Monitoring Report 2022

In 2022, the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) recorded 813 media freedom violations in EU Member States and candidate countries involving 1,339 individuals or media outlets. 415 alerts were recorded in the EU, while 398 were registered in candidate countries. 10 journalists were murdered: nine in Ukraine and one in Turkey.

 

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.

 

In the EU, the main type of incidents were verbal attacks (42.4% of all alerts), 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.

 

The report also includes a third thematic section on online attacks. While in 2021 protests were the most frequent place for journalists to be attacked (39.8%), 2022 data shows that protests only accounted for 21% of the alerts in the EU, while attacks taking place online rose from 14.1% in 2021 to 20.7% in 2022.

 

A final 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.

 

The report is divided into the following chapters: an overview offering data and graphics about the press freedom situation in the EU and 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 introduction and four thematic chapters can be accessed via the tabs below:

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 >

Media freedom in Ukraine faced the greatest crisis in the country’s modern history in 2022. Russia’s full-scale invasion in February posed existential threats to the future of Ukrainian journalism and the country’s democratic system. Russia’s war of aggression also took a deadly toll on journalists and media workers covering the war from the front lines, making 2022 the deadliest year for journalists in Europe in many decades. The killings, threats, and pressures facing the media in Ukraine have cast a dark shadow over press freedom in Europe and brought into focus the devastating effect war has on journalism.

 

The MFFR began monitoring Ukraine as soon as the invasion began on 24 February 2022. During the reporting period, Ukraine officially became a candidate country for the European Union in June 2022. During the 10 months of 2022 in which the MFRR recorded alerts in Ukraine, the MapMF platform documented 140 attacks and violations of media freedom involving 220 different targets. The majority of these alerts (60.7%) were documented during the first three months of the conflict, with attacks persisting through the summer but then steadily decreasing in autumn. Overall, journalists and reporters were attacked in 65% of the recorded cases, while photographers and camera operators accounted for 25% of alerts, and media outlets/broadcasters a further 22.8%.

Monitoring Report - Ukraine

Nine Journalists and media workers, both Ukrainian reporters and international correspondents, are confirmed to have been killed in the line of duty or as part of their journalistic work in Ukraine in 2022, according to MFRR monitoring partners: Ihor Hudenko, Yevheniy Sakun, Brent Renaud, Pierre Zakrzewski, Oleksandra Kuvshynova, Oksana Baulina, Maks Levin, Mantas Kvedaravičius, and Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff. Five were killed by gunfire, three by shelling, and one in unconfirmed circumstances. In some cases, there is evidence that Russian troops targeted the journalists and their crews despite clear PRESS insignia on vehicles or safety gear. In others, MFRR partners were unable to independently identify the source of the fire. All of these killings occurred during the first four months of the conflict when fast-changing frontlines exposed war reporters to the most serious physical harm.

 

There is partial evidence that at least three more Ukrainian journalists and media workers may have been killed or executed by Russian troops in occupied territory in apparent connection to their profession, though these cases have not yet been verified and the motive remains unclear. Further investigations by Ukrainian authorities are needed to confirm the details. The data of the MFRR partners excludes Ukrainian journalists who were killed while fighting in the military and Ukrainian journalists who were killed in their homes during indiscriminate Russian shelling of Kyiv and other cities.

 

MapMF data shows that the first three months of the war were by far the most dangerous. In total, 60.7% of all documented attacks occurred between February 24 and May 24. Overall, this includes 21 cases of domestic and foreign journalists in Ukraine suffering serious injuries since the start of the war due to shelling, airstrikes, or gunfire from military forces. An additional 30 cases were documented in which reporting crews or individual journalists were physically attacked, including being caught in artillery fire or being shot at but escaping unharmed. In addition, at least eight journalists were kidnapped or abducted, with some undergoing torture and other abuses at the hands of Russian soldiers before being released or transferred to detention centres. Overall, physical attacks made up almost half (47.1%) of all documented alerts (66). and military forces were assessed to be the source of 37.1% of all documented alerts in 2022.

