PRESS FREEDOM NEWS 2016


TURKEY

Ahmet Sik again in jail

Vienna, 30 December 2016

Vienna, 30 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern after investigative journalist Ahmet Sik was arrested in Turkey.

Sik was detained on Thursday, 29 December, after he posted several tweets. The journalist is now being accused of “conducting propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization”.

It is not the first time that Sik is arrested. After he published the  book The Imam's Army, an investigation about the Gülen movement, he was in jail in 2011–2012 and the book was seized and banned.

“We call on the Turkish government and institutions to immediately release Ahmet Sik. Freedom of speech and opinion is a right each person has. Ahmet Sik must be allowed to work freely and without fear and incarceration intimidation” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General stated.

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

Bulgarian authorities must protect threatened journalist, SEEMO says

Vienna, 30 December 2016

Vienna, 30 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on authorities in Bulgaria to protect the journalist Dimitar Stoyanov.

Stoyanov, who works for the Sofia-based news website  Bivol (bivol.bg) has frequently been exposed to threats due to his investigative journalism and reporting. For a longer period he has been receiving threats after publishing work revealing criminal and corrupt activities of politicians and businessmen in Bulgaria. Unknown perpetrators broke into his home last year, and despite several complaints to the police regarding the break in and the threats, no police investigations has resolved his case.  On 20 October 2015 Stoyanov filed a police report after being followed by a number of unidentified people.

“SEEMO calls on institutions in the country to protect the rights of Dimitar Stoyanov” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said today.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 protect freedom of speech and human rights

Vienna, 27 December 2016

Vienna, 27 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed distress regarding the state of human rights and media freedom in Turkey.

On 9 December, JINHA journalist and Kurdish women’s rights activist Zehra Dogan was released from prison where she has been since July of this year. She was arrested on 22 July and charged for allegedly being a member of a terrorist group, as well as “disseminating propaganda for an illegal organization”. Her trial will begin in February 2017.

On 22 December, the 11th Istanbul Criminal Judicature of Peace issued a ruling stating that all assets of 54 journalists and writers must be seized, on the grounds that they have allegedly “acquired them thanks to their membership in a terrorist organization”. The ruling also claims that there is “reasonable doubt” to believe that the assets were used by the journalists under orders of the mentioned terrorist group. A list of the journalists whose belongings were taken was not immediately available but it is said to have included several journalists who are currently in detention under similar charges.

Early on 25 December, special operations police members raided the house of the DIHA Agency News Editor Ömer Çelik in Amed and he  was detained. Other raids were conducted in Istanbul as well, and according to sources journalists were the targets of them. During the operations, Tunca Öğreten Diken news editor, Derya Okatan, managing editor of ETHA, Eray Sargın, Yolculuk news editor  and Mahir Kanaat, BirGun daily administrator, were detained. ETHA, was also shuttered by a decre
On 26 December, a gag order was issued by a court in Ankara, regarding the reporting on the recent assassination of Andrey Karlov, Russian Ambassador in Turkey. Karlov was murdered by a police officer on 20 December, and now a week later a ban has been issued on any coverage of the assassination in order to “protect national security, public order and safety”.

“The number of media freedom and human rights violations that occur in Turkey on a daily level is unfathomable. We call on authorities in the country, to finish their irresponsible and constant oppression against members of independent media and intellectuals. This type of pressure is undemocratic, unhealthy and will lead to deeper issues very soon” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said this morning.

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

SEEMO concerned after ruling against journalist in Belarus

Vienna, 23 December 2016

Vienna, 23 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern after a court in Belarus ruled against Associated Press correspondent Yuras Karmanau.

The journalist worked on an article published in April, which investigated the land allegedly contaminated by residue from the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe in 1986. According to the article, after a state laboratory tested milk samples from a dairy farm located in the contaminated area, it was uncovered that it contained 10 times above the allowed level of a radioactive isotope. Following this, the dairy company sued the journalist, claiming that the AP article damaged their reputation, and after the verdict against the journalist was reached, he was also ordered to pay court fees.

“This case has raised serious concerns for us” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General stated. “It is worrisome that not only was this journalist taken through a legal battle regarding an article which was, from what we see, fully factual, but the decision that was reached against him proves that institutions in Belarus do not respect nor protect journalists and media freedom in the slightest degree. We call on the court and authorities in the country to revoke this verdict” Vujovic added.


POLAND

SEEMO critical of Polish authorities after restricting journalists’ access to Parliament

Vienna, 20 December 2016

Vienna, 20 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed its criticism of Polish authorities after their behavior towards members of the media during a recent vote.

On 16 December, the ruling party in Poland (PiS) blocked journalists from attending a vote on the budget for 2017, by organizing it essentially in secret and outside the main chamber, which has not been done since 1989. Through this, access was prohibited to both journalists and opposition party members. The controversial bill recently proposed and up for vote would institute limitation of access to the parliament for journalists. The guarded voting process occurred outside the main room (Sejm), after it was initially interrupted by opposition party protests standing up against the proposed law limiting media access to the chamber.  As reaction protesters have blockaded the Polish parliament in Warsaw.

“”We express deep condemnation of the actions committed by the Polish political authorities. Such behavior shows that they are intentionally pushing to prohibit and manipulate information media workers are trying to obtain. Not only is this illegal and highly unethical, it also shows what type of government the people in Poland have, and what pressures journalists in the country are facing” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said today.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned after Belgian police authorities arrest French-Kurdish journalist

Vienna, 18 December 2016

Vienna, 18 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern after it was revealed that Belgian police members arrested Maxime Azadi on 15 December. He was arrested in town of Turnhout near the Dutch border

The French journalist of Kurdish descent was arrested on Turkey’s request over Interpol. Interpol red notices are issued for people wanted by national jurisdictions for prosecution or to serve a jail. On 16 December  the investigative judge placed the journalist under a detention warant. If the detention warrant is confirmed, the Belgian authorities will have to rule on Azadi’s extradition to Turkey.

Azadi is claiming to not being aware of any arrest warrants against him. Azadi has been working in Brussels since 2000. Maxime Azadi runs the Kurdish press agency Firat news (ANF), and also writes for the French media organization Mediapart and the Kurdish news website Actukurde.


CROATIA

SEEMO deeply concerned after attack on journalist in Croatia

Vienna, 14 December 2016

Vienna, 14 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is disconcerted by the news that journalist Domagoj Margetic was attacked yesterday in Zagreb.

On the morning of December 13, Margetic was approached by a man who began verbally abusing him, after which he attacked the journalist physically. The attacker told him that he will “shut him up”, that he will “not be writing anymore” and then began beating him.

The incident occurred at the Eugen Kvaternik square in Croatian capital Zagreb, and following the attack, the unidentified man ran away. Margetic called the police and medical assistance.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 after several cases of attacks on journalists in Serbia

Vienna, 13 December 2016

Vienna, 13 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern for the state of media freedom and human rights in Serbia, after several attacks on journalists in the previous period.

On 12 December, photo-reporter Dragan Gojic was attacked in Novi Sad by an unidentified individual and in broad daylight. Allegedly, the person initially started verbally harassing and offending Gojic, after which he physically attacked the reporter from the back. Before he was attacked, Dragan Gojic was taking photographs of the city’s scenery.

On 2 November, an attempted attack on journalist Dusan Vojvodic from Zajecar occurred. The journalist discovered that someone had tampered with the studs on his vehicle’s wheels. Vojvodic left by car Zajecar with a colleague and was on his way to the town Sokobanja, when during the ride they discovered irregularities with the vehicle. After several attempts to discover what the issue was, it was finally revealed that someone had loosened the wheel studs on both the front and back part of the car. Vojvodic added that he changed his car tires on 28 October.

Dusan Vojvodic is a journalist and owner of the production house Za media and has been a rigorous investigative journalist, uncovering many stories of malversation and irregularities within the City Council in Zajecar. The journalist believes this to be the motive behind his attack.

“We call on authorities to launch investigations in both cases, but also find the perpetrators of these crimes, and punish them in a proper legal manner. Physical attacks, tempering with someone’s property to cause them harm – these are serious offenses and must not be taken lightly. We call on authorities in Serbia to step up and show their willingness to help media workers when there is actual danger” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said today.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 criticizes actions of Eastern Ukrainian separatists towards media crew

Vienna, 13 December 2016

Vienna, 13 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) criticized authorities in the self proclaimed “People’s Republic of Donetsk” for prohibiting Deutsche Welle correspondent Christian Trippe and his crew from entering the region.

According to Trippe, he and his crew were planning on joining a group of OSCE observers led by Swiss diplomat Alexander Hug during their stay in Donetsk, an area controlled by Eastern Ukrainian separatists. However, on 12 December the media crew was stopped and held for an hour at the Maryinka checkpoint, before being allowed to return to territory under the supervision of Kyiv. The journalists and cameramen allegedly received an official press pass from the self-proclaimed People’s Republic prior to this incident.


ALBANIA

SEEMO reminds Albanian authorities that freedom of speech is above political interests

Vienna, 13 December 2016

Vienna, 13 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is monitoring the new electoral code changes proposed by Taulant Balla, an MP of the ruling socialist party in Albania.

The amendments would make the registration of online media outlets obligatory ahead of the anticipated elections in the country, and would allow authorities to close and block unregistered websites. The registration would be conducted through the Media Monitoring Board for online media outlets, a non permanent body created by the Central Electoral Commission.
The body would have authority to shut down outlets during the electoral campaign if they “engage in electoral propaganda”, and could block websites deemed to “carry out polls disregarding the electoral code, or go beyond the limits of information which are then estimated to be electoral propaganda”.

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

More transparency in RTK

Vienna, 12 December 2016

Vienna, 12 December 2016 - The Vienna South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is asking for more transparency in the case of Arsim Halili former editor of the newsroom of the public Radio Television Kosovo (RTK), who is also vice chairman of Trade Union and also member of Journalist's Association of Kosovo, who was not returned to his job position,

Halili  lost his position in RTK and was suspended for six month. This decision by the RTK management gives a message about consequences the staff will face if they try to be whistleblowers for reporting mismanagement and irregularities. The management is also ignoring the conclusion of Board of Directors of RTK which has unanimously concluded that on case of  Halili have been used double standards, when he has been fined due a status in his private profile in Facebook, where he used sarcasm to criticize prolongation in the EU visa liberalization process.

Last year, the general manager had issued a decision to expel from their work, chairman and vice chairman of Trade Union.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 condemns behavior of local authorities in Kosovo towards TV crew

Vienna, 9 December 2016

Vienna, 9 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the behavior of local authorities in the municipality Drenas / Gllogovc (Drenica) in Kosovo.

During a press conference on 7 December the local spokesperson of Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) made allegedly a few statements that expressed discrimination and intolerance against the RTV Dukagjini crew. The spokesperson stated allegedly that TV Dukagjini from Pejë (Pec)  “would not like elections to happen in a normal manner” and that “they are presenting the people from this municipality as dogs”.

SEEMO expressed a disapproval of these statements. Speeches in this form by an official representative of a political party are not acceptable. All media outlets should be treated equally by spokespersons of political parties, without singling anyone out in a pejorative, discriminative manner.  In cases of complaints the party should address them through proper mechanism and bodies. SEEMO also calls for the spokesperson and the political party to issue an official apology because of this incident.

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


AZERBAIJAN

SEEMO calls for immediate release of sentenced journalist

Vienna, 4 December 2016

Vienna, 4 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called for the immediate release of Ikram Rahimov, editor-in-chief of online news outlet realliq.info, after he was sentenced to one year in prison.

Rahimov was sentenced by Sumgayit City Court on 25 November, under the Article 147.2 of the Azerbaijan Criminal Code, and directly after the court decision imprisoned. Article 147.2 of the criminal law refers to libel involving the accusation against an individual for a “serious or especially serious offence”. The sentence follows an investigation into libel launched against the editor, after he published an article on bribery committed by local authorities. The piece was based on information Rahimov received from Rahman Novruzov, who was also sentenced to a one year prison term.

Allegedly, Rahimov stated that he was tortured by local police members for three days after refusing to apologize to city authorities once the article was published.

“In Azerbaijan, it seems that journalists have become easy targets for authorities, and that not only their freedom of speech is violated, but also their human rights” said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General.


TURKMENISTAN

SEEMO expresses deep concern regarding state of human rights in Turkmenistan

Vienna, 5 December 2016

Vienna, 5 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed grave concern about the current media situation and state of human rights in Turkmenistan.

On 3 December, Turkmen police authorities arrested Azatlyk Khudayberdy Allashov, contributor for Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) on charges of possessing 11 kilograms of chewing tobacco, which is illegal in the country.

According to information before SEEMO; fully armed policemen with video cameras entered the home of Allashov in the Dashoguz area, beating him and rounding up his family. He, his wife and mother were all charged with the possession of chewing tobacco, which even though illegal, has never previously led to any arrests. Allashov’s wife later said that her husband’s “confession”, which could lead to a 7 year jail sentence, was coerced by force.

Allashov became a contributor for RFE/RL this October.

“We are asking for a clear and transparent investigation of the case. The journalist must be released. We believe these charges are part of a campaign aginst RFE/RL" Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said. " This is not the first case against a RFE / RL  contributor.  Two months ago Soltan Achilova, a RFE/RL reporter in Turkmenistan was physically attacked in three different attacks. Last year Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, also working fro RFE/RL was sentenced to three years in prison. We have also the case of Rovshen Yazmuhamedov working for RFE/RL, who was taken into police custody on 6 May 2013 has been held for two weeks int the police that year and in November this year he was threatened with enforcement of a suspended jail term from 2013", Vujovic added.


SERBIA

SEEMO calls on authorities in Serbia to react after several serious media freedom violations

Vienna, 4 December 2016

Vienna, 4 December 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on authorities in Serbia to react, following several days of media workers experiencing extreme levels of discrimination, oppression and censorship.

Blic daily correspondent Gvozden Zdravic was prohibited from accessing the building of the City Assembly in the town of Aleksandrovac on 29 November. The decision handed to him was signed by the Assembly president and claimed that Zdravic had allegedly not applied for attendance at that day’s plenary session, despite the journalist claiming otherwise. It was revealed following this event that the correspondent has not been able to attend sessions for almost three years now, despite regularly applying for them.

On 30 November, Miroslav Cuckovic, the Assembly president for the city of Obrenovac published a tweet on his personal account, saying that journalist of the investigative website Istinomer Jelena Prodanovic is a “voyeur and psychopath” who carries a “secret camera” in her purse and “provokes” during assembly meetings. Following this incident, Prodanovic said that this was not the first time Cuckovic had spoken about her and Istinomer in this derogatory manner, and that he used similar accusations during previous two encounters when she was in attendance at a plenary session.

On 3 December, journalists from media outlets B92, N1, Prva and Insajder were not allowed on the premises of the Russian House in Belgrade where an event with Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic and Serbian Foreign Ministry Ivica Dacic was taking place. When asked why journalists from these outlets could not attend, the press attaché stated that the “capacities of the plae were limited”, and that only journalists who have previously reported on the topic of mention could be allowed in.

SEEMO reminds institutions and political figures in Serbia that discrimination against journalists is highly dangerous for the already problematic media scene in the country. Journalists and media workers must all be treated equally, regardless of their outlet and position.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 appalled by latest surge of deteriorating media freedom in Turkey

Vienna, 30 November 2016

Vienna, 30 November 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed by the number and scope of media freedom violations in Turkey in the previous several days.

On 27 November, authorities in Turkey court ordered the shutdown of yet another online media outlet, making the total number of blocked pages over 115 thousand as of today.

The Azerbaijani news agency Kurultay was blocked, and the press card of the editor-in-chief Aydin Tas was revoked. According to Tas, he also works for the opposition paper Azadliq in Azerbaijan, and his press card was revoked after an aide of President Ilham Aliyev recently visited Turkey.

No news has yet appeared about the disappearance of Mujgan Ekin, former presenter for the pro-Kurdish outlet Ozgur Gun TV. Ekin disappeared after being approached by individuals who presented themselves as police officers, while she was attending a press conference on 24 October. According to eye witnesses, Ekin was dragged into a car, while the alleged police officers told her family the presenter was being detained because of suspicions that she was a suicide bomber.

Today, 30 November, editor-in-chief of online website Sozcu 18, Vedat Beki, was taken into custody in the town of Marmaris. Allegedly, he was arrested as part of the investigation in the failed coup attempt in July in Turkey.

“Devastating news coming from Turkey, as they have so many times this year” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General stated this afternoon. “We call on authorities in the country to immediately release all media workers that are detained in relation to any investigations based on the coup aftermath, terrorist activities, or other baseless accusations the government continually uses against journalists” Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 asks authorities in Turkey to immediately release detained journalist

Vienna, 27 November 2016

Vienna, 27 November 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has called out to authorities in Turkey to immediately release Hatice Kamer, a journalist who was jailed on Saturday, 26 November in the Siirt region.

Kamer, who works for BBC’s Turkish language service was trying to interview family members of miners who suffered in a mine collapse on 17 November, which killed ten people. She was detained without explanation or further comments from authorities.

“The journalists’ arrests in Turkey are unacceptable” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said today. “We call on authorities to release those imprisoned on false or inadequate allegations. Turkish media workers are in dire need of actual help” Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 calls for actions as authorities in BiH fail to protect journalist

Vienna, 21 November 2016

Vienna, 21 November 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was appalled to learn that blogger and journalist Slobodan Vaskovic fled Bosnia and Herzegovina after repeatedly receiving death threats.

Vaskovic is at an undisclosed location and has stated that he left the country for reasons of his own security. The blogger frequently came into conflict with political figures, most prominent of which is the president of Republika Srpska, Milorad Dodik. He published several of the threats received from who he claims are members of Dodik’s political party, Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) on his blog page.

SEEMO expressed deepest concerns for the well-being of Vaskovic, as well his safety in the future. They also call on Milorad Dodik and members of his party to officially come out and state that the freedom and safety of those critical towards the establishment are guaranteed.

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


AZERBAIJAN

Serious legal and human rights actions must be taken in Azerbaijan

Vienna, 20 November 2016

Vienna, 20 November 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern for the state of media freedom in Azerbaijan, in light of the 5th anniversary of the death of journalist and writer Rafiq Tagi.

After a stabbing incident in 2011, the journalist died days later without any culprits or results from the investigation being found to this day.  

SEEMO would also like to remind about the case of Elmar Sabir oglu Huseynov, a journalist killed 2005, widely known for his harsh criticism of Azerbaijani authorities, 

SEEMO also reminds the international community of dangerous amendments submitted recently by the Prosecutor General, which could change the Criminal Code. If adopted, these amendments would prolong the liability period for “discrediting the honour and dignity of the President”, as well as expand criminal provisions for slander and insult.

“We express our deepest empathy and support for our colleagues in Azerbaijan” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General stated. “Unsolved death cases of Rafiq Tagi and Elmar Huseynov are the top of the iceberg. Unfortunately, below are hidden numerous tools for oppression against journalists, including intimidation, censorship, threats and attacks” Vujovic added.


SERBIA

SEEMO condemns threats against journalists and other violations in Serbia

Vienna, 20 November 2016

Vienna, 20 November 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the recent threats against journalist Sajma Redzepefendic from Novi Pazar, Serbia, and the lack of court penalties against a local politician who attacked journalist Aleksandar Cupic.

Redzepefendic became a target of anonymous threats in the past several days, after a local media outlet shared her Facebook post about the treatment of single mothers by employees in the Islam community in Serbia. After voicing her criticism, the journalist was threatened, along with her family and ten month old child.

On 5 May, Aleksandar Cupic was on site filming with his colleagues near Vrsac, Serbia, when local businessman ran into Cupic with his vehicle. Just a month earlier, Cupic wrote several articles regarding  this businessman.  After the businessman admitted to having attacked Aleksandar Cupic, charges against him were dropped.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 voices concern regarding worsening media conditions in Turkey Vienna, 17 November 2016

Vienna, 17 November 2016

Vienna, 17 November 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the slew of recent court orders in Turkey which caused several media websites and Twitter accounts to be shut down.

On 16 November, the house of Saban Iba, a columnist for Ozgur Gundem, and artist Nihat Sonmez in Balikesir’s Edremit district was raided by officers.  Iba was accused of allegedly “having membership in a terrorist organization”, detained and taken to the District Gendarme Command.

On 17 November, Ismail Coban the managing editor of Kurdish daily Azadiya Welat was sentenced to two years and four months in prison for “disseminating propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization”.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 appalled after news of attempted attack on Croatian journalist

Vienna, 1 November 2016

Vienna, 1 November 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed distress after news that Sasa Lekovic, president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association, had an incident which could have had lethal consequences.

On Thursday, 27 October Lekovic was driving from Croatia to Serbia and had to pull over after his car stopped working properly. The car service staff soon discovered that someone had tampered with one of his wheels, which then fell off. The wheel studs had been intentionally removed, possibly in order to cause Lekovic to have a crash while driving. The incident was reported to the police.

“SEEMO is asking for an urgent police investigation. We ask Serbian and Croatian authorities to give in public all details connected to this case" SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said today.

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

New threat by the state against press freedom in Turkey

Vienna, 31 October 2016

The Secretary General of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), Oliver Vujovic, condemned the today arrest of at least 13 journalists of Turkish  independent daily Cumhuriyet, including the editor-in-chief Murat Sabuncu, and three of its columnists, Kadri Gürsel , Güray Öz and Aydın Engin .

“I know Kadri, who is also Board Member of the International Press Institute (IPI) and IPI Turkey National Committee Chair, very good personally, and he is a great journalist and intellectual. He participated in several SEEMO conferences in Istanbul in the past and he is an example of professional journalism. What will be the next step by the authorities in Turkey against press freedom?”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic asked. “It is clear that the Turkish regime sees the state of emergency as a opportunity to consolidate its power and weaken democracy in the country. The authorities should urgently restore press freedom in the country”, Vujovic added.

