Doc. 9640 revised
14 January 2003
Freedom of expression in the media in Europe
Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Rapporteur: Mrs Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa, Finland, Liberal, Democratic and Reformers' Group
Since the adoption of Recommendation 1506 (2001) on freedom of expression and information in the media in Europe, many problems persist and further serious violations of freedom of expression have taken place. In a country-by-country analysis covering several Council of Europe member states, this first report by the General Rapporteur on the Media notes:
• violence against journalists, including murder
• imprisonment of journalists
• legal harassment, such as defamation suits and huge fines
• broadcasting laws which allow direct government interference
• violation of journalists’ right to protect their sources
• threats to media pluralism
The report further stresses the need for the Council of Europe to continue to monitor and make public its findings on the state of freedom of expression and media pluralism across the continent and to put all its weight behind the active defence of its basic standards and principles.
I. Draft recommendation
1. The Assembly recalls its Recommendation 1506 (2001) on freedom of expression and information in the media in Europe and its decision to exert, through the General Rapporteur on the Media, moral and political pressure on governments which violate freedom of expression in the media, pursuing this issue on a country-by-country basis.
2. It regrets that since the adoption of Recommendation 1506 many problems persist and that further serious violations of freedom of expression have since taken place in Europe as in the rest of the world.
3. Violence continues to be a way of intimidating investigative journalists or of settling scores between rival political and economic groupings, for whom certain media act as mercenaries. The number of journalists attacked or even murdered in Russia is alarming. Violence has also recently been recorded in Armenia, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Georgia and Ukraine. It is unacceptable that no substantial progress has been made in the investigation of crimes committed earlier such as the murder of Georgy Gongadze in Ukraine.
4. It is also unacceptable in a democracy that journalists should be sent to prison for their work as in the case of Mikola Markevich, Paval Mazheika and Viktar Ivashkevich in Belarus and of Grigory Pasko in Russia. Criminal prosecution against journalists continues in Turkey.
5. Other forms of legal harassment, such as defamation suits or disproportionately high fines that bring media outlets to the brink of extinction, continue to proliferate in several countries. Such cases were recently recorded in Azerbaijan, Belarus, Croatia, Russia and Ukraine. A dozen lawsuits brought against Presspublica, the publisher of the major Polish daily, Rzeczpospolita. Intimidation of media also takes the form of police raids, tax inspections and other forms of economic pressure.
6. In most countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States the national television, the main source of information for the majority of the population, continues to be state-run or under tight government control. It is regrettable, for instance, that despite explicit Council of Europe recommendations to the Moldovan authorities and despite mass protests at TeleRadio Moldova last spring, the newly adopted broadcasting law provides for many forms of direct political interference. The same problem exists with the proposed draft for a law on public television in Azerbaijan.
7. In certain countries it is still far too easy to replace heads of public media according to the whims of the authorities, as for example in the case of the General Director of the Bulgarian News Agency BTA. In other circumstances, the same aim was achieved by amendments in the media legislation.
8. Even the most advanced new democracies still face difficulties with ensuring genuinely independent public service broadcasting and proper balance between government and opposition.
9. In certain west European countries, courts continue to violate the right of journalists to protect their sources of information, and this despite the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.
10. The media legislation in some of these countries is outdated (for instance the French press law dates back to 1881) and although restrictive provisions are no longer applied in practice, they provide a suitable excuse for new democracies not willing to democratise their own media legislation.
11. In Italy, the conflict of interest between the holding of political office by Mr Berlusconi and his private economic and media interests is a threat to media pluralism and sets a poor example for young democracies.
12. Media concentration is a serious problem across the continent. In certain countries of central and eastern Europe a very small number of companies now predominantly own the printed press. Access to digital television also tends to be highly concentrated.
13. The recent terrorist attacks can provide a pretext for introducing new restrictions to freedom of information, as with the adoption by the Russian Duma of amendments to the Laws on mass media and the Law “on the struggle against terrorism”, but which President Putin had asked to be reformulated using his right of veto.
14. The Assembly therefore stresses the need for the Council of Europe, through its appropriate bodies, to continue to monitor closely the state of freedom of expression and media pluralism across the continent and to put all its weight behind the active defence of its basic standards and principles, including the duty of journalists to observe ethical and responsible professional standards.
15. In this context, it asks the Committee of Ministers to make public the results of its monitoring procedure in the field of freedom of expression of the media.
16. The Assembly also asks the Committee of Ministers to urge member states, where appropriate:
i. to ensure that substantial progress is made in the investigation of murders of journalists and that the perpetrators of such crimes are punished;
ii. to set free all journalists imprisoned for their legitimate professional work and to remove legislation that makes journalistic freedom of expression subject to criminal prosecution;
iii. to stop immediately all forms of legal and economic harassment of dissenting media;
iv. to revise their media legislation according to Council of Europe standards and recommendations and to ensure its proper implementation;
v. to revise in particular their broadcasting legislation and implement it with a view to the provision of a genuine public service;
vi. to incorporate the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in the field of freedom of expression into their domestic legislation and ensure the relevant training of judges;
vii. to ensure the plurality of the media market through appropriate anti-concentration measures and to press for relevant international mechanisms in that respect;
viii. to refrain from adopting unnecessary restrictions to the free flow of information under cover of the fight against terrorism, while respecting Article 10.2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
II. Explanatory memorandum
by Mrs Tytti Isohookana-Asunmaa
1. In Recommendation 1506 (2001) on Freedom of expression and information in the media in Europe the Assembly welcomed the decision of its Committee on Culture, Science and Education to appoint a General Rapporteur on the Media and reiterated its position that the Council of Europe should “exert moral and political pressure upon governments which violate freedom of expression in the media”. The Assembly decided “to pursue this issue, and on a country-by-country basis”.
2. This is the first report of the General Rapporteur pursuant to this decision. It also follows the motion for an order on freedom of expression in the media (Doc. 9506) in which the Committee on Culture, Science and Education was asked to organise a debate on this issue for the Assembly.
3. The aim of the present report is to retrace the events in the media field that have been brought to the attention of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education in 2002. It covers events up to mid-November. But this coverage is not comprehensive. In particular it should be noted that countries not mentioned are not necessarily without problems and that, on the other hand, there may be much progress in countries that come in for criticism.
4. Further updates will be necessary if a report like this is to be produced on a regular basis for future Assembly debates.
B. Main problems
5. Recommendation 1506 took the view that although major positive developments regarding freedom of expression had occurred in most European countries and especially where most needed, in Central and Eastern Europe, serious problems remained. One and a half years later, unfortunately, the conclusion is still the same. Indeed, according to a recent report by the World Association of Newspapers the situation of freedom of expression has in world terms deteriorated with 41 journalists killed in 2002 and 119 currently in prison.
