The Committee on Culture, Science and Education appointed
me Standing Rapporteur on media freedom on 27 January 2011. In this
capacity, I tabled, on 3 February 2011, a motion for a recommendation
on the state of media freedom in Europe (Doc. 12518
The present report continues thematically and chronologically
the prior work by the late Andrew McIntosh (United Kingdom, SOC),
which led to Assembly Recommendation
on respect for media freedom, and presents the results
of my work on this subject.
3. For the preparation of this report, the committee held an
exchange of views in Strasbourg on 25 January 2011 with Dunja Mijatović,
Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security
and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and Arne König, President of
the European Federation of Journalists.
Both also presented oral reports at a hearing on this subject
by the Sub-Committee on the Media, together with Agnès Callamard,
Executive Director of Article 19 – Global Campaign for Free Expression, William
Horsley, Media Freedom Representative of the Association of European
Journalists, and Pauls Raudseps, Chairman of the Advisory Board
of the Latvian weekly news magazine Ir
Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights,
presented a written contribution.
This hearing took place at the
Swedish Parliament in Stockholm on 12 September 2011 with the participation
of Liselott Hagberg, Deputy Speaker of the Swedish Parliament, and
Hanna Hellquist, State Secretary to the Swedish Minister for International
William Horsley was subsequently commissioned to prepare a
background report on serious violations of media freedom in Europe,
covering in particular the period 2010-2012. He presented his background
report to the committee in Strasbourg on 26 June 2012.
Together with William Horsley,
I recorded a video interview on this subject.
6. On this occasion, the committee held also an exchange of views
on media freedom with Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner
for Human Rights since April 2012, and Ambassador Thomas Hajnoczi, Permanent
Representative of Austria to the Council of Europe and Thematic
Co-ordinator on Information Policy of the Committee of Ministers.
7. On 25 January 2012, I received a letter from the Spanish Federation
of Journalists “FAPE” complaining about the systematic refusal of
questions from journalists during government press conferences.
This information was subsequently reflected in the background report
prepared by William Horsley.
8. I am deeply grateful for the contributions provided by the
distinguished participants and experts since January 2011 and in
particular for the background report by William Horsley, which serves
as a basis for parts of this explanatory memorandum. I also appreciate
the information and support provided by other committee members.
on media freedom
Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights
(ETS No. 5, “the Convention”) is the most fundamental norm in Europe
establishing freedom of expression and information and media freedom developed
through extensive case law by the European Court of Human Rights
(“the Court”). In December 2011, the Court published a research
report on positive obligations on member States under Article 10
to protect journalists and prevent impunity.
The Committee of Ministers and the
Parliamentary Assembly have produced a substantial number of declarations,
recommendations or resolutions which are particularly relevant for
this evaluation of media freedom.
Article 19 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political
is the basis of the work of the
United Nations Human Rights Council, which established the position
of special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right
to freedom of opinion and expression. The mandate of Frank La Rue
from Guatemala was extended until 2014. In his annual report of
4 June 2012 to the Human Rights Council,
Frank La Rue mentioned that only
15% of his 218 official communications in 2011 concerned Europe,
Central Asia and North America. A request from 2009 to visit Italy
is still pending. Following an ad hoc visit to Hungary in 2011,
he published a press release indicating his concerns about Hungarian
media legislation. No visits are planned to other Council of Europe
member States. In November 2011, he issued a press release on new legislation
in Belarus with other mandate holders of the Human Rights Council.
The OSCE established the position of representative on freedom
of the media in 1997. Dunja Mijatovic from Bosnia and Herzegovina
was appointed the current representative in 2010. Her work is based
on relevant international legal standards of the United Nations
and the Council of Europe. In her latest Regular Report to the Permanent
Council of the OSCE,
Dunja Mijatovic lists her many
contacts with the participating States of the OSCE. It has been
particularly useful that she established a regularly up-dated list
of journalists imprisoned in Turkey.
Article 11 of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights
is in force since 1 December 2009. However,
Poland and the United Kingdom had negotiated an opt-out protocol,
which seems to exclude the application
of Article 11 by the European Union Court of Justice for those countries.
The Czech Republic was subsequently able to obtain the same opt-out
privilege. Therefore, uniform application of Article 11 throughout the
European Union may not be ensured, except indirectly through the
application of the standards under Article 10 of the European Convention
on Human Rights by the Court of Justice.
3. Follow-up on previous
The Sub-Committee on Media and Information Society
and, subsequently, the full committee designated me in 2012 to follow
up Assembly Recommendation
on the protection of journalists’ sources. This recommendation
contains a reference to the Hungarian media laws, which is relevant
to this report.
