Monitoring and Advocating for Media Freedom

Index on Censorship’s Monitoring and Advocating for Media Freedom project monitors threats, limitations and violations related to media freedom in five countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine for the purpose of identifying and analysing issues, trends and drivers and exploring possible response options and opportunities for advocating media freedom. The project collects and analyses limitations, threats and violations that affect a journalist as they do their job.

The project builds on the experience and insights gathered during Index’s 4.5 years monitoring media freedom in 43 European countries as part of Mapping Media Freedom platform, which ended its first phase on 31 January 2019 and is now managed by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.

New Report Published

See the latest policy recommendations for Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.


In a country that keeps its media under a dome, Belarus’s independent journalists face mounting fines

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.

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Trolls and insults: Azerbaijan’s exiled media increasingly under fire

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.

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Turkish journalists face unprecedented surge of physical assaults

  • In Turkey, the government uses national security and terror legislation to censor journalists.
  • Arrests, detentions and trials of media workers are frequent.
  • Index on Censorship’s Monitoring and Advocating Media Freedom project documented seven assaults in Turkey in May, and another one in June 2019.

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.

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In Ukraine, violence is the tool of choice against journalists

  • The majority of violations in Ukraine catalogued by Index on Censorship’s Monitoring and Advocating for Media Freedom project from 1 February to 30 June 2019 were categorised as physical assaults, attacks to property or blocked access.
  • Most frequently, these actions were taken by agents of the state — whether law enforcement or other governmental structures.

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.

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As space for independent media shrinks, journalists find themselves under increasing threats of physical violence

  • Independent media sources have been hamstrung by restrictive legislation and police, governmental, and private interference.
  • Physical assaults, detentions, lawsuits, fines, and blocked access are common. Many outlets have chosen to practice self-censorship to protect themselves.
  • Strict new laws limiting press freedom have been introduced, despite having progressive press laws from the 1990s still on the books and a constitutional article guaranteeing freedom of the press.

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.

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Previous report: Legislative restrictions, bomb threats and vandalism are just some of the issues Russian journalists have faced this year

Incidents by Month


Monitoring and Advocating for Media Freedom methodology

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.

Mapping Media Freedom reports

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.

Mapping Media Freedom: By the numbers May 2014-July 2018

The numbers are stark and the contexts very, but the unmistakable message they convey is that journalism is at risk in the EU35

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.

Demonising the media: Threats to journalists in Europe

Burned in effigy. Insulted. Menaced. Spat at. Discredited by their nation’s leaders. Assaulted. Sued. Homes strafed with automatic weapons. Rape threats. Death threats. Assassinations.

This is the landscape faced by journalists throughout Europe over the past four years.