UKRAINE SEEMO condemns deplorable practices of Ukrainian authorities towards journalists

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Vienna, 30 August 2017

Vienna, 30 August 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern and criticism for the actions of Ukrainian authorities and their practice of expelling foreign journalists.

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On 30 August, the Russian Pervy Kanal (Channel One) reported that journalist Anna Kurbatova had been kidnapped in the center of Kiev by unknown persons who pushed her into a vehicle and took her away. It was soon revealed that Kurbatova was taken by members of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU). She was then expelled from the country for “disgracing Ukraine”. The Channel One journalist is now banned from entering the country for the period of three years.

Spanish journalists Antonio Pampliega and Manuel Angel Sastre were barred from entering Ukraine on 25 August at Kiev’s airport Zhuliany . The two were detained for 20 hours before being forbidden from entering “due to their activity that is contrary to the interests of Ukraine”. Pampliega and Sastre were accused of reportedly producing stories alleging that Ukrainian troops had shelled civilian areas, a claim which Ukraine states is untrue.

On 14 August, special correspondent for the Russian state broadcaster VGTRK Tamara Nerseyan was detained in Kiev. According to the journalist, she was taken to the SBU headquarters and interrogated for three hours. Nerseyan was then told she was being expelled from Ukraine and banned from the country for three years because of her reporting which security officials told her “inflamed the conflicts in eastern Ukraine”.

“SEEMO harshly condemns all steps against freedom of reporting by Ukrainian authorities. Expelling journalists from the country or denying them entry to Ukraine are against freedom of movement and freedom of speech” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated today. “It is unacceptable for a country to deem any reporting coming from outside. Deportation of journalists from a country restricts freedom of the press and is not acceptable. We call on the Ukrainian state authorities, including Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and all other institutions involved in journalist expulsion to revert their decisions and allow media workers, local and international, to perform their work freely” Vujovic added.

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

AZERBAIJAN SEEMO urges authorities in Azerbaijan to release Mehman Aliyev

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Vienna, 26 August 2017

Vienna, 26 August 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed their distress after learning that authorities in Azerbaijan arrested Mehman Aliyev (no relation to Ilham Aliyev, president of the country), editor-in-chief of the independent news agency Turan, which is also currently undergoing legal scrutiny. The news agency Turan was founded in 1990.

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The agency is accused of tax fraud and was put under investigation by the Department of Preliminary Investigation of Tax Crimes, along with an imposed financial fine that totals to more than 37,000 AZN (approx. 22,900 EUR). According to the state officials, Aliyev is responsible for the agency’s failure to register 148,310 AZN in grants that it received between 2010 to 2014, and for its failure to pay 60,080 AZN tax between 2010 to 2016.

Aliyev had fully cooperated with the investigation and tax-authorites. Aliyev was vocal in expressing his opinion that practically all media outlets and advertisement sources in Azerbaijan are under strict governmental control and that because of these pressures Turan has basically been profitless for the past several years, rendering the tax fraud charges senseless.

State authorities raided the Turan office on 16 August. On 23 August Aliyev was invited into the state tax department and Aliyev went with his lawyer voluntarily to the tax authorities. On 25 August, 2017, Aliyev was arrested and placed in pre-trial detention by a court in Baku for a period of 3 months. During this time he will be investigated on charges of tax evasion, abuse of office, and illegal business activity. If convicted, Aliyev could face a seven-year prison sentence.

“SEEMO deeply deplores the actions of institutions in Azerbaijan against Aliyev, news agency Turan and free press in general” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General stated. “This type of ceaseless abuse and violation of human rights and press freedom is absurd. We urge the state authorities to release Aliyev and allow his agency to work freely. Governmental pressure put upon independent media outlets is the first and biggest indicator of a detrimental state of democracy and society” Vujovic added.

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

TURKEY SEEMO concerned regarding new legislation in Turkey aimed to cripple press freedom

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Vienna, 26 August 2017

Vienna, 26 August 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after it was revealed on 25 August that the Turkish Council of Ministers adopted two new statutory decrees (693 and 694) as part of the State of Emergency (OHAL).

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Three media outlets, including the only remaining Kurdish-language daily in Turkey, were accused of being “engaged in activities against security of the country” and were subsequently closed. Rojeva Medya, along with the Sujin women’s news portal and DICLE Media News Agency, were shut down and all assets previously belonging to the closed media outlets will be taken by the Treasury.

Along with the closure of three outlets, 928 civil servants, which included 128 academics, were discharged according to the statutory decree no. 693.

SEEMO expressed deep concern following these new steps which further limit media freedom and press rights in Turkey.

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 is asking for more information

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Vienna, 25 August 2017

Vienna, 25 August 2017 – After learning that three journalists were arrested in Kosovo on 23 August the Vienna based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is asking Kosovo authorities for more details and clear information about this case.

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The journalists, who were characterized as “of Russian nationality” by local media outlets, were in actuality Yuri (Juri) Alekseev from Latvia and former Tallinna TV presenter Rodion Denissov with his wife Vera from Estonia. They were detained on 23 August around 11:30 and released at 17:00, with no charges being brought against them.

The group was reported to have been compiling a report about Orthodox churches and monasteries in Kosovo. The details of the alleged offences for which they were arrested remain unclear. According to some Kosovo-media, the group was arrested in connection with “propaganda against Kosovo”. According to some other sources the journalists are “known as pro-Russian and pro-Serbian, writing against Kosovo” and “their goal was to publish falsified data on Kosovo and Kosovo cultural heritage after leaving Kosovo”. All three journalist entered Kosovo on 17 August.

Only a week earlier Russian journalist Peter Davidov, from the web portal Orthodoxy.Ru could not get into the territory of Kosovo

SEEMO expressed concern about the arresting and steps against freedom of movement. Intimidation and censorship through arrests is not acceptable, as also to prevent someone or even ban a person from entering a country.

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) Protection of journalists’ safety is key for democratic progress in Macedonia, SEEMO states

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Vienna, 24 August 2017

Vienna, 24 August 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed distress for the safety and wellbeing of journalists in the South East Europe region after a recent physical attack on a journalist in Macedonia.

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NovaTV’s journalist Sashka Cvetkovska was attacked on 23 August while she was reporting from an event. The gathering in question was organized as part of an initiative to assemble signatures and prevent the building of refugee camps.

SEEMO expressed harsh criticism for the lax approach of authorities in Skopje who fail to protect the safety of journalists. SEEMO welcomes the fast reaction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which identified the attacker and announced criminal charges for violence against the attacker.

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 calls on institutions in Croatia to penalize attacker of journalists

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Vienna, 24 August 2017

Vienna, 24 August 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after it was revealed that in the early morning hours of 23 August, two journalists were attacked while doing their job in the town of Slavonski Brod in eastern Croatia.

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Visnja Ruzojcic (Višnja Ružojčić) from the public broadcaster HRT and Aleksandra Primorac from the web portal SBplus were reporting from the scene of an attack that happened on 22 August, where a man was shot for currently unknown reasons and by an unknown perpetrator. The man later died due to the injury.

As the two journalists were reporting from the scene of the crime a day after on 23 August, an individual approached them, began using curse words and tried to violently take the camera out of the hands of Ruzojcic and threatened to smash it. The journalist however held tightly to the camera, so the attacker only partially damaged the microphone.

SEEMO expressed deep condemnation for the incident and called on authorities in Croatia to make their investigation of this case as transparent and swift as possible. It is essential to penalize the attacker who took it upon himself to attempt to physically harm two women who were trying to do their job.

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 alarmed after new attack in Kosovo

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Vienna, 17 August 2017

Vienna, 17 August 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is alarmed after a new case of attack on journalist in Kosovo.

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Parim Olluri, director of the website Insajderi (Insider), was beaten in Pristina by three unknown assailants on Wednesday, 16 August, as he was going home with his partner. He and his partner had to be taken to the hospital.

The attack came after Olluri was reporting about tenders and accusing in his reports some politicians and some former officers of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA- Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës – UCK) of corruption.

“SEEMO is alarmed about threats to journalists in Kosovo. We are asking the authorities in Pristina to investigate this case, as also all unsolved cases of attacks from the past. Only three months ago on 12 May unknown perpetrators attacked Arbana Xharra, former editor-in-chief of the Kosovo daily Zeri on a parking place in front of her home in Pristina. We have in our database 22 cases of threats, pressures or attacks on journalist and media workers in Kosovo in 2016. Kosovo authorities must better protect journalists”, 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 New Case

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Vienna, 14 August 2017

Vienna, 14 August 2017 – The South East European Media Organisation (SEEMO) was disturbed to learn about a new pressure on journalist in Belarus.

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Twp legal cases against journalist Katsyaryna Andreyeva were published in connection to her reporting from a protest rally on 3 July and a celebration on 29 July. The date of her trial is not yet known.

According to the charges Andreyeva allegedly made a news item for the Belsat TV, although the channel has not aired a report from her. She was only streaming the event.

In May, a Minsk court fined Andreyeva 1,035 BYN for violation of Article 22.9 of the Administrative Code.

The South East Europe Media Organisation expressed deep concern for the overall state of media freedoms in Belarus. SEEMO members call on institutions in the country to drop all charges against journalists in Belarus.

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

KYRGYZSTAN Media situation

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Vienna, 12 August 2017

By Katya Konradova

A Pit for Kyrgyzstan’s Independent Press



“New moves against opposition politicians and the press are meant to scare the last bastion of Kyrgyzstan’s civil society into submission,” writes Naryn Idinov, the former chief editor for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE) Kyrgyz service and the former director of the Kabar information agency in Bishkek, in his article for OpenDemocracy.net.1 He makes this statement only three months before news of his trial for allegedly smearing the President of Kyrgyzstan appears in the newsfeed of almost every major international media watchdog organization on 30 June 2017.

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In late March 2017, Idinov, also known by the name of Naryn Aiyp, was taken to court along with his colleague, editor Dina Maslova, at the news website ProMedia, which they co-founded and is responsible for running the news agency Zanoza.kg. A former parliament member, Cholpon Dzhakupova, was also taken to court. Following the court order, the media organizations’ bank accounts were frozen. A lien was also placed on Idinov’s apartment and the journalist himself was banned from leaving the country. A total of six offending articles, which reported on President Almazbek Sharshenovich Atambayev’s alleged involvement in corruption and criticized his treatment of opposition leaders, were banned from being viewed by the public.

Dzhakupova was accused of defaming President Atambayev during a roundtable discussion hosted by the office of the Ombudsman, during which she said that he was a “personality with maniacal inclinations.” The remarks were published by Zanoza.kg on 30 March 2017. Dzhakupova is the head of the Legal Clinic ‘Adilet,’ a robust Kyrgyz human rights organization that provides free access to legal assistance for vulnerable groups of population, as well as works to improve the legal culture in Kyrgyzstan. According to RSF, five complaints in total were filed against Zanoza and its co-founders.2 The prosecutors sought a total of 27 million Kyrgyz KGS (about €339,000) in moral compensation to be paid to President Almazbek Atambayev. The Kyrgyz news agency 24.kg reported on 5 July 2017 that the court found all the defendants guilty of the above mentioned charges and ordered Zanoza.kg and its founders Idinov and Maslova to pay a fine of 24 million KGS, as well as to recover 3 million KGS from Dzhakupova.3

The defendants and their lawyers complained that too many trials had been scheduled during a very short time frame, making it difficult for them to adequately prepare for the hearings.

It would seem that even in rising democracies like Kyrgyzstan, struggling against an opponent as powerful as the head of the country is futile, yet leading media professionals in Kyrgyzstan resist curbing their activity and voice their concern that authorities will keep tightening their control over the exchange of information in the months leading up to the presidential election on 19 November 2017. Recent events leave many wondering—and rightfully—about the state of press freedom in the country.

In his 15 March speech this year, President Atambayev claimed that the state imposes no limitation on news reporting in the Kyrgyz media.4 He assured the assembly, made up of ambassadors of Côte d’Ivoire, Latvia, Ethopia, India, and Afghanistan, that with regard to freedom of speech, Kyrgyzstan occupies a leading position among the countries in Central Asia.