Paragraph 4 of Recommendation
states: “Referring to the new Press and Media Law of Hungary
(Law CIV of 2010 on the freedom of the press and the fundamental
rules on media content), the Assembly expresses its concern that
limits to the exercise of media freedom fixed by Article 4.3 and
the exceptions to the right of journalists not to disclose their
sources stipulated in Article 6 of this law seem to be overly broad
and thus may have a severe chilling effect on media freedom. This
law sets forth neither the procedural conditions concerning disclosures
nor guarantees for journalists requested to disclose their sources.
The Assembly calls on the Government and Parliament of Hungary to
amend this law, ensuring that its implementation cannot hinder the
right recognised by Article 10 of the Convention.”
This concern was shared by the Commissioner for Human Rights
in his Opinion of 25 February 2011.
The Resolution on media law in Hungary,
adopted by the European Parliament on 10 March 2011, expressly referred
to this opinion and underlined the obligation of Hungary to revise
its media laws.
The Secretary General of the Council
of Europe asked external experts to prepare an analysis of these
Hungarian media laws. This analysis was published on 16 May 2012.
Following the legislative revisions enacted on 24 May 2012,
the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media,
as well as Human Rights Watch (Berlin),
welcomed the withdrawal of most
requirements for journalists to reveal their sources of information,
but raised concerns about other aspects of the media laws which
were not remedied, in particular the lack of independence of the
new regulatory authority.
17. The Assembly’s Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and
Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring
Committee) asked the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice
Commission) in June 2012 for an opinion on the Hungarian laws on
the judiciary. It would be helpful to have a complementary opinion
by the Venice Commission regarding the revised Hungarian media laws.
Referring to Resolution
on threats to the lives and freedom of expression of
journalists, paragraph 4 of Recommendation
deplored that “the Russian Federation has failed to
conduct a proper investigation and to bring those responsible for
the murder of Anna Politkovskaya in Moscow on 7 October 2006 to
justice and to ensure that journalists can work freely and in safety”.
After the Supreme Court had overturned the acquittal of three suspects
by the Moscow District Military Court on 25 June 2009, the new investigations
indicated the former policeman Dmitry Pavliuchenkov as being responsible
for organising the murder of Anna Politkovskaya, but he was released
from detention on 31 May 2012 and put under house arrest because
of poor health. Those facts do not seem to lead to a proper conclusion
of the trial.
Although the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation
was established in 2011 under the President of the Russian Federation,
Russia still remains the most dangerous country in Europe for journalists because
of the number of murdered journalists as well as the number of unresolved
murder cases. The Committee to Protect Journalists (New York) published
on 17 April 2012 its 2012 Impunity Index, which lists Russia as
the only Council of Europe member State among the 10 worst countries
Recently, the Head of the Investigative
Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, was accused of having seriously
threatened Sergey Sokolov, the Deputy Editor of Novaya Gazeta
. Both men have supposedly
settled this alarming controversy.
Two cases of murders of journalists referred to in Recommendation 1897 (2010)
have meanwhile been adjudicated:
- In November 2010, a court in Croatia convicted six people
over the 2008 car bombing which killed Ivo Pukanic, the owner and
editorial director of the political weekly Nacional,
and Niko Franjic, its marketing director. The court said the motive
of the bombing was to prevent the paper from publishing information in
its possession exposing the practice of illegal tobacco smuggling
in the Balkans.
- In Russia, in April 2011, two men described as ultranationalists
were convicted and sentenced to long prison terms for the murders
on a Moscow street in 2009 of the young journalist Anastasia Baburova
and human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov.
In paragraph 7 of Recommendation
, the Assembly welcomed amendments made in 2008 to Article
301 of the Turkish Penal Code, but deplored the fact that Turkey
had neither abolished Article 301 nor completed investigations into
the murder of Hrant Dink in Istanbul on 19 January 2007, especially
as regards possible failures of the police and security forces.
The Assembly was of the opinion that the slightly revised Article
301 still violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human
On 14 September 2010, the European Court of Human Rights found
a violation of Articles 2 and 10 of the Convention by Turkey for
not having protected Hrant Dink against death threats and for having
violated his freedom of expression.
On 25 July 2011, Ogün Samast was
convicted by a Turkish court for the murder of Hrant Dink, but it
remains unclear whether he acted alone. Despite the judgment by
the European Court of Human Rights of 14 September 2010, the Nobel
Prize Laureate for Literature, Orhan Pamuk, was sentenced on 27
March 2011 by a Turkish court to pay moral damages under Article
301 of the Turkish Penal Code to a few Turkish individuals for his
statement to a Swiss newspaper in 2005.
