic hurled verbal insults at journalists from public broadcaster RTRS, including sexist comments and derogatory phrases, and made accusations against media outlets regarding their political bias. Allegedly, Mektic called RTRS a “so-called public broadcaster” and talked about journalists working for the outlet, mentioning their children.
                 
SEEMO is also concerned by an attack on the car of a journalist in Mostar. On 6 October the vehicle of BH Radio 1 Mostar correspondent Emil Karamatic was set on fire in an alleged arson attack in front of his home in Visici.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

GEORGIA

Case of Rustavi 2 TV

VIENNA, 9 October 2015 - The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today urged authorities in Georgia to ensure that a legal process addressing a dispute over ownership of influential independent broadcaster Rustavi 2 TV is fair, impartial and transparent.

In early August, a court presiding over a lawsuit filed by former Rustavi 2 TV owner Kibar Khalvashi issued an order seizing all property owned by the channel. Khalvashi filed the suit seeking to reclaim shares in the company that he claims he was forced to surrender.
The August order was followed by another order on Oct. 1 for the seizure of shares in the television company Sakartvelo, which owns 51 percent of shares in Rustavi 2 TV.
"Given the need for free and independent media coverage in advance of parliamentary elections set for 2016, IPI is concerned that these court decisions could hinder Rustavi 2 TV's ability to provide the electorate with vital coverage of news and political developments," IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. "We are also concerned by the accusations of government involvement. The ability to freely share and receive information is a fundamental component of fair elections, and we urge the government to take all steps to ensure that this principle is respected."
According to news reports, the dispute is further complicated by the alleged involvement of the Georgian National Agency of Public Registry (NAPR), which is connected to the country's Justice Ministry.
Lawyers for Rustavi 2 TV are claiming that NAPR has deliberately delayed approval of an investment contract that would have provided the station with a $6 million lifeline. The delay, the lawyers say, allowed Khalvashi time to request a court order freezing the assets of TV Company Georgia, which was to have provided the investment.
NAPR has rejected the allegations.
"Do not be deceived by what you see now on TV screen," Nika Gvaramia, general director of Rustavi 2, said at a news conference on Oct. 1, where he was accompanied by a group of the station's journalists. "The fact that we are now broadcasting does not mean that the government is not doing everything in order to cease our broadcasts."
He added: "Today we are as close to ceasing broadcasts as never before"
Akaki Minashvili, a member of Georgia's largest opposition party, United National Movement, slammed the developments surrounding Rustavi 2, calling them "proof of [governing party] Georgian Dream's and [former Prime Minister Bidzina] Ivanishvili's choice". He accused the part of wanting "to suppress freedom of expression, freedom of speech and suck blood from the country".

A group of Georgian media development and transparency NGOs last week expressed "well-founded" concern that the ownership dispute was part of an effort to silence Rustavi 2 TV due to the channel's critical reporting.

Since 1994, Rustavi 2 TV has enjoyed a reputation as the country's most-watched critical broadcaster. It was closed down in 1996 for about a year and was the target of government harassment in 2001 after broadcasting investigations into official corruption.

The first regular hearing in the ownership proceedings is scheduled for Oct. 19. Gvaramia, in the meantime, appealed to viewers to donate money to Rustavi 2 TV, asserting: "I promise to the government that before Rustavi 2 TV is closed down, it will be you [the government] who will be shut down."

AZERBAIJAN

Repression against journalists

VIENNA, 6 October 2015 – Azerbaijan’s government needs to end an ongoing campaign of repression against journalists and others, which has led to the detention and investigation of several journalists in recent weeks, the International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) said today.

The past month has seen a surge in the number of journalists detained for questioning by Azerbaijani authorities – including the detention of journalists with connections to Meydan TV and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) – as independent media channels that provide alternative narratives to state-run news outlets have been increasingly targeted.

On Sept. 26, Baku police ransacked RFE/RL contributor Islam Shikhali’s apartment and he was questioned by prosecutors two days later. The detention followed that of 19-year-old Meydan TV contributor Shirin Abbasov, who on Sept. 17 was sentenced to 30 days in administrative detention for allegedly disobeying police.

Abbasov disappeared on Sept. 16 on his way to university and spent 30 hours in custody before he was sentenced to administrative detention. His family was not informed of his whereabouts until a day after he was taken into custody and he has been held incommunicado and without access to a lawyer since his detention. He reportedly is being held at the Interior Ministry’s Directorate for Combating Organized Crime, although it remains unclear why he is incarcerated at that particular division.

IPI and SEEMO said that the developments were the latest in a sustained crackdown on dissident voices in Azerbaijan that has increasingly worsened in recent years.

"Far too many journalists and human rights defenders have been detained in Azerbaijan on charges that often do not stand up to scrutiny," IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. "We call on the government to release all prisoners behind bars for exercising fundamental human rights and we urge the international community to make clear to Azerbaijan's government that this situation is unacceptable."

Within just three days last month, from Sept. 16 to 19, Azerbaijani authorities reportedly detained six journalists. Police detained freelance reporter Aytaj Akhmedova and her intern, both of whom work with Meydan TV, for five hours of questioning on Sept. 16.

Abbasov was sentenced the following day and on Sept. 18 freelance photojournalist Ahmed Mukhtar, whose brother works for Meydan TV, was detained and questioned. The next day three other journalists – Ayten Farhadova, Sevinj Vagifgizi and Izolda Agaeva – with connections to Meydan TV, were detained upon their arrival at the Baku airport and transported to the police station.

Although most of the journalists were released after hours of questioning, the justifications for holding and questioning them were dubious. A warrant used to justify the Sept. 26 search of Shikhali’s apartment cited suspicion of tax evasion, one of the same charges brought against investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova before she was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years in prison on Sept. 1. Supporters of Ismayilova, also a reporter at RFE/RL, maintain that the charges against her came in retaliation for her work in unveiling corruption by government officials.

REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA / FYROM

SEEMO reacts to the possibility of a draconian new law against journalists in Macedonia

Vienna, 6 October 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is appalled by a law proposal in the Republic of Macedonia/ FYROM, which not only limits the rights of media workers, but prohibits free speech as well.

Parliamentary groups of leading parties DUI and VMRO-DPMNE presented a law for adoption that states media outlets should clear their web pages of all content related to a wiretapping scandal that was revealed earlier this year by opposition leader Zoran Zaev. Materials were published throughout the year (called “bombs” by the media), causing controversy over alleged wiretapping of politicians, public figures and journalists that was secretly conducted for years by the current ruling party.

The new law demands that outlets not only remove transcripts of wiretapped conversations published on their websites, but also prohibits the future publication of any related topic. Audio recordings must not be issued or re-issued in any form, and no new unpublished tapes or transcripts may be revealed by the media. The new law calls for criminal responsibility for individuals, parties and media outlets, with penalties ranging from four to 10 years of imprisonment for owning, processing or revealing material that contains details of the published “bombs”. Publishing or transcribing parts of the wiretapped conversations of a specific individual is punishable by up to four years in prison, while if there are any economic, legal or other consequences for that individual, penalties may be up to five years of imprisonment.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

Attacks on journalists

VIENNA, 1 October 2015 – Turkey's worrying press freedom atmosphere took a disturbing turn for the worse this morning as a series of increasingly troubling incidents targeting journalists and media in the last 30 days culminated in the brutal beating of a newspaper columnist outside his home.

Hürriyet newspaper columnist Ahmet Hakan and his bodyguard were attacked shortly after midnight in Istanbul’s Nişantaşı neighbourhood by four men in a black Honda as Hakan was returning home from the studios of CNN Türk, where he hosted a program.

The attack left Hakan hospitalised with broken ribs and a broken nose. Four suspects taken into custody claimed that the attack was the result of a traffic-related quarrel, but video footage indicated that the assailants had been following Hakan's car since he left CNN Türk's studios.

The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the attack, saying that Turkish authorities desperately needed to take immediate measures to protect journalists' ability to report freely in advance of parliamentary elections scheduled for one month from today.

"It is hard to accept that the savage beating of Mr. Hakan – just weeks after a columnist with pro-government media impliedly threatened him with death – is a coincidence," IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said today. "That is doubly true given the series of violent attacks and bogus criminal cases targeting journalists and media outlets in September.

"If Turkish officials want the results of the Nov. 1 elections to be viewed as legitimate, they need to take immediate steps to protect journalists from violence and to end these abuses, which appear designed to deprive Turkey's voters of the ability to make an informed decision about their future."

As the upcoming election looms, the last month has seen a disturbing number of incidents of harassment and intimidation targeting independent media – incidents that are each disturbing in their own right but which collectively bode ill for the health of the country’s democracy.

Hakan himself has been targeted by politically motivated threats, most notably from pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) columnist Cem Küçük. On Sept. 9 in a column in pro-government newspaper Star, he accused Hakan of spreading propaganda for the outlawed Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK), which has been engaged in a series of deadly clashes with Turkish government forces. Küçük also warned Hakan: "We could crush you like a fly if we want. We have been merciful until today and you are still alive."

That threat came on the heels of two violent attacks on the offices of Hürriyet by club-wielding, stone-throwing AKP supporters. On Sept. 6, a mob attacked the newspaper after AKP supporters, including one MP, claimed it misquoted President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Police on hand reportedly failed to immediately intervene. Some 11 people were detained in connection with the attack, but they were later released.

The scene repeated itself on Sept. 8 in a night that saw violent demonstrations by nationalists across Turkey after 14 police officers were killed in a PKK bombing. To date, no one faces charges for those incidents. Instead, prosecutors opened a criminal case targeting Hürriyet, claiming that the daily’s reporting of Erdoğan's remarks insulted him and “twisted [his] words to conduct a perception operation” against him.

Amid deadly clashes between Turkish government forces and the outlawed Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK), and Turkey’s participation in the international fight against the Islamic State group, the atmosphere in the country has taken an increasingly explosive turn, with Erdoğan lending a very public face to the extensive crackdown on opposition media and critics.
The crackdown began in earnest on Sept. 1, when agents from Turkey’s Financial Crime Investigation Board (MASAK) raided the Ankara offices of 23 companies owned by the Koza Ipek conglomerate over allegations that it supports Erdoğan's ally-turned-nemesis Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric. The government labelled a movement headed by Gülen a terrorist group after Erdoğan claimed it fabricated a 2013 graft probe, since suppressed, that implicated top AKP members and supporters. The raid was widely seen as an attempt to pressure Koza Ipek to prevent its media holdings from criticising the AKP ahead of the upcoming election.

Efforts to silence critical media became even more ridiculous in September with two high-profile terrorism cases. In the first, authorities accused journalist Cüneyt Özdemir of supporting terrorism because a woman he interviewed in February who had been imprisoned in connection with the Gezi Park protests of 2013 joined the PKK months after the interview aired. Özdemir, pointing out the absurdity of the case, noted that he has interviewed approximately 12,000 people in his career, but has never before faced charges over crimes any of those people may have gone on to commit.

In a second case, authorities raided the offices of the magazine Nokta and seized all copies of an issue that contained a photo montage on its cover featuring a grinning President Erdoğan taking a “selfie” in front of a coffin of a soldier killed during clashes with the PKK. The raid was initially authorised on grounds that the cover violated a law specifically protecting Turkey's president from insults, but in order to justify the seizure, prosecutors added a handwritten note to charging documents accusing the magazine of "propagating terror". Nokta Editor-in-Chief Cevheri Güven noted that the move showed effectively showed that “insulting the president is [now] accepted as a terrorist crime".

Turkish journalists have frequently been targets of politically motivated probes related to their work, but the number of criminal cases under the law that prohibits insulting the president have exploded since Erdoğan was sworn into office last year, with many coming the last 30 days. Two weeks ago, veteran journalist Hasan Cemal was summoned before prosecutors over his column “The Sultan in the Palace is culpable for the bloodshed”. The columnist noted that "journalists have been through hard times thus far with juntas, military coups, state of emergency, martial law", but he said what hurt most was that it was the first lawsuit he had faced since a military coup that took place in March 1971.

Other journalists that have faced criminal charges and potential prison sentences for "insults" to the president in September alone include Aytekin Gezici, Ahmet Altan, Gültekin Avcı, Osman Özsoymore, and Levent Kenez.

Authorities have also set their sights on representatives of foreign media outlets, particularly those reporting on the clashes with the PKK in Turkey's southeast. On Sept. 1, they deported two British VICE News journalists Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, who were arrested with fixer Mohammed Ismael Rasool on accusations of supporting terrorism. As evidence, prosecutors pointed to Rasool's use of an encryption system to protect sources and communications, noting that militants from the Islamic State group have also used that system. Despite Hanrahan and Pendlebury's deportation, Rasool remains behind bars to this day, one of dozens of journalists Turkey is currently holding.