 

Journalists reporting from or near the front lines of the war were unsurprisingly at most risk. In total, 53.6% of all documented media freedom violations occurred within an active warzone, while a further 7.9% occurred while journalists were travelling between locations or on their way to or from the front lines. Online attacks against journalists made up a further 18.6% of documented cases, as Ukrainian journalists became the target of threats and intimidation from anonymous people, often sending emails or messages from Russian territory, over their reporting on the war. The MFRR also documented 13 cases of Ukrainian media outlets facing cyber-attacks, including distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, often attributed to Russian hackers. In the 90 alerts involving individual journalists or media workers in which the gender was known, male journalists were involved in 70 alerts (77.8%) and women journalists in 30 alerts (33.3%).

 

Some cases were documented in Ukraine that were not linked to the war, including the beating of four journalists and media workers by Ukrainian law enforcement officials as they were reporting on a protest. While the vast majority of media freedom violations recorded in 2022 were attributed to Russian military forces, the Ukrainian authorities were responsible for some cases. These involved wartime restrictions on the press, including the revocation of accreditation for journalists who allegedly broke rules on operating in combat areas in reporting on the recapture of Kherson, and the merging of all nationwide TV channels into a single government-run service. Media freedom groups have also raised concern over a bill which would hand the national regulator powers to invalidate online news outlets’ registrations, issue fines against them, and shut them down without a court order.

 

While overall 2022 has been a devastating year for media freedom, the country’s media sector remains afloat. While the war drags on and an end to hostilities does not appear in sight, safety, financial, and psychological pressures on Ukrainian journalists remain intense. However, the country’s journalistic community has also won acclaim across the world for the courage shown in rising to the challenge of covering the war in their home country.

< Previous: Introduction                                                                       Next Chapter: Abusive Legal Action >

During 2022, the MFRR recorded 158 online attacks, 86 of which took place in the EU and 72 in candidate countries. They affected 261 journalists and media outlets.

 

2022 saw a rise in online attacks against journalists and media workers in the European Union. While in 2021 online attacks made up 14.1% of all attacks in EU member states (and were far behind protests, which accounted for the context where 39.8% of incidents happened), in 2022 online attacks rose to 20.7%, almost on par with protests (21.0%). One out of five recorded incidents happened online.

The MFRR recorded 86 alerts in EU member states from January to December involving online attacks, ranging from harassment to disinformation campaigns. A large majority of cases were classified as verbal abuse or online harassment (73.3%, 63 alerts). Of those, the most common subtypes registered involved intimidation and threats (37 alerts), followed by discrediting (19) and insults (14). While online attacks affected journalists all over the EU, the MFRR registered the most cases in Greece (11), Italy (9), and the Netherlands (9). 

 

In Italy, out of the nine online attacks that took place in 2022, nearly half were linked to the far-right. Paolo Berizzi was the first reporter in the country to need round-the-clock police protection for his investigations into right-wing extremism, for which he received death threats online. In August, journalist Antonella Napoli revealed that she had received rape and death threats following the publication of an article criticising racial hatred instigated by the far-right. The same month, journalist Karima Moual received insults and death threats from a self-proclaimed right-wing Facebook account, identifying as a supporter of Giorgia Meloni, leader of the national-conservative political party Brothers of Italy and current Prime Minister of the country. Moual is well-known for her reporting on immigration, complexity of integration, and minority rights. 

 

In Romania, journalist Emilia Sercan became the target of a smear campaign after investigating how Prime Minister Nicolae Ciucă had plagiarised his doctoral thesis. 

 

In the EU, there was also a rise in online attacks against property, including 11 cases recorded by the MFRR involving hacking attacks and Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS). Investigative media outlet Inside Story’s website was slowed down and sometimes inaccessible to the readers as a result of a DDoS attack in July, after the publication of an investigation into Turkish businessman Yasam Ayavefe. No one claimed the attack. Following an investigation on the same topic, the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN) and the media outlet Solomon were attacked by an unknown source. Both websites were temporarily suspended. In this case too, no one claimed the attack.

