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Commission for Attacks on Journalists: Resolve old cases urgently

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PODGORICA, 24.09.2022. – The heads of the competent prosecutor’s offices should conduct an inspection of all cases of attacks on journalists and media property in which the investigation takes a long time or is ineffective and, if necessary, give binding instructions to the acting prosecutors.

This is one of the recommendations of the Commission for monitoring the actions of competent authorities in investigations of cases of threats and violence against journalists, murders of journalists and attacks on media property, reports “Vijesti”.

The government adopted their report for the period from February 10 to June 20, 2022.

“The Commission recommends that the Supreme State Prosecutor and the heads of competent higher State Prosecutor’s Offices consider the possibility of entrusting certain cases in which the investigation takes a long time or is ineffective to other prosecutors in that Prosecutor’s Office or other State Prosecutor’s Offices in accordance with the law,” the Commission states.

They recommend the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office and the competent Higher Prosecutor’s Offices to carry out immediate supervision over all cases of attacks on journalists and media property and to submit a proposal for determining disciplinary responsibility to the Prosecutor’s Council or to determine whether there were omissions in the actions of prosecutors, in investigations that last a long time or are ineffective – if there is reasonable doubt about this.

“The Commission recommends that the Supreme State Prosecutor’s Office submit to the Commission the latest version of the ‘special balance sheet of achieved results, which contains all the cases formed on the occasion of attacks on journalists and their property and which describes the relevant evidentiary actions carried out by the prosecutor in individual cases’, as well as that the updated table, if it is still kept, is also submitted to the Commission”, the last recommendation states.

During the Government session, it was also said that the Commission addressed “the foreign political partners of the USA and Great Britain, including the FBI, in order to do their job better”.

The Commission’s tasks are to determine the plan and dynamics of gathering facts and determining other circumstances related to investigations into cases of threats and violence against journalists, murders of journalists and attacks on media property, and to this end cooperate with the authorities responsible for conducting these investigations.

“On the basis of the information received and the observed circumstances in connection with the conducted investigations, prepare an overview of the current course of the conducted investigations, prepare an opinion on the effective way in which the conduct of the investigation could be improved and, for this purpose, propose concrete measures that should be taken,” it states in Article 3 of the Decision on the Formation of the Commission for Monitoring the Actions of Competent Authorities in Investigations of Cases of Threats and Violence Against Journalists, Murders of Journalists, and Attacks on Media Property.

Albania: Media must not face criminal prosecution for public interest reporting

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photo: canva

Media freedom groups raise concern over heavy-handed response

The undersigned media freedom and journalist associations today express our shared concern over the blanket publication ban issued by Albanian prosecutorial authorities regarding a trove of hacked data, and stress that no journalist or media outlet should face criminal sanctions for publishing information in the public interest.

While our organisations recognise the sensitive nature of these leaks and urge all media in Albania to handle the material in a strictly ethical and responsible manner, it is vital that Albanian authorities proceed with caution and full consideration for journalistic freedoms protected under both domestic and international law.

On 19 September 2022, the Prosecutor’s Office of Tirana issued an “order” which banned all media in Albania from publishing data or information from a cache of files which had been hacked from Albanian servers and computer systems and then leaked online. The high-profile leaks followed a wave of damaging cyber-attacks on Albanian servers and computer systems in recent months by state-backed hackers in Iran, which has caused a diplomatic crisis and the severing of ties between the two countries.

The bulk of the hacked material contains classified police information and sensitive email correspondence, documents and memos between Albanian politicians, authorities and foreign ambassadors, including documents about suspected plans to assassinate foreign and domestic political figures, according to reports.

In response to the latest leaks, the Prosecutor’s Office of Tirana issued the order and warned that media that violate the ban would face criminal investigation under articles 103, 208 and 304 of the penal code. This included publication in audio-visual, print and online media, as well as social media. News websites that published data would subsequently be blocked.The information was first shared via a post on the Facebook account of the Albanian Police.

Our organisations recognise the severity of these cyber-attacks and the sensitive nature of the leaked data. In such circumstances, the media have a professional responsibility to handle and present this kind of material in an ethical manner, with full consideration given to citizens’ right to privacy and serious national security concerns.

However, regardless of the source of the material or the intent of those behind the attacks, journalists have a responsibility to assess the veracity and public interest nature of the leaked information, as well as the right of citizens to be informed about newsworthy matters.

The response by the Tirana Prosecutor’s Office to try and unilaterally limit all reporting on the leaked information, without proper consideration given to the public interest, therefore raises serious concerns about unjustified infringements on the freedom of the press, which is already under the spotlight in Albania.