Less than a week later, Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink was detained and accused of aiding Kurdish militants. The journalist, who has spent years covering Kurdish issues in Turkey and reports for Britain’s Independent as well as Dutch radio and newspapers, was deported under a rule that allows foreigners suspected of wrongdoing to be expelled. TURKEY

SEEMO appalled by the latest raid and arrests in Turkey

Vienna, 29 September 2015 -- The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is appalled by a recent raid and the arrests of journalists by the government in Turkey.

On 28 September, Turkish state security forces raided several offices in Diyarbakir, south-eastern Turkey: the DIHA news agency, Azadiya Welat daily, Aram Yayınları book publisher, and KURDİ-DER (Kurdish Language Research and Development Union).

Following the raid, the identification and mobile phones of all the journalists were confiscated. 32 journalists were allegedly arrested on the DIHA premises, including: Meltem Oktay, Ramazan Olcen, Zafer Tuzun, Zeynel Abidin Bulut, Mujdat Can, Dicle Muftuoglu, Omer Celik, Resit Bayram, Devren Toptas, Mazlum Dolan, Siyabend Yaruk, Ercan Bilen, Ferah Kılıc, Nurettin Akyıldız, Besalet Yaray, Ferit Koyluoglu, Mahmut Rubanas, Aziz Oruc, Ayse Nevroz, Suzan Toprak, Mehmet Ali Ertas, Nazemin Cap, and Diyar Balkas. Along with them, two reporters from Jinha woman's news agency and Ozgur Gun TV were arrested.

All of the media workers were arrested on grounds of “reasonable doubt”.

On 29 September, 31 out of the 32 reporters were released. According to DIHA, there was a child among those detained.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission. SERBIA

SEEMO concerned over growing number of media rights violations in Serbia

Vienna, 29 September 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed growing concern over the rise in media freedom violations in Serbia.

Dejan Crnomarkovic, editor-in-chief of Palanacke Novine in Smederevska Palanka reported that on 26 September, all four tires on his vehicle were slashed only meters away from his family home. The incident occurred after the daily paper published a story with details about the work of several public officials in that city.  Crnomarkovic added that he does not know who is behind this incident, but sees his articles as the only potential reason for such an attack.

SEEMO recalls that this is not the first instance of intimidation directed at Dejan Crnomarkovic; earlier this year he was the target of hate speech by local members of the political party in power.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission. SERBIA

SEEMO protests against media oppression in Serbia

Vienna, 27 September 2015 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is alarmed by the treatment of media workers in Serbia by members of state authorities.

On 24 September, journalists from the web portal Istinomer.rs conducted an interview with activist Dobrica Veselinovic, a member of the “Ne davimo Beograd” (Let's not drown Belgrade) campaign. The campaign is a response to the Belgrade Waterfront project.

Dobrica Veselinovic and members of Istinomer.rs were at the location of the future construction site when they were approached by police officials, who demanded that they leave the premises. When the journalists and activist refused to leave the public space, verbal and physical assaults ensued. Following the confrontation, police officers checked the identifications of the journalists and activist, charging them with obstruction of an officer while performing official duties.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

UKRAINE

SEEMO marks 15 years since Georgiy Gongadze disappeared.

16 September 2015

- The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) marks today 15 years since the Georgian-born Ukrainian investigative journalist Georgiy Ruslanovich Gongadze (Heorhiy Ruslanovych Gongadze) disappeared. On 3 November 2000 his body was found in a forest in the near of Kiev; Ukraine.

Who ordered the murder remains unsolved. Three former officials of the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior Affairs were arrested 2005, and one more in 2009 with accusation of killing Gongadze. A court in Ukraine sentenced Valeriy Kostenko to 12-year, Mykola Protasov to 13 years and Oleksandr Popovych to 12 years. Olexsiy Pukach was sentenced 2013 to life in prison. Former Minister Yuriy Kravchenko was killed on 4 March 2005, just hours before he was to begin providing testimony as a witness in the Gongadze -case. In November 2000, an opposition politician publicised secret tape recordings which he claimed implicated former President Leonid Kuchma in Gongadze's murder. Doubt was cast on the tapes' authenticity. Kuchma denies any involvement, and threatened a libel suit, against the opposition politician. Gongadze's family got a political asylum and lived there since the year 2001.

Ukraine is the most dangerous country in Europe for journalists: Seven journalists were killed in 2014 and at least four in 2015 till today, additional SEEMO has documents of many cases of attacks and threats against journalists in Ukraine.

"The organisers behind this crime and killing of Gongadze. must be brought to justice. Also all other cases of killing journalists or attacks on journalist in Ukraine must be investigated, independent if this cases happen on the territory controlled by the government in Kiev or on the territory controlled by the pro-Russian groups", Oliver Vujovic SEEMO Secretary General said.

HUNGARY

Police attacks on journalists

16 September 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned by the latest police attacks on journalists reporting about the refugee situation in Hungary.

On 16 September around 5.30 pm, Serbian public broadcaster RTS staff members, including journalist Jovana Djurovic, cameraman Vladan Hadzi Mijailovic and technical staff member Miroslav Djurasinovic were reporting from the Hungarian–Serbian border crossing at Röszke / Horgos. The team was documenting the Hungarian police while they prevented refugees from entering Hungary, when the media workers were suddenly physically attacked by the Hungarian police.

The media workers later stated that they were standing among other TV crews and journalists between the police cordon and the refugees, when officers suddenly pushed Mijailovic and Djurasinovic, injuring them with bats and breaking their equipment. Journalist Jovana Djurovic suffered an injury to her left hand during the attack. The TV crew claim that they were ignored when they repeatedly identified themselves as a TV crew working for RTS. They were later taken to Subotica, Serbia, where they received further medical aid.

On the same day, Jacek Tacik, a Polish reporter from Poland's public broadcaster TVP, was accused by the Hungarian officials of illegally crossing the border between Hungary and Serbia close to Röszke/ Horgos while reporting about a group refugees who entered Hungary. Tacik was beaten by officers before being arrested by the border police. He was struck in the head with a baton and detained for more than ten hours.

The Hungarian police also allegedly attacked Australian photographer Warren Richardson, Swedish photographer for the Swedish daily Expressen Meli Petersson Ellafi, and reporter for Slovak newspaper Denník N Tímea Beck. Also on 16 September a crew from the media outlet B92 from Belgrade, Serbia, suffered from tear gas fired at the refugees by the Hungarian police while covering the events on the border.

Associated Press cameraman Luca Muzi said that he was attacked by Hungarian police on 12 September near Röszke and that the police forced him to delete photos he took of a police dog threatening a refugee. The Hungarian police deny the allegations.

“I call the Hungarian authorities to stop attacking and threatening journalists who are reporting about the refugee crisis as an issue of public interest. This is a clear attack on freedom of expression by the Hungarian authorities”, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said. “The police in Hungary are committing brutal acts of violence. The safety of journalists must be guaranteed by the Hungarian state. The fact that police in Hungary were beating journalists, destroying technical equipment and forcing journalists to delete their footage violates international standards that protect journalists reporting on matters that are clearly of public interest. Those who are responsible must be investigated and punished by the law”, Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

UKRAINE

The South East Europe Media Organisation is concerned about the practice of banning journalists from entering the Ukraine.

16 September 2015

According to information received by SEEMO, several journalists have encountered problems reporting freely from territory that is controlled by the government in Kiev during recent months. As of today, 16 September, there is an official list of journalists who are considered “unacceptable” by officials in Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree introducing sanctions against more than 350 foreign individuals and legal entities, including numerous journalists and bloggers from West Europe and Russia. According to this document, the persons on the list pose a “threat to national interests” or promote “terrorist activities”. This list includes BBC Moscow correspondent Steve Rosenberg, BBC cameraman Anton Chicherov and producer Emma Wells, as well as numerous other Western and Russian journalists. The list includes also two Spanish journalists, Antonio Pampliega and Angel Sastre, despite the fact that Sastre went missing in Syria two months ago and has not been seen since.

“This is a shameful attack on freedom of expression and the freedom of movement of journalists”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. “President Poroshenko must remove the names of all journalists and bloggers from the list as a matter of urgency. Even if officials in Ukraine do not like the way that some media, especially from Russia, are reporting, freedom of the press means the freedom to report on matters that are in the public interest, and every journalist must have the right to carry out his or her work without pressure from state officials. Every state has the right to fight against terrorism and to protect their national security, but this should not be used as an excuse to prevent journalists from doing their work”.

“Propaganda is being used in war and conflicts by all sides, and there have been many cases of unprofessionalism on the part of both Russian and Ukrainian media reporting on the conflict between Kiev and Moscow. We have reports of journalist who cannot report freely on the territory controlled by pro-Russian authorities in the east of Ukraine (so called DNR – Donetsk People´s Republic and so called LNR – Luhansk People´s Republic), as well as of journalists who had problems reporting from the territory controlled by the government in Kiev. However, it is not the job of state authorities or paramilitary groups to decide who can and who cannot report”, Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SERBIA

SEEMO condemns threats made against media worker in Serbia

13 September 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is calling for an investigation into threats that were allegedly made over social media against journalist Dusan Vojvodic, who works for public broadcaster RTS.

A local political activist in East Serbia recently made comments using his private Facebook page that referenced a lawsuit the journalist brought against him, saying that another “Crystal night” would occur the day after his party won local elections. The alleged threats have been understood as referring to potential violence directed against Vojvodic and others.

“We all know what happened during the Crystal Night in November 1938, so using it in such a comment is both unacceptable and in bad taste. Additionally, it should be investigated whether the elements of a threat were present in this incident", SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

New attacks on media

VIENNA, 10 September 2015 – Turkish authorities must take steps to bring those responsible for attacks on media outlets to justice, the International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) said today after mobs converged on the offices of daily newspapers and a broadcaster in a second night of violence this week.

Daily Hürriyet was attacked again on Tuesday night by stone-throwing demonstrators protesting deadly attacks on Turkish security forces by the outlawed Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK), while a separate group of demonstrators pelted the combined offices of pro-government daily Sabah and broadcaster ATV with stones and water bottles, and tried to enter the building.

“The repeat attacks on media outlets by violent mobs clearly demonstrates the principle that impunity breeds more violence,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said, noting that only six suspects had reportedly been taken into custody in connection with the first attack on Hürriyet and reportedly were detained for possessing firearms.

“We urge authorities not only to condemn these attacks, but to take concrete action to hold the perpetrators accountable and show that they will not be tolerated.”

Tuesday’s attacks came amid a night of violent demonstrations by nationalists after 14 police officers were killed hours earlier in a suspected PKK bomb attack in eastern Turkey. Thousands of protestors attacked more than 100 offices of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) across the country, party officials said, torching some of them.

In separate news, IPI today also condemned an order to deport Dutch journalist Frederike Geerdink, who Turkish authorities accuse of aiding Kurdish militants. Geerdink, who has spent years covering Kurdish issues in Turkey, was detained on Sunday in Hakkari while covering clashes between Turkish security forces and the PKK.

Authorities initially said Geerdink’s detention was for her own security and she was released from custody pending trial. However, her lawyer told Reuters, the provincial governor in Hakkari ordered her expelled under a rule that allows foreigners suspected of wrongdoing to be deported.

TURKEY

Hürriyet daily targeted after reporting president’s comments in TV interview

7 September 2015

The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today called on members of Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) to condemn yesterday night’s destructive attack on the headquarters of daily newspaper Hürriyet by a crowd of stone-throwing AKP supporters angered by its reporting on a comment by the president.

The groups similarly called for prosecutors to drop a criminal probe initiated against Hürriyet following the attack, which claimed that the daily’s reporting of a controversial remark by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan insulted him and “twisted [his] words to conduct a perception operation” against him.

IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said today that “the events of the last 24 hours mark a dangerous escalation in an already troubling campaign of harassment and intimidation targeting independent media in Turkey ahead of the Nov. 1 election.”

He explained: “An important line has been crossed: an online campaign of intimidation targeting a media outlet in Turkey is linked with subsequent actual, physical violence against that outlet in the real world. It’s fortunate that no one was injured yesterday, but the next time we may not be so lucky. AKP leaders should denounce this attack and all those involved, and they should state clearly and strongly that violence is not an acceptable response.”

Ellis also said that the criminal case initiated against Hürriyet made it more likely that Turkey’s voters might not receive the news they need to make fully informed decisions at the polls.

“If this case continues, it sends the message that any journalist in Turkey who reports on something the president says publicly can face criminal charges if the president or his supporters decide they don’t like the manner in which it was presented,” he commented. “That is a chilling message, particularly ahead of an election, and extremely harmful to democracy. We urge prosecutors to drop this case and to focus their attention on real threats: those who use violence to silence people with whom they disagree and those who use technology to incite such attacks.”