6. The situation is particularly alarming in most countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States - Azerbaijan, Belarus, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. Violence against journalists continues to be a regular practice, either for intimidating those who dare investigate murky political and financial dealings, or for settling scores between rivall economic and other groupings, for whom many media continue to act as mercenaries. The number of journalists murdered, especially in Russia in 2002, is appalling. What is even worse, no serious progress has been made in the investigation of previous murders such as that of Georgy Gongadze in Ukraine. By maintaining, and sometimes deliberately creating an atmosphere of impunity and arbitrariness, the government sets the scene for future crimes.
7. Journalists are still being sent to prison for their professional work. The most blatant example in that respect is the one of Grigory Pasko in Russia who is currently in a forced labour camp for having revealed to the world how liquid radioactive waste from the Russian military nuclear submarines was being dumped into the sea. Three journalists in Belarus and two in the northern part of Cyprus have also recently received prison sentences for their reporting.
8. The very high number of court trials against media outlets and astronomic fines they are forced to pay, and which may bring them to the brink of extinction, are another feature characteristic of most countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Legal harassment is usually coupled with other forms of intimidation such as police raids, tax inspections and other forms of economic pressure.
9. Although plurality and freedom of expression have become the characteristic feature of the printed press in these countries, the national television, which is the main source of information for a population that is too poor to buy newspapers, remains under tight government control. In Russia, the only country which had a strong nation-wide television sector independent of the government, the authorities skilfully did away with the independence and the critical character of NTV and TV6 under cover of financial disputes. In the CIS, the transformation of the state-run television into a public service seems to be an insurmountable problem even on paper. Although the authorities have received very clear instructions from Council of Europe experts about what their broadcasting laws should look like, the sharp discrepancy between the Council of Europe recommendations and the proposed drafts (as in the case of Azerbaijan) or the adopted texts (as Moldova) are a clear indication that the government wants to keep the media under control. There could not be a better sign of an unripe and unstable democracy, lacking in self-confidence.
10. Another country which continues to give concern is Turkey, because of the continuing practice of criminal prosecution against journalists.
11. These problems exist in a milder form in South-Eastern Europe. Occasional outbursts of violence are still possible (the most recent example being Zoran Bozinovski in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Government officials still indulge in threats against journalists, even if their words are not followed by deeds. Adopting modern and democratic legislation continues to be a painful and incomplete process (the law against defamation in Bosnia and Herzegovina). It is still too easy to shuffle officials in key positions in the media according to the whims of the ruling majority (as the directors of the Bulgarian News Agency – BTA).
12. Although the most advanced of the former communist bloc, the countries from Central Europe also face certain problems, mostly as far as the impartiality of their public service broadcasting is concerned. Legal harassment is not completely a thing of the past, either, as it can be witnessed in case of the dozen of lawsuits that were brought against Presspublica, the publisher of one of the two major Polish dailies, Rzeczpospolita.
13. In the Western democracies, the main battle which the free and independent media seem not to have won completely is protection of journalistic sources, and this despite the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and especially the Goodwin case (1996) in which it established protection of sources as an “integral part of freedom of expression”.
14. Another problem in these countries is the fact that the media legislation is in some cases outdated. For instance the French press law dates back to 1881. Although the restrictive provisions are nowadays only words on paper and no longer applied in practice, they are a suitable excuse for younger democracies not willing to revise their legislation. They should be brought up to date as soon as possible. A good example was set recently by the Government of Luxembourg, which decided to adopt a new modern media law and subject this to the critical analysis of Council of Europe experts.
15. Italy is a special case amongst Western democracies. Although no evidence can be given of direct infringement of freedom of expression, the combination of political and financial control of the mass media by Mr Berlusconi undermines the usual notion of democratic legitimacy.
16. Media concentration is a serious problem across the continent. A specific issue in the new democracies is that a small number of companies now predominantly own the printed press. At the national level some of the press markets are highly concentrated. In the broadcasting sector, commercial television, and to a lesser extent radio, is in many countries owned by the same company. As Aidan White, Secretary General of the International Federation of Journalists, pointed out when drawing the conclusions of the Conference “The Media in a Democratic Society”, Luxembourg, 30 September-1 October, “the failure of European legislators to confront this challenge raises a serious question about the power of the modern corporate media lobby and political will. More than ten years ago the Commission of the European Union promised action in this field, but nothing has happened; yet the situation is getting worse”. Concentration in Europe and across the globe is compounded by developments in the communications sector and economic globalisation, with major restructuring going on, for instance the BskyB/Kirch joint venture, the merger between Vivendi and Seagram (owner of Universal Studios) and the AOL/Time Warner/EMI deal.
17. The recent terrorist attacks in the world could become a pretext for restrictions on freedom of expression as recently in Russia with the adoption of a new draft law amending the laws on media and on combating terrorism, This new law was subsequently vetoed by President Putin.
18. All these challenges make it necessary for the Council of Europe to continue to monitor closely the state of freedom of expression in Europe.
19. In this respect, it seems absurd that the Committee of Ministers is keeping confidential its monitoring procedure in the field of freedom of expression. This sets a very bad example for the countries that need to be monitored.
20. In Recommendation 1506 the Assembly urged the Committee of Ministers to make public the findings of its monitoring procedure in the field of personal and editorial freedom of expression. In its reply, the Committee of Ministers informed the Assembly that the results of the second round of collection of information in the framework of the monitoring procedure would be discussed by the Ministers’ Deputies in 2003 and that “on this occasion, if it is deemed appropriate, the Committee of Ministers may consider to communicate its findings to the Parliamentary Assembly”. As the Ministers’ Deputies’ discussion is likely to coincide with the debate of the present report in the Assembly, the cooperation between the two bodies seems more than ever necessary.
C. Country by country review
Albania (government pressure)
21. At the end of October, following publication of articles critical of Prime Minister Fatos Nano by the daily “Koha Jonë”, at least five different government agencies sent inspectors to check its parent media company’s compliance with financial, labour and other regulations. According to Human Rights Watch, while the inspections may prima facie be lawful, their timing, unusual nature and surrounding circumstances raise strong suspicions they are retaliatory measures against the newspaper.
Armenia (shortcomings in broadcasting legislation, violence against journalists)
22. On 2 April the National Commission on Television and Radio attributed the broadcasting license on 37 UHF Yerevan to the Sharm company, thus effectively ousting the previous frequency TV broadcaster A1+, the country’s most respected private channel. Noyan Tapan TV also lost its broadcast frequency. A new tender for frequencies was announced by the National Commission on Television and Radio on 15 October. The 40 day period for submitting bids means that it is doubtful if either of the TV channels, even if they are granted a licence, will manage to go on air before the presidential elections in February. Meanwhile, on 8 November the Commission refused to accept the new bid of the Noyan Tapan TV company on the grounds that it had not specified which frequency it wished. On 1 November the founder of A1+ "Meltex" LLC sent an application against the Republic of Armenia to the European Court of Human Rights. The applicant is challenging the decisions of Armenian courts on the legitimacy of the broadcasting licencing competitions held by the National Commission on Television and Radio.
23. The Yerevan Press Club and the non-governmental organisation Internews blamed “the imperfect legislation” for the loss of frequencies by A1+ and Noyan Tapan, as it made it possible for the National Commission on Television and Radio to reshape the broadcasting sphere, “ignoring the interests of the acting and established TV companies”.
