On the surface, Belarus is one of the quieter places for journalists – one rarely hears about gruesome violations, physical assaults or murders of media workers in this post-Soviet country. But a lack of horror stories does not mean there is a liberal policy towards the media.
After the total capture of the media environment inside the country, the government of Ilham Aliyev has turned its attention to silencing critics in exile.
Turkey’s freedom of the press was curbed after the attempted military coup in July 2016, when over 150 media outlets were shut down.
Many journalists working in Kurdish territory were subject to physical violence and threats, and Rohat Aktaş, a journalist who covered the Kurdish-Turkish conflict in the town of Cizre, was killed.
Though physical assaults on media workers have become rare in recent years, a recent surge has raised concerns about the continuing pressure on media professionals in the country.
The Monitoring and Advocacy for Media Freedom project has recorded 16 incidents in which journalists have been subjected to physical assaults, and 17 incidents in which journalists has their equipment and property damaged since February 2019, 4 of which are in both categories. The project’s numbers are corroborated by the National Union of Ukrainian Journalists (NSJU), which recorded 36 incidents targeting journalists since 1 January 2019, including physical assaults and attacks on property, as part of their Index of Physical Safety of Ukrainian Journalists.
Out of 175 violations recorded in Russia by the Monitoring and Advocating for Media Freedom project between February and June 2019, 20 were physical assaults that came from political figures, police structures, known private individuals and unknown perpetrators. Several of the cases are egregious examples of how physical violence is used to target journalists in Russia.
The project works with a network of independent journalists who monitor local news sources, speak to individuals involved in the situations and interface with journalist unions to understand the facts of the situation and help put the press freedom violation in a larger context.
Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom tracked press freedom violations in 43 countries between 1 May 2014 and 31 January 2019. These reports summarised the findings from that project, which is now managed by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.
A companion to Demonising the media: Threats to journalists in Europe, the numbers contained in this document are drawn from 3,187 press freedom violations reported to Mapping Media Freedom, an Index on Censorship project, between May 2014 and July 2018 covering 35 European Union member states, candidates and potential candidates for entry.
This is the landscape faced by journalists throughout Europe over the past four years.