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Protection of investigative journalists in Europe

The European Parliament will hold a debate this afternoon on the protection of investigative journalists in Europe, following the murder of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnírová.

Please find below a quote from Greens/EFA MEP Benedek Jávor, who recently visited Slovakia as part of a European Parliament fact finding mission. He will speak in the debate this afternoon.

“The Slovak government needs to make sure there is a swift and impartial investigation of the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová. Their deaths raise serious questions about freedom of the press in Slovakia and demonstrate the alarming depths of corruption in the country. Having recently visited Slovakia, I witnessed the strength of the student and civil society movement against corruption and for democratic values and rule of law. The EU needs to stand up for these values too, by scaling up its efforts to protect journalists and whistle-blowers.

 “There is evidence of misuse of EU funds, with concerns that agriculture subsidies are being siphoned off to fund criminal activities. The European Anti Fraud Office must investigate to make sure any abuse is brought to an end.”

Greens/EFA respond to the news of the death of a Slovakian journalist

Greens/EFA transparency spokesperson Benedek Javor comments:

“We are deeply shocked to learn of the death of Ján Kuciak and his partner Martina Kušnírová. We expect to see a thorough and independent investigation so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.

 “This horrifying incident comes only a few months on from the murder of the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Investigative journalism is one of the cornerstones of our democratic society and we have to make sure that journalists can speak truth to power without fear of intimidation or violence. The European Union must urgently look at how it can better protect journalists.”

The Greens/EFA group has asked for the President of the European Parliament, Antonio Tajani, to respond to the incident during his opening remarks of the upcoming plenary session in Brussels on Wednesday.

MEPs’ joint call to the European Commission for the protection of media freedom and investigative journalism

MEPs call on European Commission to Protect Investigative Journalists and Stand for Media Freedom 


MEPs David Casa (EPP), Ana Gomes (S&D), Monica Macovei (ECR), Maite Pagazaurtundúa (ALDE) Stelios Kouloglou (GUE) and Benedek Jávor (Greens) have joined forces to push for EU legislation that will address and end “SLAPPs” – lawsuits intended to intimidate and silence investigative journalists and independent media by burdening them with exorbitant legal expenses until they abandon their opposition. According to the MEPs, the practice is abusive, poses a threat to media freedom and has no place in the European Union.

SLAPP was used, for instance, against investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and is now being used against Maltese media houses by firms associated with government corruption and the Panama Papers scandal that are threatening legal action in the United States.

David Casa, Ana Gomes, Monica Macovei, Maite Pagazaurtundúa, Stelios Kouloglou and Benedek Jávor stated:

“In Malta we have seen that firms like Pilatus Bank and Henley & Partners that employ these practices, using American litigation, have succeeded in having stories altered or deleted completely from online archives. And investigative journalists are prevented from reporting further on corrupt practices out of fear of further legal action. But this is not just a Maltese problem. In the UK, Appleby, the firm associated with the Paradise Papers, is using similar tactics against the Guardian and the BBC.

The cross-border nature of investigative journalism as well as the tendency to pursue legal action in jurisdictions outside the EU that only have a tenuous connection with the parties justifies and requires an EU response”.

The MEPs are calling on EU Commissioner Frans Timmermans to propose an EU Anti-SLAPP Directive that will include:


  • The ability for investigative journalists and independent media to request that vexatious lawsuits in the EU be expediently dismissed and claim compensation;
  • The establishment of punitive fines on firms pursuing these practices when recourse is made to jurisdictions outside the EU;
  • The setting up of a SLAPP fund to support investigative journalists and independent media that choose to resist malicious attempts to silence them and to assist in the recovery of funds due to them;
  • The setting-up of an EU register that names and shames firms that pursue these abusive practices.

“We are committed to the protection of investigative journalists and media freedom across the EU and will pursue this issue until Anti-SLAPP EU legislation is in place”, the MEPs stated.

Thomas Gibson from the Committee to Protect Journalists stated: “SLAPP is a serious threat to journalism and media freedom. These sums of money are in no way proportionate.  Independent journalists in Malta already face enormous challenges and restrictions.  Critical journalism must not be stifled. In addition to pushing for full justice of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Commission needs to address the climate in which investigative journalists work in the country.”

Jodie Ginsberg, CEO of Index on Censorship, said: “Having a media that is free to investigate corruption and abuse of power – and free to publish the results of those investigations – is fundamental to democracy. These vexatious law suits – deliberately aimed at preventing journalists from carrying out such work – must be stopped.”

Written comment to the European Parliament’s debate on the protection of journalism

The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia is a tragedy and  at the same time deterrent manifestation of what lengths the power can go to in order to conceal the truth. Even the smallest constriction on independent journalism is a serious violation of citizens’ rights to the pluralism of information. And where a journalist pays with her life for revealing corruption and abuse of the power, there democracy is shaken to its core.

Aggression by those in power against free and independent news reporting must have consequences. The Maltese government must step down, as they were unable to come clear against the charges of corruption. In addition, the European Commission must launch a prompt and thorough investigation in order to find those who were responsible for these developments.