Turkish media reported that approximately 150 to 200 protestors who had gathered in front of Hürriyet’s offices in western Istanbul yesterday evening attacked security guards and forced their way through the complex’s outer gate before pelting the front of the office with stones while chanting pro-AKP slogans. The protestors dispersed after riot police arrived, but some sources accused police on the scene of initially failing to intervene.

The attack came after AKP supporters, including one MP, began an online campaign against Hürriyet, claiming the paper misquoted Erdoğan. Threats posted on Twitter reportedly included calls for Hürriyet’s offices to be burned down, referencing the 1993 Sivas attack in which 35 were killed when a mob set fire to a hotel in which an Alevi group had gathered for a cultural festival.

The president, in an interview televised yesterday, said Turkey would not be facing the unrest it has recently experienced had 400 AKP deputies been elected in the June 7 parliamentary election in which the AKP failed to retain its majority. The November polls were called after no government could be formed in the wake of last June’s election and the 400-deputy threshold would pave the way for sweeping constitutional changes Erdoğan has demanded that would centralise much greater power in his office.

Turkey has seen intensifying clashes in recent months between government forces and the outlawed Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK) – which Turkey, the United States and the EU label a terrorist organisation – following the collapse of negotiations to end the PKK’s three-decade-long insurgency. Erdoğan’s comment came in an interview discussing a recent PKK attack on a government convoy in Dağlıca in Turkey's east, in which 16 soldiers were reportedly killed

Hürriyet published the full text of the interview online and posted on Twitter: “Dağlıca comment from Erdoğan: ‘This would not have happened if 400 deputies had been given.’ ” The newspaper’s editor-in-chief, Sedat Ergin defended the accuracy of paper’s reporting today, although he said the incident had led to an internal discussion on the context in which the report was presented. However, he added: “Let’s assume that our web editor made a mistake. Should the response be to break glass and windows with stones and clubs?”

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

HUNGARY

Police against journalists

5 September 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the crude behaviour of Hungarian police forces towards members of international media outlets reporting on the refugee situation at a train station in Hungary on 4 September.

James Mates, the Europe editor of ITV News, tweeted about the treatment journalists were receiving from Hungarian authorities at the Bicske train station, where Syrian refugees were being escorted from trains. Mates stated that members of the media were being “shepherded away” in an alleged attempt to prevent the international community from seeing what was happening.

Journalists were forced off the rail station where incidents between the police and refugees were taking place, as the police declared the area an “operational zone”.

“We call on Hungarian authorities to protect the media and secure the free work of journalists", SEEMO secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

SEEMO supports IPI: IPI says journalists must be allowed to use legitimate tools

4 September 2015

Turkey’s recent detention of two British VICE News journalists and their fixer on terrorism accusations was troubling, but perhaps the most disquieting development was prosecutors’ assertion that the use of an encryption system provided proof that the three were “engaging in terrorist activity” and “aiding a terrorist organisation”.

In a recent article, Al Jazeera quoted a Turkish official who said that one of the main pieces of evidence against the two journalists, Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, and local fixer Mohammed Ismael Rasool “seems to be that the fixer uses a complex encryption system on his personal computer that a lot of [Islamic State group] militants also utilise for strategic communications".

The VICE journalists and their fixer were arrested on Aug. 27, 2015 in front of their hotel in Diyarbakır, where they had been reporting on clashes between Turkish security forces and members of the outlawed Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK). Turkey, the United States and the EU label the PKK a terrorist organisation, and fighting between government troops and the group has intensified in recent months following the collapse of negotiations to end the PKK’s three-decade-long insurgency.

Hanrahan and Pendlebury were released yesterday and transferred to a deportation centre. However, Rasool, who has worked for international news organisations such the Associated Press (AP) and Al Jazeera, remains behind bars.

If the use of encryption is confirmed to be one of the reasons for their arrest, it would mean that Turkish authorities are willing to criminalise the use of tools that are essential to the free practice of journalism. Even if such tools can also be used for malicious purposes by terrorists or criminals, encryption is essential to protect anonymity of sources and their communications with journalists. Criminalising its use will hamper the work of journalists and mark yet one more threat to the already troubled state of media freedom in the country.

International observers have increasingly noted the importance of encryption and anonymity in digital communications. David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of expression, wrote in a recent report: “Journalists, researchers, lawyers and civil society rely on encryption and anonymity to shield themselves (and their sources, clients and partners) from surveillance and harassment.”

Prominent Turkish journalist Kadri Gürsel, who heads the International Press Institute (IPI)’s Turkish National Committee, said the arrest of the two foreign journalists and their fixer on terrorism accusations was an “alarming violation of press freedom in Turkey”.

He continued: “The onslaught against freedom of the press in Turkey has reached new dimensions with this new aggression, which aims to prevent members of international media outlets from reporting from this new conflict zone.”

Gürsel explained that the arrests revealed that Turkish authorities have effectively criminalised the use of encryption systems. He argued: “We have to press home to authorities that the use of such tools in conflict zones is considered legitimate in the free world on the ground of a journalist's right to protect his or her resources and contacts from hostilities”.

Journalists in Turkey have faced a number of deeply entrenched challenges, as an IPI special report released earlier this year noted, and the country has witnessed a sharp escalation in the climate of hostility against journalists as a new parliamentary election set for Nov. 1 approaches.

Those challenges have long included criminal penalties for daring to report on certain topics. But now, Turkey’s government seems to be saying, journalists should fear that the very tools they need to carry out their profession can be used to arrest and imprison them.

That development is unacceptable. Prosecutors should drop all charges in this case immediately and release Mr. Rasool. And Turkish authorities must stand up and unequivocally state that the use of legitimate tools to conduct journalism is not a crime.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SERBIA

SEEMO calls institutions in Serbia to react

4 September 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned about a physical attack on Predrag Azdejkovic that occurred in Belgrade on 3 September.

Predrag Azdejkovic, an LGBT activist and editor-in-chief of the magazine Optimist: a guide through gay Serbia, was allegedly attacked while exiting public transportation in Belgrade. Azdejkovic was assaulted by two men who kicked him in the stomach and verbally threatened him. The case was reported to the police.

SEEMO calls once again on authorities in Serbia to protect all media workers and work against the country’s anti-LGBT atmosphere.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

SEEMO calls on authorities in Turkey to respect media freedom

2 September 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed to learn about police raids that occurred in the Koza İpek holding headquarters in Ankara on 1 September 2015.

The Koza İpek Media Group, İpek University, Koza İpek Holding, Kanal Türk and the home of CEO Akın İpek were raided by MASAK teams (the Financial Crimes Investigation Board, a part of the Ministry of Finance) and a police escort.

Simultaneous raids were carried out in the offices of Turkish dailies Bugün and Millet, television channels Bugün TV and Kanaltürk, and the BGNNews.com website, all of which are subsidiaries of the İpek Media Group, part of Koza İpek Holding.

Detention orders were issued against five members of the Board of Directors and the Chairman at İpek, according to the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor's Office.

“The state has the right to investigate the financial and other legal work of every company, including media companies. However, if the investigations are selective, and only critical media companies are singled out, these acts could represent an attempt to silence and intimidate critical reporting", Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

AZERBAIJAN

New press freedom violation in Azerbaijan

1 September 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned a today court decision in Azerbaijan sentencing famous investigative journalist Khadija Rovshan qizi Ismayilova, born 1976, to seven-and-a-half years in prison.

Ismayilova, former head of the Azerbaijani service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) from Prague, who has been arrested in December 2014, was also barred from holding public office for three years. Prosecutors in the case had requested a nine-year sentence.

The court acquitted Ismayilova of a charge of inciting an individual to attempt suicide. SEEMO is reporting about lack of transparency in this case. In 2010 a series of her articles caused controversy as they explicitly named Azerbaijan's current President and his family as engaging in corruption.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

SEEMO condemns detention of British journalists in Turkey

1 September 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) express concern over a recent case of media freedom interference in Turkey.

Two VICE journalists and their fixer were arrested on 27 August 2015 in front of their hotel in Diyarbakır in the south-east of the country, where they had been reporting on clashes between Turkish security forces and members of the outlawed Kurdistan’s Workers Party (PKK). They were charged by a Turkish court for “working on behalf of a terrorist group”.

Jake Hanrahan and Philip Pendlebury, and local fixer Mohammed Ismael Rasool were filming clashes between police authorities and members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in a region where journalist access has been limited. The media workers were interrogated and accused of having links to the PKK and the Islamic State.

SEEMO protests strongly against such accusations and urges the authorities in Turkey to secure conditions that allow journalists to freely report on all public interest events in the country.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

UKRAIN

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed worry about an attack on several journalists in an incident in Kiev.

31 August 2015

Journalists from several media outlets were injured during a demonstration, when a group of people attacked the police in front of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) building in Ukrainian capital Kiev.

SEEMO is asking the authorities in Ukraine to protect better journalists and investigate this case.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SERBIA

SEEMO express severe dissatisfaction regarding treatment of journalists in Serbia

30 August 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed to learn the details of yet another recent attack on media workers in Serbia.

On the evening of 27 August investigative journalist Ivan Ninic was attacked in front of his building in Belgrade. Ninic was ambushed and brutally assaulted by two young men carrying metal bars. The journalist was left with a contusion under his eye, bruising on his femur, and an injury to the right shoulder. The case was reported to the police.

Ivan Ninic has been an investigative journalist for the last decade, uncovering cases of corruption and crime. Along with several colleagues, Ninic recently established a non-governmental organization that will publish investigative stories on these topics. Ninic believes the attack is connected to his investigative work.

SEEMO would like to stress the importance of a free and safe media environment in Serbia. Conditions that allow journalists to be targeted by threats and physical violence show a clear disinterest in supporting freedom of expression by Serbian institutions and authorities.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SERBIA

Threats against Veran Matic

25 August 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed to hear that a group of journalists and the founder of B92, Veran Matic, were the targets of threats for several days in Serbia.

Several journalists, as well as B92 founder Veran Matic, received threats from unknown sources. The threats said that the journalists, who work for B92, would be “beaten to death”, while Veran Matic was mentioned in the context of “hanging” in the middle of Terazije, a square in Belgrade.

SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

SEEMO condemns armed attack against journalist in Turkey

23 August 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was gravely concerned by the recent attack on Murat Sancak, Board Chairman of Star Media in Istanbul.

Sancak is a prominent media figure. He and his bodyguard were attacked by unknown assailants while in a car on 20 August. Despite the gunfire, Sancak and his guard escaped without injuries. The incident was reported to the police.

SEEMO recalls a previous attack on Star Media that occurred in July of this year, when a bomb was left in the premises of the media outlet.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI). SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SERBIA

SEEMO condemns attack on journalist in Serbia

16 August 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned about the behaviour of a police officer towards a journalist in Serbia.

Predrag Blagojevic, a journalist with the news portal Juzne vesti from Nis, was detained and attacked by a police officer on the night between 15 and 16 August 2015. During the Nishville Jazz Festival, the officer asked the reporter for his identification card (ID). Blagojevic did not have his ID with him at the time, so he offered his press document instead. He attempted to make a phone call to prove his identity, but his mobile phone was immediately confiscated and Blagojevic was arrested. The arresting officer hit the journalist twice on the head while taking him into custody. Blagojevic later obtained medical evidence of his injuries.

“This was a blatant example of an officer overstepping his authority. This type of treatment is completely out of proportion and represents a misuse of force and an endangerment to human rights”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated. “We call on the public institutions in Serbia to immediately act by investigating the case". SEEMO is especially worried, as Blagojević has previously received threats for his reporting.

SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SERBIA

SEEMO calls for protection of journalists from threats in Serbia

14 August 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned about threats against journalists in Serbia.

After Jelena Popadic and Anica Teleskovic, journalists for the daily paper Politika, wrote about the residents of luxurious villas in Belgrade, they received a phone call from an unidentified man who demanded information about the professional qualifications of the journalists and their sources. He added that they will “be schooled” sooner or later.

“Threatening phone calls are usually a gateway to more serious pressures and threats,” warned SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. “This is a clear example of a threat towards these two journalists. I ask that authorities in Serbia investigate the case”.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

SEEMO vows safety for journalists in Turkey

14 August 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned about incidents that occurred in Turkey on 12 August.

Members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) allegedly initiated a terrorist attack in Turkey’s Nusaybin district, during which one police officer was injured and one PKK member killed. Journalists trying to cover the event in front of the hospital were allegedly assaulted by members of the special Turkish operations police. Local footage shows that after trying to take a picture of the injured policeman, special operations officers began shouting at the journalists, calling them militants. The officers opened fire, wounding one journalist and another two people.

SEEMO is concerned for the safety of media workers in Turkey. “It is incomprehensible that members of a state institution can show such disregard in their behaviour and treatment of journalist”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

SEEMO urges the authorities in Ankara to immediately investigate the case and punish the attackers.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

SEEMO calls the authorities in Turkey to stop media censorship

13 August 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East and Central Europe, expressed deep concern regarding cases of attacks against media outlets and journalists in Turkey in August.

