Media freedom in Europe in 2022 was overshadowed by Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which started on 24 February. During the first 10 months of the war, nine journalists lost their lives working on the ground, and many more were injured and attacked while reporting from front lines. The conflict has cast a dark shadow over press freedom in Europe, a continent where reporters were already facing attacks that hindered their ability to work freely.
From January 2022 until December, the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) recorded 813 media freedom violations in EU Member States and candidate countries involving 1339 individuals or media outlets. In 2021, the MFRR recorded 654 alerts, although it must be noted that Ukraine and Moldova were only included in the 2022 report as they were not candidate countries the previous year.
The current monitoring report offers an overview of the media freedom situation across the EU and candidate countries in 2022, and it starts with a thematic chapter on the war in Ukraine and its repercussions on media freedom. The MFRR started monitoring the country immediately after the full-scale Russian invasion started in late February, and it recorded 140 media freedom violations, which amount to 17.2% of the total registered in all analysed countries in 2022.
However, concerns over the safety of journalists and media workers in the continent were not constrained to those professionals working in a war zone. In 2022, reporters across Europe faced many forms of pressure and attacks, ranging from death threats or having their phones hacked with spyware, to being targeted with vexatious lawsuits by private companies or prevented from accessing press conferences.
415 alerts were recorded in European Union Member States, while 398 were registered in candidate countries . In the EU, the main type of incidents were verbal attacks (involving 42.4% of all alerts) – such as intimidation and threats (24.6%) or insults (13.3%) – followed by legal attacks (27.2%), to which this report dedicates an extensive chapter on the year that the European Commission put forward a proposal for an EU anti-SLAPP directive.
After legal incidents, physical attacks were the third most common type of attack against journalists and media workers in the EU (20.5%), followed by attacks to property (15.7%) – such as equipment (8.7%) – and censorship incidents, which rose from 8.6% of the total attacks in 2021 to 14.5% in 2022. Private individuals remained the main perpetrators of attacks against journalists in the EU (37.8% of cases), but that represented a decrease from 50% of cases in 2021. Government and public officials were the second most common source of attacks (17.1%), followed by police and state security (11.3%).
As for context of incidents, it is relevant to mention that while in 2021 protests were the most frequent place for journalists to be attacked (39.8%) – mostly those against COVID-19 measures or vaccination programmes – 2022 data shows that protests only accounted for 21% of the alerts, while attacks taking place online rose from 14.1% in 2021 to 20.7% in 2022. The current report dedicates its third thematic chapter to the rise of these types of online incidents, such as insults on social media or phones being hacked to spy on journalists and their sources.
Additionally, a fourth thematic chapter focuses on the threats faced by journalists covering climate and environmental topics (12 alerts in the EU in 2022). In the past year, as these protests became more disruptive, journalists covering these actions were subjected to obstruction of their work, and, in some cases, suffered worrying legal consequences.
The Monitoring Report also covers the media freedom situation in candidate countries , where the MFRR registered the most severe violations of media freedom: 10 deaths of journalists. Nine of them took place in Ukraine and affected media workers covering the war, and another one in Turkey, where Güngör Arslan, managing editor of the Turkish newspaper Ses Kocaeli was murdered.
The report is divided into the following chapters: an overview offering data and graphics about the press freedom situation in the EU and in candidate countries in 2022, four thematic sections with quantitative and qualitative analysis regarding the aforementioned topics, and country reports offering a summary of the most relevant threats in the following EU countries: Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Sweden; and in the following candidate countries : Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey.
The report has been compiled by the International Press Institute (IPI), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), as part of the joint Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) project which monitors and supports journalists, media workers, and platforms that have been threatened. The project is funded by the European Commission. Past reports can be downloaded on the MapMF website, and the alerts for this report can be accessed through the Alert Explorer here, which is constantly updated and collects and visualises all alerts documented by the monitoring partners.
Next Chapter: War in Ukraine >