Mapping Media Freedom: Journalists barred from covering Theresa May event

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Mapping Media Freedom

Each week, Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom project verifies threats, violations and limitations faced by the media throughout the European Union and neighbouring countries. Here are five recent reports that give us cause for concern.

United Kingdom: Journalists prevented from covering Theresa May visit

2 May 2017 – Three journalists for Cornwall Live were shut in a room, prevented from filming and severely limited on what questions they could ask during British Prime Minister Theresa May’s visit to a factory in Cornwall called AP Diving.

A reporter from Cornwell Live who was live blogging the event wrote: “We’ve been told by the PM’s press team that we were not allowed to stand outside to see Theresa May arrive.”

He later added: “PM is here – but we’ve been shown the door. The prime minister is behind this door – but we can’t show you. Her press team has said print journalists are not allowed to see her visiting the company.”

The journalist then described conditions surrounding the interview with May: “We’ve been allowed to ask our questions to the prime minister (although we are forbidden to film or photograph her answering them).”

The Netherlands: Journalist faces rape threats following post on popular blog

7 May 2017 – Loes Reijmer, a journalist and columnist for De Volkskrant, has faced a storm of abuse after the popular right-wing blog Geenstijl published her photo with the text: “Would you do her?”

Thousands of readers responded in the comments section, many containing sexual comments and rape threats.

Reijmer had published several critical columns about the controversial weblog Geenstijl, a provocative online portal, owned by Telegraaf Media Group and is one of the most popular news sites in the Netherlands. Geenstijl has faced years of criticism for similar posts.

The attack on Reijmer led to a public call on advertisers to boycott Geenstijl and it’s affiliate video blog Dumpert. The dailies De Volkskrant and NRC published an open letter on 6 May 2017 signed by over a hundred women from media and entertainment calling big companies to pull out their advertisement because they “support humiliation of women”. Over the following days, many advertisers withdrew their adverts.

The Dutch Union for Journalists has condemned Geenstijl in a statement on their website: “The tarnish way in which journalists like Reijmer are being attacked by readers, this provocation by Geenstijl, is one of many cases of intimidation of journalists. In this case, it was sexual harassment, something that female journalists who have the guts to be critical are increasingly facing, which is unacceptable.”

Azerbaijan: Manager of independent online TV channel detained

2 May 2017 – Aziz Garashoglu, one of the managers of an online TV platform Kanal 13, was detained and then sentenced to 30 days in administrative detention.

Garashoglu was detained together with his wife Lamiya Charpanova who is an editor at the channel. Both were questioned for more than an hour.

Charpanova was released, while her husband was taken to Nasimi district court where he was sentenced to 30 days in administrative detention on charges of allegedly resisting the police.

Speaking to journalists after the hearing, lawyer Elchin Sadigov said Aziz was rounded up for his alleged resemblance to a man named Faig Cabbarov, who has been on the list of fugitives since 2015. But the lawyer also confirmed that after seeing the picture it was clear there was no resemblance.

Sadigov said he will be appealing the decision. Kanal 13 was founded in 2010 as an independent online television. One of the founders of the website lives in exile in Germany.

France: Vice journalist injured by police while covering May Day march

1 May 2017 – Videojournalist Henry Langston, who works for Vice UK, was hit by police officers and then injured by a piece of tear gas canister while reporting on a May Day march in Paris, Langston reported on Twitter and confirmed to Mapping Media Freedom.

The journalist said he was first hit across the knee with a baton by an officer.

Langston reported that the protest was “very violent on both sides” and that he and his crew were “following a group of anarchists” during the incident.

Police officers were aiming flash-balls (a non-lethal hand-held weapon) at people’s heads, firing tear gas canisters directly at people. It seems to me they weren’t differentiating between protesters and journalists”.

“Later, the crowd was trapped against a wall. Police hit you [with batons] no matter who you were. Then they let people out and continued hitting them. I was wearing a helmet that said TV and they hit me anyway”, Langston continued.

An hour later Langston said he was hit in the leg by what he alleges “was a mechanism from a tear gas canister”. Langston was treated in hospital for injuries where he received stitches.

His cameraperson, freelancer Devin Yuceil, was also hit in the stomach with a piece of a flash grenade.

Greece: Masked assailants attack Kathimerini offices

24 April 2017 – A group of about 10 masked individuals barged into the offices of Greek daily Kathimerini in Thessaloniki, throwing paint and flyers.

According to a report published on the news website, the flyers had threats written on them, including: “good news is a stone on a journalist’s head”.

The Athens Union of Journalists (ESIEA) published a press release on Monday, following the attack: “The board of ESIEA expresses its support to the colleagues and all the employees of the newspaper and notes that such actions, wherever they come from, will not weaken the morale of journalists for [providing] objective information but the state must do its duty.”

The press released emphasised that journalists and their unions do not give in to blackmails and intimidation attempts pursued by “dark circles”.

