Risk To Press Freedom In Europe Mounting, Says Reporters Without Borders
There have been six journalists and four media assistants killed globally since January 2021, according to Reporters Without Borders, and the death of Giorgos Karaivaz last week marks the fourth death of a journalist in Europe in the past five years.
With harsh crackdowns on journalists in Belarus, imprisonment threats made to journalists in Turkey and a reporter’s car in Brittany sabotaged, the murder of Greek journalist Giorgos Karaivaz has only led to further concerns over the steady deterioration of press freedom across Europe.
Pavol Szalai, head of the EU and Balkans desk at Reporters Without Borders, says in the Guardian: “It is a worrying picture. Europe remains the safest place in the world to be a journalist, but the pressures on press freedoms – and the risks – are mounting. This is also a trend of growing concern – violence against journalists and arbitrary arrests.”
Karaivaz’s murder follows the deaths of several journalists across Europe, including Lyra McKee, who was shot dead whilst covering riots in Derry, Northern Ireland in April 2019, Daphne Caruana Galizia who was killed by a car bomb in 2017, and Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, who were killed in their home in Slovakia in 2018.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European commission, tweeted last week after the death of Giorgos Karaivaz on the importance of press freedom:
Murdering a journalist is a despicable, cowardly act.
Europe stands for freedom. And freedom of press may be the most sacred of all. Journalists must be able to work safely.
My thoughts are with the family of George Karaivaz. I hope the criminals are soon brought to justice.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) April 9, 2021
Reporters without Borders have recognised online threats, violent assaults and a decline in the rule of the law as the biggest threats to press freedom.
The Covid-19 pandemic has been used to further harm press freedom in Hungary, which RSF have called a “sophisticated and methodological assault on press freedoms”.
A journalist convicted of publishing “fake news” can be imprisoned for up to five years, and courts in Poland invoking article 212 of the penal code allows journalists to be imprisoned for up to a year on defamation charges. RSF have called this a “crusade by the authorities against the media” in southern Europe, particularly Bulgaria, Montenegro and Albania, where critical journalists can be detained and harassed. Violent assaults, where journalists have been deliberately targeted in France, Germany and Spain, also call for concern.
“The EU has called for media freedoms to be strengthened,” Szalai said. “But Orbán in particular has not been prevented from restricting press freedoms. It’s vital Europe lives up to its responsibilities and improves protections for all journalists.”