 

The MFRR platform also recorded 5 cases linked to online surveillance of journalistic data in the EU. In Spain, four journalists connected to the Catalan pro-independence movement were reported to have had their mobile phones infected with the Pegasus or Candiru spywares. Earlier in the year, famous Spanish journalist Ignacio Cembrero was revealed to have been a potential target of surveillance using the Pegasus spyware. It is not known whether the spyware infected his device. In Greece, Documento published an investigation showing that at least six people connected to the media had been targeted by the Predator spyware.

In the EU, one out of three online attacks (33.7%, 29 alerts) were performed by private individuals (29). For a considerable amount (30.2%, 26 alerts), the perpetrator of the attack was unknown. However, the MFRR recorded several cases in which government and public officials were the source of online threats (18). In Latvia, a Member of Parliament from the right-wing party “National Alliance” insulted a journalist on Twitter, calling her a “political prostitute”. In Slovakia, Finance Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of the country Igor Matovič attacked and smeared the editor of newspaper Denník N, Matúš Kostolný, in a post published on Facebook. The post came as a reaction to an opinion piece by Kostolny about Matovič and his political party, to which Matovič reacted by calling the editor “a disgrace”.

 

Companies and corporations were at the source of 5 alerts regarding online attacks in the European Union. In April 2022, Facebook blocked two posts from the media outlet Euractiv, which were describing Meta’s fight against EU data legislation.

 

While the MFRR registered online attacks against men and women journalists, it is important to mention that all registered cases where the online attack included sexual harassment were targeting women. In Sweden, TV presenter and journalist Welmoed Sijtma raised the alarm on the risks of using technology to denigrate journalists and media workers, based on a personal experience her image had been used to create deep fake porn videos. In Italy, journalist Lucia Piemontese, Deputy Director of the newspaper Quotidiano l’Attacco received multiple sexist and misogynistic attacks related to her work. One message she received said a video with “explicit content” that would concern her would be released. Most messages aimed to delegitimise her work in the hope she would stop reporting on certain topics. 

 

Attacks were not always directed towards the journalists or media companies directly; close family members of journalists were targeted on 5 occasions and the same happened to  their sources: some were threatened with death or were the targets of spyware attacks. In Poland, the daughter of TV anchor Tomasz Lis, received death threats over the phone

 

The MFRR platform reported 72 online attacks in candidate countries  in 2022. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia strongly impacted the figures related to online violations in candidate countries , with 25 alerts identified by MFRR in Ukraine during the year. Cases in Ukraine included targeted online harassment, threats, hacking, and disinformation. Additionally, it must be noted that disinformation campaigns linked to the war not only affected Ukraine but also other countries in Europe. Campaigns emanated from Russia and were part of a propaganda operation to promote the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine. 

 

In Serbia (13 alerts regarding online attacks), daily newspaper Danas’ staff and the Editor-in-Chief Dragoljub Petrovic received violent anonymous emails, in which they could read that “salvos of bullets” could be fired at them and it could “end up” in an attack such as the one at Charlie Hebdo’s office in 2015, in which twelve people were murdered. 

 

The chance of online threats turning into physical violence is underlined by the Turkish case of a journalist from Sokak Kedisi TV Uzun Oruç and cameraman Barış Oruç, who were attacked by armed assailants after they had received thousands of threats through social media. They had recently published an episode on the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli. Uzun Oruç underlined that they were openly targeted on social media by a number of MHP officials and that the majority of the threats under social media posts were leading to accounts related to an ultra-nationalist group called “grey wolves”. Turkey registered 22 alerts regarding online attacks in 2022.

 

Therefore, it must be noted that online violence is often the first step that can lead to physical violence, and the common narrative normalising online insults and threats against journalists and media workers has to be challenged as it can have severe physical and psychological consequences for the journalists and media workers targeted.

 

< Previous Chapter: Abusive Legal Action                                          Next Chapter: Environmental Reporting >

During 2022, the MFRR recorded 17 incidents that took place while journalists were covering environmental issues, such as reporting on climate protests or investigating pollution in cities. Of those, 12 took place in EU Member States and 5 in candidate countries . Types of attacks related to environmental reporting vary, and range from physical assault to verbal abuse or arrest. 

