Fri, 14 June 2024

CoE media alerts July 17 – 14, 2023

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Safety of Journalists Weekly 17 – 24 July, 2023

Member States

Poland: Attempts to pressure Wirtualna Polska and Onet. On 23 June 2023, Paweł Kapusta, the editor-in-chief of Wirtualna Polska, published a column discussing alleged efforts to influence the news portal’s independence.

Awkard moment in Tirana (see below)

Ukraine*: Ukrainian Journalist Volodymyr Sedov Assaulted in Anayiv. On 12 July 2023, Volodymyr Sedov, editor-in-chief of the daily Visty Ananyivshchyny, was violently attacked by unknown assailants in Anayiv, near Odesa.
Azerbaijan: Sada TV Owner Elnur Shukurov Detained on Bribery Charges. On 9 September 2022, Elnur Shukurov, the owner of the Sada TV Internet channel, was arrested on charges of active bribery, which carries up to 5 years in prison.
Azerbaijan: Osman Narimanoglu Rzayev Detained on Extortion Charges. Osman Narimanoglu Rzayev, a journalist and owner of the news website Demokratik.az, was arrested on 5 July 2022 on charges of extortion or request to transfer property or rights, an offense that carries up to ten years in prison.
Albania: Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj called BIRN Journalist Ola Xama a “contract killer”. A journalist with the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN), had asked him to comment on an investigation into waste management.

Other countries

Justyna – “get out and stay out”

Belarus**: Belarusian Journalist Ihar Karnei detained on undisclosed charges. On 17 July 2023, police authorities in Minsk searched the home of Ihar Karnei, a former freelance journalist with Radio Svaboda, the Belarus service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), detained him, and ordered his detention for 10 days.
Belarus**: Belarus bans Polish journalist Justyna Prus. On 30 June 2023, a Belarussian border guard in Brest handed Justyna Prus, a Polish correspondent with the Polish state news agency PAP, a document stating that following a decision by the State Security Committee (KGB) she was banned from entering Belarus until 7 June 2028.
Belarus**: Radio Wnet and Radio Unet.fm Labelled as ‘Extremist’. On 4 July 2023, the Homel District Court declared the Belarusian service of Radio Wnet and the portal Radio Unet.fm (Pадыë йнет) to be ‘extremist organisations’. The status implies that journalists who work for such organisations incur criminal liability and heavy fines or prison terms.

*Alert subsequent to the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine on 24 February 2022. All activities of the Council of Europe concerning Ukraine are being undertaken in compliance with the terms of decision CM/Del/Dec(2022)1426bis/2.3 and subsequent decisions of the Committee of Ministers condemning the aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine in violation of international law and upholding the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine.    

**As of 2023 the Partner Organisations decided to document the state of press freedom and attacks against journalists in Belarus, via the system of alerts on the Platform.   
 
Member States

Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bill to re-criminalise Defamation and Insult Republika Srpska. On 20 July 2023, the Assembly of Republika Srpska adopted amendments to the Criminal Code in a final vote, making defamation a criminal offence carrying up to 3,000 Bosnian marks (€1,500) in fines. Insult remains a civil tort and has not been criminalised as drafted initially.
Türkiye: Investigative Journalist Mehmet Baransu Arrested. On 11 July 2023, the European Court of Human Rights held that Türkiye had violated article 5 § 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (right to liberty and security – trial within reasonable time) due to the lack of relevant and sufficient reasons for Baransu’s placement and maintenance in pre-trial detention. It ordered Türkiye to pay the journalist €7,800 in non-pecuniary damages and €2,000 for costs and expenses. It had joined two applications lodged by Baransu in 2016 and 2019 regarding his pre-trial detention and its duration.
France: French Journalist Toufik-de-Planoise taken into custody and charged over protest coverage. On 13 July 2023, the Besançon Criminal Court fined Toufik-de-Planoise one € on charges of “trespassing on railway premises” and “refusing to undergo identification”. It acquitted the journalist of the charge of “hindrance to train traffic”.
France: At Least 13 Attacks on journalists by rioters. On 8 July 2023, Clément Lanot, a freelance reporter for the news agency CCL Press; Florian Poitout, a photographer with the news agency Abaca; and Pierre Tremblay, a photographer with the news website HuffPost; were documenting the arrest of a protester in Paris, according to news reports and Lanot. A group of between eight and 10 police officers in riot gear shoved the reporters to the ground. On the next day the Paris Police Prefecture told the news agency AFP that an administrative investigation had been opened.
Montenegro: Freelance journalist and fixer Jovo Martinović tried for “Being a Member of a Criminal Organization”. On 12 July 2023, the Supreme Court rejected the Prosecutor General’s application, and upheld the verdict of the Court of Appeals acquitting Martinović of drug trafficking charges. The decision is final.
Azerbaijan: Media Freedom activist Emin Huseynov charged with tax evasion and abuse of power. On 13 July 2023, the European Court of Human Rights found that the termination of Huseynov’s citizenship, which it termed arbitrary, amounted to an interference with his right to respect to private life, in violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The court noted that Huseynov “became a stateless person as a result of the termination of his citizenship” and ruled that terminating his citizenship “left him without any valid identity document, creating general uncertainty as regards his legal status as an individual and directly affecting his social identity”.

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