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Europe’s Wounded Press Freedom

LONDON/STOCKHOLM – Media freedom in Europe is deteriorating. According to a report presented to the Council of Europe, a pattern of violence and legal abuses directed at journalists has begun to take root in several European countries, threatening to stifle free, independent media with censorship and intimidation.

Since late 2009, at least 17 journalists have been killed or abducted in Europe in the course of their work. Seven of these incidents took place in Russia, the most dangerous place in Europe to be a journalist.

Before that, in 2000-2007, some of Europe’s most celebrated journalists were assassinated, including Georgiy Gongadze in Ukraine, Elmar Huseynov in Azerbaijan, Anna Politkovskaya in Russia, and Hrant Dink in Turkey. But those who ordered these killings have yet to be publicly identified. Indeed, credible investigations are rarely conducted in such cases, as a result of official failures or obstruction, and Europe’s leaders have not intervened to ensure that the rule of law is upheld.

According to the South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO), which monitors 20 countries in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, “pressure on journalists continues, and self-censorship appears to be the norm.” Meanwhile, the unwarranted blocking and filtering of Web sites has grown more common in many countries, as has aggressive surveillance of Internet users.