The number of prosecutions opened under the revised Article
301 of the Turkish Penal Code dropped considerably because of the
new requirement of having the Turkish Minister of Justice authorise
such prosecution. Nevertheless, the latter requirement seems to
blur the separation of powers between the judiciary and the government
and thus may lead to a politicisation of judicial investigations
and prosecutions under the unduly vague but harsh Article 301. “Since
its unacceptably broad terms result in a lack of foreseeability
as to its effects”, the European Court of Human Rights declared
in the case of Altuğ Taner Akçam v. Turkey
25 October 2011, that Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code violates
Article 10 of the Convention, because it does not have the “quality
of law” required under Article 10, paragraph 2, of the Convention.
24. As long as Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code is not fully
repealed by the Turkish Parliament or courts, the hostile political
climate will still exist against journalists and others writing,
in particular, about the targeted mass killings and expulsion of
Armenians by the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. This
climate had led to the death threats against Hrant Dink, Orhan Pamuk,
Altuğ Taner Akçam and others. Therefore, the Assembly must call
on Turkey to definitively repeal Article 301.
25. The Turkish Constitutional Court invalidated, on 2 May 2011,
the time limitation for filing criminal charges against journalists
under Article 26 of the Turkish Press Law, thus extending to eight
years the possible opening of prosecutions against journalists.
In view of the political interpretation of various unduly broad
penal law provisions, this extension has an additional chilling
effect on media freedom in Turkey.
In paragraph 13 of Recommendation
, the Assembly asked the Venice Commission to analyse
whether, and to what extent, legislation in Italy has been adapted
to take account of its Opinion on the compatibility of Italy’s “Gasparri”
and “Frattini” laws with Council of Europe standards in the field
of freedom of expression and pluralism of the media, adopted by
the Venice Commission at its 63rd Plenary Session (Venice, 10-11
Following a discussion in the Venice
Commission, its Secretary informed the chairperson of the committee
by letter dated 26 July 2010 that “the (few) amendments which have
been made to the two laws in question since 2005 address other issues
than those which were the subject of the Venice Commission’s recommendations”.
27. It is therefore necessary to follow up the implementation
by Italy of these recommendations of the Venice Commission, possibly
together with the Committee of Ministers and the Commissioner for
Expressing its concern at the official warning addressed by
the Justice Ministry of Belarus on 13 January 2010 to the Belarusian
Association of Journalists (BAJ), the Assembly asked the Venice
Commission, in paragraph 14 of Recommendation 1897 (2010)
to analyse the compatibility of such a warning with
universal human rights standards.
Responding to this request, the Venice Commission concluded
in its Opinion of 17-18 December 2010:
The Ministry of Justice’s Order has restricted the rights of a group
of journalists to freedom of expression and the right to seek and
impart information. To be able to enjoy freedom of expression of the
press requires that journalists must have effective protection by
their trade union or association. By denying the BAJ the right to
issue press cards for their journalists the Belarusian authorities
are denying these journalists the rights to have their interests
protected by their association At the same time the domestic legal
situation is stripping the journalists’ association, the BAJ, of
effective power to protect members’ interests.
101. The Ministry of Justice’s Order constitutes, in the
opinion of the Venice Commission, a violation of Articles 19 and
2 of the ICCPR and Articles 11 and 10 of the ECHR.
102. Additionally, since the Ministry of Justice’s Order
creates a discriminatory situation, it also constitutes a violation
of Article 26 of the ICCPR, and Article 14 ECHR taken together with
Article 10 of the ECHR, and Protocol No. 12 to the ECHR.”
A second Opinion adopted by the Venice Commission on 17-18
June 2011 came to the same conclusion with regard to official warnings
sent to the Belarusian Helsinki Committee.
The proper implementation of these
opinions by the authorities in Belarus is still outstanding.
31. In 2012, the United Nations Human Rights Council established
the mandate of a special rapporteur on the human rights situation
in the Republic of Belarus. Regrettably, Russia voted against the
establishment of this post and the Republic of Moldova abstained,
while all other Council of Europe member States in the United Nations
Human Rights Council had voted in favour. The Assembly should invite
this special rapporteur to co-operate with the relevant Assembly
4. Serious violations
of media freedom 2010-2012
covered the period until January 2010. The serious violations
of media freedom which have occurred since then are documented below,
based on the background report prepared by William Horsley.
4.1. Deadly attacks
Azerbaijan, 23 November 2011: Rafiq Tagi died four
days after suffering multiple stab wounds in an attack outside his
home in Baku. He reported for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and
several newspapers. He had previously received threats to his life
and had been jailed in 2007 on charges of inciting religious hatred. The
him by Grand Ayatollah Fazel Lankarani in Iran in 2006 for having
reprinted the Mohammed cartoons of Jyllands-Posten
been criticised in Assembly Resolution
34. Belarus, 3 September 2010: Aleh Byabenin, Director of the
critical news website Charter 97, was found hanged at his summer
house outside Minsk. His family reported signs of serious injuries
on his body and rejected the official explanation of suicide. Byabenin
had reported on cases of corruption and human rights abuses. He
had previously received threats. In 2011, the Charter 97 website
was reportedly one of those which were blocked by order of the government.