Analyses of media freedom in Kyrgyzstan from independent watchdog organizations generally support President Atambayev’s claim; nonetheless, they point out the growing polarization of Kyrgyz society and its effects on media environment in the country, as well as a great deal of self-censorship and ethnic, political, and regional biases. The Freedom House Freedom of the Press Ranking has been consistent in assigning Kyrgyzstan a status of “Not Free” since the launching of the project in 2002, with the country receiving a total score of 67/100 in 2017. Kyrgyzstan’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) dropped from 85th in 2016 to 89th out of 180 countries in 2017. For reference, the neighbouring countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan are currently ranked as 157th, 169th, and 149th, respectively.

According to Atambayev, heavy fines and imprisonment are effective penalties for libel in what he calls “the civilized world,” referring to countries such as the United States, France, or Denmark. He thus denied taking inspiration from Kyrgyzstan’s neighbouring dictatorships. Taking financial responsibility for their “outright demagoguery,” he said, is the least journalists can do, being incapable of moral reflection.

Among the accusations made by Atambayev during his speech was that RFE/RL receives generous funding from the U.S. Congress and its budget reaches hundreds of millions of dollars, in response to which RFE/RL reported that its Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Azattyk (Liberty), is only one of its 26 language services and its 2016 budget amounted to 108.4 million USD.

RFE/RL became a target of President Atambayev’s diatribe after the political turmoil in Kyrgyzstan in February 2017. Earlier this year, Atambayev filed two complaints against Azattyk, accusing it of slander following February reports on detention of the leader of the opposition Ata-Meken (Fatherland) party, Omurbek Tekebaev.5 Hundreds of opposition supporters, including former President Roza Otunbaeva, gathered in Bishkek on 26 February 2017 to protest what they saw as unlawful and politically motivated persecution. He was investigated on charges of corruption. A lawyer for the Ata-Meken party asserted that Tekebaev’s detention was meant to prevent him from disclosing information about a Turkish cargo plane that crashed near Bishkek on 16 January 2017 and killed all four crew members and 35 people on the ground. He allegedly had in his possession documents proving that the cargo belonged to high state officials in Bishkek. Still others believe that the charges were made against Tekebaev, who was named as his party’s presidential candidate on 5 March 2017 in order to prevent him from running for president.

In his 24 March this year speech in Bishkek, Atambayev said he would complain about Azattyk’s activity to U.S. President Donald Trump.6 He also threatened to take RFE/RL to international courts to show them a “good lesson,” but the charges against Azattyk were dropped in May, following a meeting of President Atambayev with RFE/RL President Thomas Kent on March 30. According to Ferghana News Agency, the presidential press service informed that the decision to drop the charges was made after experts noted “the quality improvement in coverage of events by the ‘Azattyk’ radio,” invoking again Kyrgyzstan’s commitment to upholding media freedom in the country.7

Alleged foreign support to RFE/RL was not the only apparent thorn in President Atambayev’s side. He expressed fears that other journalists in Kyrgyzstan instigate negative attitudes toward their motherland in exchange for foreign money, suspecting them of carrying foreign passports or residence permits while hypocritically referring to themselves as Kyrgyz nationals.

This anti-foreign sentiment is reminiscent of Kyrgyzstan’s long-standing ethnic issues. Ethnic Uzbeks represent a significant minority in the country, with most of them being concentrated in the western and southern parts of Kyrgyzstan, mainly the Ferghana valley and the three provinces of Batken, Osh, and Jalal-Abad. Despite being largely excluded from taking part in the country’s decision-making, Uzbeks have been feared for their potential to eventually exert enough pressure on the Kyrgyz government and achieve political and linguistic autonomy. In the past, these tensions have escalated into violent outbreaks. On May 23 of this year, Ulugbek Babakulov, an independent Kyrgyz journalist who also contributes to Zanoza.kg, published an article on the regional news website Fergana, in which he criticized Kyrgyz-language social media posts for using ethnic slurs and inciting hatred and violence against ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan.8 The article quotes several posts made by users who often claim to be university graduates and urge others to expel or even liquidate Kyrgyzstan’s largest ethnic minority. As a closing remark, Babakulov speculates that he may become the target of a similar wave of criticism coming from nationalist press and social media users as a result of publishing his article, a prediction that has come true with a more serious twist.

On 1 June 2017, CPJ reported that Babakulov had been under pressure from lawmakers and pro-government media and even received death threats on social media in retaliation for his article.9 On 27 May OTRK, a major Kyrgyz TV channel, aired a report accusing Babakulov, ironically, of inciting inter-ethnic hatred in his Ferghana article.10 The report argued that as a trained professional, Babakulov knew that social media posts are written by people with questionable credentials, and thus his decision to concentrate on this heavily biased medium speaks to his lack of journalistic professionalism, as well as demonstrates a malicious intent to “disseminate provocative materials” and stir up separatist emotions that are still lingering in society after the 2010 bloody conflict between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan. Ainura Arzymatova, a historian at Kyrgyz National University, stated that “people like Babakulov... are just enemies of Kyrgyzstan,” further reiterating the claim made by the presenter of the TV channel that Babakulov attempted to present the country as a “fascist state, whose population is completely nationalist.” As a response, members of the parliament suggested stripping Babakulov of his citizenship. To escape public outrage and legal charges, Babakulov fled the country on June 8, and the Ferghana news website was blocked on 10 June 2017, RFE/RL reported.11

Babakulov was among the journalists Atambayev addressed specifically in his 15 March speech, urging them to stop “betraying” the country. Other media professionals denounced as “pseudojournalists” by the head of the state included Daniil Kislov, the chief editor of Ferghana News, or the very Naryn Idinov, who reacted to Atambayev’s accusations with a detailed account of the recent persecution of media in his March 30 article on openDemocracy.net.12 The President, Idinov lamented, has been frequently backed up by EU officials, whose reports praise Kyrgyzstan’s progress toward democracy and appear ridiculous against the backdrop of the disturbingly high number of defamation suits, verbal assaults and other forms of harassment from institutions and officials in the past several months. Such inaccurate reports, he warned, may undermine local journalists’ struggle for an open, uncensored media environment in Kyrgyzstan.

On 27 June only two days before the trial against ProMedia and Idinov, the European Union held the 8th round of their annual Human Rights Dialogue with Kyrgyzstan in Brussels.13 According to the official report, the “open and constructive discussion” covered a broad range of issues, including the prevention of torture, protection of the rights of women and children, and fight against corruption. The EU called on Kyrgyz authorities to maintain media freedom in order to ensure transparency in the upcoming presidential elections in October. The report does not indicate whether the EU demanded that Kyrgyzstan take responsibility for the recent press freedom violations.

EU’s Human Rights Dialogue was not the only occasion of apparent neglectful inspection from leading international organizations. In June, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres received criticism from Human Rights Watch for failing to address important human rights issues, including recent attacks on Kyrgyz media, during his tour of five Central Asian countries. In his opening remarks at a press conference with President Atambayev, Guterres praised Kyrgyzstan as a “pioneer of democracy” and a prime example of a commitment to protection of human rights both regionally and abroad.14

“In regions like Central Asia,” writes Hugh Williamson, the Director of the Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, “the UN should state clearly that ending human rights abuses is an integral part of wider development and security strategies.”15

The UN has previously criticized Kyrgyz authorities for their imprisonment of ethnic Uzbek journalist and human rights activist Azimjon Askarov. In September 2010, he was detained and sentenced to life in prison on charges of assisting in the murder of a police officer and inciting ethnic hatred during the 2010 ethnic clashes between Uzbeks and Kyrgyz in southern Kyrgyzstan, which left more than 420 people dead and thousands fleeing the terror to largely mono-ethnic areas. The verdict was reinstated by the court on January 24 this year, despite the UN Human Rights Committee urging Kyrgyzstan to release Askarov after it was found that he was tortured and denied a fair trial in what the UN, as well as the jailed activist, saw as a politically motivated act.16 Askarov is the founder of the human rights organization Vozdukh (Air) and has worked to investigate and report cases of police abuse and poor prison conditions.

Whatever the reason for the President’s onslaught against opposition voices, it is clear that he is not targeting independent outlets to maintain his leadership of the country, according to Daniil Kislov from Ferghana News.17 Atambayev has served a six-year term since 2011, but under the 2010 constitution, he is barred from running for re-election. The December 2016 referendum, however, increased the power and independence of the Prime Minister significantly. This fact causes some to suspect that he may attempt to continue to remain in power by either becoming the next prime minister or installing a political ally in this newly reformed post. As Kislov and others make rather grim predictions for the next stage of Kyrgyzstan’s history, it is yet to be seen whether Kyrgyzstan will live up to the expectations set by international institutions and continue paving the way to democracy in Central Asia.

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1 Aiyp, N. (2017, March 30). “Inciters, deceivers, slaves”: Kyrgyzstan’s president takes aim at the press. OpenDemocracy. Retrieved from https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/naryn-aiyp/inciters-deceivers-slaves-kyrgyzstan-s-president-takes-aim-at-press
2 RSF calls for end to prosecutions of Kyrgyz media and journalists. (2017, June 23). Retrieved from https://rsf.org/en/news/rsf-calls-end-prosecutions-kyrgyz-media-and-journalists
3 Kudryavtseva, T. (2017, July 5). Million-som suits against media - wish to dispose of disloyal outlets. 24.kg. Retrieved from https://24.kg/english/56777_Million-som_suits_against_media_-_wish_to_dispose_of_disloyal_outlets/
4 Алмазбек Атамбаев: "Эй, смотрели на себя в зеркало, чтобы читать нам наставления? Помалкиваете там, а здесь вольничаете?". (2017, March 15). Gezitter.org. Retrieved from http://www.gezitter.org/politic/58433_almazbek_atambaev_ey_smotreli_na_sebya_v_zerkalo_chtobyi_chitat_nam_nastavleniya_pomalkivaete_tam_a_zdes_volnichaete/
5 Kyrgyz President 'Ready' To Take RFE/RL Lawsuit To 'International Courts'. (2017, March 24). RFE/RL. Retrieved from https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-atambaev-ready-to-take-rferl-lawsuit-international-courts/28389282.html
6 Kyrgyz President 'Ready' To Take RFE/RL Lawsuit To 'International Courts'. (2017, March 24). RFE/RL. Retrieved from https://www.rferl.org/a/kyrgyzstan-atambaev-ready-to-take-rferl-lawsuit-international-courts/28389282.html
7 Kyrgyzstan: Almazbek Atambayev suggested Prosecutor General's Office withdrawing claims against ‘Azattyk’ radio. (2017, May 12). Ferghana News. Retrieved from http://enews.fergananews.com/news.php?id=3337
8 Люди как звери. В киргизском сегменте соцсетей звучат призывы к расправе над «сартами». (2017, May 23). Ferghana News. Retrieved from http://www.fergananews.com/articles/9421
9 Kyrgyz journalist receives death threats. (2017, June 1). Retrieved from https://cpj.org/x/6cf2
10 Kyrgyzstan major TV channel: Block Fergana and journalist Ulugbek Babakulov is enemy of people. (2017, May 29). Ferghana News. Retrieved from http://enews.fergananews.com/articles/3019
11 Journalist Charged With Inciting Hatred Says He Fled Kyrgyzstan. (2017, June 12). Retrieved from https://www.rferl.org/a/fergana-website-blocked-kyrgyzstan-hatred-charge/28542352.html
12 Aiyp, N. (2017, March 30). “Inciters, deceivers, slaves”: Kyrgyzstan’s president takes aim at the press. OpenDemocracy. Retrieved from https://www.opendemocracy.net/od-russia/naryn-aiyp/inciters-deceivers-slaves-kyrgyzstan-s-president-takes-aim-at-press
13 European External Action Service (EEAS), Headquarters. (2017, June 27). 8th EU-Kyrgyz Republic Human Rights Dialogue [Press release]. Retrieved from https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage_en/29045/8th%20EU-Kyrgyz%20Republic%20Human%20Rights%20Dialogue
14 Guterres, A. (n.d.). Opening remarks at press conference with President Almazbek Atambaev of Kyrgyzstan. Speech. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/sg/en/content/sg/speeches/2017-06-11/secretary-general%E2%80%99s-press-remarks-kyrgyz-president-atambaev
15 Williamson, H. (2017, June 15). UN Secretary-General Fails to Speak Up for Rights in Central Asia. Retrieved from https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/06/15/un-secretary-general-fails-speak-rights-central-asia
16 Azimjan Askarov verdict in Kyrgyzstan ‘deeply troubling’ – Zeid. (2017, January 24). United Nations Human Rights - Office of the High Commissioner. Retrieved from http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=21113&LangID=E
17 Said, G. (2017, March 28). In pivotal election year Kyrgyz media face verbal assaults from president and legal action. Retrieved from https://cpj.org/blog/2017/03/in-pivotal-election-year-kyrgyz-media-face-verbal-.php

TURKEY SEEMO urge Turkish authorities to free journalists of charges

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Vienna, 10 August 2017

Vienna, 10 August 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation. (SEEMO) expressed dismay after learning that Turkish authorities have issued 35 detention warrants against journalists and media workers, who are accused of having ties with U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

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The detention warrants have been issued today. Previously police forces carried out raids in Istanbul and detained nine people, including the editor of the daily Birgün, Burak Ekici. According to Ekici police also seized his mobile phone and laptop.