18 journalists, including Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper, have been indicted for publishing a photo of Istanbul prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz being held at gunpoint in March. Kiraz was killed on 31 March following an eight-hour standoff that began after two members of the forbidden Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front (DHKP-C) took him hostage in Istanbul’s Courthouse.

Other journalists from dailies Posta, Yurt, Aydınlık, Bugün, Millet, Şok, Özgür Gündem and BirGün were described as suspects in the indictment. The journalists plead not guilty. According to the office of Istanbul Chief Prosecutor, the publication of the photo amounted to "spreading terrorist propaganda". He has made a request to the court that each of the journalists be jailed for up to seven and a half years.

In June 2015, President Recep Erdoğan personally filed a criminal complaint against Can Dündar requesting that the journalist be jailed. Hours earlier, he said that Dündar would pay a “heavy price” for printing photos of National Intelligence Organization (MİT) trucks allegedly shipping weapons and ammunition to jihadists in Syria.

SEEMO also condemns the Turkish Telecommunications authority (TIB), which blocked access to Dag Medya, a data journalism internet portal. The website publishes articles covering political, social and economic topics. Citing a Turkish law on internet activity, TIB censored all access to the portal without a court order.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI). SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

CROATIA

Attacks on journalists in Croatia

10 August 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is deeply troubled by assaults on media workers in Croatia that occurred in August.

Photo-journalist Hrvoje Simcevic from the H-Alter web portal was attacked on 5 August in Rijeka. While waiting for a bus to Zagreb, the journalist was harassed at the bus stop by a group of young men. The men were allegedly football hooligans protesting a roundtable that Simcevic was covering called “Women in war”. The attackers allegedly verbally harassed the people waiting at the bus stop, and then attacked persons they recognized as having exited the roundtable.

On the same evening, the president of a photo club called Oko Samobora was attacked by one of the roundtable participants while he was photographing the event. His camera was damaged, and his attacker was identified by the police.

SEEMO expresses full support for the Croatian Journalist Association (HND) and the victims of assaults, and calls on authorities in Croatia to react. “It does not suffice to only identify the culprits. It is also necessary that authorities penalize persons who attack media workers in accordance with the law. Tensions and hate speech are often gateways for increased forms of harassment against journalists, and Croatian institutions need to send a strong message that this behaviour will not go unpunished”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

MONTENEGRO

Attack on a media director in Montenegro

31 July 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation was alarmed by an attack on a journalist in Montenegro in July.

The company car of Rade Vojvodic, general director of the public broadcaster Radio Televizija Crne Gore (RTCG), was damaged by unknown perpetrators. A check of the vehicle found that the damage could have caused an accident, and is a clear attempt to kill Vojvodic. The case has been reported to the police and the state prosecutor.

“This is a serious attack and we are asking the officials in Montenegro to investigate the case and report as soon as possible about the results of the investigation. We have had many cases of attacks on journalists, including killing of a journalist during recent years in Montenegro. In many cases, the persons responsible for these attacks have not been identified or arrested”, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said. “This is a new case, we are really concerned about the response of authorities and the developments in this country”, Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

ROMANIA

Romanian journalists face hate speech and threats

31 July, 2015

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns a recent attack against Romanian journalists.

A group of journalists was threatened while reporting on a case of gang rape in Vaslui County on 23 July. Individuals were trying to physically attack the media workers, but were stopped when police officers intervened.

SEEMO urges authorities in Romania to initiate a through and transparent investigation of the case.

SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

Dismissal of IPI Turkish National Committee President Kadri Gürsel from his position as a columnist at Milliyet

23 July 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is deeply troubled by the dismissal of IPI Turkish National Committee President Kadri Gürsel from his position as a columnist at Milliyet newspaper, after Gürsel authored a critical tweet about President Recep Erdoğan.

Gürsel was informed of the unilateral termination of his contract with Milliyet by the paper’s human resources department on 22 July.

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic expressed shock over the incident.

“Kadri is one of the most highly-respected columnists and media professionals in Turkey, and is well-known for his critical views. Turkey needs journalists like Kadri. He was fired for criticising President Erdoğan on Twitter, which amounts to a clear attack on freedom of expression”.

SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SLOVENIA

Slovenia overwhelmingly approves reforms to law on publication of classified information

21 July 2015

The Slovenian Parliament earlier this month voted 86-1 to introduce a public-interest defence for persons accused of publishing classified information.

The move followed the highly publicised trial of Deloinvestigative journalist Anuška Delić on charges of publishing classified state intelligence after she revealed links between the Slovenian neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour and members of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) in a 2011 exposé.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Delić in April 2015 in the wake of widespread criticism from international press freedom groups, including the International Press Institute (IPI) and its affiliate for South East Europe, SEEMO. During a Nov. 2014 visit to Ljubljana, IPI and SEEMO had urged Slovenian officials, including Justice Minister Goran Klemenčič as well as key MPs, to reform the country’s official secrets legislation by providing a public interest defence and later joined a campaign on the issue launched by the Slovene Association of Journalists.

According to the journalist association DNS, the 9 July vote modifies Art. 260 of the Slovenian Criminal Code to exempt from prosecution the collection, possession and publication of classified information if, according to the circumstances of the case, the public interest in revealing the information overrides the interest in keeping it secret. The exemption will not apply in cases in which such publication endangers the life of one or more persons. To the disappointment of some observers, the amendment also increases the maximum jail term for those found to have broken the law, from three to eight years.

“The introduction of a public interest defence in Art. 260 is a welcome step, particularly given the way that this law was abused in the prosecution of Anuška Delić,” IPI Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen said. “We are pleased that the Slovenian Parliament appears to have resoundingly accepted the principle that journalists should not be punished for revealing matters of clear public interest.”

A previous public-interest exemption for disclosures of classified information was removed in 2008 under the government of former SDS Prime Minister Janez Janša, who is currently serving a two-year prison term for corruption.

Friday’s changes to the Penal Code also included a significant amendment to Slovenian defamation legislation that had been sought by IPI, SEEMO and DNS. Art. 168 will be amended to specify that cases of criminal defamation or insult committed against public officials are to be brought by private action rather than by a public prosecutor, as had been the case until now.

In an April 2015 letter addressed to Justice Minister Klemenčič, the three organisations had argued that the change would help deter abuse of Slovenia’s criminal defamation law by ensuring that public officials would “need to become personally engaged in the proceedings and shoulder all of the costs if their private action failed”.

Griffen characterised the amendment to Art. 168 as a first step toward the full repeal of criminal defamation and insult in Slovenia.

“This is another welcome change, but it is at best an intermediate step,” he said. “In order to bring the country’s defamation law fully in line with international human rights standards and treaties, the Slovenian government needs to remove all prison sentences for defamation and insult and, ultimately, repeal criminal defamation.”

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic added: "SEEMO welcomes the adoption of the amended Penal Code, in the areas of both classified information and defamation. I regret, however, that Parliament did not take the opportunity for additional changes toward the decriminalisation of defamation and the abolition of prison sentences. I hope that this will be done in the near future."

Slovenia is only one of two former Yugoslav countries to retain criminal defamation – Croatia is the other – and is the only one in which defamation and insult are punishable by imprisonment, according to IPI’s extensive research on the situation of criminal defamation law in Europe.

SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA / FYROM

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the latest attack on a journalist in Skopje

15 July 2015

Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Vladimir Pesevski today physically attacked Sase Ivanovski - Politiko, editor-in-chief and owner of the online portal Maktel. The incident happened after the journalist tried to get a statement from Pesevski. Aftet the attack, Pesevski apologized for his reaction toward the journalist. However his party, the ruling party VMRO-DPMNE, issued a statement describing Ivanovski as provocative. According to a party-statement ““next time, SDSM (SDSM is the main opposition party, its force such as Politiko, and all those similar to him should be aware of the consequences resulting from any threat to privacy, freedom and rights that every person and entity has regardless of the position being held”.

“It is not acceptable what happened. I am asking: how a politician in power can physical attack a journalists? I hope this will never happen again and I am asking for an urgent investigation of the case. The state prosecutor must react in this case”, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said.

SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA / FYROM

SEEMO appalled by attack on ORF reporter

12 July 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned by the behaviour of police officers members in Republic of Macedonia / FYROM against journalists.

Journalist Cornelia Krebs, who was reporting on Greek-Macedonian border about refugees for the Austrian public service broadcaster ORF, radio Ö1, was physically attacked on 28 June by a local police officer.

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic strongly condemned the reaction of a local police officer who physically attacked Cornelia Krebs. The officer also tried to confiscate the equipment Krebs had, as she stated in her police report. About the incident reported also Vasilis Tsartsanis from Greece on his Facebook profile on 30 June.

“We call on authorities in Skopje to punish the attackers in accordance with the law immediately”, Vujovic added.

SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

KOSOVO

Kosovo journalist reportedly receiving ongoing threats

10 July 2015 - The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) said today that it was troubled by ongoing threats against a Kosovo journalist by self-professed former militants and it called on authorities in Pristina to hold the perpetrators accountable.

Local sources told SEEMO that Serbeze Haxhiaj, a journalist with public radio Radio Kosova, part of Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK) in Pristina, has received a number of threats starting late last month from individuals who identified themselves as former superior officers in the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) / Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës (UCK).

The threats followed Haxhiaj’s investigation into the large number of veterans who claim to have fought for the KLA during the conflict in 1999. The number of names on a contemporary list of war veterans has been criticised as being unrealistically high.

SEEMO joined the Association of Kosovo Journalists (AKJ) in condemning the threats against Haxhiaj.

“We call on authorities in Pristina to immediately react and to find the perpetrators behind these threats,” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. “SEEMO expresses its full support for Haxhiaj and asks that this case be resolved as soon as possible.”

Vujovic also pledged that SEEMO would continue to monitor the case and to inform international organisations about the threats against Haxhiaj, adding: “We also hope that she will receive clear support from her employers at RTK.”

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

BELARUS

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) commemorated 15 years since the Belarus journalist Dmitry Zavadski, disappeared under unclear circumstances

7 July 2015

Till today there are no results from the criminal investigation of the case. SEEMO is asking the authorities in Minsk to investigate the case and publish transparent all information they have.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

Constitutional Court Decision

1 July 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) welcomes the today decision by the Constitutional Court of Turkey that a journalist’s suspended prison sentence for insulting public officials via media violated freedom of expression.

Bekir Coşkun , daily Cumhuriyet columnist, was convicted of criminal insult charges and given a suspended, 14-month prison sentence after deputies from the Justice and Development Party (AKP) complained about a 2013 column in which Coşkun questioned how support for the party could be so high given what he termed its many “scandals” and “disgraces”.

On Coşkun’s appeal, the Constitutional Court in a decision was ordering the sentence rescinded and awarding Coşkun 5,000 TLR (approx. 1,700 EUR).

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

Attack by police on journalist during LGBT pride march

28 June 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is alarmed about the news that the Turkish police and unknown perpetrators today violently disbanded the 13th Istanbul LGBT pride march. Photographer and journalists were attacked by the police. Four protesters were taken to hospital.

LGBT journalist Yıldız Tar from bianet.org was battered by police. Çiçek Tahaoğlu, also working for bianet.org, was disrupted by police.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

POLAND

Investigation into Polish journalist’s beating death

24 June 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) and the International Press Institute (IPI) today called on authorities to fully investigate the case of a journalist beaten to death in north central Poland earlier this month and to bring his killer to justice.

Lukasz Masiak, 31, a well-respected journalist at local online news outlet NaszaMlawa.pl in the town of Mlawa, was killed at a bar at approximately midnight on June 13.

Initial reports said the alleged killer was Masiak’s neighbour, but the reason for the altercation remains unknown. Police have arrested two people in connection with Masiak’s death, but they are still searching for the alleged killer.

IPI and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), citing previous instances in which Masiak was threatened and attacked, urged authorities not to rule out any potential motive for his death until they complete a full and transparent investigation.

“It is extremely important that authorities consider all possible theories with respect to this crime and pursue all of them with equal diligence in order to bring Mr. Masiak’s killer to justice,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said.

Masiak had a reputation for monitoring authorities and bringing attention to regional crime, and he previously reported receiving threats in connection with his work.

A representative of the Association of Polish Journalists, speaking with local media, faulted police for not pursuing the journalist’s complaints more forcefully before his death.

"Lukasz Masiak was an esteemed and courageous journalist working for a local news portal,” the representative said. “We are very saddened to learn of his death and deeply concerned that [the] decisive response of law enforcement authorities comes only after the murder of the journalist."

