Report: Arrest of media professionals quadruples

The Index on Censorship’ Mapping Media Freedom published a report on violations of press freedom in the 1st quarter of 2017. 

Journalists continue to face unprecedented pressure in Europe as reports submitted to Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom platform in the first quarter of 2017 demonstrate. Media professionals—primarily in Turkey, Russia, Belarus and Ukraine—were arrested at an alarming rate, more than a fourfold increase over the fourth quarter of 2016.

“During the first quarter of 2017, the MMF database registered several trends that we find to be acute challenges to media freedom. Some European governments have clearly interfered with media pluralism. Others have harassed, detained and intimidated journalists. All of these actions debase and devalue the work of the press and undermine a basic foundation of democracy,” Hannah Machlin, project manager at Mapping Media Freedom, said.

During Q1, authorities in multiple countries shut down critical and independent media outlets and intimidated reporters who asked challenging questions. Turkey continues to be the largest jailer of journalists in the world with a total of 148 journalists in prison by the end of March according the Platform for Independent Journalists P24, a Turkey-based MMF partner, which monitors the number of arrests in the country.

Even reporters in countries often thought to respect freedom of the press, such as Sweden, France and Germany, faced obstacles to performing their professional duties. They were abused by the leaders of extreme populist movements and their supporters, who encouraged a distrust of “mainstream media”; and blocked by nervous politicians who were seeing, particularly in France, the old political certainties swept away.

Between 1 January and 31 March 2017, Mapping Media Freedom’s network of correspondents and other journalists submitted a total of 299 violations of press freedom to the database.

Throughout the first three months of 2017: one journalist was murdered; 42 incidents of physical assault were confirmed; and there were 89 verified reports of intimidation, which includes psychological abuse, sexual harassment, trolling/cyberbullying and defamation. Media professionals were detained in 69 incidents; 38 criminal charges and civil lawsuits were filed; and journalists were blocked from covering a story in 54 verified incidents.

“The spike in arrests and detainments during this period caused by the persecution of journalists in Turkey and Belarus is particularly worrying,” Melody Patry, head of advocacy at Index on Censorship, said. “Journalists are being targeted by government officials, confronting polarised political environments and being undermined by propaganda and accusations of fake news.”

Read the Mapping Media Freedom report online or download PDF version