Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Press freedom 'at risk' in EU, NGO warns

Press freedom is at risk in some EU member states which have criminal defamation laws or practice mass surveillance, according to a journalist NGO.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has released a report which claims that while the EU has made press freedoms essential for a country seeking membership to the 28-nation bloc, it has failed to take action against some member states which put such rights at risk.

Defamation remains a criminal act in 23 EU member states. In 20 EU countries, including Slovakia, Italy, Austria and Germany, imprisonment is a possible punishment for defamation.

The CPJ reported that penalties for defamation against public officials are much stricter in EU member states such as Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and the Netherlands.

"Insults against the state, state symbols, or institutions, foreign heads of state, and even intergovernmental organizations are present in many EU members’ criminal laws," the CPJ said on Tuesday.

EU member states including Denmark, Finland, Sweden, France and Belgium are ranked highest in terms of digital freedom.

The Washington-based internet freedom advocacy group, the Center for Democracy and Technology, also reported in March that European governments had "deployed systems of mass electronic surveillance to monitor journalists’ contacts with sources, intercept their communications, and in some cases, obstruct their freedom of movement, launch criminal investigations, or threaten legal actions against journalists based on unlawful electronic surveillance."

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