Press freedom and citizen participation in Europe under pressure

Since 1993, on the initiative of the United Nations, we celebrate Press Freedom Day on May 3. The United Nations responded to an appeal from Africa, and Windhoek DeclarationFor an independent and pluralistic press. Since then, at this time every year, the freedom of the press has been taken care of in the world. Unfortunately, with a lot of bad news, especially in recent years. This week, a Czech research institute published the results opinion poll For press freedom in Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. The investigation was conducted before the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Nearly half of the respondents in Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are concerned about declining press freedom, in Poland the percentage is even over 60%.

Politicization of press freedom

The research also shows that people who follow news online place more importance on independent media, that young people are less interested than older people and that the topic of press freedom is highly politicized. If we look at political preferences, particularly in Poland and Hungary, we see a large difference in the appreciation of the independence of the press between supporters of the incumbent, PiS in Poland and Fides in Hungary, and the opposition in those countries. Freedom of the press, a traditionally undisputed feature of liberal democracy, is no longer supported by all parties. In Hungary, 89% of respondents who voted for the opposition candidate in the early elections this month considered freedom of the press “very important”, compared to 34% of those who voted for Fidesz, the party that controls much of Hungary’s media. .

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As far as youth is concerned, he has fallen Veronika SedlashkovaD., director of the Research Institute, notes that access to online media is considered more important than editorial policy or independence. It therefore calls for attention not only to the independence of the media, but also to the Media Culture of young people.

Journalists and activists threatened

The European Union has announced a new initiative to better protect press freedom. The European Media Freedom Act Relationships with other European initiatives for Promote democratic participation, fight disinformation, and support media freedom and pluralism, as stipulated in the European Democracy Action Plan. The media law should complement the recently adopted recommendation on protection and security and Empowerment From reporters, agreed recently Digital Services LawAnd one this week European directive announced To protect journalists and rights defenders from lawsuits that must prevent the press and the public from publicizing socially relevant issues (SLAPPs, which stands for Strategic issues against public participation

Extremely bad frictions with the right to freedom of the press do great damage to press freedom. Big corporations and the wealthy are suing activists and whistleblowers denouncing social injustice. Their complaint is reputational damage. Prosecutors, who hire expensive lawyers and have a lot of money, don’t even care about winning the case. As long as the working group, the critical journalist or citizen, is silenced. Newspapers may have to refrain from publishing due to the risk of heavy fines. At the expense of the social significance of disclosure.

Issue, (calliance against the SLAPPs in Europe) Posted last month a report To draw attention to this obstruction of propaganda and freedom of the press. The report was produced, among others, through collaboration with: Amsterdam Law Clinics (ALCs) where LLM students work under professional supervision on legal issues of broader social importance. The report notes a growing number of SLAPPs, which in many cases remain out of the public eye. The SLAPP practice comes from the US and is widely used in the UK. But citizens and journalists in other countries also suffer from these “strategic lawsuits”. CASE investigated 570 cases between 2010 and 2021, which it claims is a fraction of the cases that occurred in Europe during this period. a lot of Victims do not report Because Fear of further revenge from claimant’.

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Croatia

The cases discussed come from Poland, Ireland, Croatia, France, Italy, Serbia, Slovenia and Malta. On Croatia, the report stated that press freedom is deteriorating. Senior government officials fall The media and the number of SLAPPs continue to rise. The Croatian legal system contains many laws that are problematic and hinder the work of journalists. For example, insulting the “Republic, its emblem, national anthem or flag” is a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. “Insulting” media content was also made a criminal offense in 2013. The Croatian Journalists’ Organization counted 924 lawsuits against journalists. The online news site Index.hr faced 56 lawsuits in 2021. It is not entirely clear whether all of these cases were directed directly against “public postWhich is basically what SLAPP is about.

An example from Croatia covered is the 2013 case against the Dutch-based multinational Elitech earth friends Croatia and working group, sedge ji nas (“Saddle us”). Both groups initially know a statement for Construction of a luxury resort and golf course on a hill near Dubrovnik (Photo) To protect the environment and preserve public spaces for local residents. The company then resorted to international arbitration, in which it imposed a fine of 500 million on Croatia. against earth friends (FoE), the company filed two lawsuits: the case ended tossing out Request the imposition of a duty of confidentiality. meIn the second case, the President and Vice-President of the Republic of Croatia Criminally accused of defamation. The FoE must be dissolved if the company wins due to the high fine and costs of the lawsuit. The CASE report states that the case is still ongoing.

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CASE highlights that”Relaxation results that SLAPPs have, due to the financial burden, the time it takes defendants to prepare their legal defenses, difficulty remembering details of events that often occurred years ago, as well as mental and emotional fees.

Megan Vasquez

"Creator. Coffee buff. Internet lover. Organizer. Pop culture geek. Tv fan. Proud foodaholic."

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