24. Indeed, the Law on Radio and Television broadcasting passed in October 2000 and amended in 2001 was also found to be not satisfactory by Council of Europe experts. It was criticised by media representatives at the meeting of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education in Yerevan in October 2001, in particular in so far as both the National Commission and the Council of Public Television are directly appointed by the President. Furthermore it was alleged that the public television channel continued to be a vehicle for official propaganda. In Resolution 1304 (2002) on the honouring of obligations and commitments by Armenia the Assembly called on the authorities to amend the law without delay.
25. On 24 October, the Armenian free-lance journalist Mark Grigorian suffered serious shrapnel wounds from a grenade thrown at him as he walked through the centre of Yerevan. He had been working on an article about the October 1999 attack on the Armenian Parliament that killed eight politicians, including the prime minister, and had recently interviewed several witnesses and politicians for the story, which he planned to publish on 27 October, the third anniversary of the massacre.
Azerbaijan (legislation, defamation suits, threats against journalists, climate of hatred in the media)
26. Transforming the state controlled television and radio into a public service was one of the main commitments made by Azerbaijan to the Council of Europe. A draft law on Public TV is under discussion in Parliament. Opposition representatives find it a mere cloning of the state-run television. Indeed, members of all three institutes that administer public television – the Broadcasting Board, the Managing Board and the Director General would be appointed by the President of the country. In addition, determining their power and the nature of their interrelations is the prerogative of the Head of State.
27. The 28 August presidential decree on official secrets requires the media to check if a news item involves state security before putting it out. In cases of doubt, a presidential commission has seven days to decide whether or not it can be published. If the item is deemed to involve state security, the commission can demand access to the journalist's sources. Following wide-spread criticism, internationally and by Azerbaijan NGOs, on 11 September the President issued a new decree ordering the government to draft a new law on state secrets.
28. On 1 October 2001 a court ruled against the newspaper Famida and imposed its closure and a fine of 100 million manat (equivalent to the media outlet's three-monthly turnover), following an article concerning a deputy prosecutor. The newspaper appealed the decision in May 2002, but despite the fact that final judgement is still pending, the initial ruling was executed, resulting in the closure of the media outlet.
29. In July the Baku-based independent magazine Monitor, known for its critical reporting on government officials, was sued by the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry for defamation, after it published a critical account by Eynulla Fetullayev, a reporter for the magazine, about his experience in the military. Fetullayev and Elmar Huseynov, Monitor's publisher and editor-in-chief, were ordered to pay a fine of 50 million manats (about 10,300 euros). Both state and private printing houses refused to print subsequent issues of the magazine, reportedly because they feared reprisals from the authorities.
30. On 11 November and 18 November two defamation proceedings were initiated against the Yeni Musavat newspaper, one of the main organs of the opposition. The first was brought by the Ministry of Defence in reaction to an article alleging illegal activities of the Ministry. The second was brought by the former Deputy Head of the Committee of State Property reacting to an article reporting about legal proceedings in the United States against high ranking Azerbaijani officials for financial fraud.
31. In September journalists of the opposition daily Khurriyet received death threats after the paper ran an article accusing a senior customs official of involvement in a petrol-smuggling racket.
32. International organisations continue to be worried about a climate of hatred in the media. The OSCE office in Baku reacted on 25 October to a report on ANS TV, a private channel close to the authorities, where the presenter expressed the need for volunteers ready to sacrifice themselves for their country and outlined the possibility of setting up a battalion of homeless and orphan children.
Belarus (government control, journalists in prison, legal and economic harassment)
33. On 24 January, the Committee on Culture, Science and Education held a hearing in Strasbourg on the situation of the media in Belarus, with the participation of Mr Padhayny, Minister of Information of Belarus, representatives of the Belarus Association of Journalists, members of Parliament, representatives of the non-parliamentary opposition, journalists and NGOs (see AS/Cult (2002) 13). The journalists complained that the Opposition had no access to the State mass media, that the non-state media, the only tribune for political opposition, had a restricted circulation and were subject to various forms of harassment and that censorship was openly practised by senior government officials.
34. At the end the hearing, the Minister made an official commitment to send a draft media law to the Council of Europe for examination. In June, the Minister wrote to the Chairman of the Committee, Mr de Puig, to ensure him that the draft would be submitted following parliamentary hearings in the autumn. Almost one year after that commitment was made, the draft has not yet reached the Council of Europe. At a meeting with Belorussian parliamentarians in September the Council of Europe was informed that the draft was still being examined by the presidential administration and had not reached Parliament.
35. In August, the Minsk independent daily Nasha Svoboda was fined some 54,500 euros in a libel suit brought by the head of the State Control Committee.
36. Three journalists received prison sentences. Mikola Markevich and Paval Mazheika, respectively editor-in-chief and reporter at the Hrodno-based independent weekly Pahonya and Viktar Ivashkevich, editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Rabochy, were accused of libelling President Aleksandr Lukashenko. According to the latest information Markevich and Mazheika have started their forced-labour terms in a remote area of Belarus, and not in their home Hrodna area.
37. In an appeal to the International Helsinki Federation, Belarus NGOs declared themselves “alarmed with the critical situation of independent media”. They stated that in order to restrict the freedom of the media the government was using criminal prosecution of journalists and other legal measures and had recently stepped up economic harassment of independent outlets. As a result of economic discrimination through state-owned printing and distribution monopolies, through taxation and advertising policy, several newspapers both in Minsk and in the regions have had to suspend publication – Belaruskaya Maladzyozhnaya, Dien, Rabochy, Solidarnosc in Soligorsk, Golas Pruzhany, Kuceina in Krychev, Tydniovik Mahileuski.
Belgium (protection of sources)
38. José Masschelin, a reporter for Het Laatste Nieuws was jailed on 14 March in Brussels for in possession of a confidential file concerning paedophilia. The International Federation of Journalists’ qualified the arrest of Masschelin as “a violation of a journalist's right to protect the sources of this information".
39. Two reporters on the Belgian daily paper De Morgen, Douglas de Coninck and Marc Vendermeir, were ordered on 29 May by a Brussels court to pay 25 euros for every hour they continued refusing to reveal their sources for an 11 May article that said that Belgian State Railways had overshot its budget to build a new high-speed train (TGV) station in Liège by 250 million euros.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (legislation)
40. In September the Federation Parliament failed for a second time to adopt a Law on Protection Against Defamation. Under a decision of the High Representative, the two entities were required to adopt legislation in this field by the end of 1999. As no action was taken by the authorities, an Advisory Group jointly led by the office of the High Representative and the OSCE drafted laws for both entities. In May 2001 the Federation Government adopted the draft Law but only the Republika Srpska National Assembly passed it. Over the ensuing 15 months the Federation draft law had undergone modifications which made it incompatible with modern standards, until a revised version, in conformity with the Advisory group’s draft was presented to Parliament.