In addition to receiving threats, Masiak had twice been physically attacked – once a year ago and once six months ago. Following the earlier attack, the journalist told local media: “It was certainly not an attack by the robbers. The person attacking me was clearly waiting for me. I’m sure it was about the reports we have published on our news portal.”

According to IPI’s Death Watch, if Masiak’s death is definitively linked to his reporting, he would be the first journalist to have died in Poland as a result of his or her work since IPI began tracking such deaths nearly 20 years ago.

Although the reason for the brutal beating remains a mystery, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović, the International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists joined the Association of Polish Journalists in condemning the attack.

“This is a tragedy and a horrific reminder of the dangers journalists face around the world,” Mijatović said in a press release. “Journalists are increasingly targeted because of their profession and what they say and write, and this trend has to stop.”

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission. Slobodna Dalmacija

CROATIA

The South East Europe Media Organisation is surprise that the long year journalist Boris Pavelic was informed yesterday that his contract with the daily Novi list will be cancelled

18 June 2015

A month earlier, one other journalist, Drazen Ciglenecki, was removed on reporting about one politician.

“Of course in every private company the owner has the right to decide who will be a staff member and what the staff has to do. However, it is important, that the work of the journalists is free, with no pressure from the owners: It is not good, if journalist has a feeling, that there is an change in the position or that someone is losing a job, because of the reporting”, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO secretary general said.

Only one week earlier, the daily Slobodna Dalmacija ended the cooperation with well known columnist Boris Dezulovic, who was also a former editor of Feral Tribune.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission

POLAND

Investigation of the case

18 June 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is asking for an investigation of the case of Lukasz Masiak, an online journalist, beaten to death in central Poland on 13 June and to bring his killer to justice.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission

MONTENEGRO

No evidence for a bomb attack

16 June 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is asking the officials in Montenegro to investigate again all unsolved cases of attacks on the daily Vijesti in Podgorica, Montenegro.

According to a court decision from June, there was no evidence to convict two men of staging a bomb attack on the daily Vijesti in December 2013.

“We need the answer who was attacking Vijesti, so we ask the authorities to work on this and other unsolved cases of attacks on this newspaper”, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe. SEEMO’s press freedom work is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission

CROATIA

SEEMO protests against dismissals

13 June 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned following the dismissal of long-time journalist Boris Dezulovic from the daily Slobodna Dalmacija.

Dezulovic was informed that his contract would be terminated soon after the newspaper was ordered to pay a 150 thousand HRK fine (about 19500 EUR) for an article published in 2012.

“It is strange that news regarding the termination of Dezulovic’s contract came after the newspaper was ordered to pay the fine", SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is also alarmed about threats that were made against Sasa Lekovic, who was elected president of the Croatian Journalists' Association (Hrvatsko novinarsko društvo or HND) in April. Some threats came over social media in recent months. Additionally, a letter that contained a death threat against Lekovic was sent to the HND.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

KOSOVO

SEEMO condemns rifle attack in Mitrovica

11 June 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns an attack on the office of KoSSev news portal in Mitrovica, Kosovo.

The headquarters of the portal was shot several times, and bullets were found both outside and inside the office. Police have been notified and are working on the case.

“The fact that someone shot at the office of a media outlet in Kosovo is atrocious. We call on authorities and relevant institutions to react and solve this case as soon as possible. Journalists in Kosovo undertake their work to benefit the public interest, and deserve a safe environment to carry out this important task. Such horrendous threats to their lives and safety is intolerable. We hope to see results soon”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic has stated.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SERBIA

SEEMO commemorates the death of journalist Milan Pantic

11 June 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) commemorated 14 years since the brutal death of Milan Pantic, a Serbian journalist from Jagodina.

Pantic’s murder remains unsolved. According to Veran Matic, head of the Commission Investigating Murders of Journalists, many clues allegedly point to Jagodina and the establishment behind a company in this town. Matic added that in the previous year, many details of the investigation have been uncovered and are currently being analysed.

“It is difficult to comprehend that, despite all recent efforts, fourteen years have passed since this unfortunate event. We hope for closure both for the family and friends of Milan Pantic soon, and that the perpetrators of this crime are brought to justice. Media freedom and justice cannot move forward until this case is resolved”, SEEMO secretary General Oliver Vujovic has stated.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

ALBANIA

SEEMO

04 June 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed by a recent rise in threats against journalists in Albania.

The car of Enver Doci, a News 24 TV journalist, was set on fire on 4 June and destroyed.

Only two days earlier, Aurora Koromani, a journalist for the daily paper Gazeta Shqiptare, was allegedly threatened by a person believed to be an Islamic militant. The threat was reported to the police.

SEEMO expresses concern over these incidents and calls on authorities in Tirana to react urgently to resolve these cases. A strong message must be sent immediately that threats, attacks and pressure have no place in the media sphere. All journalists must work in an environment that is safe for them and their profession.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

SEEMO condemns another case of police violence against media workers in Turkey

04 June 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was distraught to learn about yet another case of police brutality against media workers in Istanbul.

Michelle Demishevich, a journalist of the news broadcaster T24 was beaten by police in front of the Belgian Consulate in Istanbul on 1 June. As in the case of a Zaman journalist who was attacked by policemen on 31 May at Gezi Park, the officers that beat Demishevich were in civilian clothing.

The journalist was attacked while she was trying to attend a press statement given by the daughter of the President Tayyip Erdogan. A complaint has been filed with the police regarding this case.

“I am deeply concerned by the extent of the media freedom violations that are happening in Turkey. It is in the best interest of the Turkish government, the president and the people, that journalists work in a free environment. I urge Turkish authorities to swiftly initiate a transparent investigation into this case", stated SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

SEEMO calls for media freedom support amidst incidents in Turkey

02 June 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is deeply concerned by an attack that occurred in Istanbul.

Emre Sencan, a journalist for the daily Zaman, was photographing Gezi Park on the second anniversary of major protests that took place there. He was beaten and handcuffed by officers in civilian clothes, even after he said he was a journalist. Sencan filed a complaint against the chief of police, who can be seen in a video of the incident.

“It is disturbing that police are attacking journalists in Turkey. Authorities must abstain from interfering with fundamental human rights like freedom of speech and the right to personal integrity”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

Erdogan threatens journalist

June 2, 2015

VIENNA, June 2, 2015 – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday vowed that a journalist would “pay a high price” for reporting on the country’s role in sending weapons to Syrian areas under Islamist rebel control, the latest in an alarming series of attacks by Erdogan and his supporters on critical media ahead of a June 7 parliamentary election.

Erdogan threatened daily Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dundar in an interview on state broadcaster TRT that followed Cumhuriyet’s publication of a video depicting a border search by Turkish security services that uncovered weapons headed to Syria on trucks owned by Turkey’s intelligence agency.

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UPDATE: Erdogan today filed a criminal complaint against Dundar and Cumhuriyet, arguing that the newspaper published “fabricated” footage as part of a “planned setup” undertaken by followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan has accused of orchestrating a since-suppressed corruption probe that he claimed was intended to bring down Turkey’s government. The complaint reportedly stated that Dundar, by “publishing the fabricated footage and information that were leaked to him by the parallel organization … joined the actions of the members of the organization who searched the trucks and plotted with fabricated evidence to create a perception in the scope of a planned setup as if the Republic of Turkey has been helping terrorist organizations”.

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The video, posted on Friday, allegedly showed police officers and gendarmerie opening crates of ammunition and weapons loaded on three trucks. It bolstered a May 21 report by Reuters that Turkey was arming Syrian rebels – a claim that Erdogan has repeatedly denied. Erdogan’s attack on Dundar came on the heels of efforts by authorities to block opposition media from broadcasting via state-owned resources and a specious attack by Erdogan on the newspaperHurriyet over a report on the death sentence handed to deposed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi – a report that Erdogan claimed constituted a threat on his life.

The International Press Institute (IPI) and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), today expressed alarm over what IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis labelled a “disturbing lack of respect for the principles of media freedom and democracy” ahead of this Sunday’s election.

“Reporting that apparently shows a politician saying one thing and then doing another is absolutely in the public interest, and the Turkish public has a right to know what their leaders are doing in their name, especially as they go to the polls,” Ellis said. “If Turkey’s voters can’t have the information they need to hold their elected leaders accountable, if they aren’t allowed to make an informed decision about their future, then what’s the point of holding an election?”

During his interview on TRT, Erdogan maintained that the trucks were carrying aid to Turkmen in Syria and he alleged that the weapons on the trucks were placed there by adherents of the religious movement led by his ally-turned-foe Fethullah Gulen in order to discredit him. Erdogan claimed that this “slander” of the intelligence agency was an act of “espionage”, to which Cumhuriyet was a party.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said on Friday that the Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office had launched an investigation against Dundar under Turkey’s broad anti-terrorism law.

Dundar commented on the matter yesterday in a tweet, saying: "We are journalists, not civil servants. Our duty is not to hide the dirty secrets of the state but to hold those accountable on behalf of the people”.

Turkey has seen a continuing deterioration of media freedom in recent years, particularly ahead of recent elections, as noted in the IPI Special Report “Democracy at Risk”, published in March. The report highlights Erdogan’s role – first as prime minister then as president – with respect to many of the major threats to media freedom, including economic pressure on media outlets, the promotion of a toxic political climate and manipulation of the legal framework.

While Turkey’s president is ostensibly obliged to remain outside of politics and Erdogan resigned from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) upon his election as president in 2014, he has actively promoted the party ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Erdogan has frequently expressed his desire to create a much stronger presidency with centralised power as part of his “New Turkey”, an aim he may be able to achieve without submitting that change to voters in the event that the AKP is able to capture two thirds of the seats in Turkey’s Grand National Assembly in the upcoming election.

Before last year’s presidential election, Erdogan hinted that he intended to remain the country’s leader until 2023, when the Republic celebrates the centenary of its founding.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

CROATIA

SEEMO stunned by attack on journalist in Croatia

29 May 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was appalled by the brutal attack on long-time journalist and blogger Zeljko Peratovic on May 28.

Peratovic was attacked by three men who came into his home and assaulted him. They claimed that the attack was in response to certain articles Peratovic wrote, but he believes the cause was his engagement in political and security issues. He was allegedly fired from his position at the daily Vijesnik for similar reasons. The police have been notified and are looking for suspects. Peratovic received medical help shortly after the attack.

“It is intolerable to allow such a hostile environment for journalists to fester in Croatia” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO secretary General stated. “As a member state of the European Union, Croatia needs to strive towards democracy and tolerance. For this reason I call on authorities to react in earnest, and to find the perpetrators at once. Media freedom and investigative journalism cannot be threatened by physical attacks” he added.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

CROATIA & FYROM / ROM

SEEMO supports step forward in investigation

29 May 2015

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) said today that it was deeply concerned over recent attacks and threats against journalists in Croatia and the Republic of Macedonia / Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, as well as the case of a Serbian journalist denied entry to Russia.

In Croatia, three unknown assailants beat freelance journalist and blogger Zeljko Peratovic yesterday at approximately 7 p.m. in front of his home in Luka Pokupska, near the town Karlovac. The attackers came by car and Peratovic received several blows to the head during the attack, leaving him in need of medical attention.

Peratovic, who received the Croatian Journalists Association (Hrvatsko novinarsko društvo, or HND)’s Investigative Journalism Award in 2014, is well known for different investigative stories he published in past years. He also has received several serious threats in the past.

On Tuesday, Nova TV journalist Domagoj Mikic was attacked by a person he wanted to interview in Pula, Croatia. The attack happened in public and was captured on video. One day earlier, freelancer Domagoj Margetic found a hangman's knot – made of twine and one page of a document from a bank scandal stolen from his apartment last year during a burglary – in his home mailbox in Zagreb.

Meanwhile, in Macedonia (FYROM – ROM), two unidentified attackers beat Sase Ivanovski, owner of the online news portal Maktel, in Skopje on May 22. Ivanovski suffered injuries to his head and back that required medical treatment. Several days earlier, Ivanovski complained that he had been banned from entering the club for members of Parliament after he quizzed Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski on his purchase of a luxury vehicle.

Just weeks earlier, someone set the car of leading Macedonian journalist and media Expert Saso Ordanoski on fire. Ordanoski is known for his high-profile reports about the media and the political situation in his country.

In Russia, Stevan Dojčinović, a Serbian journalist working for the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), was detained on May 13 for 20 hours at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport without explanation. He was later deported.

The journalist told SEEMO that officials required him to sign a document stating: “I, Stevan Dojčinović, am aware that according to Russian Federal law №114 issued on 15 August 1996 I am not allowed to come to Russia until 13 May 2020.” Seeking to avoid harassment, Dojčinović said he signed the document, but there is no official ban in his passport.

