2018 - what a year that was for the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom!

This year was not an easy one for media freedom in Europe. We met with deadly aggression, power-hungry oligarchs and corrupt politicians. Yet we were also proud to defend journalists under threat, to stand with our partners and supporters in the media freedom community to make some noise - and to shine a light. Because democracy dies in darkness.

Missions to press freedom flashpoints across Europe

With Bulgaria holding the EU Council Presidency, we turned a spotlight on press freedom in our Brussels Expert Talk in January and Fact-Finding Mission to Sofia in June.

Hate speech in the media was the focus of our Fact-Finding Mission to Croatia in January.

Fearing a fake news invasion from Russia, we also joined the European Federation of Journalists on a Fact-Finding Mission to the Baltic states last winter.

International press freedom delegation visiting Croatia: meeting with the Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (copyright: Office of the President of the Republic of Croatia)

Supporting jailed journalists

In Turkey, the ECPMF kept up the pressure on the government, for instance by sending Advocacy Officer Nora Wehofsits to observe the last Cumhuriyet court hearing in April, with journalists facing a show trial just for doing their job.

Ahmet Şık Ahmet Şık and Nora Wehofsits in front of the Silivri prison Istanbul (photo: ECPMF)

Monitoring murder investigations

Fighting against impunity for those who order the killing of journalists, our Legal Advisor Flutura Kusari went to Valetta, Malta. The delegation met the Maltese Prime Minister in October to demand justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia, the journalist who was assassinated with a car bomb.

Malta Daphne Caruana Galizia Justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta (photo: ECPMF)

The parents of murdered reporter Ján Kuciak and his fiancée opened their hearts to Flutura Kusari, ECPMF’s Legal Advisor, on her second fact-finding visit to Slovakia in October.

Ján Kuciak's parents' home A memory wall in the home of Ján Kuciak's parents (photo: ECPMF)

Funding investigations

To positively support cross-border investigative journalism in Europe we launched the IJ4EU grant in March this year with our partner, the Vienna-based International Press Institute. An independent jury then selected 12 investigative journalism projects for funding. First stories are being published now and will be presented at our UNCOVERED conference in 2019.

IJ4EU The IJ4EU Investigative Journalism fund

Offering refuge

Our Journalists in Residence this year came from Malta, Turkey and Romania for a period of respite from constant threats.

Matthew Caruana Galizia Investigative journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia (photo: Berge Arabian)

To help more of Turkey’s embattled independent journalists, ECPMF, with new support, in August introduced an additional Journalists-in-Residence programme for Turkey.

Mapping ’Lying press’ attacks

In Germany, camera crews and reporters faced verbal aggression and actual assaults from demonstrators against immigration – the worst violence since we started observing these attacks in 2015. A report was published in September.

Concept of the enemy III: the violent forces are ganging up against journalists Violence against journalists in Germany is on the rise. Up to mid-September 2018 the ECPMF documented and verified 22 physical attacks on 28 journalists. The number of violent attacks is now close to the previous record high of 2015.

Conferences: In the digital age

A major event in Leipzig this year in May was our Game Changer Conference in Leipzig where we discovered threats and opportunities of digitalisation for media freedom.

Pieter Haasnot's presentation on blockchain based news (Photo:ECPMF)

Exposing the oligarchs

Digging out the hidden power structures that threaten the free press, our Newsocracy conference in Madrid in January laid bare the concentration of media owhership and Newsocracy Prague in December coincided with MEPs’ censure motion for conflicts of interest against Czech Premier and media trust owner Andrej Babiš.

Newsocracy Ana Gomes (MEP) talks about media ownership concentration within EU member states and the role of the EU (photo: ECPMF/ Andreas Lamm)

Defending democracy

To build a better democratic framework for human rights, ECPMF is working with legal experts and policy makers to outlaw unjust SLAPP libel suits and defend the rights of whistleblowers with expertise from Flutura Kusari.

We welcomed Ukrainian journalists on our study visit to Germany in October with Stephanie Koch and Andreas Lamm travelled to Ukraine as part of the re:start democratic discourse project.

re:start democratic discourse Studytour to Germany Participants of the study tour from the Ukrain to Germany within the project re:start democratic discourse (photo: ECPMF/Andreas Lamm)

Reaching out beyond the bubble..

Rebecca Harms MEP opened our exhibition for imprisoned journalists at Leipzig Book Fair in March.

Kidnapped! Lutz Kinkel, Christian Schult and Jane Whyatt re-enacted the extraordinary rendition and unjust imprisonment of Azerbaijani journalist Afgan Mukhtarlí at a TEDx Talk in Leipzig in June.

Teaming up with the Lie Detectors media literacy initiative, Lutz Kinkel, Nora Wehofsits and Sophie Albers Ben Chamo have taken our media freedom campaign into the classroom in Berlin and Saxony during the year.

Expression Interrupted 1 "Expression Interrupted!" in Leipzig till end of March at the LVZ-Foyer (photo: Nora Wehofsits/ECPMF)
Why we are so passionate about press freedom Jane Whyatt at TEDx

We want to say THANK YOU to all our partners and supporters: with your backing we were able to initiate many activities throughout the year to defend media freedom.

We shall keep up our work in 2019...and look forward to working with you again. Sign up for our newsletter to stay in touch!