41. Following this second failure of Parliament to adopt the text, the High Representative on 1 November used his powers as final authority and enacted the FBiH Defamation Law. Criminal penalties for defamation in the Federation Criminal Code were also repealed. The law has entered into force on an interim basis pending due adoption by the Federation Parliament.
Bulgaria (government control)
42. The main issue is the establishment of public service television. The present law on radio and television was criticised by experts appointed by the Council of Europe on three main points: the independence of broadcasting, the composition and functioning of the Electronic Media Council (CEM) and the funding of public broadcasting. In October, a new draft was introduced by a member of the ruling majority. The Assembly Sub-Committee on Media (Committee on Culture, Science and Education) has received complaints from the opposition and from the South East European Network of Associations of Private Broadcasters (SEENAPB) expressing concern over this draft. They consider such key provisions as “the establishment of two new regulatory bodies fully controlled by the political majority in Parliament, to be a significant step backwards for Bulgarian media legislation”. The opposition claims the only purpose of the proposed law is to change the composition of CEM and to appoint new directors of the national radio and television.
43. A petition with more than 4000 signatures, including those of a few well-known intellectuals has been addressed to the Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on the Media. It is a protest “against political purges in Bulgaria” and in support of the journalist Yavor Dachkov from Bulgarian National TV who was dismissed “due to his critical positions towards the government”.
44. On 4 October the National Assembly of Bulgaria decided to dismiss the Director General of the Bulgarian News Agency (BTA) and appointed a new Director General. In a letter to the Chairman of the Sub-Committee, Mr Blagoy Dimitrov, member of the Media Committee of the Bulgarian Parliament, stated that “Because there were no arguments attached either to the motion for decision or to the report of the Committee on Media, we are considering the decision as politically motivated”. Opposition members claimed the item concerning the dismissal of the old and the appointment of a new Director General had been introduced in the agenda of the Parliament without any prior warning, for immediate consideration, only minutes after the draft decision had been distributed to the parliamentarians. As can be seen in the minutes of the parliamentary sitting, one of the initiators of the draft, Mrs Emel Etem from the ruling coalition said indeed that “we cannot trust this director any more” although he was given enough time “to demonstrate the agency’s propriety and loyalty to the policy of the ruling majority and to the priorities of the Republic of Bulgaria”.
45. The Sub-Committee felt it should not attempt to act as referee in this dispute. It noted however that the legislation makes it too easy for the Director of BTA to be changed according to the whim of the ruling majority.
Croatia (legacy from the Tudjman era, broadcasting legislation)
46. Although in 2000 the Constitutional Court removed articles on defamation and libel from the public information law and penal code, hundreds of lawsuits against independent media from the Tudjman regime based on these articles are still pending. The most striking example is that of the satirical weekly Feral Tribun,whose bank account was frozen in March after the newspaper was sentenced twice, for "moral damage" and for publishing "cosmopolitan opinions and views”, for two articles published in the Tudjman era. The fines imposed on the newspaper - 200,000 kuna (approx. 27,183 euros) - bring it to the brink of extinction. The first sentence condemns the publication in 1995 of an article criticising the management of the Mestrovic Foundation. The second sentence is based on a 1993 article criticising antisemitic and pro-fascist remarks by an attorney with close ties to the former president.
47. The transformation of state broadcasting into public service broadcasting has not been completed. The law adopted in 2001 was qualified as a “step forward” by the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, who said however that “it critically fails to detach HRT from the influence of the Government and the Parliament of the day”. The main point of criticism is that the real powers lie not in the HRT Council, the ostensible role of which is to represent society in overseeing and guiding the work of HRT, but in the Board of Management, which is appointed directly by Parliament “and will therefore be an extension of the current parliamentary majority”.
Cyprus (journalists in prison, journalists expelled)
48. In August, six-month jail sentences were imposed on two journalists of the Nicosia daily newspaper Afrika (former Avrupa), Sener Levent and Mehmud Ener, for "insulting the President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”. In an article published on 29 July 1999 they invited the reader to choose, on the basis of a series of facts, which person was "Public Enemy No. 1". One of the options offered was "Rauf Denktash, President of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus". The two journalists were subsequently freed after the Turkish-Cypriot Supreme Court ruled on 3 October that their sentences were excessive and reduced them to six weeks each.
49. In October, a group of Spanish journalists, taking part in a European Union seminar in the northern part of Nicosia, were forced out of the area by Turkish Cypriot police. The group had officially crossed the Green Line in order to meet non-governmental organisations and Turkish Cypriot journalists. Police threatened to use force if the journalists did not leave voluntarily.
France (protection of sources)
50. The French journalist Laid Sammari is defending in court his right not to reveal his sources following phone tapping by the police as part of their investigation of the 1998 murder of the French Prefect (governor) of Corsica, Claude Érignac. Six other French journalists have been placed under electronic surveillance for similar reasons over the past two years.
Georgia (violence against journalists)
51. In October, police made deaths threats and went on a rampage at the Odishi TV station in the west Georgian town of Zugdidi hours after it had broadcast criticism of them. About 30 police broke into the offices of the TV station, beat journalists and technicians and destroyed video and computer equipment. Police broke into the home of the journalist who had helped make two programmes that denounced police violence and a corrupt local police chief. In her absence, they beat up her mother and her 10-year-old son.
52. In July, the Tbilisi Press Club and the offices of the Liberty Institute, a human rights and press freedom NGO, were ransacked by more than half a dozen men with iron bars. Liberty Institute director Levan Ramishvili was badly beaten and the computers of both organisations smashed. Two days earlier, a member of parliament had demanded that the Institute be closed, accusing it and the Press Club of putting out information about corruption and the Soviet-era past of some local officials.
53. One year after the murder of a popular anchor for the Tbilisi-based independent television station Rustavi-2, Georgy Sanaya, the case has not yet been resolved.
Germany (protection of sources)
54. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Freimut Duve, sent on 17 October a letter to the German Foreign Minister, Joschka Fischer, criticizing a draft law proposed by the Senator of the Interior of the German City-State of Hamburg, which would allow the authorities to survey the activities of journalists by optical and acoustic devices. Mr. Duve stressed that such legislation would jeopardize the protection of journalistic sources.
Italy (conflict of interest, prison sentence for defamation)
55. A study by an independent expert commissioned for the purposes of the present report concluded that the conflict of interest between the holding of political office by Mr Berlusconi and his private economic and media interests is a threat to plurality of the media. Even if it is extremely difficult to present evidence of abuse of his position, the possibility of such abuse and the perception of a conflict of interest undermines basic democratic legitimacy. It also sets a poor example for young democracies.
56. Mr Berlusconi can further his political interests through his media and publishing interests and their impact on public opinion:
• Mr Berlusconi is the dominant owner in television, magazine publishing, commercial radio, and has some press interests.