Dojčinović is an investigative journalist who specialises in revealing links between organised crime and businessmen, as well as money laundering and the gambling industry. He went to Russia to give a lecture at the Faculty of Journalism in the Russian city of Voronezh, but he said no one at the border asked him why he was entering the country.

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said the cases showed “that journalists have a very hard and dangerous job in South East Europe”.

He added: “I hope that in the cases of the attacks in Croatia and Macedonia the police will arrest and the courts punish the attackers. In the case of Dojčinović, I ask the Russian officials to give an explanation for the decision and also urgently to annul this decision. There cannot be any reason to forbid a journalist to enter Russia.”

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

MONTENEGRO

SEEMO reminds and condemns Montenegrin authorities

27 May 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) recently commemorated the eleventh anniversary since Dusko Jovanovic, editor-in-chief and founder of the daily Dan, was murdered on 27 May 2004.

After several investigations and court trials in the past eleven years, many details connected to the murder of the journalist are still not clear.

“It is almost unbelievable that so much time has passed and so little has been done. It sends a very bad signal not only about the state of media in Montenegro, but also the state of basic human rights” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic has stated. “We call on the authorities in Podgorica to take real action to find and arrest all responsible persons in the killing of Jovanovic”, he added.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SERBIA

SEEMO dismayed by Russian sanctions against journalists

25 May 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was distressed by the case of Stevan Dojcinovic, a Serbian investigative journalist who was prohibited from entering Russia.

Dojcinovic was scheduled to give a lecture at the Faculty of Journalism in Voronezh, Russia. On 13 May, he was detained at the Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport despite having all the necessary documents. He was then isolated and returned to Serbia on a regular flight the following day without explanation.

SEEMO protests this prohibition, and asks that Russian authorities both explain the treatment of Dojcinovic and put an end to this type of behaviour towards foreign journalists. Freedom of the media and free expression cannot be sanctioned or prohibited. Young people, especially students of journalism, should be given the chance to hear different opinions and experiences. Media diversity is necessary.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

MACEDONIA - FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA - REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

SEEMO appalled by brutal attack

23 May 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed to learn about the beating of Sase Ivanovski, journalist and owner of internet portal Maktel, in Skopje on 22 May.

Ivanovski was hospitalized after two masked individuals assaulted him in front of his home that evening. He tried to protect himself, but was seriously injured.

“Attacks on journalists and media workers are a clear signal that the state of democracy and free speech is deteriorating faster than ever. We expect the authorities to react quickly and find the attackers as soon as possible. This is necessary in order to send the message that freedom of speech and the media are still being protected in the country”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

New case in Turkey

21 May 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to immediately stop a campaign against the Doğan Media Group and its daily newspaper Hürriyet.

The president and his supporters have attacked the Doğan Media Group over the daily’s Saturday report on the death sentence handed to deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, saying the article’s headline on hurriyet.com.trrepresented a death threat against Erdoğan. The headline at issue read: “The world is shocked! Death sentence for president who received 52 percent of the vote.”

Erdoğan, who was himself elected president with 52 percent of the vote, made the claim in public speeches earlier this week. However, pro-government Turkish daily Sabah noted that on the same day the headline appeared, Erdoğan specifically pointed to Morsi’s receipt of 52 percent of the vote in a public address in which he criticised the Egyptian sentence.

The attack was organized short before the national elections on 7 June.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

New case in Turkey

19 MAY 2015

A proposal by Turkish officials to prohibit critical media from using state satellite broadcasting infrastructure just as the country is nearing general elections would amount to censorship, the International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) said today.

Turkish media reported that Ankara public prosecutor Serdar Coşkun, head of the Bureau for Crimes against the Constitutional Order, wrote to the Turkish Satellite Communications Company (TÜRKSAT) Directorate General within the Ministry of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications on April 27 asking it to prevent the satellite infrastructure from being used by media outlets close to an alleged “parallel structure” in the country.

That phrase is widely understood to describe adherents of a movement led by U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, which was formerly aligned with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

According to the Turkish press, the prosecutor argued that these media outlets were “creating polarization in the society and terrorizing people”. The reported request was made just weeks before Turkey is scheduled to hold general elections on June 7.

Turkish prosecutors, led by Coşkun, have sought the arrests of judges, prosecutors and police officers, as well as some journalists, in a massive crackdown that followed a corruption scandal that erupted in December 2013 and implicated high-ranking AKP officials and their family members and close associates.

The Turkish government has stated that the allegations of corruptions were part of a strategy to harm its reputation orchestrated by the U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gülen. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has suggested that a “parallel state” within the Turkish bureaucracy and security services and allied with Gülen aims to overthrow the government, a claim Coşkun repeated in his letter to TÜRKSAT as a justification for denying services to broadcasters perceived to be linked to Gülen.

IPI and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), blasted the move. “Seeking to exploit state power, including control over critical infrastructure, to block media outlets from sharing unwelcome viewpoints is censorship and completely illegitimate absent a strong showing that those viewpoints are both intended and likely to cause violence”, IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis, said. “We urge the ministry to disregard this request, which is an attack on ‪‎Turkey’s people's right to hear differing views and make up their own minds”.

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic added that a diversity of media and sources of information were essential for freedom of expression, information and communication. “It is important for Turkey to have critical media,” he said. “Any action against the media in Turkey shortly before June's general election is a clear attack on press freedom in the country.”

The Freedom for Journalists Platform (GOP) – an umbrella group representing local and national free expression groups in Turkey, including IPI’s Turkish National Committee – said yesterday that Coşkun’s proposal would deprive citizens of the right to be informed.

"Press freedom and rule of law are being trampled on”, GOP President Turgay Olcayto said. “The government wants a uniform newspaper, a uniform journalist.”

The move was the latest in a series of negative developments in recent years that have severely harmed media freedom in the country.

In March 2015, IPI published a comprehensive report on Turkey titled “Democracy at Risk”. The report cited a litany of serious threats to press freedom in Turkey, a candidate country for membership in the EU. Those threats include ongoing economic pressure on the media, a toxic political climate, manipulation of the legal framework via the use of anti-terror and criminal insult and defamation laws, misuse of broadcast regulatory powers, the imposition of content bans, continuing pressure on speech online and an ongoing climate of impunity for attacks on journalists.

The report also pointed to officials’ efforts to control coverage of various events by denying critical news media outlets accreditation or access to cover official events, and instances of police harassment or interference with journalists seeking to cover public demonstrations.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SERBIA

SEEMO protests against media discrimination in Serbia

14 May 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was deeply alarmed by incidents of hate speech in Belgrade, Serbia.

The daily paper 'Alo! conducted an investigation regarding material possessions owned by the family of the Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic. However, before any of these alleged details were even published, the Cabinet of the President issued two press releases in which they call out the author, a journalist of the same daily, 'Alo!.

“SEEMO is appalled to hear that personal attacks against journalists are being directly issued by the Office of the President”, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General has stated.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SLOVAKIA

SEEMO

12 May 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico to reverse a cabinet-wide decision to shut out a national newspaper in retaliation for the newspaper’s unflattering coverage.

Members of Fico’s cabinet announced on 11 May that they would ignore any questions from the newspaper Denník Non the basis of claims that it was reporting in a “tendentious” manner.

The decision was apparently spurred by the newspaper’s inclusion of stickers designed by popular cartoonist Martin “Shooty” Šútovec that mocked Fico’s financial affairs and depicted him as a burglar. In an initial reaction to the stickers, two Denník N reporters who were to accompany Fico to Russia for celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two last week were stripped of their accreditation.

The newspaper, according to the government, had joined “opposition political subjects”, causing the cabinet to “not see sense in further communication”.

Ahead of presidential elections in 2014, Fico refused to communicate with journalists from SME. Fico, who first served as prime minister from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2012, had a difficult relationship with the journalists during his first term, when he developed a reputation for verbally attacking journalists as well as accusing them of biased reporting and disseminating lies. He filed numerous lawsuits against newspapers over cartoons, photographs and claims he said were “harmful to national and state interests”.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

MACEDONIA - FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA (FYROM) - REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA (ROM)

SEEMO opposes attack on journalist in Skopje

06 May 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed by developments in Macedonia (FYROM - ROM).

After recent wiretapping incidents, citizens took to the streets to protest against the government and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. More than 20 members of police forces and protesters were injured in clashes during the demonstrations. Among those who were attacked was journalist Zoran Ivanov, the current director of the media outlet TV 24 Novosti. Ivanov was allegedly beaten during physical confrontations between police and protesters.

SEEMO recalls that journalists need protection, even in times of political turmoil and during demonstrations. Media workers should be able to carry out their job safely. Members of the press must be allowed to report without fear of being verbally or physically attacked while on the field.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

TURKEY

SEEMO denounces attack on journalist

02 May 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) protested strongly against the attack on journalist Shabtai Gold in Istanbul on 1 May.

The Deutsche Presse-Agentur reporter was injured after police members assaulted him during the May Day rallies in Taksim Square. Police forces were barricading closed-off streets from traffic in order to prevent further demonstrations. Gold posted on his Twitter account about his assault and the arrests of other protesters.

“Turkey seems to be doing very little to promote democracy, freedom of speech and media rights”, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General has stated.

The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.

SLOVENIA

Campaign in Slovenia, supported by SEEMO

23 April 2015

The Slovene Association of Journalists (DNS) today launched a campaign, supported by the International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), to reform Slovenia’s defamation laws as well as criminal provisions related to the publication of classified information.

The campaign was announced during a joint press conference in Ljubljana. In a letter to Slovenian Justice Minister Goran Klemenčič, the three organisations called for the repeal of criminal defamation in the country, one of only two former Yugoslav states in which harm to reputation can still be addressed under criminal law.

Referring to the “the event that criminal defamation laws must continue to exist, or until such time as they are repealed”, the groups also suggested a series of urgent reform measures, most prominently removing the possibility of imprisonment.

“We agree that the right to freedom of expression can be limited in order to protect the right to reputation,” read the letter, signed by IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic and DNS President Matija Stepišnik. “Nevertheless, this limitation must be balanced and proportional. In our view [Arts. 158-162 of the Slovenian Criminal Code] do not meet the relevant standards developed by international human rights courts and bodies.”

The letter cited in particular rulings by the European of Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) suggesting that imprisonment was not a proportionate punishment in defamation cases and risked casting a chilling effect on the media. A similar consensus has been reached by other international bodies, such as the U.N. Human Rights Committee and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The latter, notably, has called on states to end the possibility of prison sentences for defamation “although prison sentences are not actually imposed […] so as not to give any excuse, however unjustified, to those countries which continue to impose them”.

The campaign also calls on the Slovenian government to reform Art. 260 of the Criminal Code on the publication of classified information by introducing a public interest defence. The call comes after prosecutors this month dropped charges against Delo investigative journalist Anuška Delić for allegedly making use of confidential documents from Slovenia’s secret service in a 2011 exposé on links between a prominent Slovenian political party and the neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour. The decision to prosecute Delić had been strongly criticised by press freedom groups, including IPI and SEEMO, which raised the issue with Slovenian officials during a November 2014 visit to Ljubljana.

During that visit, IPI and SEEMO representatives also discussed the possibility of defamation reform with Klemenčič and with the chairs of the justice and culture committees in the Slovenian National Assembly. Klemenčič, a former anti-corruption official, told the joint IPI/SEEMO delegation that he was “personally against” the application of criminal law in defamation cases and that “in the long run, we would like to see criminal sanctions [removed]”.

However, the minister cautioned that, in his view, a move to decriminalise defamation in Slovenia would have to be accompanied by the introduction of punitive damages in the country’s civil law. The current system, he said, which recognises restorative damages only, “does not present a justifiable remedy for [damage to] personality rights”.

IPI Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen expressed optimism that the campaign would bear fruit, if perhaps incrementally. “The consensus against the possibility of imprisonment in defamation cases could not be clearer, and Slovenia should take this as a first step urgently,” he said. “Albeit at different paces, EU member states are unmistakably moving in the direction of doing away with criminal defamation and we are asking Slovenia not to miss that boat.”

The letter to Minister Klemenčič also pointed out that high compensation levels in civil defamation suits can have an equally, if not greater, chilling effect on the media. DNS, IPI and SEEMO urged the government to introduce “measures that guarantee the proportionality of compensation […] in civil defamation cases and in particular fixed limits on such compensation”.

The other recommendations relative to criminal law included: -Narrowing the scope of criminal liability to exclude opinions or statements that were not made with intent to harm or knowledge of their falsity -Repealing a provision on the criminal liability of commissioning editors -Eliminating advantages in criminal procedure for public officials

SERBIA

SEEMO concerned over media atmosphere in Serbia

23 April 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is seriously concerned by recent media developments in Serbia.

Media workers labour under pressure, either due to ownership structures, editorial policies, or fear of losing their jobs. Renowned journalists refrain from criticizing politicians.