Arrested journalists are accused of using an encrypted messaging app, which authorities claim is “a common way Gullen supporters use to communicate amongst themselves”. They are also suspected of allegedly “being a part of a terrorist organisation”.

SEEMO once again expressed deep concern for the safety of all journalists and media workers in Turkey. SEEMO also urges the authorities to release all journalists and media workers in the country who have been arrested.

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 Attack against journalists in Belarus

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Vienna, 9 August 2017

Vienna, 9 August 2017 – The South East European Media Organisation (SEEMO) was disturbed to learn about an attack and new pressure against independent Belarusian journalist Kanstantyn Zhukouski (Konstantin Zhukovski).

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According to information SEEMO received Zhukouski was attacked on 8 August on a pig farm. After the attack Zhukouski spent the night in s hospital.

Additional to this attack, freelancer Zhukouski was accused again of violating Article 22.9, part 2 of the Belarus Code on Administrative Violations, after his footage about the worsening ecological conditions and air pollution present on a pig breeding farm was used in a report. The piece was published by the Belsat TV channel. Zhukouski has been fined in the past years many times for contribution of his material to Belsat. Only in this year he was punished six times (in total 5,865 BYN).

According to the authorities, he is reporting without an “accreditation for foreign press”.

Art. 22.9 envisage liability for “illegal production and distribution of mass media products”. In the past years a numerous of freelancers have been held responsible for their work for violating art. 22.9, some of them have been fined several times.

The South East Europe Media Organisation expressed deep concern for the overall state of media freedoms in Belarus. SEEMO members call on institutions in the country to drop all charges against Zhukouski and all other journalists.

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

BOSNIA and HERZEGOVINA SEEMO calls for increase in protection and security of media workers in Bosnia and Herzegovina

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Vienna, 9 August 2017

Vienna, 9 August 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed condemnation after a journalist from Banja Luka receives death threat.

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Journalist Dragan Bursac (Dragan Bursać) received a death threat after an article he wrote was published and later shared on Facebook. The article deals with the siege of the Bosnian-Herzegovina town Bihac (Bihać), during the war in 1990s, and is titled “I was silent while Bihac was shelled”.

As the the Western Balkan's Regional Platform for Advocating Media Freedom and Journalists' Safety reported, after Bursac published his article an inadmissible reaction was followed via Facebook where a person wrote a bunch of very disturbing abominations which end up with words "you will not hold your head on your shoulders, I can promise you that".

The journalist has faced three death threats and verbal abuse in the last year.

SEEMO is asking the authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina to protect better journalists in the country. SEEMO welcomes also the prompt reaction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Republika Srpska, who arrested a person who threatened Bursac.

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 deeply concerned after Serbia loses media outlet

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Vienna, 3 August 2017

Vienna, 3 August 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after it was informed by the Belgrade publishing house Adria Media Group (AMG) that on 1 August the Serbian edition of Newsweek magazine would cease all publishing.

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As the AMG reporter, this media company is since months under strong pressure by the officials in Serbia. Also as the AMG reported, company bank accounts were frozen in July.

“The fact is that the media market in Serbia is politically controlled directly or over advertising. We are missing independent professional media in Serbia, and Newsweek Serbia was one of few professional media on the market”, 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.

AZERBAIJAN SEEMO deeply dismayed after verdict against Azeri journalist is announced

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Vienna, 1 August 2017

Vienna, 1 August 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after it was revealed that a journalist in Azerbaijan was sentenced to three years and three months of imprisonment after having spent almost a year incarcerated since his arrest in August 2016.

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Faig Amirli, director of Azadliq newspaper, was sentenced on charges of allegedly inciting religious hatred, as well as tax evasion. Aside from his jail term, Amirli was ordered to pay a penalty of 39,050 AZN (approximately 20,000 EUR).

Amirli was sentenced by a court in Baku on 24 July, despite indications that during the investigation against him and the subsequent trial the prosecution could not actually prove any of the allegations against him

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

TURKEY SEEMO urges authorities in Turkey to cease trials against journalists

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Vienna, 28 July 2017

Vienna, 28 July 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern regarding this week’s criminal proceedings of 17 Cumhurriyet employees, who have spent almost nine months in incarceration.

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Journalists in question defended themselves against indictments such as being a part of, or aiding disseminate information on behalf of a terrorist organisation, as well as violating their editorial and managerial duties in respect to their affiliations.

These employees have spent months in jail prior to their trials (some even prior to their indictments) and face charges that seem to have been set up in a way to prove the theories of the prosecutor; many of the experts on which the court relies have questionable qualifications, etc.

The court has ordered the release of seven suspects in the trial but said the rest should be kept in jail. The seven, will be released under judicial supervision, meaning they have to report to the authorities regularly in the lead-up to the next hearing on September.

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 monitors worrisome developments within Croatian public broadcaster

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Vienna, 21 July 2017

Vienna, 21 July 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is concerned about the recent developments within the public broadcaster Croatian Radio Television (HRT).

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The Croatian Journalist Association (Hrvatsko novinarsko drustvo - HND) called on the Parliament Committee through a pubic letter to not go through with the planned vote to remove HRT Supervisory Board members. Despite this public plea, the vote was carried out the following day (14 July), and four out of the five existing members were removed. The fifth member is a representative of HRT employees, so they cannot be appointed or removed by the Parliament.

This action is worrisome because the Supervisory Board members were removed from their positions without completing even a half of their entire 4 year term.

“The situation within the Croatian public broadcaster has been problematic for quite a while now, and we will be monitoring further developments closely” 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

RUSSIA SEEMO calls for investigation of attack on independent journalist

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Vienna, 21 July 2017

Vienna, 21 July 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) harshly condemned the attack on investigative journalist and columnist Yulia Latynina in her home close to Moscow.

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On 19 July, unknown perpetrators organized a gas attack the journalist.

Latynina, a columnist for the daily Novaya Gazeta and host of a weekly radio talk show, reported the incident and stated that the unknown substance caused in her house nausea, dizziness and
a. The gas was sprayed over the windows and doors. SEEMO expressed deep concern for the wellbeing and safety of Yulia Latynina, as well as her family, and call on authorities in Russia to conduct a transparent investigation and find the perpetrators of this attack.

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

UKRAINE / RUSSIA SEEMO supports colleagues in Ukraine, urges authorities to investigative death case

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Vienna, 20 July 2017

Vienna, 20 July 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed their support of local and international human rights organisations that urge authorities in Ukraine to investigate the death of Pavel Grigorievich Sheremet (Павел Григорьевич Шеремет / Павел Рыгоравіч Шарамет), a Belarusian-born Russian and Ukrainian journalist.

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Sheremet, a journalist and morning talk show host was killed on 20 July 2016 by a car bomb that was placed in his vehicle. One year later, the perpetrators behind his murder have not been found or sentenced.

SEEMO remind institutions in Ukraine that the lack of action when investigating attacks on journalists and the cases of their murders, sends a negative signal regarding the state of human rights and media freedoms.

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

MOLDOVA SEEMO deeply concerned after new draft law in Moldova puts democracy at risk

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Vienna, 20 July 2017

Vienna, 20 July 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) joins representatives of NGOs in Moldova, after the Minister of Justice pushes forward dangerous draft measures for the regulations of non-governmental organisations in the country.

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The new draft law was presented to the public in the beginning of July, and it is including three articles that have caused an outcry in the country and international community. Articles 28, 29 and 30 include provisions regarding political activity of NGOs, like activities such as advocating for the improvement democracy. This will directly affect their scope of work and prohibit foreign financing causing most of NGOs in Moldova to lose their main source of support.

On 11 July 78 NGOs in Moldova, including leading media NGOs, have signed a letter urging the government to oppose the measure. According to this letter: “In spring 2016, the Minister of Justice, Mr. Vladimir Cebotari, accepted the proposal of several civil society organizations to improve the legislation on non-governmental organizations and established a working group to this end, composed of representatives of non-governmental organizations and the Ministry of Justice. The group worked for more than a year and prepared a draft law intended to replace the Law on Public Associations and the Law on Foundations. This draft is in line with the best international standards and practices and may represent, if adopted, a step forward in ensuring a sustainable and independent associative sector in the Republic of Moldova. The draft was endorsed by international experts and subjected to public consultations with participation of non-commercial organizations held on 14 September 2016 by the Ministry of Justice. During its activity, the working group enjoyed independence and was not subject to undue influence by the leadership of the Ministry of Justice or any other authorities. The draft Law on non-governmental organizations is ready to be promoted for adoption Last week, the representatives of NGOs, members of the above-referenced working group, received from the representatives of the Ministry of Justice, part of the same group, a proposal to complete the draft with three additional articles (Articles 28-30) presented by the Minister of Justice. The additions include "special provisions on political activity of non-governmental organizations", which significantly limit the activity of non-governmental organizations and establish prohibitions for their direct or indirect foreign financing. These restrictions refer to organizations that contribute to development and promotion of public policies intended to influence the legislative process. At the same time, these restrictions apply to the organizations that, according to the initiative, could participate or intervene in political activities, electoral campaigns, electoral programs, support political parties, their leaders or candidates, promote them or any other actions undertaken by them, either jointly or separately, both, in elections within the meaning of the Electoral Code or matters subject to a referendum, or beyond elections. These organizations will be prohibited even from accessing the 2% mechanism. The adjustments also aim at additional financial transparency rules for all organizations that benefit from financing outside the Republic of Moldova. They should submit to the Ministry of Justice quarterly and annual financial reports, even though such reports are submitted monthly and annually with the Tax authorities of the Republic of Moldova. Moreover, the NGOs should publish other reports confirming the origin of the organization's funds and revenues, and of the members of its management bodies as well. Additionally, organizations will have to submit a written declaration on incomes and expenditures ratio for "political activities" to the Ministry of Justice and the Central Electoral Commission and publish it on their website. For breach of the above requirements, the Ministry of Justice will apply sanctions to the nongovernmental organization and to the members of its management bodies. Some of the provided sanctions are a financial penalty in the amount of the monthly salary fund of the organization or in the amount of the material value of which the financial organization benefited in committing the breach, whichever is greater, as well as the liquidation of the organization, based on a court decision.”

“We are gravely concerned for the survival and proper functioning of non-governmental organisations in Moldova” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated earlier today. “We call on institutions in Moldova to drop this draft proposal” Vujovic also added.

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

AZERBAIJAN SEEMO dismayed by incarceration of blogger in Azerbaijan

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Vienna, 20 July 2017

Vienna, 20 July 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed to learn that blogger Aleksandr Lapshin was convicted to three years in prison for illegally crossing state borders into the disputed Nagorrno-Karabakh region on three occasions between 2011-2016.

