COPENHAGEN, 14 January 2019 – With the persistence of a dangerous climate for journalists in many countries of the OSCE region, the leaders of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s human rights committee, Chair Margareta Kiener Nellen (MP, Switzerland), Vice-Chair Michael Georg Link (MP, Germany), and Rapporteur Kyriakos Hadjiyianni (MP, Cyprus), today called for increased attention to the importance of the safety of journalists. Recent developments demonstrate that journalists have been facing increasing repression, intimidation, physical attacks and restrictions on their freedom to work, they said.

Committee Chair Kiener Nellen expressed deep concern regarding new charges brought against the Azerbaijani anti-corruption blogger and chair of the media NGO Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety, Mehman Huseynov. He has been detained on defamation charges since March 2017.

“As Mr. Huseynov’s expected release date is just weeks away, the initiation of new charges against him that could lead to a further imprisonment of up to seven years is deeply worrying. I am also deeply concerned about his health as he began a hunger strike in protest of the new charges against him,” said Kiener Nellen. She reiterated the call by OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir for the authorities to drop new criminal charges brought against him.

Highlighting recent data published by Reporters Without Borders, Hadjiyianni stressed that it was absolutely unacceptable that 80 journalists were killed in 2018, with 348 held in prison, and 60 being held hostage throughout the world.

“It is far too often that we hear about attacks on journalists and media workers,” he said. “In recent months we have seen the arrest, threats and attacks against journalists including in OSCE countries. I strongly condemn such unacceptable attacks which contribute to an atmosphere of intimidation and repression, harming all people. Journalists need to be able to carry out their work without fear of violence or retribution. The relevant authorities must investigate all attacks, bring the perpetrators to justice and ensure a safe working environment.”

Committee Vice-Chair Michael Link expressed concern about the freedom of expression and media and the safety of journalists particularly in Turkey and the Russian Federation. He deplored the continued intimidation and death threats directed at journalists of Cumhuriyet in Turkey as well as of the well-known Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta, twelve years after the murder of famed journalist Anna Politkovskaya.

“So-called ‘fake news’ has become a problem throughout the world, but we must be careful in legislating responses that may restrict freedom of expression,” said Link. “I urge my colleagues in the Russian Duma and other parliaments to prioritize freedom of expression, freedom of the media and the safety of journalists when considering legislation.”

The officers of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs welcomed the adoption of an OSCE Ministerial Council Decision on the safety of journalists on 7 December 2018 and reiterated the Assembly’s call on OSCE governments to “immediately cease the harassment, imprisonment and mistreatment” of journalists and restore their rights (OSCE PA Berlin Declaration 2018).