As of mid-September 2017, MLDI has supported 69 new cases in 2017 – this is more than any other year in MLDI’s history and we’ve still got over 3 months to go. With cases sometimes lasting many years, as of 18 September 2017, MLDI had 167 active cases on its books.
This increase in demand for MLDI’s services reflects the wider trend globally to restrict press freedom, described by Freedom House in their 2017 Freedom of the Press Report as “at its lowest points in 13 years”.
Countries MLDI has supported new cases in during 2017 (red)
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of the newly supported cases have come from Azerbaijan, Russia and Turkey – three countries which are home to particularly hostile environments for journalists, bloggers and media outlets and where media freedom is seriously threatened. Reporters Without Borders 2017 Press Freedom Index ranks all three of these countries towards the bottom end of the index, with Russia in position 148, Turkey at 155, and Azerbaijan in 162 of 180 countries.
Historically, received few cases from Latin America, equating to less than 5% of its total caseload each year. Interestingly, MLDI is supporting more cases than ever before in Latin America, accounting for almost 15% of the new cases supported in 2017.
Number of new cases supported by country
Number of Cases
The majority of the cases supported so far are related to administrative measures, criminal defamation and other criminal charges.
Although the majority of these new cases are still ongoing, MLDI has seen some positive results already for example in:
- Somaliland – In October 2015, Hubsad, a local newspaper in Somaliland was shut down by local authorities on the basis that journalists were running an unlicensed paper. This is despite the fact relevant legal licensing documents were signed and a fee was paid to the Office of the Attorney-General in June 2015. The two defendants were then arrested, and in December 2015, Hubsad’s editor-in-chief and publisher were charged for trading in an unlicensed manner and disseminating false, exaggerated or tendentious news capable of disturbing the public order. In a case previously supported by MLDI, a regional court dismissed the charges against them, but the Attorney General filed an appeal. Sanctions for these charges upon conviction include at least one year’s imprisonment and revocation of Hubsad’s license. In the 2017 appeal case, the Court of Appeal rejected the Attorney-General’s arguments and found the two defendants not guilty of running an unlicensed business or disseminating any ‘fake news’. The Court acknowledged that Husbad was a registered newspaper and legal entity.
- Latvia – In 2012, Latvian independent weekly magazine IR began writing a series on fraud in the judicial system. Following its publication, IR magazine, its Editor-in-Chief and two journalists were sued for defamation and damages in three separate cases (previously supported by MLDI). IR magazine was awarded damages on appeal after the case was dismissed on the first two instances as being ‘unfounded’, but Mr Spruds (high profile insolvency administrator) has lodged a cassation appeal in regards to his civil defamation case. The appeal was dismissed, and damages were awarded to IR, allowing the journalists to continue reporting and publishing.
If you’re a journalist, blogger or media outlet in need of legal defence, click here or if you would like to be more involved with MLDI click here https://www.mediadefence.org/we-rely-donations-and-pro-bono-assistance-heres-how-you-can-help-us-and-those-we-support.
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