The latest troubling case is the dismissal of Antonela Riha, a long-time journalist and writer for the weekly NIN. She was suddenly dismissed from her position due to alleged redundancy.

SEEMO declares its support for media workers in Serbia and calls on authorities to step forward and react to contemporary media freedom violations. “Journalists in Serbia are obviously working under great pressure. This hostile environment is not good for free speech, media rights or the development of democracy. We insist on the protection of media workers and enhancement of their rights. No forms of inapropriate pressure can be tolerated”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

MACEDONIA - FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA - REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

SEEMO alarmed by Borjan Jovanovski incident

23 April 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was distressed by the latest case of media freedom violations in Republic of Macedonia / Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Borjan Jovanovski, Macedonian journalist and online media editor at TV Nova, received a funeral wreath with a note saying “Final greetings” at his home address on 22 April. The incident was reported to the police.

The journalist is known as a long-time critic and opponent of the current government and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Jovanovski has been a target of pro-government media for years.

“This threat is an alarming indicator of the media situation in the country" SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. “Tensions have been on the rise for a while. We call not only on state authorities, but also other media outlets to end this oppressive atmosphere and support ethical, free journalism”, he added.

In his statement for SEEMO, Borjan Jovanovski stated that he does not know if the threat was ordered by someone. He commended the police for their quick reaction and investigation, and added “It is also extremely worrying to me that this man felt sufficiently safe to come to my home without even trying to hide or mask his face. Was he confident that he was ‘doing the right thing’? Does he have protection in high places? I have no idea, the police are in charge of the affair and I expect the perpetrator to be brought to justice. I also expect that the government will make it clear that death threats towards journalists will be resolutely condemned.”

UKRAINE

Journalists killed

17 April 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called upon Ukrainian state authorities to immediately investigate the murders of journalists Oles Buzina and Sergey Sukhobok.

According to reports from Ukraine, Buzina was killed by two masked men at 13:20 on 16 April, while jogging near his home in Ukranian capital Kiev. He was an author and TV presenter and well known for writing pro-Russian opinion pieces in the daily Segodnya. Buzina had also unsuccessfully stood in last year’s parliamentary election as a candidate with the Russian Bloc.

Sergey Sukhobok, killed on 13 April, was the founder of the news websites ProUA and Okbom and had worked in journalism since 1998. Details of his death – including the manner in which it occurred – remain uncertain.

SERBIA

SEEMO condemns attack on journalist in Serbia

15 April 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemns the 14 April attack on journalist Vladimir Jesic in Indjija, Serbia.

Jesic was attacked during the day in the street by an unknown assailant who hit and pushed him, and threatened to kill him. The assailant then fled in a vehicle later found by the police.

This was not the first attack on Jesic. In 2003, a politician physically attacked him during an interview, for which the politician later paid a fine.

The journalist believes this attack was solely based on the fact that his brother is Goran Jesic, previously the Mayor of Indjija.

“We call on Serbian authorities to work quickly and resolve these cases correctly and efficiently, in order to show that attacks against journalists will not be tolerated. Media freedom is a key factor that contributes to stability in the country, so sanctioning the use of force against media workers on any basis is necessary. Journalists must feel safe and protected in their environment in order to do good, professional work”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

SLOVENIA

Positive news from Slovenia

15 April 2015

After several months of trial proceedings, prosecutors in Slovenia have dropped charges against a prominent investigative journalist accused of publishing classified state intelligence, the International Press Insitute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation have learned.

The case had previously drawn crutiny from IPI, its affiliate the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) and other press freedom groups amid concerns that the decision to indict the journalist, Anuška Delič of the leading Slovenian daily Delo, failed to properly take into account the media’s fundamental right to report on matters of public concern.

In 2011 Delič wrote a series of articles shortly before that year’s Slovenian parliamentary elections in which she discussed alleged connections between the Slovenian neo-Nazi group Blood and Honour and members of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS). Slovenia’s Intelligence and Security Agency (SOVA) claimed afterward that the information Delić used for her report had been illegally acquired from its files, prompting a criminal inquiry. Delić was eventually indicted in April 2013, though her trial did not begin until January 2015. According to reports, prosecutors today withdrew the charges due to “lack of evidence”.

In an e-mail, Delić characterised the decision as a “bitter victory” and wrote that statements made to the Slovenian media by the state prosecutor in the case, Andreja Zavnut, suggested that officials nevertheless considered her guilty.

She added: “Since my case was the first of its kind I fear that its resolution might actually give the State further recourse to prosecute journalists (for show) and then drop the charges just before the judge has his say, yet claim publicly that the journalist is guilty.”

IPI and SEEMO had raised the issue of Delić’s prosecution in meetings with Slovenia’s justice minister, Goran Klemenčič, and the chair of the justice committee in the Slovenian parliament, Bojana Muršič, during a visit to Ljubljana in November 2014.

Last month, the justice ministry announced proposed changes to Art. 260 of the criminal code, under which Delić was charged. The reform would reintroduce a public interest exception for the publication of classified information that had been removed in 2008 under former Prime Minister and SDS leader Janez Janša. A public consultation period on the proposal was scheduled to last one month.

“While we are disappointed by reported attempts to subject Anuška Delič to a continued cloud of suspicion, we are relieved by the decision to drop charges against her in a case that should not have been brought in the first place,” IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said today. “Nevertheless the experience of Ms. Delič’s prosecution still has a singificant potential to chill investigative reporting. To prevent this, the Slovenian government needs to make it unequivocally clear that journalists such as Ms. Delič who report on matters of obvious public interest are not criminals.

“We further urge the Slovenian Assembly to rapidly approve the proposed reform to Art. 260 so as to prevent such cases from being brought in the future.” During the trial, Delić was pressed to reveal her sources behind the Blood and Honour exposé, but refused. She and her lawyer also presented evidence that material said to have been only known to SOVA was, in fact, publicly available, including company registers and social media sites. Several of the hearings were held behind closed doors due to the presentation of classified information or the testimony of SOVA operatives.

In her statement of defence presented to the court in January, Delić criticised what she viewed as the Slovenian’s government’s failure to address “anti-constitutional organisations”. While the latter may threaten Slovenian national security, she concluded, “I am definitely not this threat”.

GREECE

Greece – new reaction

13 April 2015

The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate, today condemned a Greek court ruling sentencing prominent investigative journalist Kostas Vaxevanis to 26 months in prison for libel.

A court in Athens on March 30 found Vaxevanis guilty of criminally defaming well-known Greek businessman Andreas Vgenopoulos. According to reports, the charges related to the April 2013 edition of Vaxevanis’s investigative journalism magazine, HotDoc, which described Vgenopoulos’s alleged role in the 2012-2013 Cyprus financial crisis. That edition’s cover image depicted Vgenopoulos in the foreground, smoking a cigar, while a Euro symbol emblazoned with the Cypriot flag sinks into the sea behind him.

The court has suspended Vaxevanis's prison sentence for three years. Generally, a suspended prison sentence is carried out only then if a defendant is convicted of another offence during the suspension period. Vaxevanis reportedly faces legal action in 42 further cases. In 2013, he was notably acquitted of breaking privacy law over HotDoc’s publication one year prior of a list of suspected tax evaders.

Reports indicated that Vaxevanis sought to defend the story on Vgenopoulos using official Cypriot government documents. In a statement quoted in the press, Vaxevanis assailed the verdict and criticised the Greek justice system for allegedly failing to take into account the results of relevant investigations in Cyprus. Vaxevanis added that he would appeal, including up to the European level.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has on numerous occasions ruled that the imposition of a prison offence in a libel case constitutes a violation of freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, dating back to its landmark 2004 decision in Cumpănă and Mazăre v. Romania.

Significantly, the ECHR has clarified that a sentence of imprisonment is unacceptable independently of whether the finding of liability itself was justified. In 2013, for example, the Court ruled that Greece had violated Art. 10 after Greek courts handed a local politician an eight-year (later seven) suspended prison sentence for libelling the mayor of Nigrita. In that case, Mika v. Greece, the Court, while appearing to suggest that the politician’s conviction could be defended as such, concluded that the punishment was disproportionate and “has the capacity to provoke a chilling effect on debates of public interest […]”.

IPI Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen described the court’s decision in Vaxevanis’s case as “difficult to understand” in light of Mika and similar recent rulings by the ECHR.

“We are deeply concerned by the conviction and sentencing of Mr. Vaxevanis, which fly in the face of European norms and values surrounding freedom of the press,” Griffen said. “The use of criminal law to resolve libel claims – and especially the imposition of a prison sentence – is unnecessary, disproportionate and prone to abuse. In addition to urging that this ruling be promptly reconsidered on appeal, we call on Greek legislators to reform Greece’s outdated libel laws in particular through the repeal of all related criminal provisions.”

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic added: “It is critical that Greece, as the home of democracy and an EU country, recognise the danger for investigative journalism and the free flow of information such rulings harbour. We urge Greece to seize this opportunity to undertake urgently needed reform of its defamation legislation.”

When treated as a criminal offence, defamation is punishable in Greece with up to two years in prison, according to IPI’s comprehensive research into EU libel law contained in its 2014 "Out of Balance" report. IPI’s research also suggests that Greece and Italy are the only EU states where prison sentences are still handed down to journalists in practice, although 20 out of the 28 member states maintain the possibility of doing so. Italy’s Senate is currently considering a bill to abolish imprisonment as a punishment in criminal defamation cases.

In addition to the ECHR, both the U.N. Human Rights Committee, which is responsible for overseeing compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the special rapporteurs on free expression of the U.N., Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, and the Organization of American States have stated that imprisonment is not an appropriate punishment for defamation.

GREECE

SEEMO concerned

10 April 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was concerned to learn about recent media freedom developments in Greece. Kostas Vaxevanis, a Greek journalist, was sentenced to 26 months in jail and suspended for three years because of articles he wrote about banking practices in Greece.

Vaxevanis already faced prosecution once for these investigations and is awaiting 42 additional legal proceedings based on his reporting. He has appealed the conviction.

“This is a serious attack on freedom of speech in Greece “said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General. “Punishing a journalist for writing about important topics that are in the public interest is not acceptable. We call on Greek authorities to revoke this decision and show that they believe in media freedom”, he added.

SERBIA

SEEMO protests declining media atmosphere in RTK

02 April 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned by negative developments regarding the media in Kosovo.

The current establishment behind public broadcaster RTK has been accused of alleged mismanagement, political bias, and giving contradictory figures on debt and incomes.

The General Director of RTK has issued a notion for the dismissal of Arsim Halili, a renowned journalist and editor, and Fadil Hoxha, an employee of the department of Program Scheduling. Halili and Hoxha are also the chairperson and deputy-chair of the Trade Union of RTK,

Halili was previously known for raising his voice against the censorship and propaganda occurring within the broadcaster, as well as the misdemeanour of the editor-in-chief.

HUNGARY

SEEMO concerned over media developments in Hungary

31 March 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), is concerned by recent developments in Hungary.

The Hungarian government announced that it would file a lawsuit against the international newspaper Financial Times after a story broke claiming that the EU would block a 12 billion EUR arrangement between Hungary and Russia, in order to expand the Paks atomic power plant.

After previous denial, government officials have said that a lawsuit will be initiated alleging that the article was misleading and false.

TURKEY

SEEMO

17 March 2015

The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation today condemned the ongoing detention in Turkey of Mehmet Baransu, a columnist for daily newspaper Taraf.

A court in Istanbul yesterday declined a request to release Baransu, who has been held since March 1 on allegations that he procured, publicised and then destroyed documents related to the Turkish state’s interests at home and abroad.

The case focuses on Baransu’s role in the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) case, which centres on an alleged plot by elements in the military to use violence to pave the way for a coup. Baransu was instrumental in breaking the story of the alleged plot in 2010, having reportedly received a voluminous set of damning materials that he later delivered to prosecutors.

Defendants in the case have alleged that key evidence of the plot’s existence and their involvement was fabricated. Hundreds were convicted in the case in 2012, but Turkey’s Constitutional Court ordered a retrial last June. That has since led to a re-examination of evidence and to experts’ reports confirming claims that evidence was indeed fabricated.

“This case appears to be an effort to target Mr. Baransu for the materials he published, in violation of the right to press freedom,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. “Given the circumstances of the case against him, there appears to be no legitimate reason to detain Mr. Baransu while the investigation proceeds and we call on Turkish authorities to release him immediately.”

Baransu is currently the target of another case in which he faces a possible 52-year prison sentence for his 2013 revelations of an “action plan” developed by Turkey’s National Security Council targeting the Fethullah Gulen religious movement.

The movement, a former base of support for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), is named for a Turkish author, educator and Muslim scholar who in 1999 fled to Pennsylvania. Its adherents are alleged to be strongly entrenched within Turkey’s judiciary and police forces and Erdogan has accused the movement of fabricating evidence that implicated numerous AKP members in a wide-ranging, but now-suppressed, graft probe that erupted in December 2013.