• Mr Berlusconi can influence appointments (and therefore editorial line) within the public broadcaster RAI, as well as in the outlets he himself owns. Public Radio and TV Broadcaster RAI is regulated by a Parliamentary Commission. Since the appointment of the new Government in 2001, there have been repeated rows over staffing changes at RAI, particularly those involving the most influential news anchors and chat show hosts. Two of the most influential current affairs hosts, Enzo Biagi and Michele Santoro, who have been perceived as critical of the government, have been removed from their posts.
57. The Italian Parliament is currently considering two laws aimed at resolving the conflict of interest.
58. The Government presented a draft for a new Communications Law in 2002. It is often described as a tool to deal with the political conflict of interest with regard to the media holdings concentrated in Mr Berlusconi’s hands. However, its principle aim is not to prevent concentration of ownership but to promote media competition. It is very debatable that competition rules alone could deliver adequate media pluralism.
59. The Law on Conflict of Interest was presented by Ministers Frattini and La Loggia and Prime Minister Berlusconi himself and approved by the Chamber of Deputies on 28 February 2002. It aims to deal with the issue of conflicts of interest as they apply to the President, to ministers, to deputy and junior ministers and some other key posts. However, it does not take on board any of the earlier proposals for legislative reforms such as divestment (an obligation of Government ministers to divest of economic interests on the German model) or the creation of a “blind trust” (placing Mr Berlusconi’s holdings into a trust to be administered without his knowledge. The model has been used by successive US presidents since Jimmy Carter). It does not provide for a general ban on members of the Government conducting business, either. The proposed legislation empowers the competition authorities and sector regulator Agcom to investigate abuses using general competition law. It is unlikely to convince public opinion that dangers of conflicts of interest have been dealt with.
60. A sentence of two and a half years in prison for libel was imposed by a Naples court on the Senator, journalist and member of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education of the Parliamentary Assembly Raffaele Iannuzzi. On 20 November, the judicial authorities refused to grant the 74-year-old journalist "semi-liberty" or convert his prison sentence to one of confinement to residence. His parliamentary immunity did not protect him in this case, as he has been convicted as editor of the daily newspaper Il Giornale di Napoli for articles published between 1987 and 1993, in particular, articles criticizing judicial officials in charge of combating the mafia. According to Reporters Without Borders Iannuzzi himself wrote many investigative pieces on the mafia and defended television presenter Enzo Tortora, convicted in 1983 of colluding with the mafia on the basis of the statements of mafia members cooperating with the authorities
Moldova (Government control, inappropriate legislation, harassment by law-enforcement authorities)
61. In February, some 500 employees of TeleRadio Moldova launched “work-to-rule” protest actions demanding an end to systematic censorship and attempts of the Communist authorities to have total control over the national broadcasting company. In response, the Moldavian authorities deployed armed military forces around the building of the national TV and radio in Chisinau. Several members of the strike committee were dismissed and the access of others to their workplace was limited. Protests continued in June against the appointment of Ion Gonta as the new president of the national broadcasting company. In a declaration signed by the members of the company’s strike committee, journalists described the appointment as “an attempt to tighten censorship and make the national TV and radio totally subservient to the ruling Communist Party.”
62. A new law on the national public broadcasting corporation “Teleradio Moldova” was passed by Parliament on 26 July 2002. A detailed description of the law and the way in which it was adopted can be found in the report of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States on the functioning of democratic institutions in Moldova (Doc. 9571). The law satisfies neither the Council of Europe nor the journalists and it is bitterly contested by the opposition. It provides for many forms of direct political interference into its activities, for instance the appointment of members of a “Council of Observers” directly by Parliament, the President and Government.
63. In September Andrei Neguta, chairman of the parliamentary foreign relations commission, announced that the majority communist faction would take heed of the recent recommendation by the Council of Europe to change the provisions regulating the appointment of the broadcasting Administrative Council, namely by increasing the number of Council members to include representatives of the non-governmental organisations and creative unions of creative workers.
64. It has to be recognised that the Moldovan authorities set a positive precedent by allowing, for the first time within the monitoring procedure of the Committee of Ministers, the experts’ report on the situation in the country to be declassified.
65. On 9 October the editor-in-chief of the independent weekly Accente was arrested. On the same day, law-enforcing bodies representatives made a raid on Accente editorial office, forbade the appearance of the next day’s issue and sequestered all the goods of the office, effectively suspending the activity of the newspaper. The attacks started after Accente had published articles on corruption cases in which the former Moldovan Interior Minister Vladimir Turcanu, now ambassador to the Russian Federation, was involved, but also following the newspaper’s investigating the participation of top officials in organising trafficking in human beings and organs. Accente journalists complained that they had been permanently black-mailed and threatened.
Poland (draft legislation, legal harassment)
66. On 9 March the ruling Polish coalition government, led by the Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej party ("the SLD"), informed the public that it had adopted a new draft of the Broadcast Law containing restrictive provisions regarding cross-ownership (holding interests in different media sectors). Within days of this statement, Prime Minister Leszek Miller signed the draft law and sent it before parliament where it was initially scheduled under the so-called "fast-track" procedure. Following widespread criticism, both nationally and internationally, the draft is now being considered as part of the normal legislative timetable.
67. In the Assembly the situation has been raised in Written Declaration No. 334 (Doc. 9419) and Written Declaration No. 338 (Doc. 9426).
68. A submission has been received from the management of the Norwegian company Orkla which, through a holding, has a 51% stake in Presspublica, the publisher of the major quality Polish daily Rzeczpospolita. The other 49% is owned by PPW Rzeczpospolita, a state treasury entity enterprise fully owned by the Polish government. In February 2002, criminal charges were brought against Grzegorsz Gauden, president of Presspublica, his passport was confiscated and he was forbidden to leave the country. Mr Gauden and the representatives of Orkla Media believe that the criminal charges in this case, as well as the other dozen lawsuits brought against Presspublica are a part of an organised attempt to bring the influential daily under the control of the authorities.
69. According to the opposition, from July to September 2002 the authorities had 15 hours 4 minutes total air time and 9 hours 6 minutes prime time on the first and second channels of Polish TV as compared to 2 hours 53 minutes and 2 hours 1 minute respectively for the opposition. The Chairman of the National Broadcasting Council and the President of the Polish Association of Journalists were quoted as saying that the Polish TV was being dominated by the government and government parties.
Portugal (protection of sources)
70. José Luis Manso Preto, who writes for the weekly Expreso and other Portuguese and Spanish publications, was detained for several hours in September in an attempt to make him reveal his sources of information and charged by a Lisbon court for "refusing to obey the law" as part of investigations into drug trafficking through Morocco.
Romania (media legislation, government control)
71. In April the Romanian Senate voted to adopt the Law for the Protection of Classified Information, without considering amendments proposed by two parliamentary committees and in spite of serious criticism by civil society of the scope and content of the law. According to ARTICLE 19 it failed to state that in case of inconsistency the Law on Free Access to Information of Public Interest should take precedence. A further concern is the inclusion of an obligation of professional secrecy. The definition of a State secret also fails to meet international standards.