As the International Press Institute informed, Kadri Gürsel was taken into custody today afternoon following a raid on his home and is currently being held at Vatan police station in Istanbul.


UKRAINE

SEEMO reaction Ukraiine

Vienna, 31 October 2016

Vienna, 31 October 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the behavior of authorities in Crimea towards media freedom and human rights, after journalist Mykola Semena was denied access to mainland Ukraine, where he intended to go in order to undergo necessary medical treatments.

Semena was accused earlier this year of using his work in the media as propaganda to call for “violations of the territorial integrity of Russia”. The journalist is said to have additional health issues that could lead to disability, if the travel ban imposed on him is not lifted so that he can receive treatment.  Another recent case is the temporary detention of Oleksiy Nazimov, editor-in-chief of daily Tvoya gazeta, who is facing criminal charges. Allegedly, after the newspaper started looking into supposed illegal activities of the Crimean authorities, Nazimov was detained.

“Intimidation, censorship and incarceration of journalists are strong signals that tell us what a problematic media atmosphere we currently have in Ukraine and Crimea. We call on authorities to release detained journalists, and allow others to travel freely in accordance to their personal and health requirements. These cases reminded us that we must observe closely what happens in this region, and try to help media workers in any way we can” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said today.


TURKEY

SEEMO dismayed by continuous media freedom violations in Turkey

Vienna, 30 October 2016

Vienna, 30 October 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed to learn that following a failed coup attempt in Turkey on 15 July, the state apparatus has continuously been closing media outlets without previous notice or legal justification.

SEEMO has brought this subject to light in several reactions, yet authorities in Turkey continue their rampage against journalists and media houses. The most recent executive orders (by the Palace-governmental Decrees) have shut down indefinitely over 15 newspapers, magazines and news agencies on charges of allegedly having links with terrorist organizations behind the coup attempt, bringing the total number to over 160 closed outlets. Most often, these are Kurdish media outlets, such as DIHA (Dicle News Agency), JINHA (Women News Agency), Azadiya Welat (Kurdish daily), and others.

“The media situation in Turkey is dire, and we need help from the international community in order to work on these issues and try to salvage the remainders of speech rights and freedoms in the country” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. “We call on authorities in Ankara to reflect on the troubling situation, and help bring democracy and order into media issues” Vujovic added.

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

SEMO condemns threats made against Leonard Kerquki

Vienna, 25 October 2016

Vienna, 25 October 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the threats made against Kosovo journalist Leonard Kerquki.

Kerquki is the chief editor of Gazeta Express and the author of Zona Express weekly show. An episode of the show which aired on 23 October tackled issues, including attacks, regarding the remaining Serb population in Kosovo, after which Kerquki started receiving hundreds of threats. The majority of hate speech and verbally abusive statements came from anonymous users on social media platforms.

“This is not the first time the subject of a smear campaign on social media is a journalist doing his job ethically and professionally. We call on authorities in Kosovo to launch an investigation and find out who the perpetrators behind this hateful rhetoric are. A lack of tolerance and understanding for other ethnic groups and minorities is a clear sign that Kosovo as a society has not evolved to a democratic standpoint yet” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said earlier.

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


ALBANIA

SEEMO criticizes behaviour of institutions in Albania towards journalists

Vienna, 26 October 2016

Vienna, 26 October 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) criticized the actions of the Albanian Parliament and Media Commission after a failed hearing which was originally planned for today, 26 October.

The Association of Professional Journalists (APJ) made a request to the Parliamentary Committee on Education and Means of Public Information, in order to further examine the case of Alida Tota, former director of A1News TV channel.

The APJ asked for the revision of her case after she was dismissed as the head of A1News, due to an investigative story that was published on the channel in late August. The subject of the piece was the death of Ardi Gjoklaj, a 17 year-old-boy who was working illegally at a landfill, which was under the supervision of the Tirana municipality.

The meeting was set for 10:00 this morning, but when representatives of media outlets began arriving to the hearing, members of the National Guard prohibited them from entering. This was a surprise, given that Genc Pollo, chairman of the Media Commission repeatedly invited journalists to attend. Following this, members of the governing coalition left the hearing of Alida Tota, leading to a lack of quorum and cancellation of the meeting.
“All  forms of silencing journalists are a despicable, non-democratic way of functioning” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated. “We call on the Parliamentary Committe on Education and Means of Public Information, the Media Commission and all rulling coalition members to immediately set up a new hearing date for the case of Alida Tota. Those that should be defending media freedom but in fact violate it, should not stop media workers from seeking legislative and state help” Vujovic added.

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


LATVIA

SEEMO criticizes authorities in Latvia after deportation of journalist

Vienna, 24 October 2016

Vienna, 24 October 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) criticized the behavior and actions of Latvian authorities after detaining and deporting the journalist and chief producer for Rossiya Segodnya international information agency, Ella Taranova.
Taranova was detained by Latvian border guards when she arrived in Riga for the Baltic Forum. Allegedly, the journalist was deported on Friday, 21 October.

SEEMO members expressed great dissatisfaction with the behavior of Latvian authorities, who have allowed these unnecessary actions and human rights violations. SEEMO calls on institutions in the country to issue a public apology to the journalist, and allow her an access to Latvia for future occasions.


ROMANIA

SEEMO states new draft law in Romania putting independence of media outlets in danger

Vienna, 21 October 2016

Vienna, 21 October 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the draft law approved by the Romanian Senate on 17 October, which proposed eliminating all monthly fees for TV and radio licenses, so far included in the monthly electric bill paid by individuals and companies in Romania,. Instead, the Senate suggested the introduction of direct funding of public service media through the state budget. The law, introduced by the Social Democratic Party (PSD), was approved with a controversial timing: as the election campaign is approaching, tax relief is one of the efficient populist measure.

The proposal was initiated by the Social-Democrat party leader in the light of upcoming elections in the country, and the draft bill is now being discussed by political authorities.

“We condemn any attempt of the state with meddling into the work of public service media outlets within Romania” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said today. “Not only would this draft bill take away all independence from journalists working within these public service media houses, it would also send a negative message on how the country and its institutions are disrespecting and censoring media freedom” Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives, and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe, and its 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 media conditions in Serbia which have detrimental effects on journalists

Vienna, 14 October 2016

Vienna, 14 October 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the working conditions for media workers in Serbia, which endanger the basic human and professional rights of journalists.

Jovica Vasic, journalist of daily “Narodne novine” in the city of Nis, Serbia, has been on a hunger strike for the previous five days, in order to draw attention to the difficult working conditions in both his paper, and in journalism. Vasic began his strike due to what he calls “slave-like working conditions” at the daily, where he has been an employee for the past 22 years. The journalist added that the situation worsened drastically after the paper came into ownership of a local family ten years ago.

“SEEMO members support all media workers in Serbia that are fighting for their rights and freedoms” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General stated. “However, we ask Jovica Vasic to not expose his life and health to danger, and cease the hunger strike immediately. We will fight together, as we have done so far on, to draw attention of authorities and international institutions towards the horrendous working conditions of journalists in Serbia and the region” Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives, and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe, and its 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 supports Greek journalist for speaking out against irregularities in open letter

Vienna, 13 October 2016

Vienna, 13 October 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) supports Greek journalist, Kostas Vaxevanis, who published an open letter to Mario Draghi, president of the European Central bank. The open letter protested against the behaviour of a high representative of the Bank of Greece, who allegedly stated during a session in Greek Parliament that reading the investigative magazine HOT DOC is “dishonourable”.

Vaxevanis, who runs HOT DOC, also stated that the magazine often published information regarding legal investigations that the wife of the high representative is currently under. The journalist also criticized the practice using the official website of the National Bank of Greece as a platform to post announcements in support, as if it were a personal website.

SEEMO fully supports Kostas Vaxevanis in his calls for EU authorities to pay attention and monitor the behaviour of the heads of Greek institutions.

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

Vienna, 11 October 2016

Vienna, 11 October 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was appalled to learn about the brutal attack on Russian journalist Grigory Pasko.
Pasko was beaten in the morning hours of 27 September by two unidentified men, in the city of Barnaul in the Siberian region Altai Krai.

According to Pasko, he had been followed and attacked by the men, who he says then promised to return. The journalist also added that in his opinion these were not common criminals, but rather individuals hired to beat and intimidate him because of his investigative work in journalism and his critical opinion.

Pasko, a former military officer, was arrested in 1997 by Russian police on charges of treason and espionage . He was found guilty in 2001 and was released on parole in 2003. A day before the attack, Pasko published an article from a newspaper, in which a local nationalist complained about Pasko being a "foreign spy”.

SEEMO members condemn this attack and call on authorities in Russia to conduct an immediate investigation, in order to discover who the perpetrators behind this attack are. Beatings and censorship of media workers in Russia are a definite and common indicator of low media freedoms and human rights.


UKRAINE

SEEMO calls on immediate release of Ukrainian journalist

Vienna, 11 October 2016

Vienna, 11 October 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on Russian authorities to immediately release Ukrainian journalist Roman Suschenko, after he was arrested by the Russian intelligence agency due to accusations of spying on armed forces in the country.

Suschenko's arrest was ordered on 1 October by the Moscow Lefortovsky Court, after being accused of allegedly “collecting information on the activities of the Russian Armed forces and the National Guard troops”, with the court claiming that if leaked abroad, the data may harm state defense capabilities. Russian authorities have launched a criminal case against Suschenko based on charges of espionage.

 “We call on the authorities to immediately release Suschenko, and drop all and any charges against him. Tensions between Russia and Ukraine have been at an all-time high for an extended period of time, and we ask them to revise this situation and release the journalist” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO secretary general said.


ALBANIA

SEEMO calls for freedom of media and speech in Albania

Vienna, 10 October 2016

Vienna, 10 October 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was surprised to learn about the cancellation of an investigative TV show in Albania, after only three episodes on air.

The investigative TV show Publicus ended on Sunday, 9 October after airing only three episodes on Vision Plus TV. The show had previously focused on investigative stories exposing political and governmental issues in Albania, among which was the issue of monitoring waste imports into the country.

The cancellation of Publicus occurred just before another episode was due, which allegedly dealt with the investigation against a high level politician. The opposition Democratic Party claims Publicus was silenced under political pressure.  As journalist Artan Rama said to BIRN " we were notified that the show wasn't going to air, with no explanation given"

“An abrupt cancellation of an investigative show is disturbing” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. “The editors have of course the right to decide about program changes, but the public should be informed what the reasons behind the shutdown of Publicus are" Vujovic added.   According to information before SEEMO, only two months ago, in August, the editor-in-chief of A1 News TV, Alida Tota, was dismissed, after trying to air a report.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned over media shutdown in Hungary

Vienna, 9 October 2016

Vienna, 9 October 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after news that the publication of one of Hungary’s leading newspaper has been suspended indefinitely.

The owner company of Nepszabadsag (People’s Freedom) daily has announced on Saturday, 8 October that both print and online editions of the outlet will be suspended. The publisher stated the daily had been operating at a serious loss over the past 10 years due to a drop in circulation.  The liberal daily was an important critical voice against the Victor Orban government.  .

“We are closely monitoring these troubling developments in Hungary” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said today.

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

More timely reactions from authorities are welcome, SEEMO states

Vienna, 29 September 2016

Vienna, 29 September 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed its approval after learning that an individual who made threats against a journalist was promptly taken into custody.

Croatian journalist Ema Branica recently released a story about a person that was allegedly involved in financial and legal frauds, which was then aired in the Nova TV "Provjereno" show. After this, the individual in question was displeased with their portrayal in the story and started threatening the journalist by saying she will be slapped and spit on, and sending a message to Branica which concluded with the threat that she would "end up like Pukanic". Ivo Pukanic was a journalist and editor in chief who died by a car bomb several years ago. Following this story, the perpetrator was arrested in Zagreb.

"We appreciate the fast response conducted by Croatian police authorities, and would like to showcase this as a positive example when it comes to reactions to threats against journalists" SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said today. "Having state authorities react timely to this type of endangerment is an example of how all cases should be conducted- without delay and with proper penalization of the culprit" Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 dismissal of caricaturist Dusan Petricic in Serbia

Vienna, 03 October 2016

Vienna, 03 October 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after a caricaturist for the Serbian daily Politika was dismissed for what are indicated to be political motives.

Caricaturist Dusan Petricic was dismissed from the daily after having his work published in the paper for more than 7 years. Petricic revealed that the recently appointed general director of Politika invited him for a talk and suggested, in sparse language, that the caricaturist should feature Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic as a topic less often. A month later, Petricic was summoned by the general director again only to be notified that since "nothing changed" in the theme of his caricatures, Politika was ending their contract with him.

"Caricatures are critical voices we need in media", Oliver Vujovic stated today. " We call on the managerial board of Politika to transparently reveal their arguments for this dismissal, and revoke the decision immediately" Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 critical of media situation in Turkey

Vienna, 30 September 2016

Vienna, 30 September 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned today new steps against media in Turkey.

In the aftermath of the failed military coup on 15 July in Turkey, authorities in the country have been employing the Cabinet Decree 668, which allows them to close any media outlet and confiscate any materials they find to be threatening on the grounds of “national security”.

As result in the past several days at least 20 television and radio stations were closed. In Istanbul Denge TV, IMC TV, Govend TV, Azadi TV, Van TV, Hayatın Sesi, Jiyan TV, and Zarok TV are no longer aired. Also TV 10, voice of the Turkish Alevi community was closed. This TV channels were also removed from the national satellite platform TÜRKSAT without any explanation The Istanbul based Yön Radio, Adana  based Radio Dünya and Mersin  based SES Radio  are not more operating.  Some days ago also radio and TV channels in the Uşak area, ART TV, ART Radio, and Radio Klas, were closed.

According to the Journalists Association of Turkey since 15 July 660 official press cards have been cancelled by the authorities, over 100 journalists have been jailed and  around 2500 lost their jobs.

 “We find that this administrative decision affects the media atmosphere in Turkey severely, and call on authorities to revoke the order immediately” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said today.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 condemns behavior of HRT’s general manager towards employees

Vienna, 28 September 2016

Vienna, 28 September 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was concerned after learning that Sinisa Kovacic, general manager of the Croatian public broadcaster HRT, made public his proposals of dismissing two employees.

HRT journalist Sanja Mikleusevic Pavic was accused by Kovacic of “verbal offences” after co-signing a press release of the Croatian Journalist Association on 21 September. Kovacic stated that by doing so, the journalist violated several codes of the HRT Ethical Codex. However, sources say this was in fact a reaction to the press release, parts of which challenge the possibility of a prolonged term for Kovacic as general director. Despite the Ethical Council of HRT disagreeing with this, Kovacic punished the journalist with a pre-dismissal note.

Kovacic also began a procedure for the dismissal of Mirna Zidaric, president of the HRT Ethical Council.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 once again calls on Serbian authorities to protect journalists and representatives of journalists associatons

Vienna, 19 September 2016

Vienna, 19 September 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) once again criticized threats against media workers in Serbia.

SEEMO has previously condemned the threats made against Nedim Sejdinovic, President of Independent Association of Vojvodina Journalists (NDNV), after he participated at a round table on 11 September. Sejdinovic made political comments which were then shared by media outlets, and for which he faced threats and hate speech from multiple sources. The attacks have not subsided, and Sejdinovic was recently the recipient of an anonymous letter calling for his resignation and threatening that if he does not comply, both him and his colleague Dinko Gruhonjic, NDNV Program Director will be found “floating in the Danube”.

“The growing severity of these threats has concerned us very much” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said today. “We ask the institutions in Serbia to abandon their lax, tolerant attitude towards death threats and possible attacks on journalists, and finally react in a professional and equipped manner. Threats against Sejdinovic and Gruhonjic is deplorable, and needs to be sanctioned immediately” Vujovic then added.

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


CYPRUS

Arson attack an indicator of declining media freedom in Cyprus

Vienna, 20 September 2016

Vienna, 20 September 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned a threat made against Dina Kleanthous, journalist and crime correspondent of the online news portal Reporter Online in Cyprus.

Around 2:30 in the morning on Monday, 19 September, Kleanthous’ car was set on fire by unknown perpetrators in the city of Nicosia. The vehicle was parked outside the journalist’s house at the time of the torching, and the material damage is said to be extensive.

The correspondent stated that she believes the reasons behind this attack were almost certainly related to her professional activities and statements.

“Authorities in Cyprus must promptly react to this extremely dangerous attack on the well-being and human rights of Dina Kleanthous. Not only does this act send a message that the journalist is not protected adequately, it is also a brutal reminder that hidden criminal structures often try to silence critical voices in aggressive ways” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated today.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 condemns behavior of Kosovar authorities towards foreign journalists

Vienna, 17 September 2016

Vienna, 17 September 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the actions of authorities in Kosovo, after two journalists working for a Russian news agency were arrested near the village of Hoçë e Madhe/Velika Hoča.

News Front agency journalists Oksana Sazonova and Sergey Belous were filming material for a documentary regarding orthodox monasteries in Kosovo on 15 September, when they were asked for their identification by police members. The journalists failed to provide documents for legal stay in Kosovo. They were then detained and transferred to Pristina, after being accused of illegally crossing the border between Serbia and Kosovo. In the meantime, their equipment was confiscated, and the recorded material was deleted.  

“It is understandable to prosecute individuals that do not follow through with necessary visa and passport requirements” said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General. “But deleting journalistic materials and seizing equipment is unnecessary and not acceptable.” Vujovic added. 

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


SEE

SEEMO calls for action after several cases of media freedom violations in South East Europe

Vienna, 15 September 2016

Vienna, 15 September 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed their condemnation of the recent events throughout several countries in South East Europe, which indicate a growing number of media freedom violations and censorship in journalism.

On 8 September, two TV crews in Republic of Macedonia / FYROM were threatened, intimidated and then blocked from filming material near a construction site in Skopje. Media workers from A1on and TV21 were reporting from a flooded construction site, when an unknown individual allegedly told the crews to get out, because they were “trespassing” on private property and even attempted to violently grab one of the cameras. According to reports, a police officer was located nearby during the incident, but made no effort to help the journalists.

On 14 September, journalist and editor at local broadcaster RTV Visoko in Bosnia and Herzegovina was attacked after leaving the premises of the station. Ismar Imamovic was assaulted by an unknown and masked perpetrator, after leaving the offices around midnight. Seconds after exiting the building, Imamovic was attacked and brutally beaten, after which he received medical treatment. At the time or this report there are no indications as to what the reasons behind this attack were, even though the assault happened after a TV debate related to the upcoming elections.

Another incident occurred on 14 September, when members of the Golden Dawn party in Greece attacked journalists on the island of Chios. Journalists were covering protests against a possible refugee detention center on the island, when clashes began between police members and marchers. A Golden Dawn supporter assaulted Ioannis Stevis, editor-in-chief of Astrapari.gr who was covering the events, hitting him and throwing his camera on the ground in order to break it. Several riot police members were present during this incident, but refused to arrest the attacker.

“A rising number of violent and abusive acts that endanger human rights and freedom of speech indicate that journalists still are not protected. We call on authorities in these countries to react immediately, and preserve the rights of journalists to do their work freely, without fear of attacks or threats. This is currently our utmost priority” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic, said

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned over problematic media atmosphere in Turkey

Vienna, 12 September 2016

Vienna, 12 September 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed growing concern after the recent arrests of journalists in Turkey.

On Saturday 10 September, journalist Ahmet Altan and his brother, academic and professor Mehmet Altan were detained by members of the Istanbul anti-terror police. The arrests, allegedly coming in lieu of investigations into the failed coup, which have been conducted since 15 July. Ahmet Altan and his brother are said to have been scrutinized because of comments they made on the eve of the coup, on a talk show on the Can Erzincan TV channel.

“We call on authorities in Turkey to immediately release Ahmet and Mehmet Altan. It is despicable to detain individuals solely based on their opinions expressed publically. Freedom of speech has reached a new low in Turkey, and we must stand up against this mounting pressure and censorship journalists in the country are facing” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated this morning.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 criticizes recent media freedom violations in Serbia

Vienna, 12 September 2016

Vienna, 12 September 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed discontent after latest developments in hate speech and attacks against journalists in Serbia.

A high level official of the Democratic Party (DS) made statements on his Twitter account yesterday, 11 September, which could be interpreted as threats to journalists. While allegedly criticizing the current political situation in the country, The politician alluded that along with “bots” (supporters of the ruling party), certain journalists should also “be dragged out of their houses by their ears”.

Another incident provoked by political views occurred on Friday, 11 September, when Nedim Sejdinovic, President of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina made comments about the political regime of the 1990’s in Serbia, at a round table in Sombor. He noted that key political players today and those from the past are similar and that the level of business, corruption and crime in political structures remained the same. After he was quoted, comment sections on several news portals filled up with defamatory statements, slurs and threats. Sejdinovic also received several threats from anonymous individuals on Facebook, telling him allegedly to “leave while he can” and threatening his life and safety.

“We call on authorities to not only protect media workers that are being threatened and attacked, but also penalize those who amongst them that, as politicians, see it fit to use hate speech and endanger the safety of journalists. Institutions in Serbia must not tolerate either of these media freedom violations” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 condemns verbal attacks against former President of the Croatian Journalist Association

VIENNA, 11 September 2016

VIENNA, 11 September 2016 - On 8 September,  Zdenko Duka, former President of the Croatian Journalist Association and journalists, who was reporting for the Croatian daily Novi List from Rijeka, was verbally attacked by some participants of a pre election meeting.

The group verbally attacked him as a "spy" and "person who works against interests of Croatia". Additional he was offended to work for SDP party.  The group took photos of Zdenko Duka as they shouted his name.

