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  Press freedom

  34 Debates

Two journalists who are critical of the regimes in their countries have been awarded this year's Nobel Peace Prize: Maria Ressa (the Philippines) and Dmitry Muratov (Russia). They stand for all those who stand up for the ideal of freedom of expression in a world in which "democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions," the Nobel Committee said in a statement. Europe's press is delighted, but there are those who would have liked to see a bolder choice.

The Russian authorities have classified the popular pay-TV channel Dozhd as a "foreign agent". It is the 18th Russian media outlet to receive this designation. Such an announcement usually means the death of a non-state media outlet because its advertising revenues plummet and official bodies refuse to cooperate with it. Russian journalists are pessimistic.

A global investigative journalism project has revealed that governments around the world have used the Israeli Pegasus spy software to spy on journalists, activists and opposition members. Hungarian media workers were also affected. Pegasus manufacturer NSO maintained that the software could only be used to fight crime and terrorism and was only sold to "vetted governments". Such reassurances are not enough for Europe's press.

Journalist and crime reporter Peter R. de Vries died of his injuries on Thursday after he was shot in Amsterdam last week. Members of organised crime are suspected of being behind the attack. Prime Minister Mark Rutte and many politicians and colleagues expressed their condolences and shock, while people flocked to the site of the shooting to lay down flowers.

In Amsterdam, the award-winning investigative journalist Peter R. de Vries was shot and critically injured on Tuesday. De Vries has uncovered numerous crimes and police corruption and had a popular TV show covering high-profile criminal cases. Most recently, he acted as an adviser to the chief witness in a major trial against members of a criminal gang. For commentators, the attempted assassination was not only directed against de Vries personally.

In Slovakia, the multimillionaire businessman Marián Kočner and an alleged accomplice are to be retried over the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová after the country's highest court overturned their acquittals from last September. Commentators express relief.

World Press Freedom Day has been celebrated on May 3 every year since 1994. This year several organisations and politicians have pointed out that the situation for media professionals and their recipients in Europe and across the globe has deteriorated in many places, also in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Europe's press takes stock.

The EU Commission has called on the governments in Hungary, Poland and Slovenia to stop undermining press and media freedom. There had been "further worrying developments" in these three countries in recent months, Vera Jourova, the European Commission's Vice President for Values and Transparency, told the EU Parliament on Wednesday. Commentators from Poland and Slovenia agree.

In Poland, dozens of media companies suspended publication on Wednesday. Newspapers left their front pages blank or published an open letter entitled "Media Without Choice". The protest actions were triggered by a new law that introduces taxes on media advertising and, according to the strikers, aims to stifle the independent press. Most commentators are also alarmed by the legislation.

Hungarian radio station Klubrádió's broadcasting licence will not be renewed. Hungary's Media Council cited minor regulatory offences as the reason for the decision. An appeal against the ruling failed. Since Klubrádió is the last radio station in the country that is critical of the government, commentators see this as a politically motivated decision and call on Brussels to intervene.

A year after the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Crown Prince Bin Salman has assumed responsibility for the crime in an interview. He rejected accusations that he commissioned the murder, however. Commentators take stock of the reactions from the international community.

A new study by the government-affiliated Turkish think tank Seta accuses international media of reporting that is 'hostile to the government'. It focuses particularly on the Turkish-language websites of Deutsche Welle, the BBC, Sputnik and Voice of America. The report includes biographies and tweets of journalists. Is the criticism justified?

The entire political department of the Russian business newspaper Kommersant has handed in its resignation after two journalists were sacked. The latter had reported that Russia's Federal Council leader would be demoted to head of the state pension fund. What does the case say about this paper owned by Kremlin-friendly oligarch Alisher Usmanov, and about press freedom in Russia?

Reporters Without Borders' lastest Press Freedom Index and World Press Freedom Day on May 3 prompt commentators to take a closer look at freedom of expression and the media around the world. This year they express concern over developments in Austria and the demoralising effect of a spiteful discussion culture.

Ján Kuciak was murdered in Slovakia and fellow journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. In Turkey many journalists are in prison, in Hungary critical media are being bullied and not only Trump but also politicians in European countries are stirring up anger against the media. Commentators concur that 2018 was not a good year for press freedom.

As further gruesome details about journalist Jamal Khashoggi's death come to light pressure is mounting on the Saudi royal family. In addition to the tensions between Turkey, the US, the EU and Saudi Arabia European commentators discuss certain aspects of the affair which they say have been neglected so far.

In the case of the raped and murdered Bulgarian journalist Viktoria Marinova, a suspect has apparently been detained in Germany. According to Bulgaria's chief prosecutor investigations have not revealed any connection between the crime and Marinova's work so far. Europe's commentators refuse to let the case drop.