All the Greek political parties condemned the attack. The government-leading Syriza said in a statement that acts against the freedom of the press “have no place in the political confrontation,” while the main opposition party, New Democracy expressed its “unequivocal condemnation of the attack by anarchists”.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Mapping Media Freedom

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Mapping Media Freedom: Week in focus

Each week, Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom project verifies threats, violations and limitations faced by the media throughout the European Union and neighbouring countries. Here are just five reports from 9-16 February that give us cause for concern.

1. Ireland: Reporters receive death threats amid Dublin’s gangland feud

It was reported on 11 February that a number of journalists have been threatened by criminal gangs in Dublin stemming from their reporting of a current gangland feud in the city that saw two murders in the space of four days earlier this month. Police informed Independent News and Media, which owns the Irish Independent newspaper, that the safety of two reporters — a man and a woman — was at risk.

Irish secretary for the National Union of Journalists Seamus Dooley said he was “gravely concerned” by the threats. “Journalists and media organisations will not be intimidated by such threats, which have no place in a democratic society,” he said.

The death threats come almost 20 years after the high-profile murder of journalist Veronica Guerin, who dared to investigate organised crime in Dublin. “Successive governments have let down the memory of Veronica … by failing to provide the resources required to beat the gangs,” said Jimmy Guerin, brother of Veronica.

2. Romania: Journalist faces campaign of cyberbullying and online threats

Boróka Parászka, an ethnic Hungarian publicist and editor working at the public radio in Marosvásárhely/Târgu Mureş area, has become the victim of cyberbullying and online abuse. On 10 February, an online petition was published entitled We Are Sick and Tired of Parászka, which appealed to media outlets not to publish or broadcast any of the journalist’s “left-liberal” work. It claims her pieces are “subversive” (felforgató), that she aggressively attacks everything “Hungarian” and she “undermines the community interests”.

In the wake of the petition, derogatory messages were sent to Parászka via Facebook, including anti-Semitic slurs, sexual comments and threats of violence.

On the day the petition went live, the Hungarian Journalist’s Association of Romania issued a reminder that the Romanian constitution guarantees freedom of thought and expression, provisions that need to be emphasised when it comes to journalists.

3. Romania: Draft defamation law passes first vote

A draft defamation law has passed a legal committee vote in Romania. If adopted, those found guilty of defamation could be fined up to RON 100,000 (€22,000). The law would be equally applicable to reports in the media as to messages posted on Facebook.

Liviu Dragnea, leader of the Social Democratic Party, the largest party in the Romanian parliament, said a Department for Promoting Human Dignity and Tolerance will be established to prevent and penalise defamation, defined as “the act or statement by which a person is put in a position of inferiority on the grounds of belonging to a social group”.

Some Romanian journalists have criticised the draft law as a means to protect politicians from criticism. “This law aims to protect the politicians from being criticised for their actions,” TV producer Radu Banciu said. “In the name of defending tolerance of group differences, they just want to control not only the mass media but also Facebook and other social media.”

4. Greece: New media law limits national TV channels

Controversial new legislation regarding TV channels was passed in the Greek Parliament late on 11 February in a narrow vote. While there are currently seven national TV stations, the new law will allow licences for just four.

The law has angered many. “You are choosing the path of authoritarian practices, which alienate the country from the European principles of justice,” New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis told MPs. The Association of Private TV Channels (EITISEE) has also accused the government of performing a “sleight of hand” by basing its decision to launch a tender for just four TV licenses on a study that contains calculations that are incorrect.

5. Turkey: Molotov cocktails thrown and shots fired at newspaper headquarters

On 11 February, a group of 3-4 masked assailants opened fire and threw molotov cocktails at the headquarters of newspapers Yeni Safak and Yeni Akit, in Istanbul.

While there were no casualties, a fire broke out in front of the building and some vehicles were damaged. Firefighters rushed to the scene as police cordoned off the area. Tight security measures were put in place around the building.

The United States Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, and his German counterpart Martin Erdmann have condemned the attack. “No violence against journalists is acceptable. Free and polyphonic press is essential to a democratic society,” said Bass.

This article was originally published on Index on Censorship.

Mapping Media Freedom

Click on the bubbles to view reports or double-click to zoom in on specific regions. The full site can be accessed at

Golden Dawn: The open question of Greek politics

golden-dawn-300Media coverage of neo-fascist Golden Dawn’s activities in recent weeks has focused on the Nazi anthem played at a food distribution event the party held or the swatstika tattooed arm of a party spokesperson Ilias Kasidiaris. It’s all portrayed as another lifestyle, albeit with a fascist tint.

But these incidents are evidence of a continuing and alarming political reality that no Greek or European can turn a blind eye to.

It’s been argued that the fascism emerging today is the result of long-term political and social trends. Right wing populists, far rightists and independent extremists all share – more or less – a common principal: They see immigration, ethnic diversity and religious freedoms as a threat to national cohesion.

It is in this context that the neo-fascist party carries out its actions against groups that violate its perceptions of the Greek nation. These “dissidents” include anti-fascists, anarchists, leftists, homosexuals and immigrants. Since the outset of the economic crisis, the party has managed to persuade some of the impoverished middle and working classes that it speaks for them.