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The Russian-Israeli travel blogger was detained in Belarus on 15 December 2016, extradited to Azerbaijan per request of their authorities on 7 February. Israeli officials wanted to prevent Lapshin’s extradition. He also holds Ukrainian and Russian citizenship. Lapshin was sentenced for entering the region which Azerbaijan and Armenia both claim, but additional charges of “making anti-state calls to the public” were dropped for lack of evidence.

SEEMO expressed deep concern for the safety and human rights of Aleksandr Lapshin. SEEMO called institutions in Azerbaijan to release the blogger and acquit him of all charges.

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

POLAND SEEMO urges authorities in Poland to drop charges against journalist

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Vienna, 15 July 2017

Vienna, 19 July 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed their deep concern after it was revealed that the Polish Defense Minister filed a criminal complaint against investigative journalist Tomasz Piatek, also the author of a new book dealing with the Minister’s alleged network of “questionable Russian contacts”.

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Piatek, who works for the daily Gazeta Wyborcza, potentially faces a trial before a military court, after the defense minister filed a complaint accusing the journalist of using “force or threats against a public official” as well as “public insults or humiliation of a constitutional body”. The accusations come after Piatek’s latest book was published, which deals in depth with the minister’s alleged ties with individuals close to the Kremlin, the Russian secret service as well as criminal groups.

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.

POLAND Media freedom NGOs and professional organisations ask Polish defence minister to drop complaint against journalist

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Vienna / Paris 17 July 2017

Media freedom NGOs and professional organisations ask Polish defence minister to drop complaint against journalist.

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HUNGARY SEEMO calls on authorities to in Hungary to cease persecution of NGOs

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Vienna, 16 July 2017

Vienna, 16 July 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on authorities in Hungary to cease their recent attempts to institutionally vilify the role and actions of civil society organisations in the country.

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The government of Hungary has put into action a nationwide advertising campaign consisting of billboard and television ads that disparage the role and importance of civil society organisations which protect and stand for the rights of refugees and humane immigration policies. The government behind Prime Minister Viktor Orban aims to disenfranchise non-governmental human rights organisations in the country, especially those that are aided by Hungarian-American businessman and investor George Soros.

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 for safety of media and NGOs in Ukraine

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Vienna, 15 July 2017

Vienna, 15 July 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was concerned to learn that the government in Ukraine introduced two new bill proposals to the Parliament (Rada) which would require non-governmental organisations in the country to submit detailed financial reports. If accepted, law proposals 6674 and 6675 would withdraw the status of NGOs and seriously put in danger their independence and proper functioning.

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In addition to the NGOs themselves, individuals and groups working with the NGOs would also have to provide similar financial evidence. If they failed to comply, both the organisations and their partners would face heavy fees, as well as potentially lose their non-profit status.

Additional, SEEMO members were informed that on 14 July the offices of Vesti media group in Kyiv had been raided, including Radio Vesti, newspaper Vesti and the web portal Vesti-ukr.com. It was later explained by the Chair of the Board of Directors Media Holding Vesti Ukraine that special police units halted all broadcasting and rounded up journalists in a single room in order to question them and search the contents of their mobile phones.

The raid, according to Vesti employees, came potentially as retaliation for a recent article investigating the Chief Military Prosecutor’s income and expenses. In early 2017, the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting revoked the license of the media group.

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

ROMANIA SEEMO welcomes ECHR decision for Romanian journalist

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Vienna, 29 June 2017

Vienna, 29 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) welcomed the decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) after it published that the state of Romania infringed upon the freedom of expression of a local journalist in 2007.

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Feri Predescu, a journalist from Constanta, Romania, was sued in 2007 by the former mayor of the city, who she mentioned in a series of statements a year prior (August 2006) during a TV show. Despite Constanta Court’s initial ruling against the former mayor’s accusations, a later appeal was accepted and Predescu was ordered to write a public letter of apology to the former mayor, publish it in the local daily at her own cost, and pay him financially for moral damages (~11,000 EUR), as also legal expenses (~1,550 EUR).

However, it was decided on 27 June 2017 that this decision from 2007 violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Romanian state was ordered to pay the journalist a sum of 14,000 EUR for material damages, as well as 4,500 EUR for moral damages.

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 urges Hungarian authorities to drop new law on NGOs

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Vienna, 29 June 2017

Vienna, 29 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed harsh criticism after recent developments in Hungary allow for further repression and censorship against human rights organisations.

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On Tuesday, 13 June, the Hungarian parliament passed new legislation on NGOs which forces civil society groups that receive foreign funding to register separately and label all of their publications and initiatives pejoratively as “foreign-funded”. If they fail to comply, NGOs risk sanctions such as financial fines of up to 3,000 EUR or forced closure and dissolution of the organisation in Hungary.

The law requires all NGOs that receive more than 24,000 EUR per year to re-register as a civil society group “from abroad”. For several years, Hungarian officials have been targeting organisations in the country that are beyond their control – those funded from foreign and international sources. It has repeatedly been suggested that Hungarian-US billionaire George Soros whose foundation funds dozens of NGOs throughout the Balkans region is “endangering sovereignty and national security of Hungary”.

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 recent negative media developments in Turkey

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Vienna, 29 June 2017

Vienna, 29 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed to learn that several new prison sentences have been approved by courts in Turkey, in cases of journalistic prosecutions.

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On 22 June, a court in Istanbul held a hearing for the cases of media workers and writers Asli Erdogan (Aslı Erdoğan), Filiz Kocali (Filiz Koçali), Inan Kizilkaya (İnan Kızılkaya), Zana Kaya, Necmiye Alpay, Ragip Duran, Eren Keskin, Bilge Oykut, and Keman Sancili (Kemal Sancılı). All of them are on trial for one or several cases of alleged dissemination of terrorist propaganda, belonging to a terrorist organization and similar charges. Over 50 other media workers have been investigated and charged on several counts as well.

Since the failed coup attempt in 2016, investigations in Turkey have been launched against thousands of public servants, academic, public intellectuals, writers, journalists and others. Hundreds of local and national media outlets have been forced into closure, either through incarceration, financial fines or censorship attempts – both Turkish and Kurdish. Writers have been put in jail and sentenced for publishing work about the difficult living conditions of Kurds and Kurdish women. Attorneys have been prohibited from seeing and talking to their clients, even during hearings and trials. Many media workers are kept in detention for months on end, with no information regarding their charges or beginning of trial.

On 29 June, the Regional Gaziantep Court approved a prison sentence for Ismail Eskin. Eskin was prosecuted after being charged of allegedly “spreading terrorist propaganda” and being “a part of an illegal terrorist organization”, after he reported about multiple human rights violations committed during curfews in Amed and ISIS attacks on Kobane (Kobanê). Eskin was sentenced to three years, one month and fifteen days of imprisonment.

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 calls on institutions in Croatia to protect journalist

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Vienna, 28 June 2017

Vienna, 28 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was concerned to learn about the recent culmination of threats against Croatian journalist Hassan Diab.

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Diab is a reporter for the daily Vecernji list and regularly publishes pieces concerning the wars in Libya, Iraq and Syria. In early June, he published an article that contained classified documents, including names of jihadists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo and Serbia who have gone to Syrian and Iraqi battlefields. Aside from being the recipient of hate speech, physical and death threats from multiple anonymous individuals through social media, Diab was also put under public scrutiny by certain media outlets and public figures in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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 Investigate threats against journalists, SEEMO urges authorities in Serbia

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Vienna, 28 June 2017

Vienna, 28 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was concerned after hearing about another case of threats aimed at a journalist in Serbia.

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Journalist Marija Vucic (Marija Vučić) received death threats via an anonymous Facebook page, telling her she will soon go “under a knife”. This comes after an article was published in which she revealed how several hooligan extremists violently stopped a movie projection in the city of Nis (Niš). The movie’s title was “Albanians are our sisters”.

Anonymous death threats must be immediately and transparently investigated by police authorities, SEEMO reminds institutions in Serbia. It is of utmost importance for the authorities to react quickly and send a clear message that threats against journalists will not be tolerated and prosecuted in all cases.

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 Favoritism towards journalists bad sign, SEEMO members agree

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Vienna, 27 June 2017

Vienna, 27 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was displeased to learn that several editors-in-chief of reputable daily papers in Serbia did not receive invitations to the Presidential inauguration organised by president-elect Aleksandar Vucic.

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The event was held on 23 June in Belgrade and is said to have included around five thousand guests, including foreign and local politicians, celebrities, as well as almost all representatives of the media. However, editors-in-chief of several prominent media outlets were not invited, seemingly on purpose. Editor-in-chief of daily Danas Dragoljub Petrovic (Dragoljub Petrović), daily Kurir Nemanja Pajic (Nemanja Pajić) and weekly Vreme Dragoljub Zivkovic (Dragoljub Živković) were not invited, or received their invitation only hours before 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.

SEE REGION SEEMO condemns calls to shut down Al Jazeera

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Vienna, 26 June 2017

Vienna, 26 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the calls from several nations and governments to shut down the Al Jazeera network.

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By shutting down this media network, Al Jazeera Balkans would also be shut down. This international news chanell is based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, but broadcasts and covers news throughout the Balkans region.

“The idea of shutting down such an important media network is ludicrous. The demand itself shows the detrimental state of human rights and press freedom in some countries” 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.

KAZAKHSTAN SEEMO urges authorities in Kazakhstan to cease retaliation against civil society

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Vienna, 22 June 2017

Vienna, 22 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep criticism after it was revealed that an appellate court in the city of Almaty issued a large financial fine against the International Legal Initiative, a well known legal society organization facing pressures in the country.

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In 2016, the government began targeting several prominent human rights NGOs based in Almaty after they had been engaged during the trials of local political and human rights activists. The pressure experienced by the organizations included snap tax inspections, which forced the organizations to pay fines of several thousand dollars.

This most recent fine against an NGO came on 21 June and generated a strong outcry from the international community.

SEEMO members condemn the treatment of activists and civil society groups in Kazakhstan, and call on institutions in the country to cease their baseless legislative pursuit against them.

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

SERBIA SEEMO concerned following potential politically motivated retaliation in Serbia

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Vienna, 18 June 2017

Vienna, 18 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after claims of politically motivated retaliation have been raised against a media company in Serbia, Adria Media Group (AMG) and ist owner Aleksandar Rodic.

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This was followed immediately by a statement issued by a leading politician in the country in which he accuses Rodic of being involved in “illegal acts” without providing any proof, as well as labeling him as a “Croatian spy”, “Albanian mercenary”, “traitor” etc.

“SEEMO will be following the problems of daily Kurir and AMG company closely" 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.

ALBANIA SEEMO critical of Albanian public officials silencing journalists through lawsuits

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Vienna, 13 June 2017

Vienna, 13 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed to learn that a judge and member of the High Council of Justice in Albania pressed defamation charges against several journalists and two media outlets in the country.

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A judge within Tirana's Appeals Court, filed charges after various media outlets reported on a recent probe of his assets, launched by a prosecutor. Charges were made against the investigative network BIRN Albanian (Balkan Investigative Reporting Network), daily Shqiptarja.com, as well as journalists Besar Likmeta and Aleksandra Bogdani.

Limeta and Bogdani are internatiional known for professional reporting.

The entirety of the financial fine sums up to around 82,000 EUR. Journalists fear that because of the judge position within the Albanian legal system and his political relationships, they stand little to no chance of proving their innocence.

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

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Vienna, 12 June 2017

Vienna, 12 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after approximately 300 protesters were detained in Russia on 12 June while attending rallies against corruption.

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Among them was activist and correspondent Andrey Kalikh, who wrote that he was being held in a police bus with “40 other peaceful demonstrators”. Kalikh was detained in St. Petersburg, while tens of thousands of people have been attending the demonstrations throughout the country.

“We ask authorities in Russia to treat citizens, activists and journalists fairly” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General commented on the developments.

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

KYRGYZSTAN SEEMO condemns pressure against independent journalist in Kyrgyzstan

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Vienna, 09 June 2017

Vienna, 09 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the legislative pressure exerted by Kyrgyz authorities against journalist Ulugbek Babakulov.

