ECPMF legal aid in 2017: from Turkey to Azerbaijan and Italy


The ECPMF offers and coordinates legal support on matters related to free speech for individuals and organisations working in countries located in Europe.

Threats to the life, safety, wellbeing and security of journalists and media organisations remain a serious concern in many European countries. Looking at recent actions of several governments passing laws that restrict the right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media, advocacy against such laws, the improvement of existing legislation and legal support for the persecuted is necessary.

Journalists, bloggers, activists, free speech advocates, non-governmental organisations, and media outlets can find it difficult to find legal expertise and to pay for adequate legal support. Organisations monitoring governments and parliaments may also need legal expertise to argue for better legislation. The ECPMF offers and coordinates legal support on matters related to free speech for individuals and organisations working in countries located in Europe.

These are some of the support cases of the project year 2017 (please find the others in our legal stories) financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED):

Ikram Rahimov is a journalist with more than 20 years of investigative experience. He is well known for researching corruption, and mainly works in Sumqayit, the second largest city of Azerbaijan. In June 2016, Turkish daily Hurriyyet published his article on the collapse of a trade center in Sumqayit. One month later, the owner of the trade center, Vuqar Qalandarov filed a criminal complaint against Rahimov at Sumqayit City Court. He claimed that he was subject to defamation and demanded imprisonment of Rahimov. On 25 November 2016, Rahimov was convicted of defamation under article 147.2 (libel that involves accusing someone of a serious or particularly serious crime) of the Criminal Code and sentenced to one year in prison. The Media Legal Defence League (MDLI) filed an application before the ECtHR concerning torture inflicted on Rahimov while being detained for libel allegations. The ECPMF supported the case with 1,300 dollars to help MLDI with the translation of documents.

The Media and Law Studies Association (MLSA) is a Turkish non-profit organisation founded in late 2017 as a respond to the urgent yet growing need to strengthen democracy and a normalisation of the situation in Turkey. It is a professional journalism organisation protecting the profession as well as the journalists themselves. MLSA has a very strong legal unit, headed by Veysel Ok, who has defended countless journalists in freedom of expression trials including ‘Die Welt’ journalist Deniz Yücel as well as Ahmet Altan. MLSA is currently helping Fethi Altun, Oğuz Usluer and Nedim Türfent. The ECPMF supports MLSA with around 2,500 dollars.

The support of this case was financed by the EU:

Giuseppe Borello and Andrea Sceresini are independent journalists working in Italy. In 2017 they produced an investigative TV report on the doings of Scientology in Italy, also using undercover techniques. Although the documentary has not yet been broadcasted, the Church of Scientology in Italy has filed a lawsuit against the journalists claiming: housebreaking, unauthorised recording, violation of non-disclosure agreement) and violation of privacy. The value of litigation is 80,000 euro. The ECPMF supported them with 1,000 euro.

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