Toimittajat ilman rajoja Barents Press -seminaarissa Saariselällä


Journalistista yhteistyötä edistävä - Barents Press -yhteisö oli koolla 23. päivä lokakuuta. Tilaisuutta varten neljän maan Suomen, Norjan, Ruotsin ja Venäjän väki kokoontui kansallisesti, ja kokousti verkon kautta.


KUVA: Risto Pikkupeura


Suomessa kokoonnuttiin Saariselällä Barents Pressin Suomen puheenjohtajan Timo Sipolan johdalla. Joukkoon liittyivät mukaan myös Toimittajat ilman rajoja Suomen osaston edustajat, sihteeri Jarmo Koponen ja tiedotusvastaava Julia Harjanne. Ryhmän vahvistuksena paikalla oli RSF SE:n - Ruotsin osaston, Ivar Andersen Tukholmasta.


Keskustelujen aiheet sivusivat laajasti ajankohtaisia kysymyksiä, kuten valeuutisten leviämisen lisääntymistä ja yhä tiukemmin varjeltua tiedonvälitystä. Muuttuva mediaympäristö vaatii paljon tekijöiltään, joiden on palveltava yleisöään myös pandemian laantumisen jälkeen.


Toimittaja Tommi Parkkonen ja Sipola kävivät läpi toimittaja Johanna Vehkoon ja Junes Lokan kunnianloukkaustapauksen seurauksia. Tapausta käsitellään vielä korkeimmassa oikeudessa.


Venäjällä pandemian aikaan ajoittuu myös pyrkimys rajoittaa valtiovallan kritiikkiä kiristämällä kaikkia - yhteisöjä ja yksilöitä, niin sanotun "ulkovaltojen agentteja" koskevan lainsäädännön avulla.


Barents Press Suomi on avoin verkosto kaikille Pohjois-Suomessa toimiville journalisteille ja median ammattilaisille. http://www.barentspress.org/


Suomen osaston puheenjohtajan, Jarmo Mäkelän johdolla valmistellun puheenvuoron esitti kokouksessa Koponen. Liitteenä englanninkielinen esitelmä kokonaisuudessa.


RSF:n Suomen osaston esityksessä käytiin läpi pääasioita Saksan osaston syksyllä julkaisemasta selvityksestä. Se on luettavissa kokonaisuudessaan verkossa.


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Presentation by the Reporters without borders (RSF) Finland

“Covid-19’s effect on press freedom in the Barents region and in the world”


Tiivistys:


Maailma on kamppaillut puolitoista vuotta Covid-19-pandemian torjumiseksi. Voidaan sanoa, että vain osa maista - mukaan lukien kolme RSF:n sananvapausindeksin kärkimaata, Norja, Suomi ja Ruotsi - ovat puolustaneet täyspainoisesti lehdistönvapautta ja tukeneet tarvittavalla energialla mediaympäristöä.


Pohjoismaissa hallitukset eivät ole yrittäneet käyttää Covid-19 pandemiaa tekosyynä sananvapauden rajoittamiseen.


Mutta pandemialla on ollut kielteistä vaikutusta myös tiedonvälitykseen. Tämä on näkynyt muun muassa siinä, miten sosiaalinen media on sallinut hyökkäyksiä perinteistä mediaa vastaan, ​​ja pyrkinyt heikentämään yleisön luottamusta sekä toimittajiin, lääkäreihin että poliitikkoihin.


Joissakin maissa on ryhdytty toimiin toimittajien suojelemiseksi sosiaalisessa mediassa julkaistuilta laittomilta henkilökohtaisilta uhilta.


RSF teki aiemmin tänä vuonna valituksen YK:lle koronaviruksen lehdistönvapauden loukkauksista.


Huhtikuussa Yhdistyneille Kansakunnille toimitetussa kirjeessä vedottiin sananvapauden puolesta ja pyydettiin tuomitsemaan hallitukset, jotka ovat pystyttäneet epidemian varjolla esteitä tiedonsaannille.


Kirjeessä luetellaan tapauksia sensuurista, mielivaltaisista pidätyksistä, häirinnästä tai väkivallasta toimittajia kohtaan ja lainsäädännön kehityksen estämisestä yhteensä 38 maassa.


Luettelo ei ollut tyhjentävä.


Venäjällä median kohtaamat vaikeudet ovat lisääntyneet huomattavasti vuoden 2019 jälkeen.


Saariselän esitelmä (eng)


The Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information as well as safety of journalists in each country and region. It does not rank governments and public policies nor is it a subjective indicator of the quality of journalism in those countries.


According to the newest Index, the entire European continent has been for a year and a half fully engaged in combatting the Covid-19 pandemic but only some of its countries – including the three at the top of the Index, Norway, Finland and Sweden – can claim to have defended press freedom with the energy needed to ensure that the media environment is adequately supported. Although reliable information has been essential for combatting the virus, violations of the right to inform and be informed were evident in several European countries, the worst among the EU member countries being Hungary.


The placement of the Northern Europeans at the top of the Index, followed by Denmark ranking fourth, might give us some reason for self-satisfaction. But if we look at the situation of the freedom of the media as a whole, there is no real reason for satisfaction: The area of freedom of speech in the world is contracting year by year – the number of those countries having good conditions for free journalism is now 12 – down from 16 just a year before. An absolute majority of mankind is living under conditions where there is no freedom what so ever.


