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Press and media freedom in Europe: a sad year


The war in Ukraine has had dire consequences for press and media freedom, with a reported nine journalists and news employees killed in the country in 2022.

“Media freedom in Ukraine faced the greatest crisis in the country’s modern history in 2022,” says the freshly released Mapping Media Freedom Monitoring Report. “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.”

Anti-war crowd in front of building
Protest against the war on Ukraine, Leipzig. Image by maeshelle west-davies

This latest alarming report comes from the partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) coalition. It analyzes the state of press and media freedom in the European Union (EU) Member States as well as candidate countries. Produced by the Leipzig-based European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the International Press Institute (IPI), and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the report examines all media freedom violations recorded on the Mapping Media Freedom (MFF) platform over the past year.

The report finds 813 press and media freedom violations to have occurred in the EU Member States and candidate countries in 2022, involving 1,339 victims (individuals or news outlets). More violations (415) were recorded in EU Member States than in candidate countries (398).

It opens precisely with a thematic chapter on the war in Ukraine and its impact on press and media freedom.

The MFRR recorded 140 media freedom violations in Ukraine since the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022. Europewide, the report highlights a growing trend of online attacks: 20.7% of the alerts in the EU referred to online incidents, compared to 14.1% in 2021. The 86 alerts received ranged from instances of harassment to those of disinformation. Additionally, the document features a chapter on the threats and disruptions to journalists covering climate and environmental topics, with the MFF platform receiving 12 such alerts for the EU and five for candidate countries in 2022.

#FridaysForFuture. Image by Dominic Wunderlich from Pixabay

At the same time, the proportion of alerts regarding attacks against media workers at protests decreased from 39.8% in 2021 to 21% in 2022 in the EU.

In terms of legal attacks against media workers, 237 incidents were documented, with 388 victims. These included arrests and civil as well as criminal lawsuits. Of these violations, 113 took place in the EU and 124 in candidate countries.

Serving as case studies in the report are EU Member States Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Sweden, and candidate countries Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey.

In all, the main type of press and media freedom violations recorded in the EU in 2022 were verbal attacks (42.4%), followed by legal incidents (27.2%). According to the alerts issued, a total of 10 journalists were murdered, nine of them in Ukraine and one in Turkey. The MFRR recorded 140 media freedom violations in Ukraine, accounting for 17.2% of the MFF alerts.

Image by Birgit Böllinger from Pixabay

The Mapping Media Freedom Monitoring Report provides a comprehensive and important analysis of the state of press and media freedom in the EU and candidate countries. The findings show that this basic freedom continues to be threatened and violated. Journalists face a growing number of challenges, particularly in conflict zones such as Ukraine, in their coverage of environmental issues, and online.

It is crucial for all stakeholders, including governments, media organizations, and civil society, to take action to protect and promote press and media freedom and ensure the safety of journalists and other media workers. You can read the full report here.

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