Threats of criminal investigations and website blocking for media or journalists that violate the banning order will meanwhile have a censorious effect on reporting and could open the door to the criminalisation of legitimate journalistic activity. No journalist, editor or publisher in Albania should face prosecution for publishing accurate information on a matter of public interest.

Moreover, the role of the Audiovisual Media Authority (AMA) and the Electronic and Postal Communications Authority (AKEP) – two independent bodies – in monitoring the media ecosystem for potential violations on behalf of the Prosecutor’s Office also raises clear concerns.

Moving forward, our organisations urge investigatory and government authorities in Albania to avoid taking any further steps which undermine the exercise of responsible journalism or endanger the liberty of journalists publishing public interest material. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in the coming days and respond to further developments.

Signed:

ARTICLE 19 Europe

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

International Press Institute (IPI)

SafeJournalists Network

Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)

Krackovic unanimously appointed as president

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photo: SMCG

Journalist and editor Radomir Krackovic is the new president of the Trade Union of Media of Montenegro, delegates of the 4th Assembly unanimously decided.

Krackovic announced that in the next four years, the focus of his work will be on the adoption of the Branch collective agreement for the media sector, full respect for all labor rights in the media, greater safety of journalists and media workers, as well as increasing the number of Union members.

“Although they seem difficult to achieve due to the current media and social situation in our country, I believe that these goals are not unattainable. It is clear that they will need a lot of work, a firm attitude towards employers and decision-makers, but also the ability to impose solutions through conversations and negotiations that will provide a better position for our members and media workers. The media union will, as before, uncompromisingly stand by its members in the fight for a better tomorrow for our profession,” Krackovic said.

The Assembly also elected a new Main Board for the next four-year mandate. The main committee will consist of: Jadranka Drobnjak and Danijel Celecki (RTCG), Boris Pejovic (Vijesti), Predrag Nikolic (Monitor), Edin Zukovic (RTV Pljevlja), Enes Gusinjac (RTV Rožaje), Milena Bubanja Obradovic (Radio Berane), Dragana Vlaovic (RTV Herceg Novi), Suzana Mujic (Radio Ulcinj), Sinisa Sanader (Radio Tivat), Marijana Camovic Veličkovic (individual members) and Radomir Krackovic (TV Vijesti).

In the introductory part, the recent president, Marijana Camovic Velickovic, presented the work of that trade union organization in the previous term, noting that a lot of work has been done, but also that the profession is facing numerous challenges.

“After doubling the membership in 2018 and joining three new trade union organizations, SMCG continued to work on the expansion of SMCG and significant progress was achieved in that segment. Over the past four years, the membership has been increased by three new trade union organizations – the Radio and Television of Cetinje, the Radio Ulcinj and the Radio Tivat, which joined our Trade Union in 2019. In this way, about 30 new members joined the Union,” she said.

Camovic Velickovic emphasized that during the previous four years, 14 researches were carried out, 217 advocacy activities, 16 public events were organized with domestic and international participation, and 245 press releases were sent.

In the introductory part, the deputy general secretary of the Union of Free Trade Unions of Montenegro, Ivana Mihaijlovic, said that the enthusiasm, will, perseverance and courage of those who were at the head of the union made the Media Union an indispensable partner at all levels.

“You have gone through a thorny path since your establishment and we are proud of what you have achieved,” said Mihajlovic.

The President of the European Federation of Journalists, Maja Sever, in a video message, thanked for the cooperation and pointed out that with its previous work, SMCG was a role model not only in the region but also in Europe.

“I hope that we will continue to cooperate, that we will continue to work together on the most important goals of our organizations, but also of the European Federation of Journalists, which is the strengthening and empowerment of male and female journalists,” she concluded.

30 delegates from 12 trade union organizations participated in the work of the Assembly.

“European Code of Standards for Independent Fact-Checking Organizations”

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More than 40 European fact-checking media, including Istinomer, have adopted a professional Code that regulates the standards for methodology, ethics and transparency necessary to fight disinformation effectively and with integrity.

The “European Code of Standards for Independent Fact-Checking Organizations”, was developed through a project involving fact-checking media from more than 30 European countries. It is the result of several months of research, surveys and discussions among European fact-checkers, as well as representatives of the academic community and other experts in this field. The final version of the Code was approved by 44 of the 45 organizations that participated in the vote.