72. In October 2002, ARTICLE 19 expressed serious concern at the President’s proposal to amend Article 10 of the draft law Regarding the Organisation and Functioning of ROMPRES National News Agency. In its original draft, Article 10 of this Law upheld the right of journalists not to disclose their sources, except where disclosure was in the public interest and ordered by a court. However, the President decided to depart from this guarantee, writing in his letter to Parliament that “Article 10 … should include [amongst the grounds for disclosing sources] the prosecutor’s order issued in a penal cause, because it is against the public interest to protect sources which can prevent a penal investigation…” The President's recommendation, if incorporated into the final text of the law, would result in a clear violation of Council of Europe standards.
73. Furthermore, in response to the report of the Parliamentary Assembly’s Monitoring Committee (12 March 2002) and in order to follow the proposals contained in the Parliamentary Assembly’s Resolution 1123 (1997), the Romanian Government has initiated reform of the defamation provisions contained in the Penal Code (Articles 205, 206, 238 and 239). While the trend to improving the situation can be welcomed; it is regrettable that the proposed reform falls short of Council of Europe standards. To follow them, it would be highly suitable that the Romanian Parliament remove altogether libel, insult and calumny from the Penal Code.
74. In May, a "Plan to Counter Attacks Against Romania" bearing the letterhead of the Supreme Defence Council (CSAT) was revealed by the media. The document proposed setting up a nationwide system to combat harmful images of the country which would involve CSAT and all government ministries and agencies (including the intelligence services), as well as establishing a "national centre to monitor media behaviour" run by the president's national security adviser, Ioan Talpes, formerly head of Romania's foreign intelligence service. President Iliescu, who heads CSAT, at first denied there was such a plan but later admitted the authorities were preparing to discuss one.
75. Following an article in the French daily Le Monde on 22 May by its Bucharest correspondent, Mirel Bran, questioning Romania’s readiness to join NATO, the government secretary-general, Serban Mihailescu, threatened to prosecute Bran and accused him of being in the pay of Romania's enemies. The article also mentioned threats by defence minister Ion Mircea Pascu against newspapers that had reprinted a 30 April article by the US newspaper The Wall Street Journal suggesting NATO distrusted the Romanian secret police."
76. Mr Ionescu and others introduced on 18 October 2002 a motion for a resolution (Doc 9595 revised) concerning the violation of the right of the mass-media to free expression and information in Romania. The authors of the motion considered that the National Council for Audiovisual of Romania withdrew the licence of the private television channel Omega TV (OTV) on the false pretext that the channel promoted xenophobic, racist and antisemitic opinions. They asked for reconsideration under urgent procedure of the situation and for the rehabilitation of OTV’s right to transmit.
77. The National Council for Audiovisual of Romania took the decision shortly after OTV broadcast harsh criticism of the way Romania is governed by Mr Tudor, President of the "Greater Romania" Party.
Russia (restrictions to free flow of information, violence against journalists, legal harassment, broadcasting regulation)
78. The dramatic events related to the hostage-taking in a Moscow theatre have given the authorities a good “excuse” in order to impose further limits on the freedom of the media. The Russian Press Ministry urged all Russian media on 24 October to observe the laws on combating terrorism and extremist activities when covering the hostage crisis in Moscow. The violation of the existing legal rules would lead to punishments up to the closure of the media outlets.
79. Indeed, during the three-day siege which ended on October 26, the Russian authorities banned the NTV channel from publishing a statement from guerrilla leader Movsar Barayev. On 25 October, information minister Mikhail Lessin ordered the closure of the regional TV station Moskovia for violating the anti-terrorist and press laws. He also threatened to shut down the Internet website of the radio station Ekho Moskvy for posting an interview with the kidnappers. Only altering the site content stopped the execution of the warning. A live broadcast by Ekho Moskvy of a statement by one of the hostage-takers prompted the Press Ministry to warn the media that “statements made by terrorists cannot be broadcast live”. The offices of the weekly Versiya were searched on 2 November by secret police. The editor of Versiya, Andrei Soldatov, believed that this operation was related to a forthcoming article on the storming of the theatre and freeing of the hostages in Moscow.
80. 10 days after the tragedy the press ministry issued draft guidelines asking the media not to interview militants involved in such attacks or allow them airtime to voice their grievances: "Saving people is more important than society's right to information,". The guidelines also warn journalists that militant statements on television and radio might contain secret messages. A similar claim was made last year by United States leaders, but this was largely dismissed as scaremongering.
81. On 1 November the State Duma adopted a draft law amending the Russian federal laws on mass media and on combating terrorism. According to the new law, media cannot be used to propagate or justify terrorism and extremism or to disclose state secrets. Media should not propagate calls for the overthrow of the government or for violating the integrity of the state. The law stipulates that media cannot be used for inciting national, class or religious hatred nor can they be used for war propaganda. Also media cannot be used as a channel for disseminating information about methods and tactics of anti-terrorist operations or for impeding such operations. It is not permitted to publish personal data of officers of special troops or members of headquarters commanding anti-terrorist operations during the periods when such operations are active.
82. According to Mikhail Fedotov, Secretary of the Russian Union of Journalists, the law “sustains the tendency of limiting the freedom of the media”.
83. On 25 November 2002, President Putin vetoed the amendment that limited freedom of information during anti-terrorist operations and asked for its reformulation.
84. At the same time, restrictions on the free movement of journalists in Chechnya are still imposed. In August Russian soldiers confiscated the accreditation and equipment belonging to journalists of the public television stations ORT and TV Tsenter while the journalists were interviewing Chechens fleeing their village. The reason given was that the reporters were not accompanied by a Russian army representative.
85. Physical violence against journalists continues. Natalia Skryl, an economic reporter on the newspaper Nashe Vremia, in Rostov-on-Don (south-western Russia), was murdered on 8 March. The murder might be connected with her investigations into the activities of large firms in the region. On 11 March, someone tried to murder Sergei Solovkin, a correspondent for Novaya Gazeta in Sochi, and his wife. He had recently written articles on corruption in the Krasnodar region. On 31 March Valery Batouev was found dead in Moscow. This 33-year-old journalist of the Moskovskie Novosti had reported on war in Chechnya. On 1 April the body of 26-year-old Sergei Kalinovsky, editor-in-chief of the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets in Smolensk, was found. Kalinovsky reported on local politics and crime. On 29 April Valery Ivanov, editor of the newspaper Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye in the southern Russian city of Togliatti, was shot dead outside his home. Tolyatinskoye Obozreniye is well known for its reports on local organized crime, drug trafficking, and official corruption. He had recently published articles in several papers (including the Moscow daily Izvestia) criticising the Penza's mayor, Alexander Kalashnikov. Alexander Plotnikov, co-owner of the regional daily paper in Tumen (Siberia), Gostini dvor, was shot dead on 20 May.
