Mapping Media Freedom: In review 28 October-9 November

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]cameras_shutterstock_328137695Each 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.

Turkey moves to block VPNs

Turkey’s main internet regulator, Information and Communication Technologies, sent instructions to operators to close VPN services, according to technology news site Webtekno.

The ICT said it was acting within the scope of Article 6, paragraph 2 of law no 5651 in adopting a decision requesting Turkish operators to shut down VPN services.

The decision covers popular encryption services as Tor Project, VPN Master, Hotspot Shield VPN, Psiphon, Zenmate VPN, TunnelBear, Zero VPN, VyprVPN, Private Internet Access VPN, Espress VPN, IPVanish VPN.

According to Webtekno some VPN services are still available such as Open VPN.

“This is clearly detrimental to journalists and the protection of their sources,” Hannah Machlin, project officer for Mapping Media Freedom, said.

Turkey’s internet censorship did not stop with VPNs as the country faced a shutdown of the popular social media sites Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and more. This was the first time in recent years that the Turkish government targeted popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Skype and Instagram, according to Turkey Blocks.

The Independent states that it’s unclear whether the social media outage came from an intentional ban, an accident or a cyber attack. Turkey Blocks believes the outage was related to the arrest of political activists for the opposition party the previous night.

Turkey has increasingly utilised internet restrictions to limit media coverage in times of political unrest.

Spain: Newspaper slashes contracts with photographers

Spanish group Morera and Vallejo, has decided to slash contracts with photographers working for their newspaper, El Correo de Andalucía, according to the Sevilla Press Association (APS).

The three photographers working as “fake” freelancers for the newspaper were on a permanent contract without the benefits of being an employee. New contracts for the photographers worsened their conditions, lowering their pay and lessening the work photographers can put in daily.

APS additionally states that journalists working for El Correo de Andalucía are expected to act as photographers as well, doubling the amount of work they must put in. The newspaper pushed for the merging journalism and photography but journalists are unwilling to steal their coworkers’ jobs.

Investigative journalists stalked in Serbia

Four journalists from the Center for Investigative Reporting in Serbia (CINS) have noted that they have been followed and photographed on mobile phones by unknown individuals, NUNs Press reported.

CINS, which is known for reporting on corruption and organised crime in Serbia, believes the stalkers are an attempt to intimidate their journalists. Editor-in-chief Dino Jahic stated that they’re unsure who is behind the harassment, “We are working on dozens of investigations all the time, and each of them could trigger somebody’s anger.”

On its website, CINS wrote that they were determined to continue their investigations despite the intimidation. Their case has been reported to the Ministry of Interior and the public prosecutor’s office in Belgrade.

Ukrainian newspaper accuses authorities of wiretapping staff

The online investigative news site Ukrayinska Pravda has reported that Ukrainian authorities wiretapped the outlet’s offices during the summer of 2015.

Editor-in-chief Sevgil Musayeva-Borovyk said in March of 2016, an unidentified person handed in an envelope with operational reports, activities and topics recently discussed by UP. The site has no evidence that wiretapping has continued since then.

According to Ukrayinska Pravda, the security service of Ukraine was carrying out orders from the president’s administration. Ukrayinska Pravda reported that it was not only its journalists that were targeted, claiming the staff of several other media sites have been tapped. Mapping Media Freedom does not yet know which other organisations.

Journalists have asked the security service of Ukraine, interior minister and chairman of the national police to respond to the information UP has gathered.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Mapping Media Freedom

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Wiretapping in Mexico: A threat to free expression?

Wiretapping has become so fashionable in Mexico that it could pose a problem for freedom of expression. The latest victim of this type of espionage was presidential candidate Josefina Vasquez Mota, of the ruling National Political Action Party (PAN). A telephone conversation in which Mota is heard complaining that National Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna spends more time spying on her than on fugitive drug kingpin Joaquin Chapo Guzman was released publically and made available on video sharing site YouTube.

Many of the wiretaps released in Mexico in the past have involved politicians or aspiring candidates during electoral periods. But in a country at war with organised crime, and where the number of journalists killed because of what they write or know is among the highest in the world, it is worrisome that nobody is alarmed by this eavesdropping fashionista streak.

Access to eavesdropping equipment in Mexico is easily done. US and Mexican authorities use eavesdropping to get access to information on organised crime cases, which is of concern as many times these wiretaps are carried out with information that might not be totally correct. However, both US and Mexican authorities say the practice is important and useful as it has helped them nab high-level organised crime figures.

What worries journalists and other freedom of expression advocates, however is how is organised crime and corrupt government officials use wiretaps to curb a free press.

Bolivia: Controversial telecommunications law comes into effect

Bolivian president Evo Morales has announced a new Telecommunications, Information Technology and Communication Law that establishes new rules for the distribution of radio and television frequencies, the broadcasting of presidential messages, and authorises wiretapping in exceptional cases. Some critics say the law, which was approved at the end of July, will give the state de facto control over 67 percent of the radio and television frequencies due to the Morales administration’s close ties to indigenous and community groups.  Meanwhile, journalism organisations have denounced the law, saying it undermines freedom of expression and that wiretapping will affect the public’s right to privacy.