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns this verbal attack on a journalist in Croatia. Organizers of a public event have to take care about order and peace and one of the basic rules is to protect journalists who are reporting from the event..

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 behaviour of politician in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina

VIENNA, 7 September 2016

VIENNA, 7 September 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the behaviour of a high-level politician in Bosnia and Herzegovina toward a journalist while attending a public event.

On September 4, a minister in the government of Repulbika Srpska appeared at a cooking festival near Lake Bardaca, where Jelena Grahovac, a reporter for Alternativna Televizija TV (ATV) station attempted to interview him. After asking a question about alleged abuses of ministerial strategic reserves that caused recent speculation, the minister allegedly grabbed the journalist’s hand and pulled the microphone downwards, telling Grahovac that ‘he would like her to do something good’. This was recorded by a TV camera.

‘It is not acceptable for a governmental official to behave like this,” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said today. “Ms. Grahovac was performing her duty as a journalist to report on matters that are in the public interest. The minister in question should be aware that he is subject to public scrutiny because of his role in the government’. 

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

SEEMO condemns lack of professionalism by public broadcaster in Belarus

VIENNA, 6 September 2016

VIENNA, 6 September 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed condemnation of a recent ruling by the Supreme Court in Belarus against blogger and photographer Anton Matolka.

Matolka filed a lawsuit against the Belarusian TV and Radio Company (BT) several months ago, after the station used one of his photographs without his consent. The photo of polar lights, which Matolka took in 2015, was used in breach of copyright. The blogger initially demanded a high financial moral damage, but in the course of the hearing he reduced the amount to a symbolic 0.01 kopeks’ compensation.

The court ruled against Matolka and the decision cannot be appealed. Matolka has to pay 450 BYN (205 EUR) in court fees, and an additional 89,40 BYN (41 EUR) to the court-appointed expert.

‘SEEMO urges the relevant authorities to uphold the intellectual property rights of Anatol Matolka in this case,’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘As the creator of the original image in question, he is entitled to the protection of its use’.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned by media situation in Turkey

VIENNA, 6 September 2016

VIENNA, 6 September 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) harshly condemned the behaviour of Turkish authorities, after they confiscated video footage of an interview conducted between a Turkish minister and Deutsche Welle talk show host Michel Friedman.

Friedman, who hosts the talk show Conflict Zone, conducted an interview with the minister on 5 September in Ankara as a follow-up story on the failed coup attempt in Turkey on 15 July. The host asked the minister about the aftermath of the coup, including mass arrests and layoffs, the state of women’s rights,  the current media situation in the country and some other questions.

The interview was previously scheduled to air on Conflict Zone, but as soon as it was finished, the minister’s press officer forbade Deutsche Welle from broadcasting the material. When Friedman protested this decision, the footage was confiscated by ministry employees.

The Youth and Sports Ministry of Turkey denied confiscating the material. "The team …gave us the unauthorized recordings.", was officially said, According to the Turkish officials, the interview was not authorized because of "loss of impartiality" by the German journalist.

On the same day, two journalists were detained by authorities during an unauthorized rally in Ankara. Freelancer Can Ozen and Dicle News Agency reporter Mehmet Kurnaz were arrested while present at the rally, organized by the Kurdish political party HDP. The demonstrations were held in support of Abdullah Ocalan, an imprisoned leader of the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK).

SEEMO also supports calls made by the European Federation of Journalists, asking that Evrensel daily reporters Cemil Ugur and Halil Ibrahim Polat be released immediately. The two journalists were arrested on 23 August, after reporting about the ‘freedom watch’ organized in the province of Mersin, also held for imprisoned PKK leader Ocalan. So far, no information has been provided by authorities about the condition of the journalists.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned by new media regulation in Greece

VIENNA, 3 September 2016

VIENNA, 3 September 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned by a recent government cut backs of the number of television channels operating in the country.

On 2 September Greece offered only four broadcasting licenses to channels, claiming that this will help regulate the sector and allow it to stay viable, given that it is already in debt. The number of permits is also said to have been based on advertising industry estimates.  Once all four broadcasters are chosen, each will have two weeks to pay the first portion of the required sum, based on the outlet’s profits.

However, the fact that only four licenses are being offered means that several of the eight private channels broadcasting nationwide will have to shut down. The regulation is being criticized as a gag order that will curb free speech and put thousands of people out of work. The four licences were won by three ship owners and a construction tycoon.

‘SEEMO is concerned that the recently announced cutbacks in Greece will endanger media plurality,’ said SEEMO General Secretary Oliver Vujovic.  ‘Having access to a range of broadcasters is essential in any democratic society so that citizens have enough information to form independent opinions and make informed political choices. SEEMO supports a regulation of the media market in Greece, including very important system of licences for all TV channels, but the system and selection should be transparent and made in cooperation with journalist and media associations and according to international standards".

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 for release of journalist in Turkey

VIENNA2 September 2016

VIENNA2 September 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) calls for the release of Lindsey Snell, an American journalist who was detained while travelling to Turkey from Syria.

Snell, a video journalist currently residing in Istanbul, Turkey, was detained by police on 7 August after escaping a terrorist group in Syria. Snell had gone to Syria  to film, and was allegedly held hostage for two weeks. According to her spouse, Snell’s apartment in Istanbul was raided by police on 22 August, and her laptop, hard disc, video camera and other materials were confiscated. Her husband was also detained for two days, under suspicion that he had tried to destroy evidence in the journalist’s apartment, and was involved in the failed coup attempt in Turkey on 15 July.

SEEMO members call on authorities in Turkey to immediately release Lindsey Snell. Incarcerating investigative journalists in conflict zones only worsens and intensifies the atmosphere of censorship and media violations in the region. Media workers must be allowed to do their job professionally and freely, without pressure or fear of censorship.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 appalled by deterioration of rights in Turkey

VIENNA, 30 August 2016

VIENNA, 30 August 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was appalled by  recent incidents  in Turkey.

On 28 August, Turkish police forces raided the premises of Azadiya Welat, a Kurdish-language daily in the city of Diyarbakir. Following the search, over 23 staff members were arrested and detained, deprived of their phones and IDs, and were held in the Diyarbakir Police headquarters. A child that was visiting the offices was also taken into custody. Reports say the justification behind the raid were alleged ‘illegal organizational meetings held at the premises’.

It was revealed that release demands for Sahin Alpay, Lale Kemal, Ali Bulac and over 40 other journalists arrested on 31 July have been rejected. Following the aftermath of the coup attempt in Turkey on 15 July, media workers were charged for allegedly being members of a terrorist organization, and were detained. The Judiciary Court in Istanbul rejected the release pleas, claiming that no new evidence has surfaced which would justify their release.

On 30 August The Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK suspended Izgur Gun, a local news outlet in Turkey. Aside from having its website repeatedly blocked in the previous months, the station was fined for allegedly broadcasting terrorist propaganda on 27 August.

‘The persecution of journalists working in Turkey has reached devastating levels,’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘SEEMO calls for the release of journalists who have been imprisoned simply for doing their jobs’.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 calls on Ukrainian authorities to bring murderers of journalist to justice

VIENNA, 29 August 2016

VIENNA, 29 August 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was saddened and shocked by the death of Russian journalist Alexander Shchetinin, who was found in his apartment in the Podol district of Kiev.

Shchtetin was found with a bullet wound to the head during the night between 27 and 28 August. The victim, a long-time journalist, editor and founder of Noviy Region news agency, was often criticized by some of the highest political figures in both Russia and Ukraine. Authorities have launched an investigation into his murder.

SEEMO members were deeply disturbed by the news of this brutal murder, and call on authorities in Ukraine to conduct a transparent and swift investigation, and bring the perpetrators of this heinous crime to justice as soon as possible.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 calls authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to penalize threats and pressures against journalist

VIENNA, 28 August 2016

VIENNA, 28 August 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on institutions in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to immediately react to the harassment of journalist Lejla Colak.

On 26 August, Colak wrote a Facebook post expressing her personal opinion about women wearing burkas, hijabs and similar religious garments. After her statement was interpreted as offensive by a member of the BiH Armed Forces, he wrote a caption asking if ‘anyone would volunteer’ to assault the journalist, adding that he would ‘compensate’ any person for that action himself. Several other comments followed, with individuals suggesting that Colak should be ‘burned alive’ and run over by a car.

After the case became public, the member of the BIH Armed Forces deleted his Facebook post and apologized. According to sources, he will be dismissed from his position after an investigation establishes whether the threats were factual.

“SEEMO is disturbed by the harassment of journalist Lejla Colak by a member of the armed forces for freely expressing her opinion,’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘We sincerely hope that this matter will be investigated and the responsible individual held accountable under the law’.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 calls for investigation in Kosovo

VIENNA, 29 August 2016

VIENNA, 29 August 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed to learn about attacks on public broadcaster RTK and its General Director.  

On 23 August, unknown perpetrators threw a hand grenade at the premises of the public broadcaster RTK. No persons were injured and no arrests were made regarding this case. On29 August, another hand grenade exploded in a suburb of Pristina, which is said to have been intended to hurt Mentor Shala, the General Director of RTK. The explosion occurred in close to Shala’s family home.

‘SEEMO calls on authorities to promptly investigate these attacks, and do everything necessary to preserve and protect media workers and their rights. An attack on someone’s life, if it is not investigated and punished, is a bad sign for conditions in Kosovo’, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 asks institutions for caution after broadcast ban in Turkey

VIENNA, 27 August 2016

VIENNA, 27 August 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after a recent broadcast ban in Turkey.

On26 August, an attack was launched by the PKK in the Sirnak district of Cizre, a town on the border of Turkey and Syria. A vehicle containing explosives detonated, killing three civilians, 11 police officers, and injuring over 70 others. Following the attack, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) announced a temporary broadcast ban for all news outlets regarding the explosion, claiming that this is a case with high risk of public disorder and posed a risk to national security.

‘Broadcast bans have become a common occurrence in Turkey after attacks’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘In times of crisis, people rely more heavily than ever on balanced and up to date coverage of ongoing events. Receiving clear information during difficult situations is essential. We call on authorities in Turkey and especially the RTUK, to revoke the broadcast ban immediately, and to avoid using this method of censorship again’, Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 by Serbian PM comments about public broadcaster RTS

VIENNA, 23 August 2016

VIENNA, 23 August 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned by comments that Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic made about the country’s public broadcaster RTS (Radio Television of Serbia).

During a press conference on August 22, the Prime Minister made remarks after a RTS report. The prime minister criticized  the public broadcaster and some RTS editors as "political persons". He stated a number of times that he has not appeared on RTS in the past several months because he is dissatisfied with their reporting, and that he will continue to disregard the outlet.

‘We at SEEMO find this view by the prime minister of Serbia highly problematic’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned after attack on RTK

VIENNA, 23 August 2016

VIENNA, 23 August 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed by an attack targeting the public broadcaster Radio Television of Kosovo (RTK) yesterday in Pristina.

On 22 August, a hand grenade was thrown into the yard of RTK, where both the main building and transmission antennas for the broadcaster are located. Several journalists were working in the building at the time of the attack, but none suffered any injuries. The perpetrators are currently not known, and an investigation is said to be underway.

‘SEEMO calls on the police and other institutions in Kosovo to react and follow up on this case with a transparent and swift investigation. Attackers behind this crime must be found and brought to justice, in order to show that authorities in Kosovo are committed to protection of journalists and their rights’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 members severely concerned after another journalist death case in Turkey

VIENNA, 14 August 2016

VIENNA, 14 August 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed grave concern after news that a journalist has been beaten and murdered in Turkey.

Wedar Hussein Ali, reporter for the Kurdish RojNews Agency, was found dead on 13 August in the Kurdistan Region’s city of Duhok. Prior to this, the journalist was allegedly kidnapped by unknown individuals. His body was found on the side of a road. According to preliminary investigations, Ali was tortured to death.

According to sources, RojNews has ties with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

‘We are deeply saddened by the death of Wedar Hussein Ali, and call on authorities in Turkey to conduct a transparent, just investigation and bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice as soon as possible’, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 for resolution of media crisis in Turkey

VIENNA, 11 August 2016

VIENNA, 11 August 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on institutions in Turkey to cease the enormous pressure imposed against journalists and media workers.

On 5 August, DIHA News Agency reporters Selman Keles and Idris Yilmaz were taken into custody while shooting in the Yusekova district, and detained in the local police directorate.

Mustafa Sutlas, Ismail Agan, Mehmet Ali Celebi and Osman Zorba are facing lawsuits on terrorist propaganda charges because of their work in Tukenmez magazine, an outlet that often writes about Kurdish issues. The prosecutor accused the journalists of praising the PKK and KCK organizations funded by the Kurdish Workers’ Party in their stories.

On 7 August, Kurdish television station Med Nuce TV stated that the satellite through which it broadcasts its programming is facing severe signal attacks, and that this is a part of the growing state persecution against media.

Journalists Hasan Akbas, Serpil Berk, Firat Topal and Serbest Sertac Kayar were arrested on 10 August while covering a car blast in the city of Diyarbakir.

‘SEEMO is deeply troubled by the current state of media freedom and the curbing of free expression rights in Turkey,’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘We stand in solidarity with journalists and media workers in Turkey and the international community to condemn the repressive atmosphere that has taken hold since the failed coup in July.’

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned by growing number of journalists arrested in Turkey

VIENNA, 04 August 2016

VIENNA, 04 August 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern regarding media freedom violations that have followed the failed coup attempt in Turkey on 15 July.

Arrest warrants were issued against twelve former daily Zaman newspaper journalists after the alleged coup. They were charged with involvement in the overthrow and its alleged instigator Fetullah Gulen. After Zaman was closed due to the investigation, 47 media workers employed had detention orders issued against them, on charges of being members of an armed terrorist organization.

Arrest warrants have been issued against the following journalists: Alaattin Güner, Şeref Yılmaz, Ahmet Metin Sekizkardeş, Faruk Akkan, Mehmet Özdemir, Fevzi Yazıcı, Zafer Özsoy, Cuma Kaya and Hakan Taşdelen on charges being a member of an ‘armed terrorist organization’, Hüseyin Turan and Murat Avcıoğlu on charges of ‘aiding a terrorist organization’ as non-members and Mümtazer Türköne, Zaman columnist, on charges of ‘serving the purposes of a Fethullahist terrorist organization’.

‘According to SEEMO sources, there are over 70 journalists in prison in Turkey right now’, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. ‘This number is dangerously high for any country, and signals a new low when it comes to democratic principles and freedom of expression in the country. We call on institutions in Turkey to immediately release our colleagues, before this situation deteriorates further’.

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


CRIMEA

SEEMO concerned regarding freedom of speech violations in Crimea

VIENNA, 4 August 2016

VIENNA, 4 August 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after learning that the webpage of the Crimean Tatar TV, ATR, has been blocked in the territory of Crimea.

Upon loading the page of the web portal, a message is displayed stating that the network address is added to a registry of domains which contains information prohibited for dissemination in the Russian Federation.

SEEMO members call on institutions to immediately end censorship used against media outlets in this region, and allow all web portals and other media to work freely, and without oppression. Freedom of speech and information of public importance present a pillar of democracy, especially in transitional societies facing political instabilities.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 Turkish authorities to release detained media workers

VIENNA, 3 August 2016

VIENNA, 3 August 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the detention of Ozgur Gundem daily editor Hulya Karakaya in Turkey on August 3, at Diyabakir airport.

SEEMO recently expressed its support for the JINHA news agency and other Kurdish media outlets in the country that have been blocked by the Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication (TIB).

Following the SEEMO protest letter, Karakaya was arrested at the airport by police members along with Nizamettin Yilmaz, distributor for the daily, and Azadiya Welat. Only Yilmaz currently remains in custody under charges of ‘distributing illegal newspapers’, even though Ozgur Gundem is a registered, legal news outlet. JINHA initially reported that Hulya Karakaya had been detained and accused of being a member of a terrorist organization.

‘Days after SEEMO called on authorities in the country to cease their pressure against media outlets, especially Kurdish ones, things were taken one step further with the arrests of individuals under the guise of baseless accusations. Similar charges are often brought up against media workers who disagree with the ruling establishment in Turkey. We insist that all journalists must be released from detention, and any charges against them immediately dropped’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned by harassment of news agency in Turkey

Vienna, 02 August 2016

Vienna, 02 August 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the actions of the Turkish Presidency of Telecommunication and Communication (TIB), and called on the institution to their decisions which are harmful and put pressure on media in the country.

On 24 July, TIB blocked numerous Kurdish media outlets in the aftermath of the coup attempt and clashes that occurred in response to it. The first website to be blocked was the Jin News Agency (JINHA), which is also the first and only women’s news agency in Turkey. This was the sixth time the web portal has been blocked by TIB.

SEEMO fully supports all media workers within JINHA and calls on the Telecommunications and Communications Presidency to abandon all practices of blocking news websites in the country. Furthermore, SEEMO members ask that Turkish authorities release all detained journalists and end oppression against journalists and media outlets. Freedom of expression is crucial in transitional societies and must not suffer because of political interests.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 for release of journalists

Vienna, 27 July 2016

Vienna, 27 July 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) urged Turkish authorities to react and immediately release all journalists arrested since the failed coup attempt on July 15 on accusations of spreading propaganda and participation in the overthrow.

The number of arrest warrants issued has risen to 47, and SEEMO members were shocked to learn today that the SEEMO 2013 Human Rights award winner Bülent Mumay was detained by authorities.

‘We call on authorities in the country to release our colleagues. The news that SEEMO award winner Bulent Mumay was arrested came as a grave shock to all our members. Hopefully our pleas and those of the international community will help our attempts to free all journalists in Turkey’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 calls for protection of free expression in Kosovo

Vienna, 27 July 2016

Vienna, 27 July 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned by the reaction of Turkish officials in Kosovo, in the aftermath of the coup attempt in Turkey on 15 July.

Berat Buzhala, prominent journalist and editor-in-chief of the news portal Express shared several status updates on his Facebook profile after this month’s political turmoil in Turkey. One of them was a satirical status saying that Kosovar tourists that were in the country at the time should support the army. An official letter was then sent by the Turkish Embassy in Kosovo to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs asking that Mr. Buzhala be arrested because of comments he wrote on his personal page.

The Turkish ambassador argued this claim by referring to a law amendment prohibiting any citizen of Kosovo from participating in conflicts within other countries. The law was initially created for Kosovars who wanted to join terrorist organisations in Syria.

‘SEEMO calls on Turkish institutions to respect the right of individuals to express their opinions in from of satiric and joke in Turkey and international’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 for immediate release of journalists arrested in Turkey

VIENNA, 25 July 2016

VIENNA, 25 July 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was appalled by arrest warrants issued by the Turkish Prosecutor for anti-terrorism against 42 journalists on July 25.

In the aftermath of the coup attempt which occurred on 15 July, media workers are being detained as part of an inquiry in the failed overthrow of the government. Several editor-in-chiefs and journalists have been accused of being involved in the overthrow, as well as for divulging terrorist propaganda.

The targeted journalists are:

  • Abdullah Abdulkadiroğlu
  • Abdullah Kılıç
  • Ahmet Dönmez
  • Ali Akkuş
  • Arda Akın
  • Nazlı Ilıcak
  • Bayram Kaya
  • Bilal Şahin
  • Bülent Ceyhan
  • Bülent Mumay
  • Bünyamin Köseli
  • Cemal Azmi Kalyoncu
  • Cevheri Güven
  • Cihan Acar
  • Cuma Ulus
  • Emre Soncan
  • Ercan Gün
  • Erkan Akkuş
  • Ertuğrul Erbaş
  • Fatih Akalan
  • Fatih Yağmur
  • Habip Güler
  • Hanım Büşra Erdal
  • Haşim Söylemez
  • Hüseyin Aydın
  • İbrahim Balta
  • Kamil Maman
  • Kerim Gün
  • Levent Kenez
  • Mahmut Hazar
  • Mehmet Gündem
  • Metin Yıkar
  • Muhammed Fatih Uğur
  • Mustafa Erkan Acar
  • Mürsel Genç
  • Selahattin Sevi
  • Seyid Kılıç
  • Turan Görüryılmaz
  • Ufuk Şanlı
  • Ufuk Emin Köroğlu
  • Yakup Sağlam
  • Yakup Çetin.
‘We were deeply distressed to hear the news of arrest warrants being issued against so many of our colleagues in Turkey. These senseless attempts of censorship and oppression against media workers must end immediately’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘We call on authorities to end attempts to pressure and detain journalists’. 

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

Investigate the death of journalist in Ukraine transparently, SEEMO asks authorities

VIENNA, 23 July 2016

VIENNA, 23 July 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is saddened by the death of Ukrainian journalist Pavel Sheremet in Kiev.

The Belarusian journalist was killed in the early hours of 20 July, several dozen meters from his home, when a bomb exploded in the vehicle he was driving. The car belonged to Alena Prytula, the head of daily Ukrainska Pravda.

In 2010, Sheremet was deprived of Belarusian citizenship and had to obtain Russian citizenship. Prytula and Sheremet have voiced their concerns about being monitored several times in the previous years. He was a renowned journalist and a long-time contributor for several media outlets in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.

‘SEEMO is deeply shaken by the murder of Pavel Sheremet’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.  ‘We call on authorities to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice. Each time a journalist is threatened, attacked or killed as a result of his or her work   democracy is undermined and the path is opened for more violence’.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned by worsening media situation in Turkey

Vienna, 23 July 2016

Vienna, 23 July 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed grave concern regarding events that have taken place in Turkey following the failed coup attempt on July 15.

