Fact Finding Missions

ECPMF sends Fact Finding Missions to areas under threat to investigate complicated cases. Their task is to discover facts in an impartial, objective and comprehensive manner. The missions conduct interviews with journalists, trade unions, politicians and civil society organisations who are under threat. After the mission, a report is produced and disseminated.

Fact Finding Missions are an important tool for gathering relevant information and bringing it to the attention of the public and they are a signal of our concern about a potentially explosive situation. This tool is used pragmatically and decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

All Mission Reports

Germany

Concept of the Enemy

Even in Germany, the job of being a reporter carries its risks. The frequency of violent attacks on journalists has significantly increased. The ECPMF registered and recorded a big spike in the number of incidents, with 69 verified in 2020. Of these, the overwhelming majority occurred at gatherings and demonstrations. The latest edition of the research study shows that anti-lockdown demonstrators have joined forces with right-wing organisations. They are “united in hate” (“Alliiert in Hass”) against representatives of the media. The pandemic year 2020 saw the highest number of assaults in a twelve-month period since the ECPMF’s Germany fact-finding mission began in 2015.

For comparison, there were 26 such cases in 2018 and 14 in 2019. As the ECPMF documented in its ‘Concept of the enemy: journalist’ report, flashpoints like the protests at Chemnitz in Saxony contributed greatly to the recent increase in the number of attacks against journalists. Threats to journalists have become “the new normal” in Germany.

The ECPMF – based in Leipzig, Saxony – has registered violent attacks against journalists in Germany for the last five years.

Serbia

MFRR Report: Concerns about safety of journalists and media workers in Serbia predate Covid-19 outbreak

Article 19 led mission’s report summarises findings of international press freedom mission.

While minimal progress such as positive state initiatives prompted by international pressures could be identified, the report raises major concerns about the safety of journalists in Serbia, the polarisation of the media landscape through public officials and pro-goverment tabloids and the suppression and attacks on independent media outlets. The report further includes urgent recommendations for the Serbian government to improve media freedom and safety of journalists.

Poland

Democracy Declining: Erosion of Media Freedom in Poland

An online international mission took place between November and December 2020 to explore the health of the media freedom environment as the government continues to wage a multi-pronged attack on independent media to muzzle critical reporting and undermine watchdog journalism.

In the IPI lead mission, the MFRR partners met with key stakeholders including a wide range of editors-in-chief and journalists from across the political spectrum, as well as academics, journalist associations, civil society organizations, the Polish Ombudsman, diplomatic missions and MEPs.

Of central concern is the Law and Justice (PiS) led Government’s plans for media reform. These include efforts to “repolonise” and “deconcentrate” the media market. Ostensibly aimed at creating greater pluralism, in reality these dual legal mechanisms are intended to concentrate more media under the control of the ruling party and its allies. This further been underpinned by a unique model of state capture, where private media companies have been effectively nationalised via state-owned and controlled companies. This model achieved its first results in December when a state energy firm headed by PiS appointees acquired control of Polska Press, in a deal that hands PiS indirect control over 20 of Poland’s 24 regional newspapers.

Turkey

Turkey’s Journalists on the Rope

ECPMF was part of the mission of press and media freedom organised to Turkey in October 2020, led by the International Press Institute (IPI).

Eleven international freedom of expression, journalists’ and human rights organizations carried out a joint mission to Turkey on October 6 to 9, 2020, meeting with media professionals, civil society actors, judicial and regulatory authorities, members of parliament and representatives of diplomatic missions, for the purpose of reviewing the status of media freedom in the country.

The mission was organised in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, the sharp rise in targeting of media by regulators, increased physical attacks on journalists and a new restrictive law on social media with the potential to impose further limitations on the remaining spaces for independent reporting and public commentary.

The mission also provided the opportunity to assess how the situation had evolved in the 13 months since a previous visit in September 2019.

Montenegro

Uncertain Optimism, or Optimistic Uncertainty: Virtual MFRR Mission Report

As Montenegro’s new coalition government under the leadership of Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapić was formally approved by the Montenegrin Parliament on 4 December, the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) and key partners, urge it to put press and media freedom high on its agenda. The detailed report from their virtual fact-finding mission raises a number of concerns. To advance media freedom and, ultimately, the country’s accession bid to the European Union (EU), the new administration must commit to the necessary reforms for building and maintaining a free and pluralist media landscape.

Denmark and Sweden

Media freedom made in Scandinavia – examples of best practice

Representatives of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT) visited Denmark and Sweden from 15 to 18 December 2019 in order to identify best practices for media freedom and journalism. They followed the questions: why does Scandinavia regularly lead the rankings for media freedom? What can governments and media actors in other countries learn and adopt from this region?