 

In the EU, half of the cases (6) happened while journalists were covering protests and demonstrations. As for perpetrators of environmental reporting alerts, the MFRR identified police and state security as being the source of alerts in 5 cases. In Germany, the police tried to intimidate journalist Danni Pilger while he was covering a co-organised Extinction Rebellion and Letzte Generation protest in Berlin. They stopped, searched, and harassed him and he was held for about 60 minutes. 

 

In France, three journalists were asked by the police to stop recording interviews with activists blocking Total’s General Assembly in Paris. In Italy, two journalists were held for four hours after having been arrested alongside activists at Rome airport during a climate protest, even after showing their accreditations. 

 

Flammans journalist Noa Söderberg and Getty freelance photojournalist Jonas Gratzer were covering a climate protest in Stockholm when the police arrested them, allegedly in accordance with section 13 of the police act to “prevent criminal activities”. Two months later, journalist Markus Jordö was also detained for six hours by the Stockholm police, and his equipment was confiscated. He was covering an action by a group of activists that were blocking a motorway, reporting for the public broadcaster STV. In both cases, the Swedish Union of Journalists (Journalistförbundet) blamed a lack of knowledge and understanding of the work of journalists by the authorities.

 

In the EU, private companies were registered as the perpetrators of environmental reporting attacks in 3 cases. In Poland, TVN24 and Fakty TVN teams were excluded from a press conference held by the energy association Towarzystwo Gospodarcze Polskie Elektrownie, while other journalists were not allowed to record it. In Germany, Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF) was denied accreditation for the opening of Elon Musk’s new Tesla plant, one of the most important industrial projects in Eastern Germany, whose impact on regional biodiversity was at the centre of a ZDF investigative report in 2021. In written correspondence with Tesla, ZDF was told that the broadcaster, “due to earlier reporting by the investigative magazine Frontal 21”, was no longer enjoying “trust” from Tesla. The ZDF team was therefore only able to report from outside the premises. 

 

Some of these cases reached the courts. In Spain, journalist Joanna Giménez and a photojournalist were arrested as they tried to cover a protest by environmental activists at the Prado Museum in Madrid. Giménez was held in detention overnight and charged by the National Police for property damage, damage to historical heritage, and disturbance of public order. The photojournalist, whose name was not published, was also held overnight and charged with the same three offences.

 

In France, freelancer Grégoire Souchay was on trial as his press credentials were not taken into account while he was covering an activists’ action and the authorities decided that he would be prosecuted as an activist. In Germany, journalist Marco Brás Do Santos was found guilty of trespassing in a trial initiated by the energy company Mitteldeutsche Braunkohlengesellschaft (MIBRAG), after he had covered an action by activist group Ende Gelände in late 2019. 

 

In candidate countries, the MFRR recorded five alerts linked to environmental reporting, ranging from physical assaults to intimidation. In Turkey, two journalists who were investigating a lead related to imported waste treatment across an Industrial Recycling Plant in the southern Turkish city of Adana were assaulted by a group of workers from the companies Akbulut Recycling and Akgül Recycling. The injuries sustained by the journalists required treatment in hospital. 

 

In Serbia, the MFRR reported two cases of intimidation attempts. In June, four journalists  investigating environmental pollution in Bosilegrad were assaulted by the director and several employees of the mine they were doing a report on, who threw rocks at them and their equipment. In July, editor Dragojlo Blagojević received anonymous death threats on the phone following the publication of an article on the logging industry. 

 

In April, three employees of the news portal soinfo.org were charged with misdemeanour  after covering an action by activists protesting against the Rio Tinto company’s plan to open a lithium mine in western Serbia. In May, 021.rs’s portal journalist Dragan Prica Kovacevic was asked to leave an open trial against Dragana Arsic, an activist from “Let’s Defend the Forests of Fruska Gora”.

 

< Previous Chapter: Online Attacks

This report was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries. This project provides legal and practical support, public advocacy and information to protect journalists and media workers. The MFRR is organised by a consortium led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) including ARTICLE 19 Europe, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), International Press Institute (IPI) and CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT). The project is co-funded by the European Commission.

We recorded 813 media freedom violations on Mapping Media Freedom in 2022. Download the report below to learn more about each one – from country-specific analyses to thematic breakdowns.

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