Since the attempt to overthrow the government, allegedly over 6,000 people have been arrested in the country, among them 42 journalists and media workers. Also, 31 academics have been taken into custody, and several hundred staff members from 24 universities have been suspended so far.

The Telecommunications Communication Presidency has suspended and banned several media outlets for their alleged ties to the coup instigators, among which are Mediascope, Gazeteport ABC Newspapers and Haberdar. Journalists and media workers are being accused of having ties with the coup instigators, as well as disseminating terrorist propaganda.

‘SEEMO members are deeply concerned for our colleagues in Turkey and the struggle they go through every day. We fear that this is only the beginning of more serious and more dangerous oppression against them, and hope that the international community will help us preserve and improve media rights in the country at this difficult time’, said SEEMO General Secretary Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 harassment of Bosnian journalist

Vienna, 22 July 2016

Vienna, 22 July 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the harassment of Borka Rudic, journalist and head of The Association of BH Journalists.

A local politician, member of the Party of Democratic Action political party ( SDA) allegedly made comments about Borka Rudic on his Facebook profile on 19 July. After talking about the failed coup attempt in Turkey, the politician harassed Rudic, which provoked a series of accusations against her, among them that she is a lobbyist for Fethullah Gulen, who is said to be behind the overthrow attempt. Rudic was also called a supporter of Gulen’s politics, and a supporter of Chetniks, a WWII army movement in Serbia.  

‘SEEMO stands in solidarity with Borka Rudic and condemns the online harassment campaign initiated by a public official,’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

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

SEEMO calls on authorities in Moscow to investigate media member killing

VIENNA, 21 July 2016

VIENNA, 21 July 2016 -The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the killing of Andrei Nazarenko, cameraman for Russian state television, in his Moscow home.

Nazarenko, who worked for the TV channel Rossiya-1/Rossiya-24, was found shot to death in his apartment,

‘SEEMO is deeply saddened by the passing of Andrei Nazarenko, and calls on authorities in Russia to investigate the circumstances of his death.’, said SEEMO General Secretary Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 calls authorities in Kiev to investigate investigative journalist death

VIENNA, 20 July 2016

SEEMO calls authorities in Kiev to investigate investigative journalist death

VIENNA, 20 July 2016 - The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the killing of Pavel Grigorievich Sheremet in Kiev, Ukraine, on 20 July.

Sheremet, Belarusian-born Russian journalist who had been living in Ukraine and worked for online news site Ukrainska Pravda, was killed in a car bomb explosion.

Sheremet was imprisoned in Belarus 1997. He received several awards for his work as a journalist.

‘SEEMO is shocked by the death of Pavel Sheremet, a talented reporter and investigative journalists. We urge authorities in Kiev to conduct a swift and transparent investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death, and to hold the responsible persons accountable’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 for media workers in Turkey

VIENNA, 19 July 2016

VIENNA, 19 July 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is deeply concerned by recent developments in Turkey. 

Yeni Safak daily photojournalist Mustafa Cambaz was killed by soldiers while covering the coup attempt on 15 July. Soldiers had also taken over the public broadcaster TRT, and news host Tijen Karas was forced to read a statement on TV at gunpoint. Soldiers also took over some private media outlets for several hours.

Selcuk Samiloglu, a photojournalist from daily Hürriyet, was beaten while reporting in Istanbul during the coup attempt.  The attack happened on Istanbul's Bosporus Bridge after he made a photo of people who kick and beat a arrested Turkish soldier that participated in the attempted coup.

SEEMO is also alarmed by government decisions made after the coup attempt. According to information received by SEEMO, on 19 July the government revoked the licenses of 25 media companies. Additionally, during recent days the authorities blocked access to numerous websites and also the cancelled the state press cards of numerous of journalists.

‘These recent developments amount to a very serious attack on democracy and the rule of law in Turkey,’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘SEEMO is very concerned by the political situation in Turkey right now and its implications for media freedom’.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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.
SEEMO condemns this decision by the authorities in Baku.


AZERBAIJAN

SEEMO express concern about closing of a TV station

VIENNA, 19 July 2016

VIENNA, 19 July 2016 - SEEMO express concern about Azerbaijani News Service (ANS), a private Azerbaijani television station, that was taken off the air on 18 July. The move came after the station was accused of damaging relations with Turkey, and was announced to allegedly prevent overt terrorist propaganda after the station said it would broadcast an interview with U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Turkey's government blames Gulen for orchestrating the failed military coup on 15 July. Gulen has condemned the coup and denied involvement
Azerbaijan's National Television and Radio Council (NTRC) announced that it was temporarily suspending operations of the private ANS TV, which was founded in 1991. Additionally, NTRC announced that it would file a lawsuit to revoke ANS’s license.
SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 authorities in Serbia to investigate threats against KRIK

VIENNA, 17 July 2016

VIENNA, 17 July 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on authorities to investigate the recent intimidation and threats made against KRIK (Crime and Corruption Reporting Network) in Serbia.

SEEMO was informed that journalist Dragana Peco and KRIK’s editorial office received verbal threats. These new threats come after several months of insulting campaigning conducted by several pro-governmental media outlets and individuals. Additionally, KRIK was attacked over social media many times in recent months.

According to KRIK, two individuals sent threatening messages via Twitter to journalists after KRIK published investigations that revealed the assets of several government officials. KRIK managed to identify one of the individuals who sent threats, and forwarded the information to Serbian state prosecutors. The account of the other person, whose identity is unknown, goes by screen name ‘Petar Pan’.

‘We fully support all KRIK staff and the platform itself, which makes a valuable contribution to strengthening democracy in Serbia by reporting on vital issues that are in the public interest. Intimidation and threats against journalists are never acceptable.’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 condemns the withdrawal of journalist accreditations in Ukraine

VIENNA, 14 July 2016

VIENNA, 14 July 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has condemned the Kiev decision to ban three journalists from reporting in the Donbass region conflict zone.

In the early hours of Tuesday, 12 July, the state cancelled the journalist accreditation of Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta correspondent Yulia Polukhina. Accreditations were also suspended for Hromadske TV journalists Anastasiya Stanko and Konstiantyn Reutskyi. Authorities said that the media workers had violated standards set for journalists by the ATO (anti-terrorist operation) in Donbass.

Allegedly, videos and photos which were filmed on 6 July and published on 8 July showed ‘positions of Ukrainian paratroopers, their facial features and weapons, as well as locations’.

 ‘We call Ukrainian authorities to retract the decision and allow Yulia Polukhina, Anastasiya Stanko and Konstiantyn Reutskyi to work and report freely from the conflict area. During times of crisis, the public relies even more heavily on journalists to provide accurate and balanced information about what is happening. Being able to receive solid information during a conflict is essential’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 by threats against journalists in Serbia

VIENNA, 12 July 2016

VIENNA, 12 July 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns recent threats made against a journalist in Serbia.

Boris Dzinic, a reporter for Nocturne magazine in Novi Sad, was allegedly intimidated and threatened in the early hours of Monday, 11 July, during the Exit festival. Dzinic was approached by a group that was dissatisfied about the journalist’s reporting on a concert the group organized in April. The group surrounded the journalist and threatened him.

‘SEEMO calls for an urgent investigation of this case’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘Responding to journalists’ work by threatening them is never acceptable.’

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 news about journalist being arrested in Turkey

VIENNA, 6 July 2016

VIENNA, 6 July 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the arrest of a journalist and two companions in Turkey.

DIHA reporter Serfie Oruc was arrested on 4 July, along with two other individuals that were in the car with her. All three were detained and sent to a prison in Batman, Turkey.

‘SEEMO calls for the immediate release of Serfie Oruc and a transparent investigation into her arrest’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 call for an end to political pressures against Magyar Szo

VIENNA, 3 July 2016

VIENNA, 3 July 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called for an end to alleged political pressures within Hungarian-language daily Magyar Szo in Vojvodina, Serbia.

According to different sources, political pressure on Magyar Szo staff members continues. For years there have been attempts to put the newspaper under the control of Hungarian political representatives in Vojvodina.

According to the latest decision by the paper’s managerial board, it was decided to ‘rationalize’ work conditions by broadening the journalist staff in the Novi Sad headquarters, while narrowing down the number of correspondents in Senta and Subotica in Vojvodina. Eight journalists and editors received a document asking them to decide whether they were willing to travel daily to Novi Sad for their work, instead of working locally, as they had been.

Requesting that journalists travel daily for work from one town to another may signal an attempt to have them resign or refuse.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 welcomes the release of Turkish journalists

VIENNA, 1 July 2016

VIENNA, 1 July 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) welcomed the release of Ahmet Nesin, one of three Turkish journalists arrested on 20 June on charges of creating ‘terrorist propaganda’, after supporting a solidarity campaign with the daily Özgür Gündem.

Nesin was allowed to leave jail due to the lack of flight risk and low level of his felony a day after his colleagues, professor Şebnem Korur Fincancı, President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) and RSF representative Erol Önderoğlu, were arrested on the same charges.

‘SEEMO is pleased to hear the news of these releases in Turkey. It is a positive sign, after a long while, coming from Turkey,’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 welcomes the release of Turkish journalists

Vienna, 1 July 2016

Vienna, 1 July 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) welcomed the 1 July release of Ahmet Nesin, , arrested on charges of creating ‘terrorist propaganda’ on 20 June.

Nesin was arrested for his participation in a solidarity campaign for the pro-Kurdish newspaper Özgur Gundem. As part of the campaign, the journalist acted as editor-in-chief for one day. Academic Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Chair of Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation and Erol Önderoğlu, Reporters Without Borders representative in Turkey, also participated in the campaign. Both Fincancı and Önderoğlu were also arrested on 20 June on the same charges.

Also Hurriyet newspaper New York correspondent and member of the United Nations Correspondents Association Razi Canikligil was detained on 20 June upon his arrival at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport. He was questioned and released after several hours.

‘SEEMO was pleased to hear the news of these releases in Turkey. A prison sentence for journalistic work is not acceptable, and this is a positive sign, after a long while, and hopefully shows that Turkey is willing to make changes in regard to freedom of expression’, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said earlier today.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 expresses support for RTV initiative in Serbia

Vienna, 27 June 2016

Vienna, 27 June 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed full support for the ‘Podrzi RTV’ initiative, in support of the independence of public broadcaster Radio Televizija Vojovdina (RTV) in Novi Sad.

Activists and organizations in Serbia have been calling for transparency and an explanation of the recent dismissals of editors-in-chief and journalists working for the regional public broadcaster RTV. Aside from the hasty and non-transparent layoffs, several TV shows are being taken off air. The management said the station is switching to a different, summer program.

SEEMO also joins #PodrziRTV in its condemnation of the recent stalking and intimidation of Maja Zivanovic, a local journalist working for the investigative analytics centre VOICE.

‘The events surrounding RTV and its employees have been very unclear. We call on the management of the broadcaster to provide transparency in its processes, especially its decisions regarding suspended content and the dismissed journalists and editors. We stand in support of our colleagues’, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic, said.

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

Brutal behaviour towards media workers in Belarus unacceptable, SEEMO states

Vienna, 23 June 2016

Vienna, 23 June 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the arrest of freelancer and Belsat TV contributor Kastus Zhukouski and media staff member Alyaksei Atroshchankau in the town of Lojeu, Homieĺ region on Tuesday, 21 June by local police officers.

The team was filming a report about the state of the economy in the Belarussian regions and a local brick factory, when they were approached and arrested by police. According to Zhukouski, they were taken into custody, where senior police officers took their equipment and destroyed it, handcuffed them both and pushed him to the floor, followed by a boot pushing his head against the ground.

After spending several hours in police custody, an ambulance was called and both media workers were taken to the hospital and treated for several body injuries. ‘The violent intimidation of journalists is never acceptable, and this incident is particularly disturbing because of the alleged involvement of police officers. SEEMO urges authorities to conduct a swift and transparent investigation into the alleged mistreatment of Kastus Zhukouski and Alyaksei Atroshchankau, and to ensure that the responsible individuals are held accountable’, SEEMO General Secretary Oliver Vujovic said. 

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 for release of three guest editors in Turkey

Vienna, 21 June 2016

Vienna, 21 June 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern over the detention of Erol Onderoglu, Reporters without Borders representative in Turkey, as well as human rights activist Sebnem Korur and journalist Ahmet Nesin yesterday in Istanbul.

The three are being charged for ‘terrorist propaganda’ after openly stating their solidarity in a campaign supporting the Kurdish daily Ozgur Gundem.

‘The arrest of and detention of Erol Onderoglu Sebnem Korur and Ahmet Nesin is appalling, and shows how hostile the environment in Turkey is to journalists,’ SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic, said ‘SEEMO calls for the immediate release of these individuals, as well as all other media workers currently in detention because of their journalistic work.’

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 death threats in Serbia

Vienna, 20 June 2016

Vienna, 20 June 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns death threats against Zoran Kesic, host of the satirical talk-show 24 Minutes.

 ‘SEEMO calls on authorities in Serbia urgently to investigate this threats against one of the leading TV presenters in Serbia’, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 on Serb authorities to work on solving media freedom violations

Vienna, 19 June 2016

Vienna, 19 June 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) again expressed deep concern regarding recent developments in the public broadcaster Radio Televizija Vojvodina (RTV) in Novi Sad, Serbia.

Last month, SEEMO helped raise awareness about hasty dismissals that occurred within the regional public broadcaster. The managerial board laid off several editors in a non-transparent manner.  The changes may have been political in nature.

 ‘It is a primary concern of ours to see media issues in RTV resolved as soon as possible’, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 protests conditions for journalists in Turkey after latest developments

Vienna, 16 June 2016

Vienna, 16 June 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) protested against the latest worsening of conditions for journalists working in Turkey.

On 12 June, Syrian journalist and reporter Ahmed al-Qader was attacked for the second time in only three months, in the Turkish town of Urfa. It was reported that al-Qader was shot three times by gunmen that rode a motorbike. Their identities are yet to be revealed.The journalist is hospitalized and in stable condition.

Earlier in June, journalists held a protest in front of a courthouse in Istanbul against the imprisonment of dozens of their colleagues. The latest addition were tens of Kurdish editor-in-chiefs and journalists put ‘under watch’ for their potentially critical reporting, several of them in connection to the Turkish daily Ozgur Gundem (Free Agenda).

In a separate development, authorities dismissed Professor Zeynep Sayın Balikcioglu from Bilgi University after allegedly insulting the President during one of her lectures’. A statement issued by the University said that all ties were severed with Balikcioglu because she insulted national values and the President, by mentioning and defaming Turkishness in her lecture and suggesting to students that they could read the Bible and Torah.

‘Crackdowns on journalists and free-thinkers in Turkey have reached a critical and dangerous level’ SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. ‘We send our support to journalists, media workers, academics and public intellectuals in Turkey that face grave punishments for their freedom of thought and expression. We call on authorities to release all journalists currently imprisoned as a result of their journalistic work, and we hope that  the university will allow Professor Zeynep Sayin Balikciouglu to regain her position in that institution’, Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 attack on journalist in Trebinje

Vienna, 16 June 2016

Vienna, 16 June 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the verbal attack on Dragisa Sikimic, editor-in-chief of Moja Herzegovina news portal in Trebinje, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sikimic explained that he was verbally abused by a local politician. Allegedly, the politician was dissatisfied with the content of two articles posted on the portal, after which he called Sikimic, threatening to sue him for defamation and to ‘destroy him financially’ by asking the court for a 50,000 EUR fine.

‘SEEMO condemns attempts by public figures to threaten or intimidate journalists for simply doing their jobs by reporting on matters that are in the public interest’, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic,  said. ‘Public figures must be aware that they are subject to a higher level of scrutiny than private individuals as a result of the trust that has been placed in them by the public that elected them to office. Threats of this kind are simply unacceptable.’

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 protests freedom speech violations in Kosovo

Vienna, 9 June 2016

Vienna, 9 June 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has called for the government of Kosovo to release an official statement about cases covered in Serbian media, alleging that institutions in Kosovo have prohibited the import of books and other materials written in Serbian.

Allegedly institutions in Kosovo prohibited the import of books written in Serbian beginning 2 June, according to information published in Serbian media.  Serbian media are reporting that books and other materials distributed from Serbia have been confiscated at the border.

 ‘SEEMO calls for a response to these allegations from authorities and an investigation if necessary’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic ‘Prohibiting reading material in this way may be considered censorship and interfere with the public’s right to receive information’.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned after three journalists were harmed in Turkey

Vienna, 8 June 2016

Vienna, 8 June 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern after three journalists were injured during a shooting in the Midyat district in Southeast Turkey on 8 June.

The shooting followed a car bomb attack that occurred that morning in the city, in the close proximity to the police station and Security Directorate. Journalists Sertaç Kayar, Hatice Kamer and Mahmut Bozarslan were taken to the hospital due to their injuries.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 for the release of jailed Turkish journalist

Vienna, 7 June 2016

Vienna, 7 June 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on Turkish authorities to release Hayri Tunc, a journalist sentenced to two years of in prison on 7 June.

Tunc was arrested in February 2016 and charged with conducting ‘propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organization’ based on his social media posts. Prior to that, he was detained in October 2015 and questioned about his articles on the news portal Jiyan.org, as well as his social network presence. After his release at the time, the government suspended Jiyan portal as well as Tunc’s Twitter account.

The 13th High Criminal Court in Istanbul initially sentenced the journalist to one year and two months in prison for propaganda, after which they prolonged his sentence to two years because his posts were a ‘series of crimes’ and committed through the press.

‘SEEMO is appalled by the conviction of Hayri Tunc and calls for his immediate release’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘Prison is never an acceptable response to the exercise of free expression’.

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

Pressure on journalists increases in Turkey

Vienna, 03 June 2016

Vienna, 03 June 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on the international community to combat continuous media freedom violations in Turkey, after a troubling number of recent arrests and attacks.

On 1 June, ANF journalist Ali Baris Kurt was taken into custody in Corum, a province in the Black Sea Region of Turkey. Kurt was called to the local police headquarters in order to give his testimony, allegedly because of his activity and posts on social media.

In addition to poor working conditions; and  torture committed by state forces against journalists, the Turkish Association of Free Journalists (OGC) issued its a report in May that showed a significant increase in the number of incidents, human rights violations and oppression of media workers. A total of 18 journalists were detained during this month (May 2016) only, and six were jailed. Four journalists were attacked, two were threatened and a number of others faced dismissals, arbitrary obstructions, suspensions and raids.

SEEMO supports media workers in Turkey and once again calls on authorities to respect human rights, freedom of speech and expression.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 deeply concerned by recent developments in Ukraine

Vienna, 2 June 2016

Vienna, 2 June 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed by the latest developments following the personal data breach incident in Ukraine.

The website Myrotvorets recently disclosed personal data about several hundred journalists that were targeted as contributors to Russian media outlets without their consent. After an international and public outcry, the Ukrainian government failed to seriously condemn this act or protect the journalists in question.

Additional, on 27 May, a decree was issued that imposes personal sanctions against 19 Russian Federation media executives for broadcasting propaganda, and allegedly ‘being a threat to national interest, facilitating terrorist activity and violating citizens’. The decree prevents the named individuals from entering Ukraine until December 31, 2017. The ban was simultaneously lifted for 29 other journalists.

‘SEEMO is deeply concerned by this recent development in Ukraine’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic, ‘We call on authorities to refrain from using such oppressive methods against journalists and media workers, and urge them to immediately lift all bans of this kind’.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 appalled that debts force broadcaster off air in Bosnia

Vienna, 30 May 2016

Vienna, 30 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern regarding information that state public broadcaster of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BHRT) will stop airing its program starting 30 June 2016. The reason behind this temporary closure is said to be the difficult financial situation the broadcaster has been facing.

Falling revenues were mentioned as the primary argument for this decision made by the BHRT board of directors. Tax revenues have been decreasing yearly, mainly because of low income rates among the population. According to the board, entity television networks RTRS (Radio-Television Republika Srpska) and FTV (Radio-Television of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina) allegedly failed to transfer some of their own tax revenues to BHRT.

“We are deeply concerned about this unfortunate turn of events” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said earlier. “We must insist that authorities in BiH in charge of the public broadcaster and its subdivisions come up with a stable and long-term solution for the network. Public broadcasters play an important role in democratic societies, and shutting BHRT down will prevent the public from receiving vital information even if the closure is temporary. BHRT was the only public broadcasting service for all parts of the country, as RTRS and FTV are public broadcasters covering parts of the country,” Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned by legal pressure against journalist in Romania

Vienna, 26 May 2016

Vienna, 26 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern over the potential lawsuit against journalist Liviu Avram, issued by a high-ranking court official in Romania. Avram published an op-ed in the daily Adevarlul about political bias in the Constitutional Court. A court official responded by criticising the journalist, claiming that ‘no one can do this’ and ‘having a newspaper at hand does not mean you can write whatever you want’.

‘Public officials should be aware that they are subject to a higher level of scrutiny that private individuals as a result of the trust that the public has placed in them,’ said SEEMO General Secretary Oliver Vujovic. ‘Additionally, they should be aware of the role of critical journalism in a democratic society. The article in question was clearly identified as an opinion piece, and Avram has the right to explore important issues in a critical way through the media. We urge authorities to drop the charges against Liviu Avram.’

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 appalled by recent attack on journalist in Ukraine

Vienna, 24 May 2016

Vienna, 24 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep disapproval of the attack on Gromadsky TV journalist Anatoly Ostapenko from Zaporizhzhya, Ukraine.

The attack occurred on the morning of 24 May while Ostapenko was going to work. Several masked men jumped out of a parked car and attacked the journalist. They beat him to the ground for several minutes before returning to the car and fleeing. The assailants did not say anything, nor were any of his belongings stolen. Journalists in Ukraine have stated their concern that this attack is connected to a regional politician whom the journalist had previously written about.