35. Bulgaria, 5 January 2010: Boris Nikolov Tsankov, a journalist
and author specialised in reporting on organised crime, was shot
and killed by gunmen on a busy Sofia street. Tsankov had received
death threats and had reportedly survived two bomb attacks on his
home several years earlier.
36. Greece, 19 July 2010: Sokratis Giolia, Director of the radio
station Thema 98.9 FM and manager of the popular political blog Troktiko was shot several times
by unidentified men outside his Athens home. The authorities cast
suspicion on an extremist revolutionary sect. Colleagues of Giolia
reportedly stated their belief that he was killed because of his
investigative journalistic work.
37. Latvia, 19 July 2010: Grigorijs Nemcovs, publisher of the
Russian language newspaper Million and
a local politician, was shot and killed in a café in Daugavpils
in a suspected contract killing. He had previously received death
threats and his home had been attacked by arsonists in 2007.
38. Russia (Dagestan), 11 May 2010: Shamil Aliyev, Director of
the popular radio stations Pribol and Batan and of TNT-Makhachkala
television network was shot dead by unknown gunmen at a site where
a new facility was under construction.
39. Russia (Dagestan), 21 May 2010: Sayid Ibragimov, Director
of the local television station TBS was killed together with four
technicians while driving to carry out engineering work on a transmitter.
His car was ambushed and a group of suspected militants set off
an explosion and attacked with firearms.
40. Russia (Dagestan) 11 August 2010: Magomedvagif Sultanmagomedov,
Head of Makhachkala-TV and the Nurul Irshad (Light of Truth) publishing
house, was fatally injured when unidentified gunmen opened fire
on his car while he was driving through the streets of Makhachkala,
the capital of Dagestan. He was described as a vocal opponent of
Wahhabism, and had reportedly survived an attempt on his life in
41. Russia (Dagestan), 8 May 2011: Yakhya Magomedov, journalist
and editor of the Avar language Islamic newspaper As-Salam, died when he was shot
four times by unidentified persons in the Khasavyurt district.
42. Russia (Dagestan), 15 December 2011: Hadzhimurad Kamalov,
founder and writer on the daily newspaper Chernovik,
was shot several times and killed by an unidentified gunman late
at night when leaving his office. He was a well-known critic of
official abuses and corruption, and was murdered on the date set
aside to commemorate all Russian journalists who have died because
of their profession. He and other Chernovik journalists
had been threatened and several of its other journalists had been
charged with extremism after accusing regional authorities of corruption
43. Russia, 22 June 2012: Anatoly Bitkov, chief editor of Kolyma
Plus, a regional television company, was found dead with multiple
stab wounds at his home in Magadan on the Sea of Okhotsk in the
Russian Far East.
44. Turkey, 4 April 2010: Metin Alatas, a reporter for the Azadiya Welat newspaper was found
hanged from a tree in the district of Adana in the mainly Kurdish
south-eastern region of Turkey. Colleagues reportedly disputed the
official presumption of suicide. Alatas had received threats and
had been attacked and injured by a group of men the previous year.
45. Ukraine, 11 August 2010: Vasyl Klymentyev, editor of the Kharkiv-based
newspaper Novy Stil, was investigating
a case of alleged corruption when he was apparently abducted. Only
his mobile phone was found in a reservoir near where he was last
46. In Armenia, the decriminalisation of libel in 2010
was followed by more than 30 civil defamation cases, many brought
by senior officials or politicians against the media. A number of
Armenian cases resulted in newspapers being ordered to pay very
high fines and damages. In the case of Haykakan
Jamanak (Armenian Times), the newspaper
had to pay 6 million Armenian Dram (approximately US$16 000) to
each of the three parliamentarians who successfully sued it. The
paper was able to pay the fines with the help of donations from its
47. In the case of the Armenian parliamentary
elections on 6 May 2012, a joint delegation of international election
observers of the OSCE, the Parliamentary Assembly and the European
Parliament reported (in preliminary findings) a general lack of
public confidence in the integrity of the election process. In the
media, the practice by several television channels of using material
taken from paid political advertisements in some of their news coverage
damaged the credibility of their reporting. Armenian journalists’
groups, including the NGO Investigative Journalists, reported that
the media’s political independence and capacity to report freely on
important issues in the campaign, including allegations of corruption,
were seriously hampered by pressures for self-censorship.
