Media freedom threatened in most European countries, says OSCE
By Honor Mahony
Media freedom is threatened in most European countries, warns the Organisation for Co-operation and Security in Europe, highlighting incidences in several of its member states including EU countries France, Italy and Greece.
In a report published Thursday (29 July), the 56-member OSCE, a loose gathering of states monitoring regional security, says that "freedom of the media concerns arise in most OSCE participating States. They only manifest themselves differently."
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The report, published annually, says the "freedom to express ourselves is questioned and challenged from many sides" and the threats manifest themselves through "traditional methods" to silence free speech as well as "new technologies to suppress and restrict the free flow of information and media pluralism."
The breaches, either existing or potential, to media freedom range from a draft law on electronic surveillance and electronic eavesdropping law in Italy which could "seriously hinder investigative journalism" to a draft law in Estonia that may allow too many exemptions to the right to protect the identity of sources, to the fact that French President Nicolas Sarkozy is head of the public service broadcaster, France Televisions.
"The presidential nomination of the head of a country's public service broadcaster is an obstacle to its independence and contradicts OSCE commitments," said the body's Dunja Mijatovic, in charge of monitoring media freedom.
Other areas of concern include the recent adoption by the Hungarian Parliament of parts of a media package with elements threatening media freedom and a possible threat in Greece to a minority radio station that broadcasts in Turkish, while the organisation expresses hope that Germany will adopt a law protecting investigative journalists.
Beyond the EU, the "brutal attack" against a Serbian journalist known for his outspokenness against nationalism was highlighted as was the the "high number of criminal prosecutions" against journalists in Turkey covering sensitive issues as well "serious infringements" on media pluralism in Kyrgyzstan and a series of attacks against journalists in Russia.
"Many argue that media freedom is in decline across the OSCE region. In some aspects, I can subscribe to that," said Ms Mitjatovic.
"Authorities have yet to understand that media are not their private property and that journalists have the right to scrutinize those who are elected."
"Violence against journalists equals violence against society and democracy and should be met with harsh condemnation and prosecution of the perpetrators," she added.
With the internet changing the nature and scope of reporting, Ms Mijatovi also promised a study into the various internet laws in place across the OSCE countries.
"My office is currently working on the compilation of the first comprehensive matrix on internet legislation which will include an overview of legal provisions related to freedom of the media, the free flow of information and media pluralism on the internet in the OSCE region."