A look back at 2019 – ECPMF


Busy, busy – we have spent 2019 in a hive of activity and built some new features into our ongoing work. Tragically, journalists in Europe continued to suffer in a climate of hostility and impunity.

Investigative reporter Lyra Mckee was murdered and Vadym Kumarovv lost his fight for life after being beaten into a coma. Both murders remain unsolved and unpunished.

Lyra McKee at the memorial to Robert Bradford MP. Photo: Excalibur Press

Here are some of the positive new initiatives we took in 2019 to protect journalists and press freedom:

Building on the success of Index on Censorship’s work, we took over responsibility for Mapping Media Freedom , where anyone can upload violations of press and media freedom. They are verified and published. In addition, ECPMF staff write and curate blog posts to give context and bite to the individual alerts. We are working on the further development of the platform.

With Free Press Unlimited, ECPMF became a member of the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Safety of Journalists.

We created a new helpdesk that offers direct help and advice for journalists or whistleblowers in immediate danger.

Renewed violence in France and the Catalonia region of Spain and wrongful arrests in UK and Germany highlighted the current urgent need for better understanding between media workers and the police. With partners, we launched the first Press Freedom Police Codex at the Brussels Press Club, and it is being translated into French, German and Croatian.

Ruth Kronenburg (Free Press Unlimited); Thorbjørn Jagland (Secretary General of the Council of Europe); Dr. Lutz Kinkel (ECPMF); Flutura Kusari (ECPMF). Photo: CoE

On the spot

On our home territory of Germany, we continued to update our Concept of the enemy research into attacks on journalists from political extremists. The latest figures show a definite correlation with the rising numbers of right-wing populists taking to the streets.

Our mission to Albania in June flagged up problems with “anti-defamation package” media law changes at a face to face meeting with Prime Minister Edi Rama. His government persisted, and in spite of a further intervention from the media freedom community, led by ECPMF’s Flutura Kusari, the new law passed with only slight amendments in December.

ECPMF Advocacy Officer Nora Wehofsits and Legal Advisor Flutura Kusari went to Istanbul in a busy week in July. ECPMF’s new Head of Communications, Faith Miyandazi, joined a mission to Turkey, led by the International Press Institute, that resulted in a strong and detailed report.

The successful Re:start democratic discourse project returned for a second year, with ECPMF’s Andreas Lamm travelling to Ukraine and ECPMF hosting a study tour of Germany for Ukrainian journalists in Berlin, Halle and Leipzig.

ECPMF’s Supervisory Board Chair Lucie Sÿkorova and Mogens Bllcher Bjerregaard of the European Federation of Journalists visited the Czech Republic to assess the threats: concentration of media ownership, poor pay and morale amongst journalists and self-censorship.

After the scandal of the Ibiza video and the Strache affair, and the political mauling of TV presenter Armin Wolf, a mission to Austria was a must. We focused on public service media but presented findings and recommendations also on other press freedom concerns in Vienna and discussed them with media policy speakers of different parties besides the coalition talks.

The condition of media freedom in Hungary continued to cause concern. ECPMF’s Advocacy Officer Nora Wehofsits joined an advocacy mission producing a worrying report – attacked by one of their interviewees, Viktor Orban’s spokesperson, Zoltan Kovacs. The Hungarian capital Budapest was the venue for NEWSOCRACY this year, with public service media as its focus.

To find out the good news about positive innovations, ECPMF’s Managing Director Lutz Kinkel and Renata Rat finally led a team to Denmark and Sweden in December where trade unions and experts explained how they are helping to empower journalists. A report follows!

The IPI-lead mission to Turkey in September 2019 in front of the Constitutional Court Building. Photo: ECPMF

Conferences and events

2019 started with one of our major conferences: All twelve of the projects funded under the IJ4EU programme were featured at the inspirational UNCOVERED event in Berlin where we discussed the importance of investigative journalism in Europe.

Lutz Kinkel and Flutura Kusari joined the UK/Canada Global Media Freedom conference, in London, demanding action and not only words.

At the FoME symposium in Bonn in November, Advocacy Officer Nora Wehofsits chared a panel on dissemination strategies in captured environments.

At a top-level Expert Talk in Brussels, we launched a consultation to find possible solutions for the problem of SLAPPs (Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation). These are cases where a complainant (usually a wealthy or powerful person) abuses the libel laws to silence and ruin a journalist or media outlet.

ECPMF’s support for Turkey’s embattled and exiled journalists was highlighted at the Leipzig Campus Talk with Can Dündar and Gamze Kafar in December.

The 2019 edition of the NEWSOCRACY series saw a highly-successful and over-subscribed conference in the Hungarian capital Budapest, proving that the political independence of public service media is a live issue that requires more support. Read the summary and find some pictures here.

Discussion at the UNCOVERED event in Berlin. Photo: ECPMF

Keeping up the work

With our partners we took the fight for justice for assassinated journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia to the highest political level at European Union and the Council of Europe; pressing for a public inquiry in Malta, which finally started in December. ECPMF’s Legal Advisor Flutura Kusari attended the remembrance protests for the 2nd anniversary of Daphne’s death in Valletta. After important developments in the case late 2019, in our latest letter to the European Council, we insisted that Malta’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat must be held to account.

We have been active in pursuing justice for the murders of investigative reporter Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová in Slovakia. Together with the Media Freedom High Representative of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Harlem Désir and Flutura Kusari visited their families and Ján’s colleagues to show solidarity. On 19th December four people accused of commissioning, paying for and carrying out the assassinations went on trial in Slovakia. The trial resumes on 13th January 2020.

We reacted to brutal attacks on media workers in Turkey with a letter to President Erdogan and added the results of research, including the personal testimonies from our successful Journalists in Residence programme for Turkey’s journalists, to the Periodic Review at the United Nations.

Representatives of undersigned organisations and members of Daphne’s family at the PACE session in Strasbourg on 26 June 2019. 

Offering refuge and legal support

Legal support was granted to journalists from across Europe. Our four Journalists in Residence this year came from Turkey.

Turkey is again a major focus of a new call for Journalists in Residence and legal support, which was also open to media workers under pressure in the Eastern Partnership states, including: Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia.

ECPMF’s Journalists-in-Residence Programme provides a safe haven for media professionals from Turkey and Eurasia who need to take a break away from a hostile working environment. 

Big dates

2019 marked ten years since the creation of our founding document, the European Charter on Freedom of the Press.

It was the year of elections to the European Parliament and we helped to mobilise and motivate the voters with our non-political #IVote4PressFreedom campaign.

On World Press Freedom Day we celebrated in Leipzig, with Leipzig’s twin city Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. 

Lutz Kinkel, #IVote4PressFreedom Campaign. Photo: ECPMF

Next year promises to be just as busy and we count on all our partners, members and supporters to help us keep our New Year’s Resolution: to continue to fight to make Europe safer and more free for journalists, media workers and whistleblowers.

We want to say THANK YOU to all our partners and supporters. Sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch!

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