In several Member States, the systemic curtailing of the free press has already started or has been already going on for years. In these countries, it is in the power’s interest to abolish the independence and pluralism of the media. This cannot ever deteriorate into a situation, in which people who seek to reveal the truth can no longer feel safe. Urgent and effective action must be taken in order to prevent any government from using intimidation of journalists as a means to hide the truth.

Transparency and a free, independent media are core European values, the protection of which now sadly needs to constantly be reinforced, we Greens propose an award with the name of Daphne Caruana Galizia to be given each year to investigative journalist in order to value and protect their work

EU research grant scheme for investigative journalists – Press release

On 1 December, the European Parliament passed the 2017 budget of the EU. Due to an amendment by MEPs Benedek Jávor (Greens), Helga Trüpel (Greens), Petra Kammerevert (S&D) and Yana Toom (ALDE), it includes a 500.000 euro grant scheme for journalistic investigations into cases affecting at least two EU countries. The grant scheme will be implemented in the next three years as a preparatory action probably by the Leipzig based European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, in view of establishing a similar programme permanently. The independence and confidentiality of the proposed investigations will be fully respected.

The EP previously added a similar line to the budget in 2009, but then the programme never took off the ground. MEP Jávor made it one of his priorities to reinstate the programme ever since he took office in 2014, and to uncover the causes of the failure of the first attempt, to make sure that it will not default again.


(Image source: advancingthestory.com)

ITCO Press Statement – Trade Secrets Directive hampers prevention of corruption

Today, the Trade Secrets Directive was adopted during the plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg. The highly contested directive harms the protection of whistleblowers and hinders the work of investigative journalists and trade unionists. The ITCO intergroup regrets that the European Commission does not attribute a more prominent role to whistleblowers and investigative journalists in the struggle against corruption.


The public consultation held by the European Commission, clearly indicated that the Trade Secrets Directive lacks public support: citizens trade unions, civil society organizations and SME’s reacted negatively. Although several improvements have been made in comparison to the original proposal, the final proposal still burdens the journalist, the whistleblower or the trade unionist with the obligation to prove that he or she acted in the realm of the (restricted) freedom of expression, for the purpose of the general public interest, or as part of helping workers’ representatives in their legitimate exercise of their representative functions. These strict conditions, combined with a very broad definition of ‘trade secrets’, restrict the possibilities of whistleblowers to be acknowledged and for journalists and unionists to do their work properly.


Consequentially, disclosing information on practices that may not be illegal but are yet undesirable, such as tax avoidance, will become more easily punishable. Dennis de Jong, co-chair of the ITCO intergroup comments: ”One would think that after Luxleaks, the Panama papers and Dieselgate, in which whistleblowers or investigative journalists have played a crucial role in revealing crucial information, the Commission would do anything to stimulate the important role of whistleblowers and investigative journalists. Instead, the Commission subordinates the struggle against corruption to the interests of multinationals. Antoine Deltour, who revealed the Luxleaks scandal, is already facing criminal charges against him, and the directive will undermine his position.


Benedek Javor, ITCO bureau member adds:

“We as Greens wanted to reject the proposal or at least delay the vote until the directive can be packaged with a Whistleblower Protection Directive. Adopting a text that creates a situation where secrecy is the legal norm for companies’ internal information and transparency is the exception is clear proof of the European Commission preference of corporate interest over the public interest, as also shown most recently by the glyphosate authorization.”


(Image source: itcointergroup.eu)

Investigative journalism fund – Greens press release

Commission under fire for blocking proposed fund

The Greens/EFA group in the EU Parliament today submitted a complaint to the European Ombudsman against the European Commission for blocking a proposed funding programme under the EU budget aimed at promoting cross-border investigative journalism. The complaint focuses on the Commission’s use of dubious administrative procedures not to implement a programme for investigative journalism, despite the fund having been proposed by the European Parliament in 2009 and officially included as an EU budget line from 2010-14 (1). Commenting on the case, Green MEP Benedek Javor said:

“It is unacceptable that the Commission has used underhand administrative methods to block this important initiative. The role of investigative journalism in a democracy is vital, as has been confirmed by the recent Luxembourg Leaks revelations. The EU should be doing all in its power to promote this important democratic tool and that was the reason the European Parliament proposed this fund. It is inexplicable and reflects badly on the credibility of the EU for the Commission to go to such lengths to prevent this programme from taking off.”

Green budgetary spokesperson Helga Truepel said:

“We are now calling on the Ombusman to investigate the matter and the methods used by the Commission to block the funding. In particular, it is important to clarify how the conclusions of the feasibility study carried out were altered and who in the Commission was responsible for this. The Greens/EFA group will continue to push for this programme to be included in the negotiations on the forthcoming EU budget, as we have done in the past.”

(1) The European Parliament proposed a research grant scheme to support cross-border investigative journalism in 2009. A budget line was included in the EU budget between 2010 and 2014 but the European Commission made sure the fund was not implemented during that period and the budget line was dropped in 2015 without any trial run either as a pilot project or a preparatory action.

In addition, the conclusions of the feasibility study commissioned in the framework of the preparatory actions and carried out by an expert team were reversed from positive to negative when the study was finally published in March 2015. The expert team last week issued a statement complaining about the manipulation of its findings: http://www.aej-uk.org/investigative-pr.pdf