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March 7, 2017

Murder, assault and imprisonment among ‘growing spectrum of threats’ facing journalists in Europe

By Dominic Ponsford

Murder, assault and imprisonment are among the “growing spectrum of threats” faced by journalists in Europe, according to Index on Censorship.

The press freedom group has been logging incidents via its Mapping Media Freedom website and listed 1,387 challenges to press freedom in 2016.

These included:

  • 205 assaults
  • 336 arrests and detentions
  • 178 criminal charges
  • 390 reports of intimidation
  • 102 incidents of censorship
  • And nine journalists who were killed as a result of their work.

Hannah Machlin of the Mapping Media Freedom project said: “The spectrum of threats is growing, the pressure on journalists increasing and the public right to transparent information is under assault.

“People who are simply trying to do their job are being targeted like never before.”

Those killed include Pavel Sheremet, an investigative journalist killed by an explosive device on his way to work in Ukraine. In Holland Martin Kock, founder of a blog about the Dutch criminal underworld, was shot dead in his car.

In Turkey alone some 225 journalists were detained by the state last year.

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Many Turkish journalists have been arrested on suspicion of publishing propaganda supportive of the alleged organiser of last year’s attempted coup.

In Turkey a further 2,500 journalists are estimated to have lost their jobs as a result of the shutting down of media outlets in the wake of the coup.

In Italy there were 62 reports of journalists being threatened, many by criminal syndicates.

The MMF annual report states: “From legal and administrative measures blocking access to the undermining of anonymity for sources to physical assault and killing, the decline of media freedom in the region calls for immediate action to restore European standards for the protection of journalism, ensure the safety of media workers and safeguard a pillar of
democracy.

“It is crucial for European leaders to refrain from adopting new legislation restricting journalists’ access, introducing penalties on reporting or endangering the protection of sources.

“The abuse of national security and terror legislation to prosecute journalists must end, with judicial reviews and appropriate training of
law enforcement agencies when necessary. Authorities should launch swift investigations into acts of violence and intimidation of media workers.”

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