86. A wave of violent attacks against journalists happened in the southern city of Penza. Most recently, Igor Salikov, director of information security at Propaganda publishing house, was killed soon after a newspaper printed by his employer published a series of articles alleging that local authorities were involved in corruption. Investigative journalist Alexander Kizlov, of the daily Penzenskaya Pravda, was beaten and seriously injured by two youths with iron bars on 25 September. He had recently published articles in several papers (including the Moscow daily Izvestia) criticising the Penza¹s mayor. Other victims of violence were journalists from the communist opposition paper Lyubimyi Gorod, a frequent critic of Penza governor Grigory Bochkarev and the regional government in Penza, as well as Victor Shamayev, a correspondent for Pensenskaya Pravda and an organised crime specialist. A fact-finding mission carried out by Reporters Without Borders with the Glasnost Defence Foundation in the Penza region found that this violence was part of a stormy political confrontation between the mayor of the city of Penza and the region's governor, waged by means of partisan news media used as tools of propaganda.
87. Several cases of legal harassment were also reported. For instance, the Editor-in-Chief of Novaya Gazeta, Mr Muratov, attending a meeting of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education in April, complained about disproportionate fines that his newspaper had been charged to pay in claims for moral damage. I sent a letter to the Chairman of the Russian delegation at the Parliamentary Assembly to ask for more information. Unfortunately, there has been no reply.
88. Two journalists were prosecuted after questioning President Putin about regional corruption. Legal action was initiated against editor-in-chief Olga Cherubina, of the local government newspaper Nyaryana Vinder, region of Nenets, and against Dina Oyun, editor-in-chief of the website Tuva-Online, in the Russian Republic of Siberia.
89. Journalist Grigory Pasko, who worked for the naval daily Boyvaya Vakhta and filmed the dumping of liquid radioactive waste from the Russian military nuclear submarines in the Sea of Japan, is still in prison after receiving a further jail sentence for high treason in December 2001 from the Vladivostok military court. On 7 May 2002 the Appeals Board of the Supreme Court reinstated a Defense Ministry decree that was used to convict and jail him. It had been annulled in February by the Military Collegium of the Russian Supreme Court after Pasko's defence lawyers had filed a complaint challenging its legality. On 11 September Pasko was transferred to a forced labour camp in Ussuriysk, a city 100 km from Vladivostok. The Norwegian environmental organisation, Bellona, quoted by PEN International, believes his transfer will make communications more complicated between him, his wife and lawyers.
90. There is still no law on broadcasting in Russia, which exposes broadcasters to the whims of the authorities. After the state gas company Gazprom took control of NTV in 2001, at the beginning of 2002 the authorities, through a court decision, shut down the last remaining independent national TV channel TV6. The tender for the use of the sixth TV channel was won by the non-profit partnership Media-Sotsium, linking leading TV6 journalists headed by Yevgeniy Kiselev with Arkadiy Volskiy, president of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, and Yevgeniy Primakov, former Prime Minister and current head of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Yevgeniy Primakov said members of the journalistic team should exercise "self-censorship".
91. The new Act on Salaries and Reimbursement in the Public Sector, which was passed by Parliament in April 2002 and will become effective in 2003, considers the Slovenian public service broadcaster, RTV SLO as a State institution, thereby classifying RTV SLO’s staff as civil servants. Observers believe that this new law, which was passed despite the opposition of both RTV SLO’s management and the journalists’ union, could bring RTV SLO under increased political influence and undermine its editorial independence.
“The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (government pressure, violence against a journalist)
92. In September the International Press Institute and its South-Eastern affiliate SEEMO announced that the Macedonian Government was planning to nationalise the daily newspaper Vest. Because of its reporting, Vest has been under constant pressure by the Government. This pressure, which included frequent visits by State inspectors, intensified after the newspaper published an article entitled “The Castle of Vodno”, which alleged preferential treatment regarding a property deal involving a relative of the Prime Minister’s wife. As a consequence, the Government passed Decision No.23-3973/2, which would enable the State either to take over the newspaper or close it down.
93. Marjan Djurovski, of the weekly Start, was prosecuted after publishing an article on 6 September saying the country's coalition government was planning to start a war so it could postpone elections set for 15 September which opinion polls said it had little chance of winning.
94. Before the elections, the foreign and interior ministers publicly accused journalists and diplomats of plotting to destabilise the government. Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski warned that he would take all necessary steps to end this alleged conspiracy. Answering corruption allegations he warned press editors that they could go to prison for having circulated a Western report of the International Crisis Group, an expert organisation based in Brussels, which made reference to the “endemic” corruption in the country. He blamed journalists that they were “aiming at destroying the government”.
95. On 24 September three racketeers, led by members of the special police unit "the Lions", forcefully entered in the premises of Radio Tumba in Kumanovo and physically assaulted the editor of the news programme and coordinator of the regional centre of the AJM-Kumanovo, Zoran Bozinovski and the host of the radio programme Redzo Balic. Bozinovski was left in a critical condition. He had been investigating corruption involving the head of the Macedonian customs service, Dragan Daravelski, who is also a senior official in the VMRO-DPMNE, the main party in the outgoing coalition government defeated in September’s general election.
Turkey (legislation, legal harassment)
96. In May Turkey’s parliament passed a media law widely criticised as an assault on media freedom and a threat to the country’s Internet industry. Political analysts and journalists have said the law encourages monopolies and curbs press freedom. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer vetoed the bill last June, arguing that it was undemocratic. He then appealed to the Constitutional Court to cancel it.
97. In my capacity of Acting Chair of the Sub-Committee on the Media, I sent a letter to the Turkish member of the Sub-Committee on the Media, Mr Yürür. At the meeting of the Sub-Committee held on 27 June, he informed us that the Constitutional Court had rejected several provisions of the law and therefore the Parliament was now drafting a new text.
98. Between 26 March and 20 April 2002, PEN International members world-wide staged a campaign aimed at highlighting the huge number of trials under way against writers and journalists in Turkey. PEN has on its records over 100 trials believed to be ongoing against those whose only act has been to write critically of Turkish government policies, ranging from human rights to corruption.
99. Three journalists accused of "insulting the army" were indicted by a criminal court in Istanbul on 27 September. They are Dogan Ozgüden, editor in chief of the news agency Info-Türk; Emin Karaca, a freelance journalist and writer; and Mehmet Emin Sert, editor of the magazine Türkiye'de ve Avrupa'da Yazin. The journalists have been charged in connection with articles published in the April issue of Türkiye'de ve Avrupa'da Yazin - in which they accused the army of involvement in the murders of several leaders of the far-left movement Progressive Youth in the 1960s. An arrest warrant has been issued against Ozgüden, who has lived in exile in Belgium since the 1971 military coup.
Ukraine (political control, legislation, violence against journalists, legal harassment)
100. On 14 November, the European Union issued a statement expressing “its deep concern at the deterioration of the media situation in Ukraine”. It called upon the Ukrainian authorities “to refrain from any action that amounts to undue influence on journalists and owners of media outlets or to restrictions of journalists’ professional rights and freedoms”.