And what about ourselves, is the situation in Norway, Finland and Sweden really as trouble-free as the Index might indicate?


It has to be admitted that in our countries the governments have not tried to use Covid-19 as a pretext to limit the freedom or to promote self-censorhip on the media. In fact during the pandemic steps have been taken in some countries to protect journalists from illegal personal threats published in the social media. The negative political and social effects of the pandemic have had more to do with the way the social media has allowed attacks against the traditional media and has tried to erode the public's confidence in both the journalists, the medical profession and the politicians.

The main tool for monitoring the attacks against the press freedom during the pandemic was launched by the RSF soon after its global onslaught in 2019. The tool is called “Tracker 19” as it is not only in reference to Covid-19 but also to the article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The project has evaluated the pandemic’s impacts on journalism and documented state censorship and deliberate disinformation, and their impact on the right to reliable news and information. It has also produced several recommendations on how to defend journalism.


In order to collect information RSF’s teams all over the world were mobilized. The collected data has come from its network of bureaux and correspondents. Thus Tracker-19 – which can be found on the RSF net page – offers an interactive world map on the press freedom situation and a constant coverage of developments and analyses of key issues.


Based on this data the RSF made earlier this year a complaint to the UN about coronavirus press freedom violations. In a letter sent in April to two UN officials, the special rapporteur on the right to health and the special rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression, the letter asks them to condemn governments that have either used the epidemic as grounds for violating the right to information, or have done so in spite of it. The letter listed cases of censorship, arbitrary detention, harassment or violence against journalists, and disturbing legislative development in a total of 38 countries. And the list was not exhaustive.


Out of all countries listed Russia has turned out to be a special case – possibly because the pandemic coinsided with the preparations of the elections of the state Duma held earlier this autumn.


In November 2019 the RSF published a report called “Taking Control? Internet Censorship and Surveillance in Russia”. Since the developments in Russia after 2019 have been more than dramatic from the point of view of the freedom of all media, The German Section of RSF published an update in September.


It is obvious that the Russian authorities started their campaign against independent media long before the Covid-19 pandemic and would most propably have intensified it in spite of it simply because of the upcoming Duma elections.


But the report shows clearly, how the Russian parliament has been very active since the beginning of the pandemic and has passed a vast amount of laws within a very short time. President Putin signed approximately one hundred legislative acts into law on 30 December 2020 alone, many of which restrict media freedom and freedom of expression on the internet, and also contravene the Russian constitution as well as international human rights standards. The wording is often vague and open to interpretation, allowing the authorities to block unwelcome reporting or discussion on social networks almost at will.


The report sets out twelwe important limitations on journalism and the media passed by Duma during the last year and a half:


1) The scope of the legislation on “foreign agents” has been expanded several times so that now in addition to the media also individuals or unregistered organisations – in other words, any group or movement – can also be classified as a foreign agent if they are politically active and receive support from abroad.

2) Extensive labelling obligations have been widened. Since the foreign agent legislation was first introduced in 2012, those affected have had to label all their published materials and posts on social media as well as business letters and emails with a disclaimer identifying these materials as content from a “person/organisation performing the functions of a foreign agent”.

3) Obligation to pre-install Russian apps. Since December 2019 computers, smartphones and other smart devices sold in Russia have to be pre-installed with Russian software.

4) Sentences of up to five years in prison have been given to journalists for disseminating information, which is considered false by the regime.

5) Threats against international social media platforms. Since platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Youtube have blocked the content of Russian state media such as international broadcaster RT or news agency Ria Novosti, access to these websites have been slowed down or fully or partially blocked.

6) Heavy fines can be given to providers or platforms that fail to block content which is illegal in Russia. This regulation has been aimed primarily at foreign social networks such as Youtube, Facebook and Twitter which do not block content as required.

7) Social networks are obliged to delete content considered illegal by the regime within 24 hours or face fines up to 20 percent of a company’s annual turnover.

8) Data about property of state officials cannot be published. The new legislation extends the circle of those whose data enjoys this special protection to include not only the employees of ministries, the judiciary, the Accounts Chamber of Russia, the secret services, the military, the police and customs, but also “persons close to them”.

9) Up to five years in jail to journalists for defamation. In addition to allegedly slanderous statements directed against individuals, those directed against a group of “individually unidentifiable” persons are now also criminalised, meaning that even general statements such as “police officers are corrupt” could be punishable.

10) Fines can be issued for not installing surveillance technology. Compliance with the law involves, among other things, installing surveillance technology that allows the authorities to monitor and direct data traffic directly, without the assistance of telecommunications and internet service providers.

11) “Falsifying history” and insulting veterans has been banned.

12) International platforms are forced to open offices in Russia to ensure that they comply with Russian laws and can be held accountable for violations. The law covers social networks, email and messenger services as well as the Russian version of Wikipedia, search engines and online trading platforms


Partly because of legislation like this Russia is ranked 150th out of 180 states in RSF’s World Press Freedom Index – behind countries such as Pakistan or Mexico.


Reporters Without Borders considers President Vladimir Putin and the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, to be among the worst predators of press freedom worldwide, and the Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor among press freedom’s worst digital predators.


Since Putin took office in 2000, at least 37 journalists have been killed as a result of their work. Hardly any of these crimes have been solved by the authorities.