SERBIA

SEEMO reacts to crude behaviour of government officials

01 March 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was concerned by the ill-mannered treatment a journalist was subjected to during a public announcement.

Nenad Nesic, a journalist for the Serbian B92 station was trying to pose a question to Minister of Economy Zeljko Sertic, when he was pushed and stopped by members of the minister’s protocol. He was told that this was an announcement, not a press conference.

SERBIA -BELGIUM

SEEMO calls for legal actions against attacker of reporter

11 February 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) calls for legal actions against the attacker of a cameraman during a protest in Brussels. A reporter from the Serbian news agency Tanjug approached a group of Kosovo-Albanians who were protesting on 10 February 2015 in Brussels to interview them, when one participant of the demonstration slapped the cameraman, leaving him with a cut lip.

When the cameraman asked the Belgian police forces for help, he was directed to move away from the protesters, and file a lawsuit against the attacker.

“Police should protect journalists during demonstrations. I call on the police and authorities in Brussels to investigate the case and protect better in future journalists who are reporting from public events" Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said.

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA

SEEMO condemns new law in Republika Srpska

06 February 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is expressing great concern regarding the new law adopted by the National Assembly of Republika Srpska, an entity in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The new law, entitled Public Peace and Order criminalizes, among other, posts on social media that are seen as disturbing, offensive or insulting because they contain symbols, images, drawings or text. This is regulated by law’s articles 7 and 8. Posting any type of content that is deemed as disturbing can be fined financially, and content which threatens other people faces a higher fine, or a 30-day prison term.

“Imposing a law like this that can threaten the freedom of speech. Parts of the law are unclear and are opening door for self-interpretation by the authorities. State authorities may be left to interpret what is believed to be disturbing or offensive As result of the new law we can have in the future self-censorship between online journalists and other internet users. SEEMO calls on the authorities in Republika Srpska and members of the Parliament to immediately revoke this law. Freedom of expression cannot be taken away in such a crude and obvious manner. Internet should be regulated by self-regulation and over editors of web-portals, but not with legal regulations like this law. Legal steps are only acceptable in cases of direct motivation of violence.” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic has stated.

BULGARIA

SEEMO condemns fines imposed on media in Bulgaria

4 February 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemns the latest developments in Bulgaria, after steps made by the Bulgarian Financial Supervision Commission (FSC).

The Bulgarian Financial Supervision Commission has imposed two fines in January 2015 against Bulgarian media under the allegation that they were committing market manipulation through stories they published.

The online portal zovnews.com was punished with a 50,000 EUR penalty for their reports on the banking sector; the print media Capital and Dnevnik were punished with 80,000 EUR fines, and an additional fine of about €5,000 for refusing to reveal their sources.

SEEMO and its members are strongly opposing such regulations, since they break freedom of speech and basic rights of reporting. Large fines will eventually lead media outlets directly into self-censorship. It is important that media can investigate free, without any pressure, important issues that are of public interest.

TURKEY

Dutch journalist faces prison in Turkey over online comments

3 February 2015

The International Press Institute (IPI) and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), today expressed concern over reports that Dutch journalist Fréderike Geerdink could face up to five years in prison in Turkey on accusations that she spread terrorist propaganda on social media.

The case reportedly stems from comments the Turkey-based freelance journalist posted on social media and on a blog promoting the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Turkey, the EU, the United States and others consider a terrorist organisation.

Geerdink, who faces her first hearing on 8 April 2015 said a local prosecutor’s office ordered her arrest after three complaints about her comments were filed with police in Ankara. She told IPI that an indictment against her referred to posts made on Twitter and Facebook between 9 September 2014 and 29 October 2014. However, she continued: “I don’t even know if there is evidence for the existence of these complaints, and if three people complained in Ankara or that one person complained three times, or any other variation.”

Authorities initially detained Geerdink on 6 January 2015 in the south-eastern Turkish province of Diyarbakir and questioned her for over three hours. Coincidentally, Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders was attending an official meeting in Ankara that day and he expressed his discontent on Twitter, saying that he would “personally discuss this” with his Turkish counterpart, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu.

IPI and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), called on Turkish authorities to drop the charges against Geerdink absent clear and compelling evidence showing that her statements specifically incited, and were likely to lead to, the commission of criminal acts.

“Journalists should not face pressure – much less up to five years in prison – for sharing news or an opinion, whether it be in person, through traditional media or via new media platforms,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. “We find this case troubling, not only because of the charge reportedly at issue, but because it shows a new willingness on the part of authorities in Turkey to target foreign journalists.”

Geerdink, who has reported from Turkey for almost 10 years with a special focus on the PKK and its bloody, three-decade long insurgency, told IPI that she rejected the allegations that she supported terrorism.

Instead, she maintained, her “intention is always to spread the news and to comment on it”.

She also refused to be intimidated by the case against her.

“If they do it to get on my nerves and distract me from my work, they are successful,” she said. “If they do it to scare me, they are not successful. I feel strong.”

TURKEY

SEEMO against media oppression in Turkey

29 January 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is protesting against recent media freedom violations in Turkey. After the recent censorship incidents, the latest violation of press freedom occurred when a journalist for the daily paper Milliyet was indicted for allegedly insulting the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Facebook.

Mine Bekiroğlu, a correspondent for Milliyet from Adana faces 1-2 years of imprisonment for sharing Facebook posts about a teenager who died during the Gezi Park protests. She will appear in court on 19 March 2015. “There have been several cases of journalists indicted for allegedly insulting the president. Turkey cannot continue this practice against its media workers. It is not only highly dangerous for democracy, but penalizing free speech also leaves long term consequences” said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. “

SERBIA

SEEMO supports fight against media assaults in Serbia

28 January 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was concerned to learn about yet another round of media freedom incidents in Serbia.

In the last several weeks, the media situation in Serbia has worsened significantly through a number of violations, attacks, censorships and pressure.

Jelisaveta Ljutic from the daily paper Vecernje novosti and Zarko Bogosavljevic from the portal 021.rs were both attacked physically while trying to do their job. Ljutic was attacked in a small town nearby Obrenovac, where she was reporting about a tragic accident that involved the death of a person. Bogosavljevic was kicked by the participant of a car accident while he was making a coverage of the incident in Novi Sad.

“SEEMO members are deeply disturbed by all the recent media related incidents in Serbia” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General stated. “We fully support UNS in their calls to the authorities in Serbia, and agree that these cases must be resolved, and the culprits adequately punished. Rapid growth in violations of free speech and media always indicate an utter lack of democracy in the society.”

MACEDONIA (ROM - FYROM)

SEEMO condemns ruling on Macedonian journalist’s conviction

28 January 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today condemned a decision by a court in Macedonia (Republic of Macedonia / FYROM) upholding the conviction of journalist Tomislav Kezarovski for allegedly revealing the identity of a protected witness.

The Skopje Court of Appeal on 15 January 2015 rejected Kezarovski’s challenge to the conviction, but reduced his prison sentence from four-and-a-half years to two years. Kezarovski, who had been under house arrest, was returned to prison on 16 January 2015 to serve the remainder of the sentence. He was released again on 20 January 2015 on a temporary basis for health reasons.

The journalist works for the Skopje-based daily Nova Makedonija. He was arrested in May 2013 and detained for 30 days for allegedly revealing a protected witness’ identity in an article that appeared in Reporter 92 magazine in 2008. His detention was extended several times before the Skopje First Basic Court sentenced him to four-and-a-half years in prison in October 2013. Kezarovski appealed the decision, and after 172 days in detention, he was transferred to house arrest as a result of domestic and international pressure.

The witness Kezarovski allegedly identified in the 2008 articles testified that he was only granted the status of “protected” witness in 2010 – two years after the articles in question were published. The witness had given testimony in a murder trial, but the defendants were later acquitted after the witness said that he gave false testimony after being threatened by police.

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic noted that, regardless of other circumstances, Kezarovski disclosed only the witness’ given name, not his surname. Vujovic also pointed out that the ruling in Kezarovski’s case did not take into account the fact that the claim put forth in his articles – that police knowingly induced a protected witness to give false testimony – touched upon a matter of public interest.

“In cases where witnesses are granted protected status, state authorities bear the burden of providing that protection,” Vujovic said. “Even if the witness did have protected status at the time of the articles’ writing and publication, it would be the responsibility of state authorities, not an investigative journalist, to ensure that a witness’ identity remained confidential.”

Vujovic added: “The circumstances surrounding the Kezarovski case are absurd, breach human rights standards and basic principles of democracy, and are unworthy of an EU-candidate country. The persecution of Tomislav Kezarovski is a clear attack on the work of investigative journalists; Kezarovski was doing his job as journalist, but is being treated like a criminal. Every journalist must be able to carry out investigations in the public interest free from the threat of detention”.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East and Central Europe.

KOSOVO

SEEMO condemns attack during demonstrations

25 January 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), condemned a attack on three journalists covering demonstrations in Kosovo capital Pristina.

On 24 January 2015 journalist Aleksandra Jovanovic and cameraman Bojan Kosanin, both working for serbian language RTK2 - Kosovo public broadcaster Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK), and reporter Vladimir Milic from Serbian public broadcaster Radio Television of Serbia (RTS), were attacked and harassed by unknown persons while covering protests in Pristina. The journalists were attacked with stones and sticks. Some of the participants also tried to take and destroy their cameras.

“This attack must be urgently investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice”, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO secretary general said.

SLOVAKIA

Dismiss defamation charge against daily

20 January 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) welcomes the decision by the Bratislava District Court II in Bratislava, Slovakia, to dismiss defamation charges against the daily newspaper Nový Čas.

In June 2011, Nový Čas published photos which showed the members of the Slovak judiciary in a bar. Several members of the judiciary sued the newspaper for defamation demanding high fines and to publish an apology.

SERBIA

SEEMO supports step forward in murder investigation

21 January 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was pleased to hear about the new developments in the murder case of the Serbian journalist Milan Panic.

Milan Pantic, a journalist from Jagodina in Serbia was beaten to death by unknown perpetrators on 11 June 2001. His death is thought to be in connection with his investigative work about crime connections in that city. The Commission for solving the murders of journalists reopened his case, along with other unsolved cases, Slavko Curuvija and Vladislava Dada Vujasinovic.

In the past several months, a police group is said to have worked on revealing new details connected to the cases, and allegedly there has been a breakthrough in the Pantic incident.

“SEEMO and its members strongly support the much needed investigation and development in these murder cases. Journalists and the public deserve to know who is behind the killing of the journalist.” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

MACEDONIA

SEEMO protests against Kezarovski sentence

16 January 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was worried to learn about the latest developments regarding the trial of journalist Tomislav Kezarovski. The Court of Appeal in Skopje failed to repair the damage caused by basic court.

The journalist has been prosecuted for revealing the identity of a protected witness in a murder trial, and was originally sentenced to 4,5 years of incarceration. By the new ruling of the Court of Appeals in Skopje, his sentence is now revoked to 2 years.

“A shorter sentence is not good news in cases where there shouldn’t be a sentence at all. The only acceptable decision by the Court of Appeal in Skopje was to dismiss all charges towards the journalists and not to reduce the prison sentence to two years. Macedonian authorities must release Kezarovski. There can be no free press or proper democratization in any country that treats their media workers this way” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic has stated.

TURKEY - SERBIA

SEEMO worried

15 January 2015

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was worried to learn about the latest media freedom developments in Turkey and Serbia

The offices of the daily newspaper Cumhuriyet were raided by police, in order to prevent distribution of the January 14th edition. Although Cumhuriyet chose not to publish the cover in its news pages, two journalists have put the cartoon in their columns

On same day, the court in the city of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey ordered the country's telecommunications authority to ban access to web pages showing Charlie Hebdo's front cover.

In relation to the tragic Charlie Hebdo attack, the Serbian Orthodox Church issued a statement saying that images of religious figures should not be published and republished, because they offend the sentiments of believers, and called on media outlets not to distribute them.

SERBIA

SEEMO urges Serbian officials to accept critical views

10. January 2015.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe, is expressing its growing distress regarding media freedom in Serbia.

BIRN, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network was attacked by Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, after publishing an article. Vucic accused BIRN of “lying” and “receiving money” from the EU. The prime minister claimed journalists received money so they would write things “against the Serbian Government”.

“SEEMO is very surprised how a such high ranking official speaks about media", SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. SEEMO strongly condemns this type of pressure made on the media, and is reminding political representatives and authorities to be cautious in their choice of words. „Statements like these cause harm to the media scene, they endanger journalists, and they put a tremendous amount of self-censorship pressure upon them. We urge the Prime Minister and other state officials to be careful in future in their choice of words", Vujovic added.