101. Many journalists have recently complained about the existence of political censorship in the Ukrainian media and in television in particular. According to the European Institute for the Media, journalists from the television channels Inter, UT-1, ICTV, Studio 1+1, STB and from Internet publications Ukrayinska Pravda and Telekrytyka stated in a manifesto that “Political censorship is exerted through instructions or with the consent of the authorities by censoring the content of television and radio programmes, newspaper articles and by applying illegal pressure against journalists and some media that try to provide unbiased coverage of political life in Ukraine”. The manifesto was signed by 61 people at a round table on “Political censorship in the Ukrainian media” on 3 October. Human Rights Watch reported about the existence of “temniki” (from the Russian phrase “temi nedeli”, themes of the week), secret memoranda that the presidential administration distributes to editors of the main television stations, with clear instructions about which topics should be covered and how they should be presented.
102. A poll carried out by the NGO Ukrainian Democratic Circle showed that 68% of Ukrainians agreed there was political censorship in the ways programmes and stories were presented by the media.
103. On 4 December, following a hearing on political censorship in the Ukrainian parliament which revealed serious problems with freedom of expression in the country, it was proposed that a joint working group of parliamentarians and journalists be set up in order to work out concrete proposals for legislation and practice.
104. Ukraine has not yet transformed its state controlled broadcasting into a public broadcasting system. The Verkhovna Rada had in fact adopted a draft law that would create a public broadcasting service but it was vetoed by the President.
105. The International Election Observation Mission in Ukraine concluded that the parliamentary elections had indicated progress towards international standards, but that important flaws persisted. “Media performance generally displayed greater access by candidates and parties through TV debates, free air time and paid advertising. However, virtually all media remained highly biased, and state-funded television gave disproportionate coverage to the pro-presidential candidates”.
106. Reporters without Borders also report more physical attacks on journalists. Since the last elections in 1998:11 journalists have been killed in mysterious circumstances and 48 others seriously injured in brutal attacks. Most of the journalists were attacked in similar ways – in the stairway of their apartment buildings and hit over the head. Most were working on stories about corruption involving the secret police militia, the state prosecutor's office or local and national political and economic institutions, though some attacks were not clearly linked to journalism. Most of the attackers have not been identified and the arrests that were made (of tramps and drug addicts) cast doubt on the seriousness of the investigation.
107. The International Press Institute representative Oleg Zavada was assaulted during a protest against President Leonid Kuchma in Kiev on 12 October and an assailant attempted on 13 October to snatch a handbag from Washington Times correspondent Natalia Feduschak containing notes of a key interview about Ukraine's sale of arms to Iraq. The authorities are investigating both cases as acts of "hooliganism" but not one of obstructing a journalist in his work.
108. No serious progress has been achieved in the investigation of the murder of journalist Georgy Gongadze. In her detailed reply (25 June 2002) to a question from Ms Severinsen (Denmark) the the Chairperson of the Committee of Ministers, Mrs Polfer, insisted that a full and transparent investigation must be carried out, and pointed out that this has been made clear to the Ukranian authorities.
109. The Ukrainian journalist Mikhailo Kolomiets, director of the Ukrainski Novyny news agency, went missing on 21 October. The news agency said Kolomiets' disappearance could be related to his work and to the fact that the reporting of the agency was sometimes critical of the Ukrainian Government. The journalist was found on 30 October hanged in a forest in north-western Belarus. An autopsy is still due to determine the cause of death.
110. One major recent improvement has been the decriminalisation of libel. In addition, huge damages awarded in civil defamation suits introduced by the authorities and officials are decreasing. However, it is still common practice to sue media outlets and journalists. The chairman of the Ukrainian Supreme Court has even suggested to set a fixed fee in order to avoid “multimillion suits against the mass media”.
111. Oleg Liashko, editor-in-chief of the privately-owned weekly Svoboda, was arrested on 15 April by police in Cherkassy. The journalist had been highly critical of the Prosecutor General and had been convened to a court hearing to answer allegations of libel. He was charged with "abuse of authority", "violating the right to privacy" and "resisting the police". He was released 8 days later on a written pledge not to leave the city. Liashko suspects the Prosecutor General of trying to silence his newspaper. A court had handed down a two-year suspended prison sentence against Liashko in June 2001 and had banned him from editing his newspaper because of articles he wrote in 1997. On 18 October, the Kiev Appeals Court had quashed his conviction on grounds that new clauses of the penal code had come into effect the previous month, eliminating libel as a criminal offence.
United Kingdom (protection of sources)
112. The Financial Times, Times, Guardian and Independent dailies and the Reuters press agency decided to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights to defend themselves against a court ruling opposing them to Interbrew, the Belgian brewing giant. In November 2001 they received from an anonymous source confidential documents detailing a possible bid by Interbrew for the South-African Breweries (SAB). The publication of the information affected Interbrew’s shares which fell by 7.5 %. Interbrew took legal action and the five media were ordered to reveal their sources of information.
The Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (violence against a journalist)
113. On the third anniversary of the murder of journalist Slavko Curuvija, the government has made no progress in investigating the case.
Reporting committee: Committee on Culture, Science and Education
Reference to committee: Doc. 9506 and Reference No 2751 of 3 September 2002
Draft recommendation adopted with one abstention by the committee on 5 December 2002
Members of the committee: MM. de Puig (Chairman), Saglam, Baroness Hooper, MM. Prisacaru (Alternate: Ionescu) (Vice-Persons), Akhvlediani, Apostoli, Asciak, Bajrami, Banks (Alternate: Lord Russell Johnston), Barbieri, Berceanu, Berzinš, Billing, Braga, Mrs Castro, MM. Chaklein, Colombier, Mrs Cryer, MM. Cubreacov, Dalgaard, Mrs Damanaki (Alternate: Kontogiannopoulos), Mrs Delvaux-Stehres, Mrs Domingues, MM Duka-Zólyomi, Eversdijk, Mrs Fernández-Capel, MM. Gadzinowski, Galoyan, Gentil, Gierek (Alternate: Podgorski), Mrs Glovacki-Bernardi, MM. Goris, Haraldsson, Hegyi, Higgins, R. Huseynov, Iannuzzi, Irmer, Mrs Isohookana-Asunmaa, MM. Jakic, Jarab, Jurgens (Alternate: Dees), Kalkan, Mrs Katseli, Mrs Klaar, Mrs Kutraité Giedraitiené, MM. Lachat, Legendre, Lekberg, Lengagne, Libicki, Mrs Lucyga, MM. Maass, Malgieri (Alternate: Gaburro), Marxer, Mrs Melandri, MM. Melnikov, Mestan, Mrs Milotinova, MM. Nigmatulin, O’Hara, Mrs Pintat Rossell, MM. Rakhansky, Rockenbauer, Rybak, Schellens, Mrs Schicker, MM. Schneider, Schweitzer, Shybko, Mrs Skarbøvik, MM. Sudarenkov, Theodorou, Vakilov, Wodarg, Yürür, Mrs Zaćiragić, Mrs Zafferini,
N.B. The names of those present at the meeting are printed in italics
Head of secretariat: Mr Grayson
Secretaries to the committee: Mr Ary, Mme Theophilova, Mr Torcatoriu