The final report of the fact-finding mission “Best Practice” shows policies and approaches that can help to improve media freedom, media pluralism and professional journalism across Europe.

Turkey

Journalists in the Dock: The Judicial Silencing of the Fourth Estate

ECPMF was part of the mission of press and media freedom organised to Turkey in September 2019, led by the International Press Institute (IPI).

The continued jailing of over 120 journalists in Turkey as a deep stain on the country’s human rights record was highlighted at the launch of a joint report on 18 November 2019 in Brussels by eight international press freedom and journalism organisations on the status of press freedom in the country.
The report underscores the depth of Turkey’s now three-year-crackdown on the media despite Turkish government attempts to distract from it. It calls on Turkey to release all jailed journalists, stop the arbitrary persecution of the press, revise anti-terror and defamation laws, and end political interference in the judiciary.

The Baltics

Mission to Tallinn and Vilnius

In January 2018, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) organised a fact-finding mission in co-operation with  ECPMF to Estonia and Lithuania. The Baltics were chosen in the wake of a wave of disinformation spread by Russian specialists during the US election campaign. The question, whether the comparatively small societies of Estonia and Lithuania could be polarised and destabilised by so-called fake news, was on the table.

Czech Republic

ECPMF joined a fact-finding mission to the Czech Republic in October 2019, building on the findings of the ECPMF NEWSOCRACY conference in Prague, December 2018.

Political interference, hate speech aimed at journalists, low pay and lack of resources are causing serious problems in the Czech Republic’s media system. Together with its partners, the mission identified six elements that if changed and improved, would have positive impacts on press and media freedom in the country.

Italy

So much Mafia, so little news

The Mafia is imposing its vow of silence on the news media. This is was the finding behind the 24 interviews conducted by the fact-finding team in December 2018 with mafia experts, prosecutors, politicians and journalists in Rome. “The crime syndicates want to silence [journalists] and therefore they intimidate, attack and kill journalists who attract the attention of the law-enforcement agencies by speaking about them”, says Federeco Cafiero De Raho, an Anti-Mafia public prosecutor with four decades of experience.

Bulgaria

Media ownership in a captured state

 

In June 2018, during the last week of Bulgaria’s rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union, the ECPMF carried out a fact-finding mission in Sofia, along with its partners.

The mission focused on media ownership and media capture as most pressing issues. Bulgaria has built up a highly worrisome record of freedom of speech and media violations. The Balkan country fails to meet European standards regarding the European Charter on Freedom of the Press.

Croatia

Hate speech and hope for change

 

In January 2018, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) conducted another fact-finding mission to Croatia, along with ECPMF and other partners. The mission found that comprehensive investigations into physical assaults on journalists are not always conducted; impunity and smear campaigns remain issues. There is both political interference in the editorial content of the public service broadcaster HRT and internal difficulties among managers and employees. Hate speech remains to be a problem, too. The mission’s findings show that the working conditions for journalists in Croatia have not improved and trade unionists are discriminated and dismissed.

France

Dancing for the Oligarchs

 

In 2017, election year in France, ECPMF and its partner organisations conducted a fact-finding mission to France. After receiving alerts about economic costraints and media ownership concentration, the rather new hate-filled public and political discourse and the state of emergency laws, the mission went there to observe the situation of media workers in one of the strongest democracies in Europe. Taking into account the the strong right-populist movements and the continuing terror threat, we went on-site in person and in numbers.

Croatia

Media freedom in turbulent times

 

In June 2017,  the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) led a fact-finding mission to Croatia with ECPMF and other partners.

The findings in Croatia are worrying. Incidents and phsycial violence, as well as impunity for those who commit those crimes continue in Croatia. Legal provisions, such as the country’s criminal defamation and shaming laws have been abused to punish investigative journalists for doing their jobs.

Also, “informal” limits to free expression, which can be more easily disuised and hence denied, are at work in Croatia.

Macedonia

High time to protect media freedom

 

In a joint mission, ECPMF and its partners observed the situation of journalists and media workers in the Republic of Macedonia. The on-site research in Macedonia in April 2017 was motivated by the deterioration of the safety of journalists through the increasing number in verbal and physical attacks.

The mission found that, one the one hand, political elites, linked with a lack of political will to protect journalists and freedom of the media, are partially responsible for the unsatisfactory situation in the country. On the other side a fair share of the responsibility lies at international organisations and journalists themselves for not being fully proactive in tackling pressing issues.