Organizations that wish to become accredited members of the European Fact-Checking Standards Network (EFCSN) are obliged to comply with the standards regulated by the Code – starting from the quality of sources to impartiality and financial transparency. Membership in the network, which will represent and support this community, will indicate to the audience which fact-checking media are independent, ethical and committed to working in the public interest.

This project was supported by the European Commission and led by six European organizations focused on the fight against disinformation: Maldita Foundation (Spain), AFP (France), CORRECTIV (Germany), DEMAGOG (Poland), Pagella Politica/Facta (Italy) and EU DisinfoLab (Belgium).

Proposed European Media Freedom Act adopts the approach of the New Deal for Journalism

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photo: canva

The proposed European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) that was unveiled today represents an important step forward for media freedom and for the preservation of democracy and the rule of law throughout the European Union. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails this initiative, which incorporates many of its recommendations, and will work to improve it.

“This proposed European legislation on media freedom must be welcomed and defended because it reflects the European Commission’s will to preserve the Union’s values against powerful private-sector corporations, authoritarian states and external manipulation. We appreciate the adoption of many of the recommendations submitted by RSF, in particular, the approach of the New Deal for Journalism proposed by the Forum on Information and Democracy. However, this proposed legislation is still wanting in certain areas and will have to be improved.

Christophe Deloire
Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

Unveiled by European Commission vice-president Vera Jourova and internal market commissioner Thierry Breton, the EMFA aims to establish a common basis of media freedom safeguards that are applicable throughout the EU. This is very welcome at a time when journalism and media are under attack in a growing number of EU member states and in the face of unfair competition from online platforms and burgeoning disinformation.

The proposed legislation incorporates a number of the proposals made by RSF during its discussions with European institutions in recent months, including the principles of the International Partnership for Information and Democracy that was initiated by RSF. It de facto recognises the right to reliable information: citizens have the right to receive pluralistic and independent information “for the benefit of the public debate.” And it establishes the necessary safeguards for the exercise of this right – protection for the editorial independence, independence of public service media, and even protection for the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and a ban on the use of spyware against journalists.

Many of the recommendations made in the Forum for Information and Democracy’s reports have also been accepted, in particular those in the report on media sustainability entitled A New Deal for Journalism – such as the importance of taking account of the impact of media market transactions on pluralism and editorial independence, regulating state advertising and ensuring media ownership transparency. The explicit reference, in the EMFA’s recitals, to the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) as a self-regulatory standard allowing media to identify themselves as such to online platforms, and thus benefit from specific protection against platform moderation operations, is an important step forward.

All these provisions need to be developed and strengthened, in particular, the criteria for defining media that will be able to benefit from safeguards against online content moderation, which are not satisfactory in their current form. If self-declaration as a news outlet suffices to enjoy protection, then this mechanism risks hampering the efforts that platforms are expected to undertake to combat disinformation. The JTI should be recognised as the relevant criterion.

Another aspect of the EMFA that needs further development is the protection of the European information space against external manipulation and influence. The EMFA allows coordinated action against media outside the EU that undermine or threaten public security and defence, but does not provide an appropriate and legitimate legal framework for this. RSF’s proposal for a reciprocity mechanism would satisfy this need.

Source: RSF

Serbia Prosecutor’s Office to prosecute suspects for violence during Europride

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photo: canva

The Senior Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade, will take all measures and actions within its jurisdiction, in cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, in order to detect and prosecute the individuals who committed acts of violence during the gathering on Saturday in Belgrade, said Nenad Stefanovic, Senior Public Prosecutor in Belgrade.

„I note that the prosecution will direct all available capacities to establish all relevant circumstances of the attack on members of the Interior Ministry at Autokomanda, attacks and threats directed at journalists, as well as individual participants of the ‘Europride’ event,“ Stefanovic said.

At the same time, he welcomed the extremely professional, conscientious and responsible behaviour of the members of the Interior Ministry, who, as he pointed out, once again demonstrated their ability to maintain public order and peace.

Source: N1

N1 reporter verbally assaulted at anti-EuroPride gathering

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N1 reporter Petar Gajic was verbally assaulted while covering Saturday’s anti-EuroPride gathering in front of the St Sava Temple in central Belgrade.

Gajic said he and his cameraman were approached by a young man in a hoodie with a mask over his face who told them to turn the camera off and leave because they are not welcome there.

The young man also grabbed Gajic’s phone but handed it back saying that he only wanted to warn the N1 crew. Gajic reported the incident to the police and plain clothes officers were sent to where he was standing.

Gajic continued his coverage of the gathering following the incident.