48. Investigative Journalists also reported that incidents of
intimidation, including personal threats directed at journalists,
reached the exceptionally high number of 33 between January and
September 2011. Three physical assaults on journalists were recorded
in the first five months of 2012, including two during the parliamentary
elections. Journalists have also faced dozens of libel suits brought
by politicians and other public figures. The 2010 Law on Television
and Radio, which gave regulators new powers to award and revoke broadcasting
licences, has intensified the pressures of broadcasters to avoid
or tone down criticism of those in authority.
Eynulla Fatullayev, the editor of Realny Azerbaijan,
was jailed from
2007 to 2011 on what the European Court of Human Rights ruled in
had been fabricated charges.
The Azerbaijani authorities kept Fatullayev
in prison for another year on new and unconvincing charges related
to the possession of drugs. He was released in May 2011 following
the announcement of a presidential pardon.
50. The final report of the OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions
and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR) election observer mission to the Azerbaijan
parliamentary elections on 7 November 2010 found that the strong pro-government
bias of the great majority of media had impaired voters’ ability
to make an informed choice. The media’s freedom to report had been
reduced, as the observers wrote, “due to violence, detentions, defamation
lawsuits and other forms of pressure, as well as impunity for those
who commit such acts”.
51. A number of physical assaults against media workers are reported
every year. Among those cases, in June 2011, two foreign women reporters,
Amanda Erickson, who is an American freelance, and Celia Davies, a
Briton working for the Institute for Reporters Freedom and Safety,
were attacked and beaten outside a Baku apartment block.
52. Two video bloggers, Emin Milli and Adnan Hajizade, were detained
in 2009 and remained in jail for over a year on charges including
hooliganism after satirising leading politicians in a video posted
on the Internet. The International Freedom of Expression Exchange
(IFEX) reported in May 2012 that seven journalists and two bloggers
were detained or serving jail sentences in Azerbaijan on spurious
53. Before the presidential election in Belarus in December
2010, the State’s overwhelming dominance of mainstream media, including
television and newspapers, and relentless harassment of critical
and independent journalists, as well as other civil society representatives
and political opponents, led international observers to declare
that the election had failed every major test of fairness. In December
2010, immediately after the voting, six members of the Minsk NGO
Belarusian Association of Journalists were indicted on what were
seen as politically motivated charges of organising mass protests
against election fraud.
54. The offices of the opposition website Charter 97 were raided
and computers and files were seized. Its editor, Natalya Radina,
was detained for 39 days following her arrest on 19 December 2011
and she then fled the country. This severe harassment of Charter
97 editorial members followed the suspicious death in 2010 of Aleh
Byabenin, the website’s then editor.
55. Andrzej Poczobut, a correspondent for the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, was convicted on charges
of insulting President Lukashenko. The prominent journalist Irina
Khalip was found guilty of organising protests. Both were given
suspended prison sentences. Between May and July 2011, at least
12 reporters and media workers were detained or beaten by police
while covering a fresh series of popular large-scale peaceful street
protests, and police also seized cameras and broadcasting equipment.
After 800 teddy bears had been dropped over Belarus from a plane
as a political sign in July 2012, the three journalists Anton Suryapin,
Yulia Doroshkevich and Iryna Kozlik were arrested for having disseminated
photos of the bears; Sergey Bashamirov was also arrested for allegedly
having aided the pilots.
56. In Bulgaria, in May 2012, Lidia Pavlova, a journalist
for the Struma newspaper known
for investigating organised crime, was threatened and her car was
reportedly destroyed on two occasions. Her son, a witness in a criminal
trial against the leaders of a well-known organised crime syndicate,
was severely beaten in 2008 and again in 2010, and his car has also
been set on fire.
57. In 2011, the investigative journalist Mirolyuba Benatova from
the leading private television channel bTV was the target of a barrage
of hate speech online. Press reports said that Benatova was subjected
to a deliberate hate campaign by Facebook users and her page was
suspended after a group branded her as an enemy of the Bulgarian
58. In Greece, in April 2012, police deliberately attacked
a number of journalists and photographers during street protests
in Athens, causing injuries. One of them, the head of the Greek
Photojournalists’ Association, Mario Lolos, suffered a fractured
skull when he was beaten by riot police in the centre of Athens.
Several journalists were beaten and suffered injuries during earlier
street protests in central Athens during 2011.
59. In Hungary,the
package of media laws enacted in late 2010 by a newly elected government
enjoying a commanding two-thirds majority in parliament raised acute
concerns on the part of the Venice Commission, which concluded that
the new media laws, together with constitutional amendments to the
country’s judicial system giving sweeping powers to the president
of a new National Judicial Office, amounted to a threat to fundamental
democratic freedoms. The concerns centred on the evident failure
to guarantee the political independence of media regulators, new
powers to regulate media content, including that of print media,
and to demand so-called “balanced” reporting, and the erosion of
journalists’ right to protect their sources.