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In late May, Babakulov wrote an article that examined social media posts in the Kyrgyz language, which often use ethnic slurs and threats against the country’s Uzbek minority. Since then, the journalist has been receiving death threats and pressure. He ultimately has been charged by authorities for “inciting inter-ethnic hatred”. The media outlet that posted Babakulov’s article is Fergana, a regional media portal based in Moscow, which the government of Kyrgyzstan blocked all access to today.

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

TURKEY SEEMO asks for release of journalists in Turkey

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Vienna, 4 June 2017

Vienna, 4 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called for the release of Ilker Yucel (İlker Yücel) in the province of Igdir in Turkey .

Yucel, who is the editor-in-chief of the daily Aydinlik, was arrested after the paper failed to publish a correction or pay a monetary fine (~25,000 EUR), in regards to an article written in 2014. The article supposedly insults the Turkish Energy Minister, who is also the son-in-law of the president.

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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 urges authorities in Serbia to protect journalists and their rights

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Vienna, 3 June 2017

Vienna, 3 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) urges authorities in Serbia to take action and protect journalists and their safety, after three separate attacks on media workers occurred on 31 May.

During the inauguration of the new president of Serbia Aleksandar Vuvic in the main Parliament building in Belgrade, journalist Lidija Valtner from the daily Danas was attacked by persons "in black shirts" as she reported. Valtner was taking a statement from an anti-government protester on the street when they were approached and physically attacked. When the journalist tried to record the assault on the protester, the men threatened to take her phone.

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Simmilar was the attacke when a reporter of the portal Espresso.rs was attacked. She tried to interview a anti-government protester. She was threatened with seizure of equipment and physical harm and had to cease reporting.

A journalist and photo-reporter from media outlets Insajder and Vice were attacked when they attempted to film a group of men breaking a protest sign with statements against the new president, who until recently was the prime minister. Journalists were shuffled, threatened by passersby, and had their IDs checked by members of the police.

According to the journalists the police was not checking the IDs of the individuals who attacked the journalists.

“We condemn these attacks and ask authorites in the country to begin an investigation and punish the assaulters accordingly” 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.

AZERBAIJAN, GEORGIA SEEMO calls for release of kidnapped journalist

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Vienna, 3 June 2017

Vienna, 3 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was appalled to learn that journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was detained and taken to Baku, Azerbaijan, despite being in exile in Tbilisi, Georgia.

Authorities claim they do not know how the journalist crossed the border on 29 May 2017 and that an investigation is under way. In 2015, Mukhtarli, who is a longtime critic of police structures in his home country, had investigated corruption involving the current president of Azerbaijan, and had since been carefully monitored.

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SEEMO supports Afgan Mukhtarli and all Azerbaijani journalists who are being harassed because of their work both in their home country and in Georgia. Mukhtarli must be immediately released and an investigation should determine how and by whom he was taken out of exile.

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

RUSSIA SEEMO urges authorities to protect journalists in Russia

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Vienna, 1 June 2017

Vienna, 1 June 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed to learn that journalist Dmitri Popkov was shot and killed in the town of Minusinsk in Russia on 24 May 2017.

Popkov was editor-in-chief and founder of Minusinsk-based newspaper Ton-M, which took a critical stance towards corruption involving local political officials and police members. The journalist himself stated that the outlet had become “an obstacle” for local authorties, who according to him had been making a practice of threatening and intimidating independent journalists. Popkov was found in his backyard, shot five times by an unknown person. An investigation was opened following his murder.

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“We are shocked after hearing the news of this brutal murder” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO secretary general stated. “We ask for an urgent investigation of the case ” Vujovic added.

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

TURKEY Release of detained journalists in Turkey crucial for democracy, SEEMO states

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Vienna, 28 May 2017

Vienna, 28 May 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) harshly condemned the continuing series of arrests of local and foreign journalists in Turkey.

Mathias Depardon, an independent French photo-reporter, was detained by police authorities on 8 May in Hansankyef, in the southeast area of the country. Depardon has been living in Turkey for several years and was in the process of preparing a story for National Geographic when he was arrested. His equipment was seized and he was charged with “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organisation” based on four photographs Depardon shared on his social media three years ago. The photos portray female fighters of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is outlawed in Turkey.

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Police authorities sent him to a Migration Department detention center in Gaziantep province, claiming that he will be deported, but despite his deportation order being issued for 11 May, his incarceration continued. On 21 May, the photographer began a hunger strike, but after a public outcry from the international community regarding his case, he ended it on 27 May.

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 demands release of Azerbaijani journalist

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Vienna, 24 May 2017

Vienna, 24 May 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the actions of authorities in Azerbaijan after freelance journalist Nijat Amiraslanov was detained on 22 May 2017 in the city of Gazakh.

Amiraslanov is known as a critic of local corruption, poverty and media violations, and has reported on these issues extensively in the past. It is believed that his arrest is a form of retaliation for his online posts and reporting so far. On 23 May, a court in Azerbaijan ordered the journalist to spend 30 days in jail for charges of resisting arrest, a charge which Amiraslanov denies.

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Members of SEEMO call on institutions in Azerbaijan to immediately release the journalist from detention, as well as all other media workers who have received similar penalties in the previous months. Censorship attempts against free thinking, independent journalists are not acceptable, and indicate a lack of respect for human rights and media freedoms.

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

AZERBAIJAN, KAZAKHSTAN SEEMO extremely concerned for the safety of journalists and activists in the region

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Vienna, 16 May 2017

Vienna, 16 May 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern after recent developments in Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan indicate a new drop in the level of media freedoms and human rights protection.

On 12 May, the Sabail District Court of Baku issued a decision to block five media websites: Meydan TV, Turan TV, Azerbaycan Saati, Azadliq daily and local RWB news outlet Azadliq. The Prosecutor General claimed these outlets present a “threat to Azerbaijan’s national security”. The ruling was a result of a complaint made by the Communications and High Technologies Ministry, which initially limited access to the aforementioned websites on 27 March. In 2016, online defamation was made a criminal offence in Azerbaijan, punishable by imprisonment.

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Ramazan Yesergepov, a prominent Kazakh journalist and activist was assaulted and stabbed in the abdomen in the early morning hours of 14 May. The chairman of the media freedom group Journalists in Danger was attacked by two unknown men while he was travelling by train from Almaty to Astana. Yesergepov was on his way to a meeting with foreign diplomats to discuss the position of activists and journalists in Kazakhstan, many of whom are imprisoned, attacked and work in difficult conditions. Another topic of discussion was supposed to be the failure of the Kazakh government to comply with the decisions of the UN Human Rights Committee, including the journalist’s own case. Yesergepov was hospitalized and underwent surgery because of his injuries.

“SEEMO members were horrified by both of these incidents” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General stated. “We call on authorities in Kazakhstan to immediately launch a transparent and swift investigation and uncover the perpetrators of this brutal attack against Ramazan Yesergepov. As for Azerbaijan, the blatant abuse and censorship expressed against independent and critical media outlets in the country is not only dangerous for freedom of speech, but also basic human rights of media workers and activists. We call on the international community to assist us in sending a strong message to both governments, and help us in improving working and living conditions for free thinkers in the region” Vujovic added.

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

CROATIA SEEMO concerned after violent attack on journalist in Croatia

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Vienna, 14 May 2017

Vienna, 13 May 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was deeply concerned after it was revealed that on 12 May a local politican in Pozega, a town in Croatia, physically attacked a media worker with the intention to do him harm.

The local politican invited Mladen Mirkovic (Mladen Mirković), a journalist from local portal 034portal.hr, to his office for a meeting, prior to a press conference that was to be held nearby. When Mirkovic arrived, the politican began inquiring about who wrote a specific article published on their website. When Mirkovic responded that he wasn’t the author of the articles in question, the politician began to attack the journalist, pushing the journalist against the wall and hitting him. The journalist ran out of the office.

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Following the incident Mirkovic received medical treatment for shock and injuries.

SEEMO condemns this attack, and call not only on the official in question, but also institutions in Croatia to react and investigate the case.

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.

CZECH REPUBLIC SEEMO condemns hateful remark of Czech President towards journalists

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Vienna, 14 May 2017

Vienna, 14 May 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) harshly condemned the recent statement of Czech President Milos Zeman (Miloš Zeman) on 14 May, in which he, during a verbal exchange with Russian President Vladimir Putin, jokingly suggested journalists should be “liquidated”.

During an international conference in Beijing, China, President Zeman had a meeting with Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. Following the event, and as the two heads of state walked together, Zeman commented to Putin in front of the media that there are “too many journalists” and that “we should liquidate them”.

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SEEMO is condemning this abhorrent statement made by the political leader of a EU member state. SEEMO also asks the Czech President to issue an official apology following his clumsy, vulgar and highly offensive statement.

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 surge of media freedom and human rights violations in Turkey deeply concerning, says SEEMO

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Vienna, 14 May 2017

Vienna, 14 May 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was alarmed to learn about yet another series of arrests, censorship and media freedom violations in Turkey.

On 11 May, Caglar Ozbilgin (Çağlar Özbilgin), editor for Sendika.org, was detained in an Istanbul courthouse, where he initially came to testify in an investigation which accused him of “insulting the President”. However, when he arrived he was detained and told that yet another investigation is being brought up against him; he then testified before a prosecutor and was held for several hours before finally being released.

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Early on the morning of 12 May, editor-in-chief of daily news portal Cumhuriyet, Oguz Guven (Oğuz Güven) was taken into custody to the Istanbul Security Directorate to give a statement to the police, however the precise reason for his detention was not revealed.

Also on 12 May, several statements surfaced in which German officials claim that they have been unable to contact journalist Mesale Tolu (Meşale Tolu) since she was arrested by Turkish authorities on 30 April. Tolu, a German citizen whose work was published by the private ETHA news agency, was accused by Turkish authorities of “disseminating propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organisation ”. This referred to her work for Netherlands-based Firat News Agency (ANF), which is accused by the government in Turkey of having ties with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The journalist’s husband is also under arrest and facing similar charges.

It was revealed today, 14 May, that the Turkish Information and Communication Technologies Authority (BTK) banned all access to the website of Rojeva Medya, the only daily published in Kurdish in Turkey. 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 members shocked after brutal attack on journalist in Kosovo

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Vienna, 14 May 2017

Vienna, 14 May 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed to learn that investigative journalist Arbana Xharra suffered a brutal physical attack on Saturday, 13 May.

Xharra recently left her position as editor-in-chief of daily Zeri in order to join the ruling Democratic Party of Kosovo (PDK) and will potentially run in parliamentary elections scheduled for next month. Current President of Kosovo Hashim Thaci set up early elections for 11 June, after the government was dismissed in a non-confidence motion on 10 May.

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The former journalist was a long time critic of this and other political parties in Kosovo, accusing officials of corruption and nepotism. Xharra was attacked beaten by unknown assaulters in a park near her apartment and received medical care for her injuries.

TURKEY SEEMO deeply concerned regarding media situation in Turkey

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Vienna, 11 May 2017

Vienna, 11 May 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was deeply concerned to hear about several deeply problematic and undemocratic cases of media freedom and human rights violations in Turkey.

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Aysenur Parildak (Ayşenur Parıldak), a 27 year old journalist and law student at the Ankara University was arrested in August 2016 and charged under the Turkish anti-terror law because of her tweets and stories she was covering at the time for the (now closed) daily Zaman. Parildak was also accused of using a phone app called ByLock to communicate, which is publicly available messaging software; all of this was claimed by the prosecutor as criminal evidence against her. According to the journalist, during her nine month long detention she has been a victim to violence and sexual harassment.

On 2 May, while friends and family awaited her release after a trial hearing, the Ankara No.14 High Criminal Court decided to re-arrest Parildak before she was even released. The public prosecutor claimed that “all evidence” against the journalist had already “been collected” and that the state regulatory body Information Technologies and Communication Authority (BTK) was sending “new evidence” from her phone at that very time. The prosecutor claimed that Parildak needed to be put under arrest again in order to not “tamper with said evidence” and asked for a prison sentenced of up to 15 years.

