Cyprus Mail

Threats against journalists in 2021 often linked to pandemic

sigma 1
A car set alight outside the Sigma building in July 2021

A study carried by the European Federation of Journalists, called “Mapping Media Freedom” revealed that 26.5 per cent of threats and insults directed at journalists in 2021 were linked to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As far as Cyprus is concerned, four cases were recorded last year, namely the attack perpetrated by people protesting the Covid-19 measures against news channel Sigma in July, the cyber-attacks on the Turkish Cypriot media outlets Özgür Gazete and Nuri Silay, both linked to the underworld and the death threats received by journalist Esra Aygin after she criticised the Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.

Throughout 2021, a total of 626 incidents were documented across EU member states, candidate countries and the United Kingdom, ranging from physical attacks to strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) and online harassment. Of these, 410 involved physical threats, 159 verbal threats and 71 incidents related to censorship issues.

A total of 1,063 individuals or media entities in 30 countries were subject to one or more press freedom violations, including the murder of three journalists, underscoring the increasing threats to media freedom, journalist’s safety and independent journalism in Europe.

The highest number of incidents was recorded in Germany with 119. Turkey followed with 92 incidents, France with 57, Italy with 45 and Serbia with 35.

In countries where weekly demonstrations against the Covid-19 measures were held, such as France and Italy, the number of incidents was higher, with journalists covering the news, ending up as victims of violent attacks in several cases.

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