Amendments were subsequently made to some elements of the
media laws (for example concerning the protection of journalists'
sources) in response to rulings by the Hungarian Constitutional
Court, as well as requests from the Council of Europe and the European
Commission. In May 2012, however, another assessment by external
experts on behalf of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe
identified several key elements which still failed to meet Council
of Europe standards.
The dialogue continues between
the Council of Europe and the Hungarian authorities; the most recent
expert meeting took place at the end of August 2012.
61. In Italy, a number of journalists, including Roberto
Saviano, have been in hiding or otherwise protected from the threat
of attack by Mafia criminals.
62. Concerns about political interference in the RAI, the public
broadcasting service, were present especially during Prime Minister
Berlusconi’s term of office over most of the past ten years. They
were based on the fact of the influence exerted by his party on
senior editorial appointments and his public pronouncements denouncing
media that were critical or hostile to him. The favourable coverage
of Mr Berlusconi in some of the RAI’s output pointed to a pattern
of editorial interference. In 2011, shortly before he left office,
he was accused of pressuring the broadcaster to stop broadcasting
the highly critical programme Annozero.
63. In Romania, on 15-16 January 2012, several media
workers from the Mediafax news agency, Antena 3 TV and the DC News
website were assaulted by police while covering anti-government
protests in Bucharest, despite reportedly identifying themselves
4.10. Russian Federation
64. In spite of pledges of effective counter-measures
by senior political leaders, the Centre for Journalism in Extreme
Situations (Moscow) reported that, in addition to the killings documented
here, other attacks against journalists have continued at the rate
of about one per week throughout the past three years. Many assaults by
police and other security personnel on reporters and television
teams have been documented.
65. In November 2010, Oleg Kashin, a reporter for the business
daily Kommersant, was brutally
beaten by two men outside his home in Moscow. His attackers struck
him with full force on the head and body with metal bars for over
a minute before escaping. The attack was recorded on a video, which
was later widely circulated, and it drew widespread public condemnation,
including from the then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. No progress
in the investigations has been announced yet. Oleg Kashin is one
of a number of journalists who have been assaulted in the Khimki
area (Moscow region) after reporting on allegations of corruption
among various regional government officials, including those related
to a highway construction project through the Khimki natural forest.
He had previously been threatened.
66. On 16 and 17 May 2012, a Kommersant reporter,
Aleksandr Chernykh, was one of several journalists beaten by police
while covering public demonstrations in Moscow protesting at the
installation of President Putin for a third term of office. Reporters
without Borders said the police had behaved with shocking brutality against
journalists who were carrying press cards. After the December 2011
Duma elections, many reporters were also detained at protests in
the capital and in St Petersburg.
67. In April 2012, Elena Milashina, a journalist for the opposition
publication Novaya Gazeta,
was brutally beaten on her way to her apartment. Her work often
focused on exposing the operations of the Russian Government in
68. On 29 May 2012, Sergei Aslanyan, a radio journalist for Mayak
radio, was stabbed several times in the neck and body by a masked
man outside his home in southern Moscow.
Attacks on journalists’ sources of information are also of
great concern. The lawyer Sergei Magnitsky was tortured and killed
in a Russian prison on 16 November 2009 after having been held for
358 days in detention without trial.
He had found evidence of large-scale
corruption between public officials and organised crime, for which
he has even been prosecuted after his death.
70. In 2010, the official investigating committee responsible
for judicial follow-up after the killings of journalists and others
announced it was re-opening five unsolved murders from past years,
but little progress has been made. It is to be welcomed that a law
was passed designating crime against journalists as a category of
offence attracting higher penalties than others, but positive effects
have not yet become evident. In 2011, a new investigative committee
was established under the Russian President.
71. The final report by the OSCE/ODIHR on the presidential election
on 4 March 2012 found a clear bias on State-controlled television
channels in favour of the winning candidate, the then Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin, had played a significant part together with the
exclusion of rival candidates and the partisan use of other State resources
in skewing the result in his favour. ODIHR reported that a combination
of factors led to an atmosphere of intimidation of the media. The
parliamentary election period in 2011 coincided with a notable increase
in the number of detentions, assaults and threats against journalists.
The same occurred in 2012 before the presidential election. Journalists
and media outlets also faced an increased number of criminal investigations
by government agencies.
72. In Serbia, in July 2010, an influential columnist
for the weekly Vreme, Teofil
Pančić, suffered concussion and serious injuries when he was attacked
on a bus in Belgrade by two masked assailants who beat him using metal
bars and then fled. Colleagues believe he was targeted for his writings.