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 Attacks against media representatives in Serbia must be sanctioned, SEEMO insists

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Vienna, 3 May 2017

Vienna, 03 May 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed to learn that Dzeljalj Beljulji, owner of the TV station Spektri, was threatened on 29 April in Bujanovac.

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According to his brother and co-owner of the station Nedzad Beljulji, the attack happened in a local coffee shop, after unidentified men called Beljulji. He suggested they should come and speak to him. Once they arrived, it was evident that this was the president of the Albanian national Council Jonuz Musliu and his sons. After stating their displeasure about TV Spektri reporting on Jonuz and his activities, the men made provocations towards a physical confrontation, but Beljulji managed to avoid it. He later gave a statement in the police headquarters, despite not having reported the incident himself. Beljulji added that they made several threats, including that he and his brother should be “careful about their writing”, since they “do not know what can happen to them”.

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 appalled after assaults occur in Macedonian Parliament

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Vienna, 28 April 2017

Vienna, 28 April 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was shocked to learn that during yesterday’s unrest in Macedonia two journalists were attacked and injured.

On 27 April, about 200 demonstrators stormed into the Parliament building in Skopje, protesting the newly elected speaker of the Assembly, who is also an ethnic Albanian. A violent brawl began, injuring several members of the opposition political party as well as two journalists, Nikola Ordevski and Dimitar Tanurov.

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Ordevski, a cameraman for Makfaks news agency, was assaulted by several individuals during the brawl and later hospitalized with a concussion.

Dimitar Tanurov, reporter of the independent online news agency Meta, claims he was assaulted even after he showed his press card, and obtained several injuries but did not receive medical care. In addition, 21 journalists were threatened or outright banned from reporting at the scene on 27 April.

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 critical of potential media freedom violations in Serbia

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Vienna, 28 April 2017

Vienna, 28 April 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was concerned to learn the claims of TV station N1 that a new media law and amendments soon to be proposed by the Ministry of Culture and Information will aim to wipe out the outlet.

According to N1, the Ministry is preparing a new media strategy and a set of media laws that would include a proposal though which cable distributors of TV channels are banned from producing channels of their own.

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SEEMO asks the Serbian autorities to confirm if this informatio is true, and transparently show their future initiatives and proposals regarding media legislature. The Ministry and all other institutions that deal with media in Serbia must respect their freedoms and show that none of their work is aimed at hurting freedom of speech and survival of media outlets.

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 critical of Russia’s restrictive reporting practices

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Vienna, 28 April 2017

Vienna, 28 April 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) criticized the alleged stipulations demanded by Russia regarding journalistic reporting during the World Cup warm-up tournament - Confederations Cup, which is to be held this summer in several cities in the country.

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German daily Bild stated that it will boycott the event if journalists aren’t allowed to report freely, after guidelines issued by Russian authorities specify that journalists can cover solely “FIFA Confederations Cup 2017 and related events”, limiting them to the “territory of host cities and cultural sites nearby”. Reporting about events unrelated to the Cup or in other territories is said to require a separate visa, and that condition is not included in the guidelines for broadcasters with approved accreditations.

SEEMO is concerned regarding restrictive policies of Russian authorities towards journalists and ask that no restraints are put upon them and their work. We call on institutions in the country and FIFA to allow all media workers democratic, professional and free conditions in order to carry out their reporting ethically.

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

SERBIA SEEMO harshly condemns behavior of officials towards journalists in Serbia

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Vienna, 26 April 2017

Vienna, 26 April 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) harshly condemned the behavior exhibited by representatives of the ruling party in Serbia (SNS) after their crude and aggressive conduct towards journalists on 23 April.

During local elections in the town of Zajecar, suspicious groups were noticed near voting centers and appeared to communicate with members of the voting boards. CRTA, a committee of voting observers, reported that there were alleged voting irregularities in more than 7 voting centers, including Zajecar as well as the municipalities of Kosjeric, Vrbas, Kovin and Odzaci.

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Throughout the day, filming was prohibited even in the vicinity of the SNS party headquarters where voting took place, and an unknown individual pushed out TV N1 journalist Gordana Bjeletic from the premises. A member of CRTA attempted to take pictures of the entrance of the voting center and party headquarters but was violently stopped after several individuals took his phone, deleted the pictures and told him there wouldn’t be any trouble if he stopped trying to photograph the scene. Other crews from media outlets, including B92, Istinomer and N1, were also sent out of the premises and prohibited from filming and reporting there.

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 physical attack on journalist in Croatia

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Vienna, 19 April 2017

Vienna, 19 April 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the brutal physical attack committed on journalist Sinisa Vickov (Siniša Vickov) in Split, Croatia.

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On 18 April, Vickov left a county assembly meeting to temporarily report from another event. Once that event finished, Vickov wanted to re-enter the local government building and follow the session which was still in motion but was stopped by two private security employees. Despite him letting them know he was a journalist and trying to get through, he was then shuffled and punched, causing him to fall to the floor, after which the security persons continued kicking him. He received medical treatment and has two broken ribs.

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 appalled by anti-democratic practices in Russia and Chechen Republic

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Vienna, 19 April 2017

Vienna, 19 April 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was horrified to learn about the threats and pressures daily paper Novaya Gazeta has been receiving after publishing details of an investigative story revealing serious human rights violations.

In early April, Novaya Gazeta published several articles detailing the horrific practices of Chechen police members who round up persons rumored or perceived to be gay, and detain them for days and even weeks. The men in question are commonly tortured, humiliated and outed to their families. Three have been killed so far due to these practices.

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On 3 April, a gathering was organized in the capital Grozny, with more than 15,000 people in attendance to “protest against the articles”, and included religious leaders, public figures and officials. An advisor to the head of the Chechen Republic held a speech during which he deemed journalists of this daily as “enemies to our faith and motherland” and accused the paper of defamation. Following this, threats directed to Novaya Gazeta and the author of the investigative piece, Elena Milashina, reached dangerous levels, and were mentioned by the daily itself in a statement published on 14 April.

On 15 April, Chechnya's press and information Minister posted a public letter in which he demanded that the “newspaper apologize to the Chechen people” and reprimanded them for even suggesting the possibility the existence of gay men within their society.

Elena Milashina, renowned investigative journalist, left Moscow following the threats she kept receiving, fearing for her safety.

On 19 April, the headquarters of the Novaya Gazeta received an envelope containing an unidentified white powder-like substance from an unknown sender.

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 incidents of oppression against media workers in Serbia

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Vienna, 17 April 2017

Vienna, 17 April 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was concerned to learn that during the previous week several cases of threats, attacks and media freedom violations have occurred against media workers in Serbia.

TV journalist and talk show host Tatjana Vojtehovski informed on 10 April via social media that an unknown person left a handwritten threat directed at her, found on a tree in a park in Belgrade. The note claims that the journalist was “being paid by Zaev and Taci* to tear down the wall with Serbian martyrs”*. The note also included insinuations of shooting Vojtehovski. The journalist reported the threat to the police and suspects it is tied to her open support of the ongoing protests in Serbia following the recent presidential elections.

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*(Zoran Zaev is the political leader of the opposition party in Macedonia; Hashim Thaçi is the President of Kosovo).

SEEMO members were also disturbed to learn that Nedim Sejdinovic, president of the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina, received dozens of death threats through social media in the previous several days. Threats from anonymous individuals began arriving after Aleksandar Martinovic, member of the ruling party SNS, made several slanderous public statements against Sejdinovic, pinning him as allegedly being one of the organizers of the current anti-government protests in several cities in Serbia.

SEEMO also harshly condemns today’s statement of Aleksandar Vulin, Minister of Labour, Employment, Veteran and Social Policy, after saying that he will “request the dismissal of the entire board of directors of the public broadcaster RTS”. The reason behind this demand, he stated, is that RTS began reporting about the anti-government protests that have been occurring in Serbia in the previous two weeks. RTS was initially criticized by the public after they stayed silent about the demonstrations, but now the Minister claims the managerial board should be dismissed after they giving air time to demonstrators. SEEMO members remind Minister Vulin that RTS is a public broadcaster, meaning that no state interest or opinions should be cast upon what the independent, censorship-free broadcaster should air and report on.

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 serious decline in safety of journalists in Kosovo

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Vienna, 12 April 2017

Vienna, 12 April 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern after it was revealed that two prominent Kosovo journalists received death threats in the past two days.

Arbana Xhara, investigative journalist and editor-in-chief of daily Zeri, received serious death threats by unknown perpetrators on 10 April. The two cross symbols with blood-like paint were initially discovered by Xhara’s husband, who noticed one of them near the entrance of their apartment, and the other in the journalist’s regular garage parking spot.

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The case was reported to the police, and Arbana Xhara stated that an ongoing smear campaign against her has been going on for over a week, coming specifically from religious radicals, anonymous extremists and media outlets close to the opposition party Vetevendosje.

On 11 April, Musa Mustafa, journalist and founder of news website Infojeta.net received death threats via text messages from unknown individuals. The messages contained threats against him, his family, and the Albanian people, “if he continues to write against Serbs”. Mustafa is an ethnic Albanian and recently wrote about alleged Serbian parallel police structures in northern Kosovo, where he resides.

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 expresses concerns about a journalist in Greece

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Vienna, 10 April 2017

Vienna, 10 April 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), is concerned about news from Greece from this morning.

As SEEMO was informed, a Greek judge ordered this morning on Monday 10 April, that the award-winning Greek journalist and publisher Kostas Vaxevanis (@KostasVaxevanis) should be arrested, after Vaxevanis published an article in his weekly newspaper «Documento».

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SEEMO will monitor the case.

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 asks for professional reporting

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Vienna, 08 April 2017

Vienna, 08 April 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern about the media situation in Serbia after several civil society groups and journalist organisations in Serbia criticized the reporting of several media outlets in the country in connection with the presidential election in Serbia and post-election demonstrations.

Protesters on the streets in Belgrade are claiming that the news editors from different media are “siding with the regime” and that their articles and reports keep giving reduced information about the post-election protests and number of participants.

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SEEMO is asking the media in Serbia to respect professional standards in reporting and to present different views as part of the reporting.

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 calls on authorities in Belarus to end obstruction of free speech

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Vienna, 04 April 2017

Vienna, 04 April 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) criticized the repressive tactics of institutions in Belarus, as well as the organized media persecution that has been happening in the country.

Belsat TV journalist Alyaksandr Barazenka was arrested on 29 March while covering the Freedom Day celebrations and subsequent protests, and had gone on a hunger strike while in detention. He had been kept in detention since the incidents but was released on 31 March, with sources claiming that the detention conditions are difficult for journalists, media workers and activists who have been arrested. Belsat TV is a part of Polish public TV which is broadcasted in Belarus by local journalists and for a local audience.

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So far, there have allegedly been over 90 detentions, 6 cases of physical violence and beatings by police members towards journalists, several cases of seized or destroyed equipment, and 40 legal cases. Several journalists have received fines of about 920 BYN (460 EUR), and others have been punished with arrests from 5 to up to 15 days.

SEEMO calls on the authorities in Belarus to respect the right of journalists to report.

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

TURKEY SEEMO expresses growing concerns for media in Turkey once again

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Vienna, 31 March 2017

Vienna, 31 March 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern after having discovering news of many new media freedom violations in Turkey in the previous two days.

Selman Keles (Selman Keleş), a correspondent of the Dicle News Agency (DIHABER) was taken into custody in the Turkish province of Van on 20 March, where he was accused of belonging to an “illegal organization”. Keles was detained after filming coverage for news items near the Metropolitan Municipality Building. His equipment was confiscated.

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Journalist Arif Aslan was also taken into custody at the time and, after giving his statement, was accused of allegedly being a member of a terrorist organization.

Murat Ide, former editor-in-chief of the private TV channel BenguTurk TV (BengüTürk TV), made a statement on Thursday, 30 March, that he was fired due to political reasons. According to Ide, he was laid off because he was resisting “saying yes” and supporting the current president in the upcoming presidential referendum in Turkey. The editor-in-chief added that he was fired not because he would say no, but because he would not say yes.