George Pleios, head of the Department of Communication and Media Studies Faculty at the University of Athens, has recently written about the political affinities of the “right” and the “far-right” spectrum and their culture of political intolerance, either in or outside parliament.

“There is a common ideological reservoir whereby far-right MPs and proponents of right-wing extremism express their political views and plan their political actions. For them national identity comes first. There is no room for individual rights. Nobody is entitled to any other belief than the nation and the race”.

Within Greece, there is speculation that New Democracy will cooperate with Golden Dawn at some point. Pleios considers that a possibility.

“Everything is possible. In that case, of course, many political compromises must be made. Both parties would never want to experience severe election loss”, he said.

Golden Dawn entered the Greek Parliament in 2012 with an unprecedented 6.92% of the vote. The party’s poll ratings have reached 18% in recent days. During this time, there has been a strong legitimisation of their rhetoric, mainly emanating from the right wing political spectrum.

At first glance, the picture one gets from the parliamentary discourse is that Golden Dawn is heavily criticized with its back against the wall. Not so long ago, there was discussion of banning the party. In May, the Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras held talks around an anti-racism bill that was aimed at slowing the growth of the party.

A more careful look though, suggests differently. According to a report from Dimitris Psarras, investigative journalist at “The Journalists’ Newspaper” (Efimerida Ton Sintakton), many far-rightists and junta nostalgics that survived politically throughout the years, today surround the Greek prime minister as associates, advisors or New Democracy party members.

Makis Voridis, recently appointed as special representative on migration to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, has been defending Savvas Hatziparaskeyas, publisher of the far-right newspaper “Stohos” and a strong supporter of Golden Dawn.

In the1980s Voridis served as secretary of EPEN’s youth wing, succeeding Nikos Michaloliakos, who is Golden Dawn’s general secretary. EPEN was a fascist party founded by Georgios Papadopoulos, the head of the military coup d’état, which ruled Greece from 1967-1974.

Another connection between some New Democracy members and Golden Dawn comes from the writings of Failos Kranidiotis, an unofficial advisor to Samaras. On 12 December 2012 Kranidiotis wrote that New Democracy should appeal to populist “Independent Greeks” as well as to Golden Dawn. “These are mainly our people”, he wrote.

A few months later, Panayotis Baltakos, the government’s general secretary, allegedly said that cooperation between New Democracy and  Golden Dawn in upcoming elections is “undesirable but not an unlikely possibility”. Last December, Baltakos had told the National Commission for Human Rights that regarding the committee’s work on human rights and the country’s international obligations “he doesn’t care in his capacity as a representative of the government and New Democracy”.

On 1July, former minister Vironas Polydoras, when asked whether New Democracy should cooperate with the neo-fascist party said:

“Of course…”.

Moreover he insisted that the troika — the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank– not Golden Dawn, poses the greatest threat to Greece.

In response, Anna Asimakopoulou, a spokesperson for New Democracy, said that the party “would never work with neonazis”.

Golden Dawn has also fostered relationships with some orthodox religious groups and bishops belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church. At the same time, the party has targeted performers and topics that it does not agree with.

In March 2013, journalist Matthaios Tsimitakis reported for Index on Censhorship what happened when the controversial theatrical play “Corpus Christi” went on stage:

“For about a month, the actors and other workers at the Hitirion Theatre had to take precautions to protect themselves from threats against their lives and violent attacks by Orthodox religious groups and Golden Dawn”.

Golden Dawn has made its position on the arts that don’t fit with the party’s philosophy clear.

“Abolition of state subsidies and the marginalization of the ‘artists’ that offend ethnic, religious and historical symbols”. – from a Golden Dawn political leaflet (p. 22)

Greek Orthodox clerics like Bishop Amvrosios of Kalavryta and Bishop Seraphim of Piraeus have openly expressed their support of Golden Dawn. Both of them have often spoken out against Jews and homosexuals, though their viewpoints are at odds with other members of the church hierarchy.

On 15 July, Amvrosios wrote on his blog that “we have to rise up” because “we have been sold out a long ago. We are Jewish occupied”. In an older post he writes about the “imminent threat” of Islam saying, “Islam does not play around”.

In much the same spirit, Golden Dawn’s rhetoric contains islamophobic and anti-semetic propaganda.

“1400 year old tradition of Jihad has reached Europe, as well as Greece, and is ready to conquer the continent and our country”, says a recent article on Golden Dawn’s official website entitled “Enemy at The Gates: Islam as a Trojan Horse of New Order”.

In June, the Muslim Association of Greece received a threatening note with the emblem of Golden Dawn printed on it. All Muslims, Greeks and foreigners, were given one month’s time (until 30 June) to leave the country otherwise they would be “slaughtered like chickens”.

Golden Dawn denied any connection with the note, calling it a provocation to the party.

Greece’s next legislative election is due to be held by 2016. What Golden Dawn’s role will be is an open question.

This article was originally published at on 19 Aug, 2013 Index on Censorship: The voice of free expression