Europe’s journalists face growing climate of fear

May 2015

Journalists and media workers continue to confront relentless pressure as they do their jobs, according to a survey of the verified incidents reported to Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom project.

For the past year, Index on Censorship has been recording threats to media freedom in the European Union and candidate countries via its Mapping Media Freedom project. Since the mapping project was launched, over 760 reports — including 89 physical attacks on journalists — from across Europe have been verified and published.

Thirteen media workers have been killed in connection with their jobs. Journalists have been assaulted. Media workers have been threatened with death or bodily harm. Police and government officials have detained and interrogated reporters. Journalists have been burned in effigy, depicted as animals on billboards and subjected to online trolling. Newspaper articles have been spiked in opaque circumstances. Television programmes have been cancelled amid accusations of censorship. Extremist groups have attacked media offices while hackers have knocked news sites off the web.

This is the Europe chronicled by the reports published to Mapping Media Freedom — covering European Union member states and candidates for entry — between May 2014 and April 2015. Taken together, these reports show that far from being an isolated problem, press freedom and media professionals face mounting pressure across the continent.

While no country is immune from pressures on media professionals, the five countries with the most reports were EU candidate country Turkey (114), member state Hungary (93), candidate country Serbia (74), founding member state Italy (71) and founding member state Germany (48). The successor nations to the former Yugoslavia had a combined total of 174 incidents that were verified by correspondents attached to the project.

The map, which was co-funded by the European Commission, launched publicly on 24 May 2014 in cooperaton with Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso and allows anyone — from members of the public to journalist unions — to submit reports for verification by Index’s eight part-time European Union correspondents.

“The truly frightening thing is that the current 762 reports represent ‘just the tip of the iceberg’, as one of our correspondents put it. More awareness among journalists about media violations is needed, but the reports point to the scale of the problem”, Index Senior Advocacy Officer Melody Patry said.


Countries with the most reports in 2014-2015

The 10 countries with the most incidents reported to as of April 21 2015. The project includes all European Union member states and potential candidates for entry. Cases cited are the most recent verified report for that country.

Turkey Turkey 114 reports
Journalist and academic Osman Özsoy said on his Twitter account that he had been detained by counterterrorism police
Hungary Hungary 93 reports
Miklós Borsa, a news anchor for Hungarian public television, was assaulted in the township of Balatonfüred

Serbia Serbia 74 reports
Photographer Senad Zupljanin was physically assaulted by a member of the Novi Pazar city council’s security detail
Italy Italy 71 reports
Sports journalist Matteo Spini was targeted with a banner, chants and threats in private messages and comments on social media

Germany Germany 48 reports
The office building of the newspaper Die Leipziger Volkszeitung‘s (LVZ) regional bureau in Eilenburg, a small city near Leipzig, was vandalised
France France 41 reports
Journalist Simon Michel was attacked in Arles by bullfighting professionals while he was covering an anti-bullfighting protest

Romania Romania 39 reports
Stelian Tanase, director of Romanian Public Television, wrote to the Romanian Intelligence Service requesting removal of undercover agents from his staff
Bosnia Bosnia 30 reports
News agency Patria was inaccessible for around 12 hours as a consequence of a hacker attack

United Kingdom United Kingdom 29 reports
More than 30 jobs have been made redundant or put at risk of redundancy by Newsquest
fist web size Macedonia 25 reports
Reporter and editor Borjan Jovanovski was sent a funeral wreath with “Final Greetings” written on it


Case Studies

Across Europe, censorship and media violations take different forms depending on the country. These four reports are expanded from incidents that were logged to the map. Read more in-depth reporting.


Vandals lash out against local newspaper for reporting on right-wing extremists

“People like to make journalists their victims and to take revenge out on them. Usually, somebody does something bad and the journalist who uncovers that becomes the face of the issue.”


Russian language television network banned for “inciting discord”

“It is the first time in the history of the European Union that a regulatory body has taken the decision to take the whole channel completely off air.”


Journalist groups call impunity the biggest threat to media freedom

“Such an atmosphere of impunity threatens journalists in particular. If the state treats these attacks passively, it becomes responsible for the suppression of freedom of speech, the rule of law and democracy.”


For Juzne Vesti editor, deteriorating media freedom comes as no surprise

“The language from the 90s is back in Serbia. Again, journalists that criticise the work of the government or are reporting on corruption are labelled as foreign mercenaries.”


Categorisation of violations

Reports can be filtered by the 51 different labels used to organise the incidents reported to

Legal measures

Incidents that involved the threat of or filing of legal actions


Cases involving censorship
Incidents that included partial or complete censorship

Government threat

Cases involving government
Incidents that originated from a government representative or agency


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