“The number of jailed journalists and media workers in Turkey reaches 200 people. This is a devastating fact, but it is also reality. I call once again the state institutions in Turkey to allow journalists and media outlets to work freely.” 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.

BELARUS SEEMO concerned for safety of media workers in Belarus

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Vienna, 26 March 2017

Vienna, 26 March 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed to learn about several incidents in recent days that included violence towards journalists and human rights activists in Belarus.

Citizens have been taking to the street to protest against a new law in the country, which in turn has caused a rise in the number of journalists, activists and media workers being detained and attacked while they report from the scene.

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On 25 March, while covering the Liberty Day events, journalists in Minsk and other cities (Homel, Viciebsk) were detained by police members. Most of them were held for several hours, asked to provide their documents and were then released, but several experienced physical violence, beatings, and longer detentions.

On the same day, a special police unit burst into the headquarters of the human rights center Viasna, maltreating and detaining over 50 people for more than two hours. One person suffered a brain concussion and bruising. On 18 March, at least 9 journalists were detained while covering protests in towns across the country.

“SEEMO is expressing deep concern for the safety of media workers in Belarus” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General stated. "We call on authorities in Belarus to cease their oppressive behavior against journalists, and stop persecuting those who are helping spread information” Vujovic added.

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

TURKEY SEEMO concerned for rights and freedoms of journalists in Turkey

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Vienna, 23 March 2017

Vienna, 23 March 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after learning new steps against freedom of the press in Turkey.

German Journalist and photoreporter Hinrich Schultze was arrested on 20 March after arriving in Diyarbakir from Hamburg, in order to report about Newroz celebrations. Newroz is a traditional celebration by Iranians and Kurds, and takes place on 21 March. After the German journalist arrived in the Kurd-populated Diyarbakır region, he was kept in custody for half an hour.

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On 21 March in Van in East Turkey, according to several sources, the police arrested Selman Keles (Selman Keleş), who works for the web-news Dihaber

Website sendika.org was blocked today by the Authority for Telecommunications of Turkey.

In a trial case that has already been postponed twice, journalists Erol Onderoglu (Erol Önderoğlu), writer Ahmet Nesin and Şebnem Korur-Fincancı had their third hearing on 21 March, on charges of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization”. Nesin was not coming, so the court issued a warrant for his arrest. The next hearing will be on 8 June

In a campaign for the daily Ozgur Gundem (Özgür Gündem) from 3 May 2016 to 7 August 2016, 56 media workers, experts and intellectuals participated, of which 50 subsequently faced some sort of legal prosecution; 38 of these were turned into court cases. Between them also reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Onderoglu (Erol Önderoğlu), writer Ahmet Nesin and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) President Sebnem Korur-Financi.

“Erol Önderoğlu, recipient of the 2016 Dr. Erhard Busek SEEMO Award for Better Understanding in South East Europe and two other free thinking, independent persons face serious legal repercussions” 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 for rights and freedoms of journalists in Turkey

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Vienna, 23 March 2017

Vienna, 23 March 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed concern after learning new steps against freedom of the press in Turkey.

German Journalist and photoreporter Hinrich Schultze was arrested on 20 March after arriving in Diyarbakir from Hamburg, in order to report about Newroz celebrations. Newroz is a traditional celebration by Iranians and Kurds, and takes place on 21 March. After the German journalist arrived in the Kurd-populated Diyarbakır region, he was kept in custody for half an hour.

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On 21 March in Van in East Turkey, according to several sources, the police arrested Selman Keles (Selman Keleş), who works for the web-news Dihaber

Website sendika.org was blocked today by the Authority for Telecommunications of Turkey.

In a trial case that has already been postponed twice, journalists Erol Onderoglu (Erol Önderoğlu), writer Ahmet Nesin and Şebnem Korur-Fincancı had their third hearing on 21 March, on charges of “disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization”. Nesin was not coming, so the court issued a warrant for his arrest. The next hearing will be on 8 June

In a campaign for the daily Ozgur Gundem (Özgür Gündem) from 3 May 2016 to 7 August 2016, 56 media workers, experts and intellectuals participated, of which 50 subsequently faced some sort of legal prosecution; 38 of these were turned into court cases. Between them also reporters Without Borders (RSF) Turkey representative Erol Onderoglu (Erol Önderoğlu), writer Ahmet Nesin and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TIHV) President Sebnem Korur-Financi.

“Erol Önderoğlu, recipient of the 2016 Dr. Erhard Busek SEEMO Award for Better Understanding in South East Europe and two other free thinking, independent persons face serious legal repercussions” 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.

RUSSIA SEEMO calls for release of detained journalists in Russia

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Vienna, 17 March 2017

Vienna, 17 March 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was disturbed to learn that in the previous days there have been several attacks and violations of media freedoms in Russia.

On 15 March, editor-in-chief of the Analytical Edition Yuri Baranchik was detained by authorities. This was reported by the Moscow-based news agency Regnum, who are the administrator of the publication. Baranchik was placed in detention by the instruction of Belarus authorities, as the editor is a citizen of Belarus. He claims that several journalists and media workers of Regnum were put on a surveillance list in December 2016 for allegedly “inciting inter-ethnic discord”.

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The following day it was reported that correspondent of the independent paper Novaya Gazeta, Ali Feruz, was detained by police members. This time the request came from Uzbek authorities, a country Feruz left several years ago. On the day of his arrest, a pro-Kremlin TV station accused Feruz of having ties with a “radical organization”.

SEEMO members expressed deep concern and disapproval of these detentions, and call on authorities in Russia to release the media workers immediately.

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

BELARUS SEEMO concern

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Vienna, 15 March 2017

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern about the latest developments in Belarus.

The Belarus police arrested in the cities Vitebsk, Orsha, Rahachow / Rogachev and Brest on 12 March 18 journalists and bloggers who were covering protest against a law that imposes a tax on those not in full-time employment.

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The police arrested the journalists for different reasons, like incorrect parking, violation of media legislation, for verification of the personal documents and with some other explanations. Journalists Galina Abakunchyk, Siarhei Piatrukhin, Katsiaryna Andreeva (Bahvalova) and Dzmitry Harbunou spent a night in the detention. On 13 March Galina Abakunchyk and Ekaterina Katsiaryna Andreeva (Bahvalova) were fined about 190 EUR each for “participation” in the protest rally which they covered as reporters.

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

TURKEY JOINT ORAL STATEMENT ON THE DETERIORATION OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND MEDIA FREEDOM IN TURKEY

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Vienna, 15 March 2017

UN Human Rights Council 34th Special Session
Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council's attention


Mr President,

PEN International, ARTICLE 19 and 66 organisations are deeply concerned by the continuous deterioration of freedom of expression and media freedom in Turkey following the violent and contemptible coup attempt on 15 July 2016.

Over 180 news outlets have been shut down under laws passed by presidential decree following the imposition of a state of emergency. There are now at least 148 writers, journalists and media workers in prison, including Ahmet Şık, Kadri Gürsel, Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak and İnan Kızılkaya, making Turkey the biggest jailer of journalists in the world. The Turkish authorities are abusing the state of emergency by severely restricting fundamental rights and freedoms, stifling criticism and limiting the diversity of views and opinions available in the public sphere.

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Restrictions have reached new heights in the lead up to a crucial referendum on constitutional reforms, which would significantly increase executive powers, set for 16 April 2017. The Turkish authorities’ campaign has been marred by threats, arrests and prosecutions of those who have voiced criticism of the proposed amendments. Several members of the opposition have been arrested on terror charges. Thousands of public employees, including hundreds of academics and opponents to the constitutional reforms, were dismissed in February. Outspoken “No” campaigners have been detained, adding to the overall climate of suspicion and fear. The rights to freedom of expression and information, essential to fair and free elections, are in jeopardy.

In the run-up to the referendum, the need for media pluralism is more important than ever. Voters have the right to be duly informed and to be provided with comprehensive information on all views, including dissenting voices, in sufficient time. The prevailing atmosphere should be one of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. There should be no fear of reprisals. We urge this Council, its members and observer states, to call on the Turkish authorities to:

- Guarantee equal broadcasting time for all parties and allow for the dissemination of all information to the maximum extent possible in order to ensure that voters are fully informed;

- Put an end to the climate of suspicion and fear by:

- Immediately releasing all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression;

- Ending the prosecutions and detention of journalists simply on the basis of the content of their journalism or alleged affiliations;

- Halting executive interference with independent news organisations including in relation to editorial decisions, dismissals of journalists and editors, pressure and intimidation against critical news outlets and journalists;

- Revoke the excessively broad provisions under the state of emergency, the application of which, in practice, are incompatible with Turkey’s human rights obligations.

Thank you Mr. President

BELARUS SEEMO expresses disapproval of media crackdown in Belarus

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Vienna, 14 March 2017

Vienna, 14 March 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep disapproval after learning that Belarus police forces detained dozens journalists and bloggers during peaceful protests on 12 March.

Close to 50 media workers, activists and civil society leaders were detained in the span between March 10-12, during mass protests in the towns Orsha, Rahachou, Vitebsk and Brest. The protests were organised after a new tax was adopted and imposed against unemployed citizens. The protests were initially ignored by authorities, but as the number of marchers escalated, so did the inhumane practices of the authorities against them.

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While journalists attempted to report from the scene of the protests, police and other state officials used various justifications for hindering their work. Disobedience of police demands, illegal parking, suspicion of car theft were some of the pretexts used by police, but media workers state the only reason was to stop them from disseminating information about the protests.

SEEMO calls on authorities in Belarus to immediately release any remaining activists, journalists and other civil society members from detention, and ask them to respect basic human rights, as well as freedom of speech.

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

ALBANIA SEEMO condemned attack on journalist in Albania

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Vienna, 09 March 2017

Vienna, 09 March 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was dismayed to learn that Elvi Fundo, journalist and director of the news portal Citynews.al and Radio Best, was attacked on 8 March in Tirana, Albania.

Fundo was attacked and beat by two unknown assailants around 10:30 in the morning, in the vicinity of his office. The journalist has previously worked on investigative stories regarding corruption and drug-trafficking and has stated that he believes the attacks occured in relation to this, rather than political interests.

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„We harshly condemn yesterday’s attack on journalist Elvi Fundo“ SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said this morning. „We have been informed that an investigation was launched, but we urge police officials to help solve this case as soon and as transparently as possible.“ 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 warns politicians in Serbia: attacking journalists is detrimental to democracy

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Vienna, 07 March 2017

Vienna, 07 March 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) criticized the behavior of an official in Serbia, who has repeatedly shown antagonism towards media workers.

On 7 March, the Mayor of Belgrade was present for the official opening of a sewage construction site in a suburban county on the city. Despite relatively few media outlets being informed, journalists from investigative web portals Istinomer and Krik managed to find out and be present at the scene. After several questions, the Mayor’s bodyguards first pushed Istinomer’s journalists. After she persisted, the Mayor himself pushed her away and told her that she is “asking for an incident for no reason”.

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SEEMO members express their absolute condemnation of the behavior of this high city official and his staff.

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 authorities in Macedonia to respect media freedom and human rights

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Vienna, 05 March 2017

Vienna, 05 March 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern once again, after news of violent behavior and attacks on journalists in Macedonia continue to surface.

After condemning the attack on two media workers during protests in Skopje, SEEMO learned that the perpetrators, who left a journalist and a cameraman with injuries severe enough for hospitalization, have not yet been found. On Wednesday March 1, journalist and columnist Branko Trickovski, a known critic of the previous government, reported two young men coming to his home and accusing him of being “a traitor”, yelling at him and later posting the video of the attack on YouTube.

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The office front door of the TV 24 correspondents’ team in Ohrid was vandalized with nationalistic slurs. No perpetrators or suspects have been held in any of the attacks.