‘SEEMO calls on authorities to conduct transparent investigations and take serious action against attacks on members of the media in order to show their support for freedom of expression and a commitment to uphold human rights in accordance with their international obligations’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 calls for release of details about public broadcaster selection process

Vienna, 24 May 2016

Vienna, 24 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called for the transparent publishing of all details about elections in the Kosovo public TV channel RTK2.

Darko Dimitrijevic, one of the candidates for the position of director in the Serbian-language based channel, issued an open letter to the RTK2 Board, claiming that the selection process was not transparent and contained serious legal abuses.

According to Dimitrijevic, the new Managerial Board contains virtually no actual media experts: among those selected are musicians, coffee shop owners, even counsellors of Ministers in the government, but only one person with previous experience in the media.

“The selection process of the managerial board members in a public broadcaster must be transparent. SEEMO calls on RTK2 to make details regarding its selection process public, so that everyone can get a clear picture of the election” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 senseless attack on media workers in Serbia

Vienna, 22 May 2016

Vienna, 22 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) harshly condemned hate speech and verbal attacks against media workers in a southern region of Serbia.

On 21 May, journalist Filip Zoric and cameraman Mata Jaksic from local station TV Apatin from Apatin visited the village of Prigrevice to report on a football derby between two teams. Allegedly, while they were filming the game, the vice-chairman of one of the teams threatened the media workers to immediately stop filming. When Zoric asked police officers who were present at the game to protect them from the verbal assaults, he was told that there was nothing they could do, given that they were on ‘private property’. There have since been allegations that the incident was additionally fuelled by party members of SNS, Serbia’s ruling party, present at the site, due to their dissatisfaction with the political and editorial policies of TV Apatin.

‘SEEMO reminds the police authorities that journalists play an important role in any democratic society, and it is the obligation of police to make sure they have a safe working environment’, said SEEMO General Secretary Oliver Vujovic. Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 prize being taken away from Bulgarian journalists

Vienna, 19 May 2016

Vienna, 19 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was surprised by a decision by the Radostina Konstantinova Foundation in Bulgaria to withdrawal a prize for investigative journalism.

Director and journalist Assen Yordanov and Editor-in-chief Atanas Tchobanov of the well known Bivol website were selected by the prize jury, to be awarded this year’s investigative journalism Grand Prize for their contributions and benefits to society. Bivol and its journalists publish articles on topics such as the hidden ownership of Bulgarian enterprises, crime and non-transparency in the media.

However, the foundation summoned a meeting soon after the winners were announced, and decided to withdraw the award given to Bivol because it is an “anonymous website”, meaning that the facts about who is behind the publications were unclear.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 fully supports new initiative of Greek journalists

Vienna, 18 May 2016

Vienna, 18 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly supports and applauds the effort of journalists in Greece, who have created a new anti-racism Ethics Code for Greek journalists, called ‘Charter of Idomeni’.

Since the European refugee crisis began last year, Greece has been struggling with a large influx of refugees fleeing from Syria and its neighbouring countries. Police violence and censorship towards local and international journalists has often been reported from the refugee camp Idomeni, located in a village on the Greek border. SEEMO called for unbiased and unpressured coverage of the crisis several times over the last year.

Now, the Greece the Journalists' Union of Macedonia and Thrace Daily Newspapers (ESIEMTH), drafted a proposal, The Charter of Idomeni, based on the very village that thousands of refugees passed through, and are still passing through, on their way to Northern European countries.

‘SEEMO is very pleased with this sorely needed initiative We fully support this draft Charter and its implementation. Putting an end to hate speech, bias and intolerance in the media should be a priority right now’ SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

 SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 over mounting pressure on media in Turkey

Vienna, 19 May 2016

Vienna, 19 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern over growing pressure on media workers in Turkey.

Since early May, allegedly over eight journalists have been detained, five arrested and four tortured while imprisoned.

On 5 May Dicle News Agency (DIHA) News Agency reporter Murat Verim was sentenced to six years in prison after being accused of ‘committing crime in the name of an illegal organization without having membership’. Journalists are regularly accused and tried on charges such as participating in the dissemination of ‘terrorist propaganda’ and ‘incitement to crime’.

DİHA’s most recent website was banned by the Telecommunication Communication Directorate (TİB) on 18 May. This was the 40th time the agency’s portal was banned.

Journalist Arzu Yildiz was sent  to 20 months in prison and stripped of legal and parental rights over her children. Yildiz was charged with breaching the confidentiality of a court case, after publishing footage from May 2015 of four prosecutors being tried for ordering a search of trucks belonging to Turkey’s national security agency (MIT), carrying weapons across the border with Syria.

“SEEMO is deeply troubled by this case, and stands firmly by Arzu Yildiz and the rest of our colleagues in Turkey. Reporting is not a crime’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

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

New case in Serbia

Vienna, 17 May 2016

Vienna, 17 May 2016 – SEEMO condemns harassment in Serbia

On 17 May, the Patriarch of the Serb Orthodox Church and Church Hierarchs gathered in the building of the Belgrade Patriarchy. Whilst photographing the very expensive vehicles belonging to the bishops who were present and others as they arrived, an unidentified person accompanying one of the bishops began interrogating the photographer. Allegedly, the man first asked the photographer who gave him permission to take pictures, and after hearing the answer, suggested that it might be ‘dangerous’ to be taking pictures, after which he drove off.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 dismissal of RTV editors in Serbia

Vienna, 18 May 2016

Vienna, 18 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned by the removal of seven editors from their-positions at the public broadcasting service Vojvodina (RTV) in Serbia.

Late in the afternoon of 17 May, all editors working for RTV were notified about their dismissals by phone. The decisions were allegedly made by the broadcaster’s managerial board. Earlier that day, the editor-in-chief of the station’s first channel resigned during a board session.
According to the head of one Serbian journalistic association, the situation within RTV is currently very difficult for media workers and many of them are being handed job repositioning documents without official explanation. 

“Political control within RTV has reached dangerous levels. As SEEMO stated in response to the unexpected dismissal of RTV Programme Director Slobodan Arezina, earlier in May, we fear what might come next. SEEMO stands in solidarity with the employees of RTV, and urges the management board to be fair and transparent in its decision-making process as a public broadcaster, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 responds to beating of Croatia journalist

Vienna, 15 May 2016

Vienna, 15 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to investigate the beating of a Croatian journalist in Banja Luka.

TV channel RTL Hrvatska journalist Petar Panjkota was reporting during protests held in Banja Luka, Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina, on Sa 14 May. During his coverage, Panjkota mentioned former Bosnian Serb military leader Ratko Mladic, a, who has been accused of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. After this, a man approached Panjkota and hit him in the face, causing minor injuries to the journalist.

‘SEEMO calls on authorities to conduct a swift and transparent investigation of this case,’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘SEEMO expresses its support forbear Panjkota, and recalls that intolerance, hate speech or attacks against members of the media are never acceptable.’

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned by release of journalists’ identities in Ukraine

Vienna, 12 May 2016

Vienna, 12 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is severely concerned after it was revealed that unknown hackers leaked the names and contact information of over 4,000 journalists and media workers in Ukraine. The journalists mentioned in the document were said to have worked in areas of eastern Ukraine under the control of pro-Russia separatists during the last year and a half.

In early May the Ukrainian website Myrotvorets (“Peacemaker”) published an Excel spreadsheet that contained information about journalists, cameramen, producers and others that have worked in areas of eastern Ukraine held by Moscow -supported separatists. The conflict in this region of Ukraine between national authorities and rebel fighters began in May 2014. Not only were names and contact details of the journalists published, but also their positions and the outlets they work for, their countries of origin, duration of stay in territories not controlled by the government of Ukraine, and mobile phone numbers.

“We harshly condemn the actions and behaviour of the individuals behind the release of this information. Publically identifying the journalists in this document has put them in a life-threatening position. Journalists have a right to investigate matters that are in the public interest freely and the public has a right to receive that information. SEEMO sends its full support to our colleagues in Ukraine,’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 reminds international community to keep close eye on Turkey

Vienna, 11 May 2016

Vienna, 11 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has warned that the hostile media atmosphere in Turkey is reaching alarming new levels.

On 9 May, five persons, including DIHA reporter Abdulkadir Turay was detained in Mardin, Turkey, after being subject to a raid by armed forces and charged with ‘aiding and assisting illegal organizations’. This brings the total number of arrested DIHA journalists to 11.

JINHA reporter Beritan Canozer was detained in December last year while covering a protest march against a curfew declared in the Sur district of Diyarbakır. According to authorities, she was detained for being ‘feverish’; however, it is suspected that Canozer was arrested because of her social media posts and notes she took while reporting live from the protests. Now the journalist has been sentenced to one year and three months in prison and five years’ probation. Beritan Canozer was accused of ‘disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization’ and being a member of a terrorist organization. The second charge was dropped.

On 11 May the Second Criminal Court of Peace in the Diyarbakir district issued a gag order following a bomb attack on a police shuttle. The Television and Radio Supreme Council (RTUK) announced that the gag order was set in motion to avoid ‘obstacles in catching suspects and solving the case’ by prohibiting information about the perpetrators and their location from being made available through printed and visual media.

‘The seriousness of the of the hostile situation in Turkey for journalists is visible to us every single day’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘“It is also clear that we cannot expect the situation to improve if the international community does not react in a unified way. From censorship to attacks, incarceration and media blackouts, Turkish journalists and media workers unfortunately have a lot to fear’, Vujovic added.

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


ALBANIA

SEEMO calls for investigation in Tirana attack

Vienna, 10 May 2016

Vienna, 10 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) calls for an investigation in the attack on a journalist in Albania.
 
Sports journalist Eduard Ilnica was attacked late on the night of 9 May in Tirana, allegedly by a member of a local football team. The perpetrator brutally beat the journalist, who had to be hospitalized after receiving fractures and hematoma. The assailant was then arrested and taken into custody, while Ilnica remained in the hospital.

The journalist was attacked following a television broadcast in which he reported about violence that occurred during a recent football match between local teams. It is not known if the journalist received threats from the attacker before the incident.

‘SEEMO is deeply troubled by the assault of sports journalist Eduard Ilnica and calls on authorities to conduct a transparent investigation of this case,’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘Violence toward journalists is never acceptable, and the assailant in this case should be held accountable’.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 troubled by police behaviour after attack on media crew in Kosovo

Vienna, 10 May 2016

Vienna, 10 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is troubled by the unprofessional behaviour of police authorities in the municipality of Obilic/Obiliq, in central Kosovo.

TV Most, a channel based in Zvecan/Zveçan in northern Kosovo, sent a crew consisting of journalist Jasmina Stojkovic, a cameraman and driver to Obilic/Obiliq on 10 May. A young man approached the crew and began verbally harassing them, and then hit the cameraman with a shovel. Bystanders were present but did nothing to help or protect the journalists, who called the police. After giving statements about the attack, the media workers left the premises.

‘SEEMO is greatly concerned by police response to this incident, and calls on authorities to conduct a transparent investigation of this attack’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘The person who committed this attack should be held accountable according to the law’, Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 shooting incident and another sentencing in Turkey

Vienna, 08 May 2016

Vienna, 08 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed grave concern over a shooting incident in Turkey.

Cumhurriyet daily Editor-in-Chief Can Dundar was sentenced to five years and ten months in prison on6 May. The Ankara Bureau Chief of the daily, Erdem Gul, was sentenced to five years on the same charges. The journalists published a cover story last year uncovering an attempted transportation of Turkish weapons into Syria. The journalists were accused of revealing state secrets that ‘could cause harm to Turkey’s domestic and foreign interests’ and of espionage and terrorism. The latter charges, which could have resulted in life sentences, were dropped.

During a break between the proceedings, an attacker tried to shoot Can Dundar outside the courthouse, whilst calling him a traitor. Dundar managed to avoid injuries, but NTV reporter Yagiz Senkal was standing nearby and received a minor wound.

Five suspects have been detained after an investigation, and are expected to appear in court on Tuesday.

‘SEEMO is deeply saddened by the latest news from Turkey. It profoundly disturbing to see good journalists jailed simply for reporting on public interest matters. We call on authorities to immediately release Can Dundar and Erdem Gul’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

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

Growing distress over attacks on free speech in Serbia

Vienna, 06 May 2016

Vienna, 06 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern over the recent increase in attacks against journalists and outlets in Serbia.
Editor-in-chief of E-Vrsac news portal, Aleksandar Cupic was allegedly attacked while working in a village near the town of Vrsac. The journalist says he saw a black truck coming his way, after which he realized that the intention of the driver was to run him over. Allegedly, the driver is related to a local politician. The driver hit the journalist, and throwing him several meters, after which he was admitted for hospitalization due to his injuries. Cupic added that he believes the reason for this attack were articles he wrote for E-Vrsac, in which he mentions local politicians, businessmen and crime. The driver was later detained and a lawsuit has been filed.

‘SEEMO calls on authorities to resolve this case as justly and quickly as possible, and show that violence against journalists is never acceptable in response to investigative or critical reporting’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 international community to react after another conviction in Turkey

Vienna, 5 May 2016

Vienna, 5 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has called for a unified reaction from the international community in response to the recent increase in number of convictions of journalists in Turkey.

Arzu Demir, an editor at ETHA and reporter at ANF gave a statement today in court regarding an ongoing investigation in which she is being accused of allegedly spreading propaganda for a terrorist organization. In January, Demir conducted an interview with Figen Yuksekdag, the co-chair of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). The other ‘problematic’ issue is that she has written a book about female freedom fighters titled The Womanly State of the Mountain. The book originally came out in 2014, and was banned by a Turkish court in April 2016.

DIHA journalist Murat Verim was taken into custody on 10 January for charges that were later specified as ‘committing crime in the name of an illegal organization without having membership’ and was sentenced to six years in prison. The Kurdish journalist was convicted at the first hearing of his trial.

‘SEEMO members send their full support to our colleagues in Turkey that face pressure, censorship, threats and court sentences based solely on the fact that they are performing their job.’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. 

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 by journalist dismissal in Serbia

Vienna, 5 May 2016

Vienna, 5 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is deeply concerned by the sudden and unexpected dismissal of Slobodan Arezina. The former journalist and editor was the programme director of RTV, a public broadcaster in the autonomous province Vojvodina.

Arezina was discharged after a unanimous vote by the broadcaster’s editorial board on 4 May. The official reason given for his dismissal was that viewership ratings have dropped and the lack of a coherent plan for production and airing in 2016.

Journalistic associations and organizations in the country have stood up against this decision, and recall that the entire membership of the RTV editorial board was changed late last year by ANEM, the country’s regulatory body for electronic media. Slobodan Arezina has also stated that he believes the reasons behind the sudden dismissal were political in nature.

“SEEMO has been closely monitoring the media landscape across the region for over a decade, and has learned to be apprehensive when abrupt discharges like this take place. We urge the members of the RTV board to be transparent about their decision-making process as a public broadcaster said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 support for Ombudsman in Serbia

Vienna, 3 May 2016

Vienna, 3 May 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is deeply concerned by recent threats against Rodoljub Sabic, Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection in Serbia.

Sabic publically called on police authorities to investigate the recent illegal demolition of several buildings in the Belgrade neighbourhood Savamala. The masked perpetrators used loaders and excavators during the night of 25 April to tear down infrastructure near the much-debated Belgrade Waterfront project location.

Sabic repeatedly expressed criticism about this unsolved demolition after which he received several threats claiming that if he ‘continued to be interested in who the masked executors were, he would get a chance to meet them’.

‘Rodoljub Sabic was threatened right around the time of general elections in Serbia. The timing is no coincidence, since there is much political tension in the country. SEEMO expresses its full support for the Ombudsman and calls on authorities to show their commitment to preserving freedom of expression by investigating and bringing the perpetrators to justice, ‘’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 for release of journalist in Turkey

Vienna, 30 April 2016

Vienna, 30 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was shocked and concerned by the arrest of journalist and IMC TV News Director Hamza Aktan on 30 April.

According to Aktan, masked armed police members took him into custody on Saturday and raided his apartment, confiscating his phone, a USB drive and two computers. He was interrogated and accused of spreading propaganda in favour of a terrorist organization, based on his Twitter activity.

Aktan was asked why he posted retweets of several other Turkish journalists about the situation in Cizre, where since December armed troops have been fighting with militants linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK). The journalist told SEEMO he was released from custody until his trial under judicial supervision, meaning that he has to check in to a police station every two weeks, or he will be arrested.

‘SEEMO calls on authorities to drop all charges against Hamza Aktan, and allow him to work freely and without pressure. said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 in Serbia

Vienna, 30 April 2016

Vienna, 30 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) calls on authorities in Serbia to take action and protect media workers, in light of an attack on a reporter in Belgrade.

TV Pink journalist Gordana Uzelac was present at a protest organized by opposition party leaders after the general elections held in the country on 24 April. At one point during the event, several persons allegedly began to offend and assault the journalist, while bystanders did nothing to help her.

 ‘We’ve already had cases of derogatory behaviour towards journalists in Serbia recently, especially women, so this comes as another unpleasant surprise. The fact that several individuals apologized is positive, but we are calling for more concrete steps to be taken. SEEMO calls for a transparent investigation to bring the perpetrators to justice. Serbia needs to send a message that it cares about democratic values and human rights, especially during this period of political turmoil,’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.  

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 for immediate release of journalists in Turkey

Vienna, 28 April 2016

Vienna, 28 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the imprisonment of two journalists in Turkey.

Cumhuriyet daily journalists Hikmet Chetinkaya and Ceyda Karan were sentenced to two years of in prison for republishing the controversial cover of the prophet Muhammad featured in Charlie Hebdo last year. At the time, Cumhuriyet published articles about the attack on the offices of the French paper, as well as a selection of cartoons. The court convicted Chetinkaya and Karan for allegedly inciting hatred and hostility.

‘The only hostility in this case is toward freedom of expression in Turkey’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic “SEEMO calla on authorities to   release Hikmet Chetinkaya and Ceyda Karan. What they did was their duty and their job, not a crime’ Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned by behaviour of Hungarian politicians

Vienna, 27 April 2016

Vienna, 27 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned by recent actions by political authorities in Hungary.

On 26 April, journalists working for online news portals index.hu, hvg.hu and 24.hu were prohibited from entering the Parliament premises. It is speculated that this was retaliation for events that occurred on the day prior, when journalists attempted to ask politicians questions about a recent scandal that involving the National Bank of Hungary. Media workers followed the MPs and another high-ranking politician until they entered an area in the building where press was not allowed.

‘SEEMO reminds politicians that journalists play an important role in a democratic society by imparting information to the public,’ said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 by verbal harassment of journalists in Serbia

Vienna, 27 April 2016

Vienna, 27 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed serious concern over a recent incident involving journalists in Novi Sad, Serbia.

BETA news agency photojournalist Dragan Goji and Blic daily journalist Milos Stanic were attending the handover of duties from the now retired director of a school, to the new acting director on 27 April.

The two were among other journalists but were singled out and attacked by a lecturer from the institution, who began to threaten them and subsequently expelled them from the office. Allegedly, the lecturer insulted them repeatedly and forced them out of the premises.

The journalists called the police and statements were taken from all participants in this incident.

“We express support for our colleagues in Serbia, and deep confusion as to why a staff member would show such intolerant and belligerent behaviour, during an event that was obviously open to the media. We ask the proper authorities in Novi Sad to investigate the incident’, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. ‘Free expression must not be upheld selectively and according to the whim of an individual’ he added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned by atmosphere within Croatia’s public broadcaster

Vienna, 27 April 2016

Vienna, 27 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned by the recent wave of dismissals within the country’s public broadcaster HRT.

It was reported on 27 April that journalist Sasa Kosanovic who was working for HRT was dismissed from his job. The official reason given for his dismissal is he did not have a written confirmation by the General Manager for his participation in the production of a Danish movie made in Croatia. However, Kosanovic says that he did have a verbal agreement with the former General Manager, and adds that he believes that there were actually other reasons for his lay off.

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

New cases against foreign journalists in Turkey

25 April 2016

Vienna, 25 April 2016- The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns new cases towards foreign journalists in Turkey.

David Lepeska, a US journalist, who is working for The Guardian and Al Jazeera America reported on 25 April, that he was barred from re-entering Turkel  and forced to fly to US. He got an entry ban by immigration officers at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport. According to some sources in Turkey, the reason for the Turkish officials to ban Lepeska was that the journalist was not employed by a media, he did not present a press card or a visa for journalists.

In one other case Tural Kerimov, journalist of Russian state news agency Sputnik and Turkish bureau Chief , had been denied on 20 April entry at Istanbul Ataturk airport. Kerimov presented his press card and residence permit at the border. The Turkish side presented " security  reasons"  for this ban. The Kerimov case comes a day after officials at Istanbul airport denied entry to a German ARD public television journalist.

As SEEMO reported in a statement, Journalist Ebru Umar, a Dutch columnist of Turkish descent, was on vacation in southern Turkey when she was arrested on the evening of 23 April in the seaside town of Kuşadası. Umar later tweeted that she was released from detention, but prohibited from leaving the country

SEEMO also reported about Volker Schwenk, reporter of German TV station SWR and chief correspondent of German public broadcaster ARD in Cairo. Turkish authorities prohibited Schwenk from leaving the Istanbul International Airport upon his landing on 19 April and he had to flight back to Cairo.

“SEEMO is alarmed about all this cases against foreign journalists in Turkey. We will monitor the situation, but we are also asking the authorities in Ankara to stop with this practice against media freedom, " SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 condemns Ukrainian decision in Grigorova case

24 April 2016

Vienna, 24 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns harshly the decision of Ukrainian authorities towards journalist Daria Grigorova.