In Lithuania a row has broken out between the political class and the media. Plans have been announced under which media would have to pay in future for access to the national register, which among other things contains all the data on companies. Until now only companies and private users had to pay. Commentators complain that the move will impede their research, and criticise the plans as an attack on press freedom.

Seven months after the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuckiak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, the Slovakian police have arrested eight suspects including the presumed murderer, the daily Dennik N reports. Commentators are relieved and express renewed faith in the triumph of justice.

Austria's minister of the interior Herbert Kickl, of the right-wing nationalist Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), has urged Austrian police in an email to restrict the access to information of media that are critical of the government to a minimum. The minister said in addition that police press releases should cite both the nationality and the residency status of criminal suspects. The Austrian press is appalled.

Two Turkish Cypriot journalists - the publisher of the daily Afrika, Şener Levent, and his colleague Ali Osman - have been charged in Turkey with criticising Ankara's military operations in Syria. They had called the intervention in Afrin a 'second Turkish invasion' - after the first invasion in Cyprus in 1974. Greek Cypriot media are incensed.

Political pressure, self-censorship and murders of journalists even in Europe: on May 3, World Press Freedom Day, commentators examine the growing threats journalists face in their work and warn that now more than ever, courage is imperative.

The editor-in-chief, its chief executive and 13 other staff at the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet were handed prison sentences ranging from two to seven years on Wednesday. They were convicted of spreading terrorist propaganda for the Gülen movement and the PKK. For some commentators the ruling does not bode well for the future of Cumhuriyet and Turkey. Others refuse to give up hope.

Nowhere in the world has press freedom deteriorated as drastically in the last year as in Europe, according to the index published by Reporters Without Borders. As the key causes for this negative trend the organisation cites attacks against the media by politicians, murders of journalists and stringent libel laws. Europe's media take stock of the rankings list.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has condemned Turkey over the jailing of two journalists. The plaintiffs Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay hope that this will pave the way for their permanent release because as a member of the Council of Europe Turkey is obliged to comply with the verdict. Commentators also hope that the ruling from Strasbourg marks a turning point.

First Slovakia's minister of culture and now its Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák have handed in their resignations. The government has been under pressure since the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak two weeks ago. At mass rallies tens of thousands of Slovakians accused their leaders of being openly hostile towards journalists and tainted by corruption. Can Kaliňák's resignation calm the tensions?

The editorial offices of the Ukrainian daily newspaper Vesti have been raided because the owner of its holding company, ex-finance minister Oleksandr Klymenko, is under investigation for corruption. The building has been transferred to a managing company whose employees have destroyed the inventory, witnesses claim. Ukrainian journalists write that the state is waging war on critical media.

Following the murder of popular Maltese investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia several MEPs have called the EU Commission to account, accusing Brussels of doing nothing to stop corruption and crime on Malta. Europe's papers also insist that the journalist's death must have political consequences.

The trial of 17 employees of the daily paper Cumhuriyet begins today, Monday, in Istanbul. Among other charges they are accused of supporting the PKK and the Gülen movement, which are viewed as terrorist organisations in Turkey. Commentators in Europe see the charges as absurd and explain why the judiciary in Turkey has resorted to such accusations.

The Italian journalist Gabriele Del Grande has been in jail in Turkey since April 9. According to reports in the media he was arrested as he was interviewing refugees on the border between Syria and Turkey. Rome has called on Ankara to release the 34-year-old. So far Del Grande hasn't been formally charged with anything. The Italian press explains what it sees as the reasons for his arrest.

In reaction to the arrest of Deniz Yücel, Turkey correspondent for Die Welt newspaper, several German politicians have demanded an entry ban for Turkish President Erdoğan, who wants to campaign for his referendum in Germany in March. The 43-year-old reporter is accused of spreading propaganda for a terrorist association. What are Ankara's motives and how should Berlin react?

The editor-in-chief and other staff at Turkey's leading opposition paper Cumhuriyet were arrested at the start of this week. The prosecution has charged them with supporting the Kurdish PKK and the movement led by Turkish preacher Fetullah Gülen. Commentators across Europe are alarmed by the developments.

EU representatives have criticised the takeover of the Turkish opposition paper Zaman. The daily was raided by the police and put under state control on Friday. But criticism of Ankara has been far too mild, most commentators concur.

The trial against two Turkish journalists Can Dündar and Erdem Gül of Cumhuriyet newspaper will start on Friday. They have been charged for writing a report that claims to show that the Turkish secret service supplied weapons to Syria. The Turkish press for the most part supports the journalists.