Source: N1

N1 TV cameraman assaulted by anti-EuroPride protesters

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Anti-EuroPride protesters assaulted an N1 TV crew, injuring a cameraman and hurling insults at reporters in front of St Mark’s church in central Belgrade.

The cameraman was hit in the stomach by a bottle thrown at him by a man identified as disrobed monk Antonije who was arrested later. Others in the group of some 30 protesters threw bottles at parked cars and grabbed a pride flag. The Nova.rs portal reported that two of the group were arrested adding that the protesters also hurled verbal abuse at the police. A police cordon is in place around the church and adjoining Tasmajdan park. The protesters are reported to have tried to push through the police to get to the church.

The incidents took place around noon. EuroPride organizers said that they would assemble in front of the nearby Constitutional Court building at 4 pm to start the pride parade an hour later.

Media reports said that EuroPride opponents have been assembling in several places in central Belgrade in anticipation of an anti-globalist gathering which the police banned.

The EuroPride parade is expected to be joined by a number of European officials, reportedly including the European Union’s top diplomat Josep Borrell who was said to have arrived in Belgrade on Friday evening as well as a number of Belgrade-based ambassadors.

A Blic daily police source said that at least 3,000 uniformed officers would be deployed in an effort to keep the two gatherings apart.

The conservative Dveri movement said earlier that if the EuroPride parade goes ahead, Serbia will be proved to be under colonial administration and not an independent state.

Source: N1

IJAS: Authorities to sanction attackers on journalists who reported from Saturday gatherings

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The Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (IJAS) welcomes the decision of the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office to take all measures to identify and prosecute all persons who behaved violently during EuroPride, and verbally and physically attacked our colleagues who reported from the gathering during the EuroPride march in Belgrade. At the same time, IJAS raises the question of why certain police officers interfered with journalists’ work, even though the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office, a few hours before the gathering, ordered the police and basic public prosecutor’s offices to detain up to 48 hours anyone who attacks journalists reporting from the events in Belgrade.

Despite this, IJAS thanks other policemen, who reacted quickly in difficult circumstances, often themselves exposed to the wrath of the protesters, and generally enabled journalists to do their work.

We expect all the attackers on journalists to be sanctioned. Let us recall that the excommunicated monk Antonije hit the cameraman of N1 television in the stomach with a bottle. The attacker was soon detained.

Members of the Belgrade Police Brigade, without any explanation, stopped and harassed FoNet journalist Davor Lukač, even though he properly introduced himself, just because he watched minors being detained and searched in a public place, in front of the building where the office of the President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić is.

The crews of N1 and Tanjug were attacked near the Church of Saint Sava while filming the gathering. The N1 team was threatened, and journalist Petar Gajić’s mobile phone was confiscated and then returned to him. After he called a police station, plainclothes officers appeared. The Tanjug team was verbally threatened by a group of hooded boys demanding that they stop filming, and the police did not react at the time.

During the confrontation with the police, the protesters also threw a bottle at the journalist of the Nova.rs portal, who, fortunately, remained unharmed.

Maja Sever, president of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), told the IJAS website that the yesterday’s EuroPride march once again showed that journalists have become targets.

“Attacks in Belgrade are not a random occurrence – instead, journalists performing their usual tasks, reporting on events, became the target of the attacks. Yesterday, the police ensured strong protection, but journalists were attacked nevertheless. In such circumstances it is increasingly difficult to do journalistic work, to cover all aspects of an event, without the risk of getting hurt. Yesterday’s event once again showed that it is necessary to build a strong mechanism for the protection of journalists which will be binding for responsible institutions, such as the police and the prosecutor’s office, but also for employers, who must provide journalists with safety equipment, education and support within the media house,” said Sever.

On the eve of the Saturday’s gatherings, IJAS sent a letter to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Police Directorate, which calls on them to “pay attention, provide support and, if necessary, protect the journalists who will be reporting on Saturday.” IJAS stated in the letter that, in accordance with the Constitution and laws of the Republic of Serbia, journalists should be granted freedom of movement, as well as the right to record and work, despite the ban on public gatherings, with the aim of providing timely and truthful information to all citizens in the Republic of Serbia about the events in the city of Belgrade.

The Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia called on journalists and other media professionals to be clearly and visibly marked with “PRESS” markers prior to the gathering and to have journalist’s identification card prominently displayed, as well as to follow the instructions provided by police officers in given situations.

Journalists were also informed about contact points in IJAS  in case they need legal assistance or if a case needs to be reported to the prosecutor’s office and the police.

IJAS invites all colleagues to report to it if they have been attacked or their work interfered with in any way, in the case that IJAS has not recorded the instance already.