The case of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, who had for years worked to shine a light on corruption among politicians, businessmen and criminals in Malta, highlights the dire need for a free press. Between 2016 and 2017 Caruana Galizia linked the Maltese political elite to the Panama Papers, including the financial affairs of the prime minister, his wife and the leader of the country’s opposition party.
For her work, she paid with her life when a bomb exploded under her car on 16 October. She was not the only journalist to be murdered in Europe in 2017, nor were violations of media freedom confined to any one region.
Mapping Media Freedom has been recording threats to press freedom since 2014, highlighting the need for protection for journalists. The project monitors the media environment in 42 European and neighbouring countries. In 2017 1,089 reports of limitations to press freedom were verified by a network of correspondents, partners and other sources based in Europe, with a majority of violations coming from official or governmental bodies.
Six journalists were killed during 2017; 178 reports of assault or injury were made; 220 media workers were detained or arrested; 193 reports included criminal charges and lawsuits; there were 367 reports of intimidation, which includes psychological abuse, sexual harassment, trolling/cyberbullying and defamation; in 113 incidents media professionals had their property vandalised or confiscated; there were 178 instances of journalists or sources being blocked; and journalists’ work was altered or censored 68 times.
Index on Censorship’s database tracking violations of press freedom recorded 571 verified threats and limitations to media freedom during the first two quarters of 2017.
During the first six months of the year: three journalists were murdered in Russia; 155 media workers were detained or arrested; 78 journalists were assaulted; 188 incidents of intimidation, which includes psychological abuse, sexual harassment, trolling/cyberbullying and defamation, were documented; 91 criminal charges and civil lawsuits were filed; journalists and media outlets were blocked from reporting 91 times; 55 legal measures were passed that could curtail press freedom; and 43 pieces of content were censored or altered.
“The incidents reported to the Mapping Media Freedom in the first half of 2017 tell us that the task of keeping the public informed is becoming much harder and more dangerous for journalists. Even in countries with a tradition of press freedom journalists have been harassed and targeted by actors from across the political spectrum. Governments and law enforcement must redouble efforts to battle impunity and ensure fair treatment of journalists,” Hannah Machlin, Mapping Media Freedom project manager, said.
1 July – 30 September: Journalists under “unprecedented” attack
An unprecedented series of crackdowns on media professionals and news outlets took place in Europe and neighbouring countries during the third quarter of 2016.
1 April – 30 June: Journalists increasingly caught in the middle
Violence against journalists in Europe increased in the second quarter of 2016, reports submitted to Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom platform show, as a government crackdown in Turkey intensified and protests turned violent in countries from France to Finland.
1 January – 31 March 2016: Europe’s stark deterioration of press freedom
Pressure on journalists in Europe increased substantially during the first quarter of 2016
1 October – 31 December 2015: Pressure on media professionals and pluralism growing
Pressure on Europe’s journalists as they do their jobs saw no let up during the fourth quarter of 2015
1 May – 30 September 2015: Europe’s journalists subjected to increasing levels of harassment
Journalists and media workers in Turkey, Hungary and the Balkans are facing increased hostility as they do their jobs
May 2014 – April 2015 – Europe’s journalists face growing climate of fear
Journalists and media workers continue to confront relentless pressure as they do their jobs
May – December 2014 – Under attack: violence and intimidation stalk journalists in Europe
Journalists and media workers are confronting relentless pressure as they do their jobs, a survey of the first six months of incidents reported to Index on Censorship’s Mapping Media Freedom project has found.