Grigorova, special correspondent for a Russian federal state channel "Russia 24", part of the Russian Television and Radio Broadcasting Company VGTRK (ВГТРК), was detained by Ukrainian authorities at the airport in Dnipropetrovsk region, and given documents about her expulsion from the country. Grigorova has been banned from entering Ukraine for five years.

This is not the first case of banning Russian journalists from Ukraine this year. On 24 February, Maria Stolyarova, broadcast editor of the show The week's details (Podrobnosti Nedeli) on Inter TV channel was banned entry to Ukraine for three years

“Ukraine is a country going through a transitional period full of political and social turmoil. However, we cannot understand nor do we support the expulsion of journalists from the country. To deport those who present different views is not acceptable. That is just paranoid behaviour, and against media freedom. The authorities in Ukraine must urgently stop with this practice. We are criticizing very often the Russian authorities for not respecting freedom of speech. But Ukrainian authorities are in cases like this doing the same” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated earlier today. 

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

Another worrisome act against journalists by Turkish authorities

24 April 2016

Vienna, 24 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns another act of oppression committed by the Turkish government towards media workers.

Journalist Ebru Umar, a Dutch columnist of Turkish descent, was on vacation in southern Turkey when she was arrested on the evening of 23 April in the seaside town of Kuşadası. Umar later tweeted that she was released from detention, but prohibited from leaving the country. She also said that the reason for her arrest were tweets in which she criticized president Erdogan, as well as a column for the Dutch Metro newspaper. Umar wrote critically about Erdogan’s harsh punishment of suspected dissidents, including many journalists and academics.

SEEMO condemns the arrest, and calls on Turkish authorities to  drop charges against media workers that relate to their alleged criticism of the regime. SEEMO also expresses its full support for colleagues within Turkey and the region who attempt to provide the media scene with ethical, professional journalism, despite the censorship and pressures they face.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 behaviour of Serbian politician

21 April 2016

Vienna, 21 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the behaviour of local politician in the town of Vrsac in Serbia.

On 19 April, the politician was arrested on suspicion of corruption. The following day, he called Vladimir Vasalic, one of the authors of an article about the politician who work for the Belgrade daily Blic, and threatened him. Allegedly, he made insinuations about Vasalic still having to live in the same town as the politician after this incident, and the potential consequences of it. The journalist reported the threats to the police, while the politician denied making threats when later asked.

“Officials and politicians must be aware that they are subject to a higher level of scrutiny than other private individuals as a result of the public role that they play.” said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General. “These kinds of threats to the safety of journalists working in the public interest are unacceptable. Journalists cannot live and work in an environment where it is common practice to receive a threatening phone call. Allowing this kind of harassment to go unpunished can create a chilling effect, which leads to self-censorship and can undermine democracy,” Vujovic added.

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

Turkey denies entry to journalist

19 April 2016

Vienna, 19 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) criticized the reaction of Turkish authorities that prohibited Volker Schwenk, reporter of German TV station SWR and chief correspondent of German public broadcaster ARD in Cairo, from leaving the Istanbul International Airport upon his landing on 19 April.

Schwenk was on his way to report from the Turkish-Syrian border, but he was held at the airport and denied entry into Turkey. An official said the journalist was prohibited from entering because of a previous incident, but no further details were given.

“SEEMO is concerned the decisions made by Turkish authorities to deny Volker Schwenk entry into the country," SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned regarding media situation in Crimea

19 April 2016

Vienna, 19 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned by new details about raids conducted in several journalists houses in the Russia-controlled region of Crimea in Ukraine, and subsequent charges filed against journalists.

The Russian Security Service filed charges against a freelancer contributor with Krym.Realii - RFE/RL's Crimea service, Mykola Semena, for allegedly violating the “territorial integrity of Russia”. The journalist was released from detention after several hours of interrogation and received a travel ban. Several laptops, notepads and USB sticks were confiscated. According to local information, several other journalists have also been investigated.

In March 2015, Russian agents raided the house of the parents of journalist Anna Andriyevskaya in Crimea.

“We are deeply concerned for the safety and freedom of our colleagues, and we call on Crimean institutions and authorities in Moscow to drop all charges against Semena and allow journalists to report freely ,"SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 asking for more information about investigation against journalist

18 April 2016

Vienna, 18 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is deeply concerned regarding the investigation and incarceration of journalist Jovo Martinovic in Montenegro.

Martinovic is a freelance investigative journalist who has been covering stories about criminal organizations and drug trafficking circles for years, and was a contributing reporter for many foreign outlets. He was arrested on 22 October 2015, along with 17 other individuals suspected of participating in a drug trafficking scheme. Martinovic has been in detention ever since and is facing trial, but so far no details about his charges or arrest have been issued.

“What  SEEMO always calls for in the cases of incarcerated journalists are facts. We ask the judiciary and other institutions in Montenegro urgently to provide transparent information about this case, instead of holding a journalist in detention for months on end without any further justification. Martinovic has been subjected to six-months in detention without charge. Investigative journalism is a dangerous and complicated profession, and the details behind Jovo Martinovic’s case that the state has must be revealed” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated. 

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

SEEMO condemns behaviour of Belarus authorities towards journalists

18 April 2016

Vienna, 18 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) protests the repeated fines and legal prosecution that freelance journalists Kastus Zhukouski and Larysa Shchyrakova have been facing.

Both are freelancers working for Belsat TV station based in Poland. They are currently on trial because laws in Belarus deny accreditations to journalists who want to work for independent broadcasters outside the country. These usually include Belarussian stations that have been forced out of the country due to censorship and pressure. When media workers continue to work for one of these stations, they can be charged with producing and disseminating media content illegally. Zhukouski became well-known in 2007 when he investigated circumstances around a mass burial of victims of Stalinist repressions.

Both Schchyrakova and Zhukouski agree that their trials are entirely farcical, but they have still being fined for their work, and now have to pay 7.5 million roubles (est. 330 EUR) for working for an independent media outlet based in a foreign country. In case of Zhukouski for “illegal production” without an accreditation total sum to be paid to the state exceeds 70 million Belarusian rubles

On 15 April  the judge of the Central district court of Homel fined Larysa Shchyrakova and Kastus Zhukouski for 35 basic amounts each under art. 22.9 of the Code of Administrative Violations for an article about the arrival to Homel of Jean-Yves Bouchardy,representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

“We call on authorities in Belarus to drop all charges against freelance journalists Kastus Zhukouski and Larysa Shchyrakova immediately, and allow journalists to finally work in a free, democratic environment.  The law that bars freelance journalists from contributing to foreign outlets is worrisome on many levels” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 fully supports ECPMF campaign

16 April 2016

Vienna, 16 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) supports its colleagues and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) in the campaign under the hashtag #MediafreedomHungary.

The call to action raises awareness about media freedom violations in Hungary and calls on Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban to  make sure that these cases are effectively investigated. Hungarian police members attacked in 2015 foreign journalists several times during the refugee crisis which caused a sizeable influx of Syrian and other emigrants through Hungarian borders. In several other occasions, Orban committed acts that seemed to have been deliberately hidden from the press, or attempted to have been hidden.

“We support this campaign by the ECPMF in Leipzig and we must do everything within our power and protect media workers” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

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


LEGAL REGULATIONS IN THE SEEMO REGION

SEEMO calls for change in European laws

17 April 2016

Vienna, 17 April 2016. The case of German comedianJan Böhmermann (Boehmermann), has made it clear that European legal systems need some urgent changes. Many countries still have laws that criminalise insults to a foreign head of state. SEEMO is calling for all governments in the SEEMO region, as well as in the rest of Europe, to remove this kind of legal restriction where it is still exists.

Turkey demanded last week to have Böhmermann prosecuted for insulting a foreign head of state in accordance with a German law that requires Chancellor Angela Merkel's government to grant permission before prosecutors could start to work. The chancellor gave her permission.

"As in Germany, we have these laws that protect foreign politicians in many SEEMO countries. SEEMO hopes that this unfortunate case will motivate European politicians to remove outdated legal norms such as these in the 21 century. Heads of state must understand that they are subject to higher level of scrutiny than private individuals, as a result of the prominent role that they play in public life and the international sphere. If a foreign head of state feels he or she needs legal protection, it can be pursued through other, more legitimate means, using the civil law regulations that we have in every country", Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 regarding latest media freedom violations in Turkey

14 April 2016

Vienna, 14 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is alarmed by recent cases of media freedom breaches in Turkey.

On 10 April, Syrian journalist Mohammed Zahir al-Shergat, a presenter with Halab Today TV, was killed by gun shots in Gaziantep, Turkey’s South-eastern Anatolia Region. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) took responsibility for the shooting, claiming Shergat was killed because he was allegedly representing anti-Islam State programs. It is the fourth assassination of a Syrian journalist in Turkey that has been claimed by ISIL.

On 14 April, Turkey’s telecommunications authority TIB blocked access to the website of the Russian news agency Sputnik. Visitors trying to access the web page received a message saying that the outlet was unreachable as result of "technical checks and legal assessments"

“We are upset by the negative news connected to the work of media and journalists coming from Turkey on a weekly basis”, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said today.  "SEEMO sincerely hopes to see a change in the environment in Turkey, and to receive different, more positive news in the future", Vujovic added. ‘The killing of journalists in Turkish territory by members of ISIL is devastating, and severely undermines the rule of law in its southern region. SEEMO calls on Turkey to fulfil its due diligence obligations under international law to actively prevent such crimes.’

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


MACEDONIA (REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA / FYROM)

SEEMO harshly condemns attack on journalist in Skopje

13 April 2016

Vienna, 13 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) deeply condemns the recent attack on journalist Goran Naumovski, as well as four photographers in Skopje, Republic of Macedonia / FYROM.

SEEMO, along with media representatives and the Association of Journalists in Macedonia criticized the violence used against media workers during recent protests in Skopje. The country has been facing serious political turmoil since early 2015, and after the parliament announced early general elections for June 2016, consecutive protests have been occurring in the capital. During the last protest, police members allegedly attacked Plusinfo portal journalist Goran Naumovski and photographers Ognjen Teofilovski from Vest daily, Borce Popovski of Sloboden Pecat daily, Tome Georgiev of Fokus and Nakje Batev of Vecer daily, despite the fact that the journalists had clear journalistic badges. Naumovski suffered a severe blow to the back of his head and was hospitalized.

 “SEEMO calls for an urgent investigation of the police force in connection to this attacks on journalists in Skopje”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said today. “We are increasingly concerned about the overall media situation in this country. Our support goes out to our colleagues there”, Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 slams attack on journalist in Croatia

1 April 2016

Vienna, 1 April 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) deeply condemns a threat against Ante Tomic, Croatian writer and journalist, that occurred on 31 March in Split.

After attending the Festival of Storytelling-Pricigin, Tomic was approached by two individuals that ended in a scuffle with the journalist and his friend. The attackers were both arrested hours later.

This is not the first attack on Tomic. in February 2014, he was attacked by an unknown perpetrator who poured a bin containing faeces on him.

SEEMO members condemn this recent attack and expect that Croatian authorities will hold the attackers accountable according to the law. Threats and physical altercations against media workers are dangerous and must be castigated quickly, in order to show that they are not permissible. These kinds of attacks are especially dangerous for the chilling effect that they create, leading to the self-censorship of journalists and other members of civil society.

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

SEEMO concerned by the media situation in Russia after recent incidents

30 March 2016

Vienna, 30 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned about the media situation in Russia after two recent attacks.

Journalist Igor Rudnikov was attacked in a café by an unidentified group of men in Kaliningrad on 17 March. He was admitted to hospital care and reportedly suffered several stab wounds. Rudnikov is member of the Committee on International and Inter-regional Relations, Security and the Rule of Law of the Kaliningrad Duma, and the founder of the New Wheels newspaper. This is not first attack on Rudnikov. In 1998 he was hit in the head with a pipe, and the perpetrators were never arrested.

Early in the morning on 18 March state officials searched the apartment of Vyacheslav Yegorov, editor-in-chief of Regionalnye Vesti – Podmoskovye in Kolomna. His mobile phone and computer were taken during the search.

Yegorov was suspected of insulting high state representatives and violating an article of the criminal code on calls to separatism. He was not told which of his reports were at issue.

SEEMO calls on Russian authorities to respect journalists and allow them to work in a safe environment. SEEMO also calls on authorities to launch an investigation regarding the attack, and punish the perpetrators according to law. Journalists need to feel safety and stability in their work environment in order to carry out their work, which can be severely impeded by threats and attacks.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 journalists in Turkey

25 March 2016

Vienna, 25 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) asks institutions in Turkey to drop the charges against Editor-in Chief of Cumhuriyet daily Can Dundar and correspondent Erdem Gul.

The two journalists were imprisoned following a video they published of Turkish trucks supplying weapons to Syrian militants. They spent three months in jail and were released by the Constitutional Court while their trial was pending after continuous pressure from the international community.

Their trial is set to start today.

“Turkish journalists cannot work independently and professionally in a society where they are being put under pressure and regularly censored. SEEMO calls on authorities in Turkey to drop all charges against Dundar and Gul for performing their professional duties, and allow members of the media to continue to investigate matters of public interest freely”, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 criticizes behaviour of local authorities towards journalists in Serbia

24 March 2016

Vienna, 24 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) criticized the pressure exerted by local authorities against Uros Urosevic, editor-in-chief of Boom93, a radio channel in Pozarevac, Serbia.

The journalist is facing trial based on a lawsuit filed against him by the local public company for allegedly causing panic and disturbing public order. The lawsuit was filed after Boom93 published an article in October 2015, stating the water in the town was not safe for consumption. Waterworks director sued the journalist for stating that the water was not chemically safe for drinking, despite this being confirmed by several laboratories.

“SEEMO calls the public water company management to immediately drop charges against Urosevic for publishing information of public value. The public company should focus on fixing the relevant issues they have at hand, instead of putting pressure on journalists for simply doing their job,” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.


SERBIA

SEEMO pleased with swift reaction of Serbian authorities

23 March 2016

Vienna, 23 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was glad to learn that Serbian authorities arrested a suspect in the case of a person emailing death threats to journalists.

Veran Matic, editor-in-chief of B92 and Brankica Stankovic, editor-in-chief of investigative reporting website Insajder.net, received death threats several times between 14-22 March 2016. After investigation, one person was arrested and found to be a perpetrator behind the sent emails.

“We are pleased with the quick reaction of authorities in Serbia. It is vital that journalists have a safe environment to carry out their work,” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said today.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 condemns threats in Kosovo

22 March 2016

Vienna, 22 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is asking for an investigation of a case, where a leading Kosovo politician allegedly made threats against a journalist.

Prime Minister of Kosovo, Isa Mustafa was dissatisfied with an article about his brother published on the website Insajder.net, an investigative journalism platform.  The platform criticised Kosovo’s healthcare system, stating it is so poor that even the prime minister’s brother is looking for treatment outside Kosovo. According to the website’s founder and journalist Vehbi Kajtaz, Isa Mustafa allegedly threatened him during a phone call on 20 March. Kajtaz reported to the police about the threat. On 21 March, Kajtaz wrote on his Facebook page  that the prime minister had called him on his phone on the day previous angry about the article The prime minister stated that he did not threaten the journalist.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 alarmed by worsening media conditions in Turkey

21 March 2016

Vienna, 21 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is once again alarmed by the worsening of media developments in Turkey.

After attacks in Ankara and Istanbul that have occurred since the beginning of 2016, Turkish state officials called for a change in the definition of the phrases “terror” and “terrorist”. According to state representatives, those who “use the same language and rhetoric as terrorists will be called terrorists, regardless of their profession”. Turkey’s President Recep  Tayyip Erdogan has claimed very clear, the definition of a terrorist should be changed to include their "supporters" - including lawmakers, civil activists and journalists. He said there was no difference between "a terrorist holding a gun or a bomb and those who use their position and pen to serve the aims" of terrorists.

“SEEMO is very concerned with how this dangerous media situation is unfolding in Turkey. This latest development could have serious implications for freedom of expression in the country,” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said today.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 deeply concerned by current media situation in Croatia

20 March 2016

Vienna, 20 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern over recent media developments in Croatia.
             
After the recent motion for changes in the managerial and editorial structures within public broadcaster HRT, and the decision of the Program Board to cancel the airing of TV show Political Trial, SEEMO was surprised by the comment of a high-level politician who stated in an interview that the cancelled show was “a mockery directed at the state done by talentless individuals, which needed to be stopped”.

“We are deeply worried by the entire set of recent events and developments in Croatia in connection with media freedom,” said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Europe and its 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 on authorities in Serbia to stop attacks and censorship

18 March 2016

Vienna, 18 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned recent developments in Serbia that suggest the media sphere is under heavy pressure.

An unknown individual entered the offices of public broadcaster RTS correspondence in Cacak, Serbia on 17 March, and expressed his strong dissatisfaction with having to pay the subscription for the public channel through his electricity bill. RTS correspondent Silvija Pasalic was present when the man physically attacked media worker Vojislav Tepavcevic, while slurring insults at everybody present.

Additionally, SEEMO is asking members of the media in Serbia to respect professional standards in reporting. Journalists who undertake investigations are regularly the targets of attack in some media close to the government

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 supports Croatian colleagues in their fight for free speech

17 March 2016

Vienna, 17 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) fully supports media workers in Croatia who are fighting for free and ethical journalism in the country.

The public broadcaster HRT’s Program Board has issued a decision not to broadcast the show Political Trial scheduled to air on Sunday, 20 March. Political Trial is a satirical show that often criticized politicians from both the ruling and opposition parties. The decision also stated that no further episodes of the show will be made. In a statement by HRT, the argument for not airing the show was that it included “content inappropriate for HRT to broadcast”. 

“Not airing a show because of it contains satirical content directed toward politicians is not the kind of stance that a public broadcast, or other media outlet, should take. Freedom of expression, including satire, should be protected, and critical material should not be arbitrarily censored”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

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


MACEDONIA (REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA / FYROM)

SEEMO reacts to media freedom abuse in Macedonia

16 March 2016

Vienna, 16 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the behaviour of authorities toward refugees and media reporters in South Eastern European border zones.

On 14 March, almost 30 journalists and media workers were arrested for trying to enter Macedonia from Greece with a group of refugees. Macedonian police officers detained the journalists in a village, after which they were sent to the police department in the town of Gevgelija.

They were allegedly fined between 250-510 EUR for illegally crossing the border. The majority of detained journalists were from Greece and Germany.

“It is hard for journalist to report on situations like the treatment of refugees at state borders, and the state authorities should support journalists in doing the job. If the journalists illegally crossed the border, they did not it for private, military or commercial reason, but to inform the public about problems refugees have on the border”, SEEMO Secretary general Oliver Vujovic said. 

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 criticizes reckless behaviour towards journalists

14 March 2016

Vienna, 14 March 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) harshly criticized the behaviour displayed by a nationalist Serbian organisation in Visegrad, a town located in the Republika Srpska entity, within Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH).

On 13 March, journalist Adisa Ibrahimovic and cameraman Alen Skorupan from the TV channel N1 were attempting to take statements from the members of a nationalist organisation, who came to the gathering in Visegrad to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the arrest of Dragoljub Draza Mihailovic, leader of the Serbian Chetniks.

When the men found out the TV crew came from Sarajevo, they prohibited the media workers from recording. Later, while trying to make cover shots, members of the TV crew were physically and verbally attacked. Another group of young men stopped the incident and protected the journalists until the attackers left, apologizing for their behaviour.

“We wish to express support for our colleagues from Sarajevo, and ask the authorities in Republika Srpska / Bosnia and Herzegovina to arrest their attackers. In high-tension gatherings like this one, it is necessary for local authorities to be better equipped to protect civilians and journalists doing their job”, SEEMO Secretary Oliver Vujovic stated today.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned by media freedom violations developing at frightening speed in Turkey

14 March 2016

Vienna, 14 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed its deep concern over two cases of interference with media freedom in Turkey.
               
Ahmed Abd al-Qader escaped an attack attempt by unknown perpetrators in the Turkish city of Urfa on 8 March. The Syrian journalist was returning home when two men ambushed him in front of his building. Al-Qader, who is the director of the Syrian news website Eye on the Homeland managed to escape with minor injuries.

Since the beginning of the conflict, Syrian journalists who operate independent media outlets on Turkish territory face serious danger. However, they have not received any protection from the Turkish government, even though they are threatened on a daily basis.

The second attack on press freedom occurred after the terroristic attack in Ankara on Sunday, 13 March, when 37 people were killed and more than 125 injured and a Turkish court ordered the telecommunications authority (TIB) to block social media usage. Facebook, Twitter and other platforms were prevented from disseminating information about the attack. The media blackout decision is not the first one to be set up by authorities in Turkey.

“The fight against terrorism is important and we hope that the Turkish authorities will quickly resolve any terrorism-related crimes that occur in the country. But this resolution should not actively prevent citizens from accessing information about emergency situations, like these attacks. that extends to distribution of information over social media”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

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

SEEMO calls for protection of freedom of expression in challenging regions

11 March 2016

Vienna, 11 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was deeply disturbed by a recent attack on a bus with journalists on the border between Russian federal republics Chechnya and Ingushetia.

On 9 March, a group of journalists was taking a press tour in the region organised by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture. When attacked, they had to ride through open gunfire, while allegedly their attackers chanted “You are protecting terrorists and killers of our fathers”. It is suspected that the perpetrators had been following the bus before they attacked it. A number of the journalists were beaten up and their bus was set on fire. According to the journalists the attackers were "hitting with batons and sharp objects".