On 1 March, journalist Borjan Jovanovski was spat on and accused of being „a traitor“ by a man while he was sitting in a restaurant in Skopje. Jovanovski later stated that he believes the attacker was commissioned by officials of the ruling political party. Independent media outlets and civil society organizations in Macedonia have been facing great pressure and are commonly being verbally attacked by political officials in public, defamed in smear campaigns, and subjected to tax raids and other attempts at intimidation and censorship. The ruling party also vowed to “de-Sorosize” the NGO sector in the country, claiming that their agendas are influenced by foreign funding- specifically funding by George Soros, a Hungarian-American businessman and investor, whose name has become a synonym for “foreign spies” in the country.

Tensions have risen since the elections held in December 2016, when the ruling party was unable to form a government, and they have since been constantly attempting to prevent the opposition from doing the same. The growing number of attacks and verbal abuses against media workers coincide with statements given by the previous Prime Minister, in which he calls on the citizens to “protect their country”.

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 alarmed about developments in Macedonia

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Vienna, 5 March 2017

The Vienna based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is alarmed about the developments in Macedonia (Republic of Macedonia / FYROM).

Reporter Aleksandar Todevski and cameraman Vladimir Zhelcevski, from A1on, a news website, were hospitalized after being attacked on the streets in Skopje by five men on Tuesday 28 February 2017 in the evening. On 2 March editor at NOVA TV Borjan Jovanovski, who received many threats in the past, was verbally attacked as "traitor" during a lunch in a restaurant in Skopje. A young man spat in his face. SEEMO was informed by five cases of verbal threats against journalists in Skopje in the past seven days included threats against journalists Branko Trickovski, who is also a columnist for the critical newspaper Sloboden Pecat, Two young men turned up at his home and accused him of being a "traitor. Two year ago, on 13 May 2015 his car was set on fire.

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Prior to this, it was revealed on 11 January 2017 that Daniela Takeva, journalist of a local TV station in Berovo, will take legal action against the town’s Mayor after he left a status on his Facebook account in which he used derogatory language and hate speech against Takeva

On 23 January unknown perpetrators set fire to the home garage of journalist Zoran Miloshevski in the town of Prilep. Miloshevski is a correspondent for the weekly Fokus, owner of web portal Publikum and associate of the portal Free Macedonia, and is also known for his fierce criticism of the current political establishment in the country. The fire was put out and the incident was reported to police authorities.

Many journalists who are critical about VMRO DPMNE party and former prime Minister Nikola Gruevski are being subjected to an incendiary campaign on social networks and some web-pages. A campaign initiative titled Stop Operation Soros (SOS) was launched mid-January in Macedonia and is dedicated to “countering the influence of American activist and billionaire George Soros”. The founders of this initiative claim to be a group of open-minded citizens, but have in actuality been linked to the government and pro-government media. This speculation was backed up after former PM and current leader of ruling party VMRO DPMNE Nikola Gruevski came out to the media and verbally attacked NGO’s that receive funding from abroad. Independent media outlets and non-government organizations in Macedonia are commonly mentioned as “Sorosoids” by pro-government groups, also if they are not receiving any money from the Soros foundation.

Several VMRO-DPMNE supporters named the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) as a “Soros propaganda”, as also propaganda service of the main opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM). On 12 February in a TV show the host claimed BIRN belonged to a media network financed by the British intelligence service.

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 concerned after journalists are attacked during protests in Skopje

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Vienna, 01 March 2017

Vienna, 01 March 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern after last night’s violent events and attacks on journalists during protests in Skopje, Macedonia.

Demonstrators and supporters of former ruling party VMRO DPMNE began protesting on Monday after it was revealed that a potential political coalition could be created between the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) and ethnic Albanian parties. Thousands joined the rally on Tuesday in Skopje, as well as towns such as Bitola, Kumanovo, Kicevo, Prilep and several others. Protesters claim that the coalition could endanger ethnic Macedonian interests.

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At the sight of the protests on 28 February, a journalist and cameraman from the outlet A1on were physically attacked by several protesters. After being punched in the head repeatedly, both media workers were sent to the Emergency Center to receive medical care for their injuries. In the meantime, the attackers also broke their camera and then fled the scene.

Protest organizers and other attendees did not help or protect A1on journalists from this attack, despite the media crew simply being there to report the events occurring at the scene.

„We call on authorities in the country to immediately launch an investigation and find the perpetrators of this attack“ 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.

TURKMENISTAN SEEMO welcomes release of Turkmen journalist; warns of remaining media violations

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Vienna, 22 February 2017

Vienna, 22 February 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is informed about the release of journalist Azatlyk Khudayberdy Allashov and his mother from prison on 15 February. Allashov was given a three-year conditional sentences. Allashov, his wife and mother were detained on 3 December 2016 in Turkmenistan’s Dashoguz region on charges of possessing a banned substance: 11 kilograms of chewing tobacco, a product banned since 2008. It was later confirmed by several sources that Allashov was severely beaten and admitted being guilty of the charges under coercion.

The journalist faced up to 7 years of incarceration. Two months prior to this, he had joined the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) service in Turkmenistan, known as Radio Azatlyk, and published investigative stories about forced labor during cotton harvests, delays in public salaries and other pieces detailing injustices in Turkmenistan. He wrote under the pseudonym “Mekan Tashiyev”.

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One other independent journalist, Saparmamed Nepeskuliev, also working for Radio Azatlyk, was tried secretly without a lawyer after he was detained in July 2015, and was given a three-year jail sentence for drug possession.

Turkmen media are all controlled by the state. Independent local correspondents working for international-based media have to work underground because of the risk of prison.

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

AZERBAIJAN SEEMO concerned regarding recent crackdown on media in Azerbaijan

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Vienna, 23 February 2017

Vienna, 23 February 2017 - The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed its concern as the crackdown against journalists, activists and freedom fighters continues in Azerbaijan.

After recent arrests and detentions of at least 12 media workers, bloggers and journalists, local news website editor ElchinIsmayilli was arrested on 17 February and accused of “extortion of money and aggravated abuse of influential position” (Articles 182.2.2 and Article 308.2 of the Criminal Code), accusations which the journalist denies.

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On 22 February, the Baku Court of Appeal dismissed the arrest appeal made by Ismayilli’s lawyer, after claiming that an investigation conducted previously proves the journalist was caught “red-handed” while taking a bribe from an employee of the Department of Tourism of Ismayilly region where they both live. The journalist claims that the official in question is actually an old friend, and that he asked for a loan. Ismayilli’s arrest was ordered by a regional official who was often the target of criticism by Ismayilli in the past. The journalist claims all charges are false and that he is being persecuted because of his professional activities and opinions.

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

TURKEY After new wave of media freedom violations, SEEMO criticizes Turkish authorities

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Vienna, 21 February 2017

Vienna, 21 February 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed its criticism of institutions in Turkey after another rise in violations against journalists.

Since 14 February Deniz Yucel (Deniz Yücel), a German-Turkish journalist, correspondent for German newspaper Die Welt, is in police custody: According to the regulations of the state of emergency, he can be held in police custody for up to 14 days without a hearing before a judge. Yucel presented himself at police headquarters to answer investigators’ questions after being sought out in connection to a hacker scandal and publishing of emails from the private email account of Turkish Energy Minister Berat Albayrak.

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The information was reported by a number of outlets and more than six journalists have so far been detained in relation to this case. Yucel was accused of allegedly “being a member of a terrorist organization, disseminating terrorist propaganda and misuse of data”.

On the same evening of 14 February, pro-Kurdish journalist Selahattin Aslan was detained by airport security after his arrival from Diyarbakir to Istanbul. According to sources, Aslan is being held at the Istanbul Department of Police, and his investigation details are unavailable due to a confidentiality order that was issued.

On 17 February, satirical magazine Girgir was closed after the paper published a caricature of the Prophet Moses on its cover page. The caricaturist and all other employees have been laid off. An investigation has been launched on the charges of "insulting religious values adopted by a group of people" which is in the Turkish Criminal Code (Article 216).

According to representatives of the Turkish opposition, the number of jailed journalists has exceeded 150. "More Turkish journalists are currently in jail than were in prison under junta rule in the 1980s", main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu from the CHP ("Republican People's Party") said. According to SEEMO evidence, Turkey also closed down more than 140 media outlets since the attempted coup in July 2016.

“We harshly condemn the behavior and actions of authorities in Turkey towards journalists” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic stated today. “Arrests, detentions, legal charges and other pressures are nothing more but a form of intimidation committed by the very same institutions that ought to protect journalists and their rights. We call on them to drop charges and release all media workers that are currently in detention or awaiting trial on charges of belonging to a terrorist group and similar absurdities. There is no justice if legal processes against journalists are not transparent and truthful. The only weapon journalists use is their word, so these brutal retaliations against them concern us continuously” 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 behavior of local authorities in Serbia towards journalist

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Vienna, 14 February 2017

Vienna, 14 February 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) condemned the behavior of local authorities in Serbia after their unacceptable and unprofessional behavior towards a journalist from the daily paper Danas.

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Despite having sent a press release inviting members of the media to an event in Belgrade, Serbia, the City administration decided that a journalist from the daily Danas was not welcome to attend the gathering. Once at the location of the event, the journalist was told by members of the city PR Services that he cannot be present at the opening of a new wheelchair ramp, out of fear that he might ask a City Manager also present there some “tricky questions”. He was also told that the invitation to Danas was revoked earlier that day because of “certain articles they had written in the previous days”.

SEEMO call Belgrade City administration, as well as the City Manager in attendance to publically apologize to the journalist and to the daily Danas as well. Press conferences and events by public authorities must be open for journalists and It is unacceptable to revoke invitations and forbid journalists from attending an 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.

UKRAINE SEEMO alarmed after attack on journalist’s safety

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Vienna, 13 February 2017

Vienna, 13 February 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed deep concern after the vehicle of journalist Sergey Goos was torched by unknown perpetrators.

In the night between 11 and 12 February, Goos’ car was set on fire in the courtyard of the building where he lives in the city of Kamianske, located in the Dnipropetrovsk region of Ukraine.

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According to the journalist and the journalistic union in the country, this was a warning sign to those who speak truth and are critical of the establishment in Ukraine. Goos is the editor-in-chief of a local newspaper and former President of the Independent Media Trade Union of Ukraine (IMTUU). He also stated that he had “no doubt” his car was torched because of the paper’s professional and truthful work.

“We harshly condemn this attempt at intimidation” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said this morning. “Not only is this a gruesome threat and sign of intolerance, it also shows us, once again, how dire the media situation in Ukraine currently is. We call on authorities to launch a transparent and prompt investigation, and uncover the perpetrators of this crime” Vujovic added.

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

KAZAKHSTAN SEEMO criticizes government in Kazakhstan for media freedom and human rights violations

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Vienna, 13 February 2017

Vienna, 13 February 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expressed condemnation and revolt after learning that independent journalist and open critic of the government Zhanbolat Mamay (Жанболат Мамай) was arrested on 10 February. He should stay according to local sources for two months in jail.

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Mamay is the editor of the newspaper Tribuna (Саяси қалам: Трибуна), which is considered to be the last remaining independent media outlet in the country, known for being outspoken about criticizing the ruling establishment. After his arrest, the editor was charged with abusing his position within the daily to allegedly launder money for a business tycoon, who is wanted by Kazakhstan and Russia for embezzlement. Mamay denies the charges.

This is not his first encounter with governmental pressures: in June 2012, Mamay was arrested and detained for almost a month, on charges of allegedly being involved in “instigating social discord”.

“The Kazakh government has been conducting a continuous tirade against independent media outlets for years now. We call on the government to immediately release Zhanbolat Mamay from detention and drop all charges against him.” Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General said today.

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

SERBIA SEEMO calls for transparency within Radio Television of Vojvodina (RTV)

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Vienna, 10 February 2017

Vienna, 10 February 2017 – The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) was concerned to learn about the latest developments within the Serbian public broadcasting service of Vojvodina (RTV).

After several management board changes in 2016, the editorial and journalistic staff of the broadcaster seem to be changing once again.

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According to the Independent Journalists’ Association of Vojvodina (NDNV), members of the ruling political party have taken over most of the positions within the media outlet, and have begun dictating new editorial policies. Allegedly, two news articles that were published on the website of RTV were later removed because they were critical of the Prime Minister.

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.

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