The general situation of media freedom in Serbia was recently
assessed by independent experts
on the basis of Assembly Resolution 1636 (2008)
on indicators for media in a democracy. The survey showed
in particular problems concerning the judiciary, the independence
of regulatory authorities and public service broadcasting, labour-related
and social rights of journalists, the safety of journalists and
the freedom to criticise State officials.
4.12. “The former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia”
74. In “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, the
broadcasting licence of the leading privately owned television station
TV A1 was withdrawn and three newspapers, including the country’s
most widely read daily Vreme,
were forced to close as a consequence of punitive action by the
authorities. The closures followed a long-running investigation
into the owner of the media group which controlled TV A1 and the
newspapers for alleged tax irregularities and money laundering and
demands for repayment of a large sum of outstanding debts.
Turkey is now estimated to have more journalists
in detention than any other State in the world. In April 2012, as
many as 95 journalists were in jail awaiting trial or serving sentences
after being convicted, according to a detailed report published
by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. This number
has even increased since. The up-dated list of names of all those
individuals is published on the OSCE website.
76. The majority have been charged or convicted under laws related
to terrorism or incitement to violence or hatred, or insulting the
Turkish nation or institutions of the State. Many of the imprisoned
journalists were arrested and charged in connection with the long-running
“Ergenekon” investigation into an alleged plot in 2003 to overthrow
the government. Others are being prosecuted over the issue of the
Kurdish struggle for more autonomy. A number of those convicted
have been given prison sentences of more than 50 years. In addition to
those jailed, many hundreds of other journalists have been subjected
to criminal investigations, often resulting in the loss of employment
or severe interruption of their professional work.
Upon the invitation of the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip
Erdoğan, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn
Jagland, appointed Gérard Stoudmann on 30 May 2011 as his Special
Envoy to assess the situation of media freedom in Turkey and focus
on precise recommendations related to the implementation of Article
10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
As follow-up action, bilateral assistance
and co-operation projects are being pursued between the Council
of Europe and Turkey, for example regarding the future execution
by Turkey of past judgments of the European Court of Human Rights as
well as study visits by Turkish judges to other countries.
78. Following a visit to Turkey in July 2011, the Commissioner
for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, wrote that the large number
of journalists in prison was a symptom of a systemic dysfunction
in the workings of the Turkish judicial process and that current
practices had a distinct chilling effect on freedom of expression. Since
that time, however, the number of journalists in Turkish prisons
has almost doubled. The Commissioner specified to the Turkish authorities
a number of fundamental changes to the country’s laws and practices
that are necessary to bring them into compliance with the Convention
and with the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.
79. It is a matter for concern that the writer Orhan Pamuk was
convicted in Turkey in 2011 and forced to pay a fine after a private
lawsuit was brought against him by a group of individuals under
Article 301, the law which makes it an offence to insult the Turkish
nation. The plaintiffs won the case, claiming that they had suffered personal
insult from an interview Pamuk had given to a Swiss newspaper in
which he spoke about the unwillingness of people in Turkey to talk
about the large-scale killing of Armenians and Kurds.
80. In July 2011, a young man of known nationalist views was sentenced
to a prison sentence of over 20 years for shooting Hrant Dink in
2009, but the masterminds of the killing have not been convicted.
A number of police, security officials and others were prosecuted
for various degrees of involvement in the murder, but the judicial
and disciplinary punishments imposed on some of them were light
or trivial, while others escaped without any penalty at all.
In Turkey, as many as 5 000 sites were estimated by the OSCE
Representative on Freedom of the Media to have been blocked by order
of the authorities between 2008 and 2010 in an attempt to enforce restrictions
under an array of laws on terrorism, State security and insult which
have been very widely criticised as outdated and contrary to European
human rights standards.
For many years, the government
ordered Internet service providers to block the YouTube site after
videos were posted there which denigrated the State’s founding figure,
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and the Turkish flag. Google and other popular
sites were also blocked.
82. Regarding the investigations of the murder in 2000
of Georgiy Gongadze, an investigative journalist and founder of
the Ukrainska Pravda (Ukraine Truth) website, the trial began in
April 2011 against Olexiy Pukach, a former Interior Ministry official,
who had reportedly confessed to playing a direct part in the murder
of Gongadze. As journalists and other members of the public have
been barred from the proceedings, the Committee to Protect Journalists
(CPJ) described the secrecy and irregularities in the Pukach trial
and the previous failures to deliver prompt and impartial justice
as significant setbacks in the fight against impunity. The CPJ reported
that in 2011 journalists in Ukraine continued to face persistent
danger from threats and physical attacks, and suffered censorship.
