Assaults on Journalists in Europe: An Investigation of the Period 2000 – 2016

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The period between 2000-2016 has seen a clear increase in the assaults against journalists. Our study identified over 1000 cases of assault. 2016 was the worst year for European journalism.

The majority of assaults was perpetuated by police forces through arrest and while on police action.

Of those journalists assaulted, 302 died. The majority of killings of journalists is found in Russia. The majority of assaults takes place in Turkey. The first position of killings is held by Russia – 155 deaths (press freedom status: not free), the second is Ukraine - 27 deaths (press freedom status: partly free), the third place is Turkey – 19 deaths (press freedom status: not free) and almost the same result as in Turkey can be seen in France (4th position) – 14 deaths (press freedom status: free).

The majority of journalists assaulted work for the print press: 52% of all cases or 539.

Arrests are the method most often used to intimidate journalists and other police actions are frequent among actions against journalists. 222 journalists were arrested in this time period. Combined, they indicate that there is a very high likelihood that assaults are initiated by the state/police systems.

Overall, the data show that no country in Europe is free from cases of assault. The political developments in Turkey have led to a rapid deterioration in the status of the free press; Russia also remains a problematic case.

  1. The human cost of journalism at the service of citizens and common interest is at an all/time high in Europe.
  2. The conditions underpinning the profession have changed in fundamental ways, making assault, violence, intimidation and even death real and no longer exceptional cases
  3. The assumption that Europe remains a relatively safe democratic space for journalists can be easily challenged.