The attacked journalists were former Kommersant reporter Anton Prusakov, blogger Mikhail Solunin, Norwegian reporter Öystein Windstad, Egor Skovoroda from the Russian Mediazone, Lena Maria Persson Loefgren who works for Swedish Radio and Alexandra Elagina. Short time after this attack on the bus, armed men, attacked the offices of local monitoring organisation set up by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture in Ingushetia

The government of Chechnya has denied that the incident occurred.

“We are concerned about the future of similar journalists visits and press tours in the region” Oliver Vujovic SEEMO Secretary General said. “We call on the Russian government, as well as the authorities in Chechnya and Ingushetia to react and bring the assailants to justice", Vujovic added.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Europe and its 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 Turkish authorities to drop sentence against journalist

9 March 2016

Vienna, 9 March 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed its deep discontent with yet another media freedom violation in Turkey.

Baris Ince, a journalist working for the BirGun daily, was in the midst of a court case over a news report from 2013 in which he allegedly insulted the President of Turkey and his son, when he was suddenly sentenced to 21 months in jail for once again insulting the President in his plea

“We urgently call on President Erdogan and authorities in the country to drop charges and this sentence against Baris Ince, and allow him to work and report as journalist”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said today.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned over media speculations in Turkey

4 March 2016

Vienna, 4 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was appalled by the decision of the Istanbul 6th Criminal Court of Peace and the request of the Chief Public Prosecutors Office, which ordered a take-over of the Feza Media Group by appointed trustees.

The Zaman daily, one of the biggest media outlets in Turkey, as well as Today’s Zaman and Cihan News Agency were also taken over through this move. The court decision will lead to a dismissal of the entire management and editorial board of Feza Media Group, replacing them with a court-named three-member board.

The media outlets are alleged to have been these groups in their publications and planning on toppling the Turkish government.

“Critical voices and media outlets are important in every country. If there are criminal elements, that state has the right to investigate, but the work of journalists and press freedom should be protected. What is happening with the Zaman-media is very clear an attack on press freedom”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 lack of transparency in Croatian broadcaster

3 March 2016

Vienna, 3 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after the Committee on Information, Computerisation and the Media, a body within the Croatian Parliament scheduled a session on the dismissal of Goran Radman, general manager of the Croatian Radio television HRT.

The Committee allegedly deliberately decided to schedule it for 3 March in the late afternoon hours of 2 March. This prevented journalists from covering the event, since the late announcement did not give them enough time to apply for attending.

“The practice of changing directors of public broadcasters after election and with new governments is not acceptable. Public broadcasters should be supported as independent institutions. However, we still have this practice in the SEEMO region, and unfortunately, this has happened now in Croatia", SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 criticizes institution in Hungary for lack of respect towards media

2 March 2016

Vienna, 2 March 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) criticized the behaviour and actions of the Museum of Fine Arts in Budapest for demanding that Atlatszo.hu, an investigative website, pay a sum of approximately 2,000 EUR in order for them to respond to a Freedom of Information Request (FOI).

The request was made by the news portal regarding a group of people that allegedly borrowed paintings from the museum. According to our sources, the museum loaned 10 paintings (combined worth approx. 1 million EUR) to a person who is allegedly close to the PM Viktor Orban, for a time period of three months.

Because of a recent change of the FOI law in Hungary, public institutions can now charge for labour when answering such requests. Atlatszo’s request consisted of five questions, which the museum said would take them a total of 300-400 working hours to respond to.

After this reaction was made public, on 2 March the museum director announced they would willingly pay the mentioned amount themselves.

“It is blatantly clear that this provision of the FOI law was used to limit journalists’ access to information on many occasions. We condemn the initial behaviour of the museum representatives, and call on them to fill out the FOI request so Atlatszo.hu and Hungarian citizens can know what is happening in their country”, Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General stated.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and its 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 for an end to media censorship in Turkey

2 March 2016

Vienna, 2 March 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) protests the removal of broadcast for IMC TV by its satellite provider TURKSAT on 26 February. This was done at the request of an Ankara prosecutor who was allegedly investigating whether the media outlet was engaging in “propaganda of terrorist organisations”.

"We remind Turkish authorities that IMC TV is a media channel which has included in its reporting sensitive issues such as human rights violations, especially in the recent conflicts between Turkish and Kurdish forces, while maintain a distance from all pro-government and opposition parties in the country equally.  IMC TV has now been effectively restricted from broadcasting", SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 saddened by news of journalist’s death in Turkey

24 February 2016

Vienna, 24 February 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was saddened by the death of Rohat Aktas, news editor and reporter of Azadiya Welat daily.

This followed news of the death of Gulsen Yildiz, a fellow journalist who was killed along with 28 other people during an attack in Ankara. Aktas was trapped in the southwestern town of Cizre, where he was injured by a shrapnel on 22 January, while trying to help other victims of the ongoing conflict between Turkish forces and Kurdish separatists in the area. As of 4 February, neither his colleagues nor his family could contact him, but knew that he was trapped in a building with dozens of other civilians. He and the rest were found dead after an alleged massacre that occurred in the basement they were hiding in.

“We are deeply saddened for the victims and the families who survive them,” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said. “The reality of life in Turkey is not only dangerous for those engaging in conflict, but sadly for civilians as well”.

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

Greek policy towards media freedom unacceptable, SEEMO members agree

24 February 2016

Vienna, 24 February 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) strongly condemns the behaviour of Greek police forces at Idomeni, a Greek border camp.

Afghan refugees located at the camp were denied access to cross the border into Macedonia, after which they decided to occupy the train line. They were later removed by police forces and put on buses headed to Athens.

While this was happening in the early morning hours on 23 February, a TV crew of the private broadcaster Alpha Channel, consisting of reporter Aphroditi Spilioti and a cameraman, were asked by Greek police to leave the camp for alleged safety reasons. They were, along with other journalists and reporters forced to keep moving until the ongoing police operation was no longer within eyesight. When they refused to go any further, police members asked for their IDs and after a strong protest from the media workers, they were allowed back near, but not inside, the refugee campsite.

“Greek authorities must look more closely and investigate the behaviour of their police forces during the turmoil on its border. Journalists and media crews cannot be banned from witnessing and reporting the events that go on in refugee camps, as this is information of public interest. We call on the Greek Government to allow the press more freedom in reporting, and to end censorship on its borders” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 behaviour of political figure in Serbia toward media

23 February 2016

Vienna, 23 February 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the repeatedly oppressive behaviour of Serbian political figure Branislav Gasic.

Gasic was the subject of public outrage when he made a sexist remark towards a female journalist in December 2015, commenting that he liked journalists “who kneel easily” after she knelt during his statement, in order not to block the cameras that were filming. Due to this incident, media workers and citizens throughout Serbia organized protests titled “Journalists do not kneel” and called for his dismissal in December, as well as January 2016. Despite promises made by Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, Gasic is yet to be officially removed from his position. This was not to be the last run-in Branislav Gasic had with the media.

On 22 February, the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) held a gathering of its members in the town of Smederevska Palanka, where local journalists were not only invited to attend, but asked to show up 30 minutes early. However, once several of them arrived, they were told that Gasic, who is the vice-president of SNS, would not allow any media to be present, and if journalists wanted a statement from him, they would have to wait for the meeting to be over.

“We deeply condemn overall behaviour of Branislav Gasic”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

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

Another severe media freedom violation in Turkey

21 February 2016

Vienna, 21 February 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed by the kidnapping of three Turkish media workers by the outlaw Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) on 19 February 2016 in Nusaybin, located in the province of Mardin.
                               
War correspondent Rauf Maltas, photo-journalist Onur Cobar and cameraman Kenan Yesilyurt, all reporters for one of the leading news agency in Turkey, Andalou Agency, were abducted in Nusaybin after they were caught and accused of allegedly recording inside the district without previously asking PKK for permission. The journalists were released on 21 February.

“SEEMO condemns all media freedom violations in Turkey, including this one.” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

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


MACEDONIA (REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA / FYROM)

SEEMO calls on Macedonian media to educate journalists better

12 February 2016

Vienna, 12 February 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dissatisfied with the behaviour and reaction of the editor of a local TV channel in Skopje.

The editor and TV show host responded to a remark of Zoran Zaev, leader of the main opposition party (SDSM) by telling him that he was “lying like a Turk”. Latas was offensive and demeaning during the remainder of their interview on 10 February.

The Turkish Embassy in Skopje, as well as EU and USA ambassadors in the country have objected to this crude remark and asked for appropriate measures to be taken.

“SEEMO hopes that all journalists will maintain a high level of professionalism in their work, and that the journalist in this incident will work with those professional ethics in mind in the future”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said today.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 appalled and concerned by attack on Yeni Şafak and Yeni Akit dailies

11 February 2016

Vienna, 11 February 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemns the violent attacks that occurred early on the morning of 11 February in the Kucukcekmece region of Istanbul, Turkey.

Four unidentified persons threw Molotov cocktails and opened fire at the entrance of the Yeni Şafak newspaper, which was a follow-up to a similar attack on Yeni Akit during the same early hours of that morning. An investigation has been launched and police are looking for the assailants.

“SEEMO as an international organization involved in media freedom observes cases of media and free speech violations throughout the region. However, what the pressure Turkish media outlets and journalists are facing is unparalleled to any other country. The authorities must be aware of the fact that free press means a democratic country. Lack of free press leads us to believe that freedom in Turkey is facing problems on many levels. We call on them to investigate and resolve this case, as well as other active ones, and take a firmer hold in defending the rights and jobs of those that are under constant pressure”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

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

Attack on Greek journalist unacceptable, SEEMO members state

9 February 2016

Vienna, 9 February 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed by an attack on a Greek reporter that occurred on 4 February in Athens, during mass demonstrations in the capital.

Demitrios Perros, a freelance journalist working for Athens 9, 84 FM, a municipal radio station, was attacked by several unknown perpetrators. He was approached by unidentified attackers who asked him if he was a journalist. After he gave a positive response, they began hitting him on the head and spine with wooden planks. Perros was severely beaten and taken to a hospital by colleagues.

“The fact that authorities are so lax in responding with appropriate measures in this case is deplorable. SEEMO calls on Greek institutions to promptly open an investigation and find the assailants. A journalist being beaten in broad daylight is reason enough for the state to react strongly and show disapproval of this case”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South, East and Central Europe and its 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 concerned regarding Romanian draft proposal on defamation

9 February 2016

Vienna, 9 February 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern over a draft proposal on defamation passed by the judiciary and human rights commission within the Chamber of Deputies in Romania.

The proposal includes the creation of a new department for the prevention and sanctioning of defamation, as well as fines of up to 100,000 RON (approx. 22,000 EUR) for those found guilty of defamation against a community or group.

“We call on authorities in Romania to carefully consider the necessity of  this proposal. Defamation regulation already exists in the country, and this legislation may provide dangerous possibilities as a tool against journalists and media workers. We call on authorities to drop these additions, as well as other existing defamation legislature and strengthen protections for freedom of expression” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated.

SEEMO is a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and its 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

Media freedom violations in Belarus increasing again

4 February 2016

Vienna, 4 February 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed dissatisfaction with the prosecution that journalists in Belarus constantly face.

Kastus Zhukouski, freelance journalist in the Homel region, was fined by a court for producing media content for a foreign outlet without an accreditation. He was fined 350 EUR for the airing of his documentary Russia Stops Belarusian Factories on a Polish station called Belsat TV, on 16 December 2015.

“Accusing a journalist of “illegal journalist activity” sounds ridiculous in every way. It seems that Belarus authorities make it their point to sanction and prosecute journalists whenever they can,” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. “We call on them to allow media workers to do their job in an environment where they are not constantly threatened or censored by court fines”, Vujovic added.  "A system of mandatory accreditations for foreign journalists is not acceptable in the today society. It can be offered as a free option for a journalist, but not as an obligation for the work", Vujovic also said.

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

New cases

3 February 2016

Vienna, 3 February 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is alarmed about new cases against journalists in Turkey.

Accroding to Bianet.org, Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter, Nuri Akman has been arrested over “[illegal] organization membership” by the court he was referred to take his testimony within the scope of investigation launched into him. As bianet.org is reporting, He was charged on ground of reports he made in Kobanê, photos he took and social media posts and according to bianet.org Number of imprisoned journalists with Akman has reached 30.

Also according to Bianet.org Jiyan.org correspondent and writer Hayri Tunç has been arrested. Tunç had been taken into custody while leaving his house in Bayrampaşa.

As Bianet.org informed on 21 January, Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter İdris Yılmaz arrested as he was following up report in Van has been released by the court pending a trial from the case he was being tried over “Propagandizing for [illegal] organization”. Yılmaz had been detained as he was following up report in Tendürek neighborhood of Erciş district of Van province on November 13, 2015 and arrested on charges of “Propagandizing for terror” and “Insulting President”.

A detention warrant has been issued for İMC TV station cameraman Refik Tekin, who was injured when police allegedly opened fire on a group of locals trying to enter the southeastern town of Cizre, the Bianet news portal reported on 21 January. According to information before SEEMO, 10 persons including the award-winning journalist Tekin have been gunned on 20 January.

The journalist, writer and translator Alp Kayserilioğlu who is working for the Germany Newspaper Neues Deutschland, and photo-reporter Sinan Tangay working for the German Junge Welt, were arrested in Dargecit, Turkish sources reported on 20 January.

Finally, as Bianet.org informed on 7 January, Dicle News Agency (DİHA) reporter Nedim Oruç Nedim Oruç who was taken into custody in Şırnak on 6 January has been arrested over “terror propaganda”.

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.


POLAND

Alarm over the decision by Poland’s ruling party

3 February 2016

VIENNA, 3 February 2016 – The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisastion (SEEMO) today expressed alarm over the decision by Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party to pursue a libel claim against a leading Polish newspaper ,that criticised Polish President Andrzej Duda’s pardon of a former anti-corruption official convicted of abuse of power. In a commentary piece published in Gazeta Wyborcza on Nov. 17, 2015, journalist Wojciech Czuchnowski took sharp issue with the pardon, announced the same day, describing it as an “anarchic gesture” and as reflective of the operations of a “mafia state”. Czuchnowski suggested that the President’s move was part of a concerted effort by PiS to exert pressure and even intimidate the judiciary. The piece appeared on the paper’s front page alongside separate news coverage of the pardon.

Duda, who is nominally independent by virtue of his office but who was PiS’ candidate in last May’s presidential vote, had stirred controversy by pardoning Mariusz Kaminski, who served as the head of Poland’s Central Anti-Corruption Bureau from 2005 to 2009 and was named to the post by a previous PiS government. In March 2015, a Polish court sentenced Kaminski to three years in prison for abuse of power following a multi-year legal wrangle.

Notably, Duda issued the pardon before Kaminski had exhausted the appeals process – a point that Czuchnowski criticised in his opinion piece. Gazeta Wyborcza said earlier this week that lawyers for PiS had filed a libel claim against it in response to the commentary piece. According to the paper, the party is seeking an apology from Czuchnowski and from Agora S.A., Gazeta Wyborcza’s publishing company. Reports indicate the apology would be required to be printed on Gazeta Wyborcza’s front page as well as on the paper’s website, in addition to a hard copy in the form of a letter sent to PiS headquarters.

PiS’ complaint is said to object specifically to Czuchnowski’s “mafia state” characterisation. That comment, the complaint reportedly alleges, unlawfully harmed PiS’ good name and exposed it to a “loss of public confidence”. IPI Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen said IPI was “extremely troubled” by the party’s decision to use libel law to attack its political critics in the media.

“This lawsuit constitutes a misuse of libel law and represents a direct attack on press freedom and freedom of expression in Poland,” he said. “Mr. Czuchnowski’s article was clearly labelled as an opinion piece and it proceeded to express a viewpoint on a matter of political nature that is unquestionably in the public interest. There is almost no room in such circumstances for a libel claim, let alone one lodged by the governing party itself. Scrutinising, criticising and provoking debate on actions of the government is a fundamental job of the media without which democratic society could not survive.” Griffen pointed out that long-standing jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights has accorded the “highest importance to freedom of expression in the context of political debate” and that the Court has ruled that the limits of acceptable criticism are wider as regards the government and politicians. Moreover, the Court has also stated that a politician “knowingly lays himself open to close scrutiny” and that even criticism that “shocks, offends or disturbs” is permissible.

“Although the redress requested in the case – an apology – may appear low, the symbolic power, as well as the potential to chill future criticism of the government, is high,” Griffen added. “We urge PiS to drop this suit and to refrain from launching similar actions in the future.”

Since winning a parliamentary majority in October 2015 elections, PiS has weathered a storm of international criticism and protests across Poland for measures seen by critics as weakening democratic institutions. These measures have included an amendment to the country’s Media Law allowing the Minister of State Treasury to directly appoint – and fire – board members of Poland’s public service broadcaster. Following a joint fact-finding visit to Warsaw last week, IPI, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom(ECPMF) issued a joint statement urging the Polish government to respect international standards on the independence of public service broadcasting.

IPI has closely researched the use of defamation laws to silence criticism in Europe, beginning with the release of its “Out of Balance” report in January 2015 and including the launch of its Media Laws Database last year. In addition to criminal defamation laws, civil lawsuits launched by public figures or that claim disproportionate damage awards remain significant areas of concern.


SLOVENIA

SEEMO condemns car attack in Ljubljana

1 February 2016

Vienna, 1 February 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has condemned this week’s incident in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Around 3am on the morning of 1 February, unidentified perpetrators set a car on fire that was used in reporting and belonged to commercial broadcaster POP TV- PRO PLUS. The incident happened in front of the media company in Kranjčeva street, Ljubljana.

The fire was extinguished before firefighters arrived. Police have issued a statement that an investigation regarding this case has been opened.

"In recent years we have seen similar attacks on media companies and journalists where cars were on fire in Montenegro and Bulgaria. Something like this happening now, in Slovenia, is alarming. This form of pressure often has a chilling effect on journalists, resulting in self-censorship", 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

Support for journalists

29 January 2016

VIENNA, 29 January 2016 – The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today condemned Turkish authorities’ presentation of an indictment seeking to imprison journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül for life over reports claiming that Turkey’s intelligence agency secretly armed Islamist rebel groups in Syria.

Prosecutors on Wednesday unveiled the indictment, which Turkish newspaper Hürriyet reported charges both journalists with “gathering secret state documents for the purposes of political and military espionage”, “attempting to topple the government of the Republic of Turkey or attempting to stop either partially or totally the government from fulfilling its duties” and “deliberate support for a terrorist organization without being a member”.

If convicted, Dündar and Gül reportedly each face two life terms in prison, plus another 30 years behind bars. The charges are believed to stem from a May 29, 2015 report published in Cumhuriyet that included a video purportedly showing Turkish security forces searching intelligence agency trucks en route to Syria containing crates of ammunition and weapons.

Turkish officials claim the weapons were planted by adherents of a movement led by Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, a former ally-turned-nemesis of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Officials have labelled the movement a “terrorist organisation”, claiming it sought to develop a “parallel state” in order to force the AKP government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan from power.

The president, who brought the criminal case along with Turkey’s intelligence agency, has vowed publicly that the author of the reports would “pay a heavy price”.

IPI and SEEMO have sharply criticised the case, particularly since Dündar and Gül were detained in November following the AKP’s success in repeat parliamentary elections, and IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis renewed that criticism today. “The case against Can Dündar and Erdem Gül is a travesty, as illustrated by the preposterous nature of the charges set out in the indictment, the outrageous sentences being sought and the fact that they are already behind bars despite having been convicted of no crime. It could not be more clear-cut: these journalists are being punished for doing their jobs and for revealing information about the actions of government officials that those officials would prefer not to be known.”

Ellis was in Turkey on Wednesday as part of a delegation that travelled to the Silivri Prison, where Dündar and Gül are being held, to protest against the government’s refusal to allow anyone but close family, lawyers or MPs to visit the pair.

The delegates represented members of a broad coalition of leading press freedom and free expression groups that have sharply criticised the case against Dündar and Gül. In addition to IPI, the coalition includes the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship, the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), PEN International, the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO).

In remarks delivered outside the prison, delegates called on Turkish authorities to free Dündar and Gül without delay, to drop all charges against them, and to free all journalists detained in Turkey in connection with their journalism or as a result of opinions they have expressed. Some 31 journalists are currently believed to be behind bars in Turkey.


TURKEY

Visit to Turkey

27 January 2016

VIENNA, 27 January 2016 – Delegates from a coalition of leading international free expression and press freedom groups travelled to Turkey’s Silivri Prison today to demonstrate support for imprisoned journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, to protest Turkish authorities’ denial of permission to visit to the two journalists, and to call for their release.

The delegates, representing the International Press Institute (IPI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), gathered outside the prison gates to greet supporters of Dündar and Gül participating in the “Wait for Hope” vigil and to speak with media about the case and Justice Ministry’s denial of their request to visit to the two journalists behind bars.

The delegates arrived at Silivri Prison at 11:00 a.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 27. Members of the coalition they represent have also issued the following statement.

Turkey must allow supporters to meet with imprisoned journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül

Leading international free expression and press freedom groups condemn government’s refusal to allow supporters to visit pair jailed for their reporting, call for their release

A coalition of leading international free expression and press freedom groups condemns the Turkish government’s refusal to allow supporters to visit journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, who are behind bars for reports claiming that Turkey’s intelligence agency secretly armed Islamist rebel groups in Syria, and calls for their immediate release.

Dündar, editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, and Gül, the newspaper’s Ankara bureau chief, are being held at the high-security Silivri Prison, west of Istanbul, reportedly awaiting trial on charges of aiding a terrorist organisation, espionage and disclosure of classified documents.

The charges remain unclear, as the defendants have not been allowed to review indictments against them. However, the case is believed to stem from a May 29, 2015 report published inCumhuriyet that included a video purportedly showing Turkish security forces searching intelligence agency trucks en route to Syria containing crates of ammunition and weapons.