83. In March 2010, Vasyl Demyaniv, the editor of the independent
newspaper Kolomoyiskiy Vestnyk, suffered
a fractured skull and knee injuries when he was attacked in the
street. Two defendants were convicted and the motive was said to
have been robbery, but Demyaniv stated that the two convicted men
were innocent and that he had been attacked in retaliation for critical
reporting on local government issues.
84. The Institute of Mass Information (IMI), a Kiev-based media
monitoring organisation, reported that at least 25 physical assaults
took place against journalists because of their work during the
period from 2010 to 2011. The IMI disputes a claim by the Interior
Minister that the great majority of those attacks against journalists are
unrelated to their work. The IMI says that in at least 10 cases
the perpetrators were law enforcement agents or other public officials.
85. In Ukraine, the presidential
election of January and February 2010 was marred by blatantly partisan coverage
by various media favouring one or other of the two main rival candidates,
Viktor Yanukovich and Yulia Tymoshenko. Television channels allowed
candidates to pay to appear and to place pre-recorded material on news
and current affairs programmes, undermining the principle of media
independence and objectivity. The ODIHR election observation mission
noted that regional media consistently showed a bias in favour of
the regional party or parties in power in each case. ODIHR recommended
that rules on coverage of government ministers or others holding
public office should forbid broadcasters from giving them privileged
treatment in coverage during campaign periods. It also called for
the State National Television Company of Ukraine to be transformed
into a public service broadcaster. The government has initiated
moves to do so and every effort should be made to implement the
proposal without delay, in line with Council of Europe standards
on impartiality and independence.
4.15. United Kingdom
86. In the United Kingdom, the issues of press standards
and ethics and of the relationship between the media and public
officials, including politicians and police, are being examined
by a judge-led public inquiry which is to report during 2012. The
inquiry was opened following the scandal over revelations of large-scale phone
hacking by employees of the News of the
World newspaper to hear mobile phone messages left for public
figures, celebrities and private individuals, and alleged unlawful
payments to public officials, including police officers. The exposure
of these practices led to dozens of arrests of editors and journalists
as well as some public officials. It brought accusations of improper,
collusive relations between the press and government officials,
senior politicians and police officers, and of influence-peddling
which may have improperly affected the outcomes of regulatory decisions,
including decisions affecting the concentration of media ownership.
87. Freedom of expression and information constitutes
a cornerstone of good governance and thriving democracy as well
as a fundamental obligation of each member State under Article 10
of the European Convention on Human Rights.
88. Nevertheless, the police and the judiciary in several member
States have failed to protect journalists and to properly investigate
physical attacks on them. The Russian Federation remains the most
dangerous country in Europe for journalists, because of the number
of murdered journalists as well as the number of unresolved murder
cases. In this country and in all other countries concerned, the
competent national authorities must do more to properly investigate
such cases and bring to justice those who instigate them.
89. Turkey is estimated to have more journalists in detention
than any other State in the world. The latest election observation
reports of the Assembly found a biased media environment and other
shortcomings in several member States. In all these countries, media
freedom should be strengthened by reviewing the laws and the practice
by courts and the police.
90. Recent incidences of collusion of media and media owners with
politicians and State officials undermine public confidence in democratic
government and independent media. The media and public administration must
assume their respective responsibilities in establishing measures
against such misconduct, in particular through legal measures against
corruption as well as media self-regulation and strict editorial
independence of journalists from media owners.
91. As many journalists work in precarious situations, professional
quality and ethics are often challenged by abuse by media owners
and political or commercial interest groups. Member States must
ensure that the employment conditions of journalists respect the
provisions of the revised European Social Charter (ETS No. 163).
92. Despite the multiplication of digital media outlets, public
service broadcasting remains a major source of information in Europe
and constitutes a necessary tool for the public at large in an informed
democracy. Public service broadcasters must therefore be protected
against political interference in their daily management and their
In this context, it is to be welcomed that the European Broadcasting
Union (EBU) has taken action to bring its members into line with
its declaration of core values and develop measures to highlight
and correct members breaking those recommendations.
The EBU itself should refrain from
organising events in countries with a poor record on human rights.
94. The Council of Europe as a whole and member States individually
must strengthen their efforts to protect freedom of expression and
information through the media. Member and observer States, partners
for democracy and the European Union should be invited to provide
voluntary contributions for the financing of additional activities
in this field.
95. Under its terms of reference, the Assembly’s Sub-Committee
on Media and Information Society is entrusted to consider threats
to freedom of expression and information, including media freedom
and pluralism. It can thus take an active role in this regard.
96. In view of these conclusions, concrete action is proposed
in the draft resolution and recommendation contained in this document.