In recent years, when nearly 100 journalists were held in Turkish prisons, journalists in Turkey were often allowed to visit their imprisoned colleagues. However, in recent months, Turkey’s Justice Ministry has effectively barred most visits for both Dündar and Gül; the only visitors allowed to see them are close family members, lawyers or members of Turkey’s Parliament.

Following the Ministry’s recent refusals to respond to visitation requests put forward by journalists’ groups in Turkey and others, a coalition of 11 international free expression and press freedom defenders submitted a joint request on Jan. 8, 2016 seeking permission to visit Dündar and Gül on Wednesday, Jan. 27.

The coalition includes the International Press Institute (IPI), the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), ARTICLE 19, Index on Censorship, the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), PEN International, the World Association of Newspaper Publishers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO).

On Jan. 22, however, Turkey’s Justice Ministry denied the request. In a response, the Ministry cited articles of statute and regulation requiring the Ministry’s permission for such a visit and indicated that the request was denied because permission to visit was not given.

The coalition condemns Turkey’s refusal to allow supporters to visit Dündar and Gül, who were held in solitary confinement for 40 days before finally being allowed to share a cell together early this month, as well as the charges against them.

The persecution of these journalists in retaliation for having reported on a matter of urgent and undeniable public interest, and the refusal to permit visitation in the manner that any other prisoner would be allowed, represent a violation of their rights and a gross abuse of authority. This wrong is compounded by the fact that neither Dündar nor Gül have been convicted of any crime, much less informed of the allegations against them.

The misuse of anti-terror law against these journalists is only the latest in a litany of such cases in Turkey, and joins a list of developments that illustrate growing authoritarianism and a blatant erosion of human rights. They include politicisation of the judiciary, the similar abuse of other criminal laws, the imposition of outright bans on disseminating certain content, the use of state agencies and economic levers to silence media outlets, verbal and – in some cases – physical attacks on critical journalists, and the orchestration of online hate campaigns targeting government critics, among others.

The coalition accordingly calls on Turkish authorities to free Dündar and Gül without delay, to drop all charges against them, and to free all other journalists currently detained in connection with their journalism or the opinions they have expressed. It further urges lawmakers in Turkey to take steps to reverse the country’s trend toward authoritarianism and urges the governments of democratic countries to pressure the Turkish government to meet its human rights commitments under domestic and international law.

-The International Press Institute (IPI)
-The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
-Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
-The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
-The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
-ARTICLE 19
-Index on Censorship
-The Ethical Journalism Network (EJN)
-PEN International
-The World Association of Newspapers and Newspaper Publishers (WAN-IFRA)
-The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)


TURKEY

SEEMO pleads for Turkish authorities to release journalists and drop all charges

26 January 2016

Vienna, 26 January 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned charges against Cumhuriyet Editor-in-Chief Can Dundar and Ankara Bureau Chief Erdem Gul.

In May 2015, the critical newspaper published a story that Turkish state officials had intercepted a convoy of trucks near the Syrian border in January 2014, and discovered boxes with weapons and ammunition. According to the story, the seized trucks were linked to the Turkish national intelligence service MIT, and the weapons were being sent to aid rebels fighting against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces. Officials in Turkey denied aiding rebels in Syria.

The two journalists have been imprisoned since 26 November 2015. Each faces a set of charges that amount to one aggravated life sentence, one ordinary life sentence, and 30 years’ imprisonment. Shortly before the two men were arrested on 26 November, Dundar tweeted: "We have been arrested" in Turkish.

“We are deeply concerned that Turkish authorities seem to see no need to improve the very troubled state of media freedom in the country. The charges against these journalists are shocking, and international organizations and institutions have made their concern and dissatisfaction over this matter quite clear”, 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.


BELARUS

SEEMO condemns attack on journalist in Belarus

26 January 2016

Vienna, 26 January 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned an attack on a journalist in Minsk on 25 January.

The incident occurred while Paval Dabravolski, from the news portal Tut.by, was standing outside of a courtroom in Minsk where proceedings against a group of young graffitists were underway. During the proceedings, activists Pavel Siarhei and Maxim Shytsik unfurled a banner that read, “No to political persecution”. The two were removed from the courtroom repeating “Art is no crime”.

Journalist Dabravolski noticed the activists being forcibly removed from the courtroom and started recording the struggle. Dabravolski then was allegedly approached and physically attacked by state security officers. His camera and press card were taken, and Dabravolski was arrested and fined for contempt of court and disobeying the lawful demands of officials. The footage was deleted from his phone.

“Institutions in Belarus need to show the international community and their citizens that they are willing to embrace democratic principles and values, instead of displaying intolerance towards their media workers. We strongly condemn this attack and remind authorities in the country that members of the police should be severely penalized for using force against unarmed journalists simply doing their job. I hope to see a swift response from the relevant authorities in Belarus regarding this 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

SEEMO concerned for the safety of media workers in Kosovo

26 January 2016

Vienna, 26 January 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern regarding recent media freedom developments in Kosovo.

On 26 January, journalist Gazmend Morina from the Veriu.info portal in south Mitrovica was physically attacked by two men, one of whom is allegedly a local politician. According to Morina, the assault was retaliation following his critical reporting on the Trepca mining complex and the activities of its officials.

“The authorities in Kosovo must do more to protect journalists and media freedom”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated. “We call on authorities to hold the attackers accountable according to the law, and to promote safer conditions for journalists so that they can focus on working without fear”, Vujovic added.

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.


ALBANIA

SEEMO condemns attack on Albanian journalist

16 January 2016

Vienna, 16 January 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned a recent attack on Albanian TV journalist Eni Shehu in Tirana, Albania.

Shehu, an investigative journalist for ABC News Albania, went to the National Theatre with friends on the evening of 15 January, and where he was physically attacked by the Theatre’s Director.

The journalist reported the attack to the police. According to Shehu, the attack is connected to his investigative work.

SEEMO condemns this attack and asks the authorities to react immediately and hold the attacker accountable according to the law. Media freedom in Albania must be respected and attacks on journalists cannot go unpunished.

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 appalled by number of recent media freedom threats in Turkey

15 January 2016

Vienna, 15 January 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is deeply dismayed by the number of recent threats to media freedom in Turkey.

10 January marked Turkey’s annual Working Journalists’ Day and the 55th anniversary of Law number 212, which outlines and protects media workers’ rights. However, instead of celebrating, many Turkish journalists, media workers and activists used the anniversary as an opportunity to take to the streets in Istanbul and protest the country’s hostile environment toward freedom of expression and the media.

The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) participated in the protests, citing figures that 32 journalists are currently in jail, while more than 500 face legal charges. In 2015, several private media companies were raided and are under investigation, 156 journalists were detained at least once, and 238 journalists faced court charges throughout the year. According to CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrikulu, who shared the shocking numbers, allegedly 770 journalists were fired from their work because of various conflicts with the government.

On 10 January, a reporter for the Evrensel newspaper was arrested in the city of Izmir while reporting on a women’s rights demonstration. Both she and the small group of women participating in the protest were detained.

On 11 January, three Kurdish reporters from the Dicle Haber Ajansi (DIHA) news agency, Murat Verim, Abdurraham Otkir and Irfan Yakut, were detained after police raids on their homes in south-eastern Turkey. According to DIHA, their portal has been censored for the 28th time this January by the Turkish Telecommunications Authority (TIB).

On 11 January an investigation was also initiated to address alleged “terrorist propaganda”, after well-known TV presenter Beyazit Ozturk allowed a woman to say on air that “children are dying” under the embargo in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir. Ozturk apologised following social media pressure.

During the month of January, high state officials denounced 1,000 signatories of a declaration that criticized military operations directed against Kurdish rebels. As of 15 January, police forces had detained 14 academics and were looking for seven more, charging them with “spreading terrorist propaganda” for signing the declaration. Other signatories included journalists, academics and intellectuals.

“It is difficult to put into words how problematic the state of media freedom currently is in Turkey”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. “We call on international institutions and organizations to help us resolve the impossible conditions under which journalists in Turkey must work and live. It has become clear that we cannot rely on institutions within Turkey to resolve these issues, and action must be taken in order to prevent further abuse”, Vujovic added.

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

Journalist attacked

15 January 2016

Vienna, 15 January 2016 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned an attack on a journalist in Bulgaria.

Stoyan Tonchev,a reporter for the news portal Hello Bulgaria, was assaulted and beaten by unidentified persons with baseball bats in his hometown Pomorie on 14 January. The attackers were asking Tonchev, how long he will continue to report in media.


SERBIA

SEEMO urges Serbian authorities to identify person with weapon

15 January 2016

Vienna, 15 January 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) calls on authorities in Serbia to discover the perpetrator of an incident in Novi Sad as soon as possible.

On the morning of January 15, the hand of an unknown individual holding a gun appeared suddenly in front of a camera while Radio Television of Vojvodina (RTV) reporter Tamara Bojic reported live from a local market. The TV crew reported the case to the police. The terrifying image appeared during the television broadcast as it occurred, and was later shared via social media.

SEEMO asks police in Serbia to better protect their citizens, especially working journalists, and urges state authorities to resolve this case quickly by identifying and holding the perpetrator accountable.

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.


BELARUS

SEEMO condemns Belarus practice of penalizing freelance journalists

14 January 2016

Vienna, 14 January 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has condemned a law in Belarus that harms freelance journalists.

Freelance journalist Larysa Shchyrakova was fined approximately 225 EUR on charges of working with foreign media outlets without accreditation. Article 22.9 of the Belarusian Code on Administrative Offenses forbids freelancers to collaborate with media outlets outside the country. Shchyrakova was fined for the same violation in 2015, and so were more than 25 other freelancers during the year.

“We support the right of freelance journalists to freely work with foreign media if they choose”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated. “We call on institutions in Belarus to reverse the prohibitive Article 22.9, noting that it represents a significant hindrance to freedom of expression”, Vujovic added.

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

New report about Greece by IPI and SEEMO

12 January 2016

VIENNA, 12 January, 2016 – While a wave of police violence against photojournalists in Greece appears to have ebbed in recent months, the overwhelming majority of past incidents remain mired in impunity, a report released today by the International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has found.

Statistics kept by the Hellenic Photojournalists’ Union (EFE) and included in the report indicate that just one of 16 incidents of police aggression against photojournalists between 2010 and 2014 has resulted in legal consequences. In the majority of cases authorities have failed to even identify the perpetrator.

The report, authored by Dr. Eleni Polymenopoulou of Brunel University, analyses the legal and structural factors that have combined to obstruct justice. According to the analysis, prosecutions of alleged police violence against photojournalists “tend to stall at the pre-investigation phrase”, a phenomenon that “appears to be related not to the unwillingness of prosecutors to initiate proceedings, but to the unwillingness of the police to cooperate”.

In particular, prosecutors rely on evidence supplied by internal police department investigations, or “sworn administrative inquiries” (SAI). Such inquiries are supposed to take place following all instances of alleged police abuse, but “in practice are initiated only after an incident receives publicity”, the report found. Even those inquiries that may eventually take place, the report suggests, are hobbled by the institutional culture inside the police and difficulties in identifying the perpetrator. EFE President Marios Lolos, in an interview for the report, stated that while police officers are legally obliged to carry identification, “these signs either do not exist, or are not readable”.

The failure of internal disciplinary and evidentiary mechanisms has meant that public prosecutors have been forced to drop charges even in incidents that resulted in serious injuries. Lolos himself was hospitalised with severe head trauma after a police officer struck him with a baton in April 2012 – the bruise from the incident can still be felt today. The perpetrator in that case, as in two other incidents involving Lolos, in 2010 and 2011, remains unknown.

According to EFE, an October 2011 incident in which a police officer punched photojournalist Tatiana Bolari in the face is the only one that has resulted in punishment. The officer involved was handed an eight-month suspended prison term, a sentence EFE says will have “no impact” on his career.

Though questions of police violence in Greece are not new – the report makes note of a series of successful claims involving police brutality against Greece at the European Court of Human Rights – incidents involving journalists and photographers are considered to have increased in the context of the country’s ongoing financial and social crisis. Most of the photographers who suffered police aggression were attempting to cover anti-government protests; in a few cases, police are accused of failing to protect photojournalists from physical attacks by members of the extreme-right-wing Golden Dawn party.

“It is extremely concerning that the Greek authorities have failed to hold those responsible for violence against photojournalists, who play a key role in informing the Greek public about the events and repercussions of the ongoing crisis,” IPI Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen said. “And it is of equal concern that the structural flaws that have encouraged impunity in such cases appear not to have been addressed. The failure to ensure individual and systemic accountability obviously raises the possibility that similar events will continue to occur in the future.” Griffen urged the Greek authorities to adopt the report’s recommendations. In addition to ending impunity, these include restructuring SAIs to ensure impartiality and effectiveness, enforcing rules on police identification badges and providing human-rights training to officers.

The report also scrutinises the alleged police abuse of a procedure called prosagoges, in which law enforcement officials may take to a station for questioning any persons believed to be lacking sufficient identification or suspected of having committed a crime due to “place, time, circumstances and behaviour”. Greek Journalist groups referenced in the report say that reporters and photoreporters have been increasingly hauled away for questioning by police despite displaying valid press cards.

In one recent case, two journalists and two photojournalists attempting to cover the removal of refugees at the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) / Republic of Macedonia were arrested and taken to a local police station ostensibly in order to verify their identities.

Anastassia Tsoukala, EFE legal adviser, told Dr. Polymenopoulou that the apparent increase in the use of prosagoges came as the number of demonstrations and corresponding incidents of violence against the press had decreased over the past year. Prosagoges, she said, “is the logic of intimidation: [The police] need to show [they] can take you in at any moment”. Police violence was a key topic of IPI’s November 2015 mission to Greece, carried out with the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO).

The SEEMO - IPI report "Briefing: Police Violence and Press Freedom in Greece":

IPI PoliceViolence and PressFreedom in Greece


TURKEY

SEEMO dismayed over media blackout following tragedy in Turkey

12 January 2016

Vienna, 12 January 2016 - Shortly after an explosion near the Blue Mosque in Istanbul killed ten people, most of them German tourists, and injured others, state authorities ordered a temporary media ban on news coverage of the incident. This kind of ban is made possible under a law that allows state officials to institute a temporary blackout to protect public order or national security. A few hours later, the ban was backed by an Istanbul court.

This is not the first time a gag order has been issued in Turkey, as authorities also cut off coverage of a hostage situation in March 2015,“The ban is not acceptable and Turkey must end its practice of blocking the dissemination of information during events that are crucial to the public interest”, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated. “Turkey must allow media to disseminate the necessary information and updates during times of crisis, for the benefit of the public. Media blackouts during difficult times help absolutely no one”, Vujovic added.

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 urges media in Bosnia and Herzegovina to uphold professional standards

10 January 2016

Vienna, 10 January 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was disappointed by media reports covering the death of a 14-year old boy in Sarajevo, especially that media where not respecting the victim and his family, and not checking readers comments, that were very often with clear threats and hate speech.

A young boy committed suicide mid-December 2015, in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. After the news was made public, a sudden and drastic spread of hate speech, threats and verbal attacks arose through commentaries on internet news portals. Incitements of hatred, chauvinism and intolerance reached an alarming level. Several news portals decided not to publish stories containing opinions about the case until relevant investigations were completed. Additionally, some media failed to respect basic professional standards in the way that they reported on the case.

“SEEMO calls on media outlets in the country to carefully review the reader comments that appear on their websites. Additionally, we urge journalists and media outlets to respect professional standards in reporting, and to take special care when covering cases in which the victim is a child”, 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

Legal changes

5 January 2016

VIENNA, 5 January 2016 – The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today welcomed the passage of legislation intended to strengthen protections for the Greek media in defamation cases.

Greek lawmakers on Dec. 22 overwhelmingly approvedcritical reforms to Greece’s Press Law, popularly known as the “press killer”, that were included in a bill legalising same-sex civil partnerships.

The reforms include:

• The repeal of minimum compensation limits for non-pecuniary (moral) damage in defamation cases. Previously, print media found liable for defamation faced paying a minimum of nearly €6,000 in damages. The reform also scrapped minimum compensation amounts applying to radio and television broadcasters under Law 2328/1995 on the Legal Status of Private Television. Those amounts had been set at 100,000,000 drachma (€300,000) and 50,000,000 drachma (€150,000), respectively.

• The introduction of a provision requiring courts to assess damages in a proportionate manner, taking into account, among other things, the publication’s impact, the nature and severity of the harm, the circumstances in which the harm occurred and the social and economic situation of the parties.

• An addition of a provision requiring all plaintiffs to allow the impugned media outlet 20 days to restore any harm done prior to filing any legal claim. If the media outlet retracts the offending content or otherwise remedies the harm done, plaintiffs are barred from pursuing damages in court except in the case of material harm, which is generally difficult to prove.

• The institution of a six-month deadline for filing claims for compensation in the case that a media outlet refuses or fails to publish a restoration.

• The enactment of a single-publication rule.

Greek Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos, who introduced the bill, told a joint IPI-SEEMO mission to Greece in November that the reforms were intended to combat the “ease” with which Greek journalists could be taken to court for defamation. He described the minimum compensation requirement – apparently unique in Europe, according to IPI’s research – as “not conforming to the proportionality principle”.

Both IPI and SEEMO had expressed support for the reforms publicly and in meetings with Minister Paraskevopoulos and the Hellenic Parliament’s Standing Committee on Justice, Order and Transparency.

The November mission 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.

IPI Director of Press Freedom Programmes Scott Griffen, who led the mission to Greece, described the reforms as a significant first step toward protecting freedom of expression in the context of defamation and insult cases in Greece.

“We commend the Greek government and Greek lawmakers for taking concrete action toward combating vexatious defamation litigation as well as disproportionate compensation levels, both of which can lead to self-censorship at a time when Greece needs investigative journalism more than ever,” he said.

“Nevertheless, a great deal of work remains to be done. On the one hand, the media and civil society will need to monitor litigation against the press to evaluate whether or not these changes actually amount to an improvement in practice. On the other, any reform of Greek defamation law will remain incomplete without the repeal of all criminal defamation laws. We call on the Greek government to tackle such repeal without delay.”

The Greek Criminal Code maintains provisions on insult (Art. 361), defamation (Art. 362), malicious defamation (Art. 363) and defamation of a corporation (Art. 364). All are punishable with imprisonment, although sentences are usually converted into fines according to Greek criminal law.

Criminal provisions continue to be actively applied against journalists. In March 2015, a court sentenced investigative journalist Kostas Vaxevanis to 26 months in prison, suspended for three years, over an article that analysed a prominent businessman’s alleged involvement in the 2012 to 2013 Cypriot financial crisis. Notably, that sentence contradicted the European Court of Human Rights’s 2014 decision Mika v. Greece, in which the court found that even a suspended prison sentence for defamation was disproportionate and therefore constituted a violation of freedom of expression.


SERBIA

SEEMO calls on institutions in Serbia to resolve harassment incident

5 January 2016

Vienna, 5 January 2016 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) calls on Serbian authorities and institutions to address alleged inappropriate behaviour among high government officials that interfered with journalists’ work.

On the night of 1 January, journalist Zorica Radulovic and photojournalist Damir Dervisagic from daily Kurir were at the Kopaonik ski resort in Serbia, where several political figures were celebrating new year. While the media crew was reporting, individuals claiming to be close to a politician asked to review their photographs and films. They then deleted all of their materials.

“This kind of behaviour, if the allegations are true, is inexcusable among public officials. Public figures must be aware that they are subject to a higher level of scrutiny by the media because of the trust that has been placed in them as public officials. We urge the relevant authorities in Serbia to investigate the incident”, SEEMO Secretary General 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.


POLAND

Situation in the public RTV

4 January 2016

VIENNA, 4 January 2016 – The International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) today joined calls for Poland’s president to reject a law that would effectively give the government control over the appointment of top managers of public service broadcasters.

The law would give the treasury minister full control of appointing management level officials at Polskie Radio and Telewizja Polska (TVP), and would effectively terminate current contracts, a move that opponents argue conflicts with European Union standards and undermines free speech.

Poland’s Parliament, in which recently elected deputies from the nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) hold an absolute majority, passed the measure late last month just days after it was introduced. The law will take effect later this week if it is approved by Polish President Andrzej Duda.

“We join with free expression defenders, civil society representatives, EU officials and the people of Poland, who have taken to the streets in protest, in condemning this law and we urge President Duda not to sign it,” IPI Director of Advocacy and Communications Steven M. Ellis said. “Allowing the government to hand-pick the heads of public broadcasters risks government censorship and poses a tremendous threat to democracy and people’s ability to make informed decisions about their future.”

International observers have strongly criticised the law and directors from four TVP channels resigned in protest Saturday. EU Commissioner for Digital Economy Guenther Oettinger has expressed deep concern over the law, saying that it conflicts with fundamental values of the EU. He suggested that full implementation of the law would be grounds to activate the EU Rule of Law Mechanism in order to monitor Warsaw, which could potentially result in Poland losing its vote in the European Council.

OSCE Freedom of Media Representative Dunja Mijatovic also criticised the law, commenting that such “hastily introduced changes will endanger basic conditions of independence, objectively and impartiality of public service broadcasters”.

The media law comes as the PiS faces criticism for recent controversial changes to Poland’s Constitutional Court which require a two-thirds majority for rulings and increase the minimum number of judges needed to issue a ruling on certain issues from nine to 13. Given the PiS’ recent appointment of five justices, one third of the decision makers, observers say the move will paralyse the court and remove an important check on government power.

The media also comes as Parliament considers a proposal to allow for greater government surveillance power. Critics, arguing that Poland does not face any credible terrorist threat, have suggested that the measure will be used to monitor journalists and NGOs not strictly in line with the PiS voice.