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International Press Review

23 August 2019
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When Russia wants to censor Google
Daily Caller: The Russian Government asked Google not to spread information concerning “illegal mass events”.
After one the most important protest march in the country’s recent history, according to some, Russia warned Google in a letter on Sunday not to publish advertising videos from the manifestation.

Tens of thousands of people protested on the streets of Moscow for free and fair local elections. According to CNN, more than 300 persons have been arrested.
Roscomnadzor, the Russian state communications regulator, wrote a letter to warn Google. It mentions that the coverage of the ‘illegal mass events’ will be widespread because of options like advertising tools and push notifications. According to the watchdog, in case of non-compliance, Google’s decision can be considered an “interference in the sovereign affairs of the state, as well as a hostile influence [over] and obstruction of democratic elections in Russia.
It would not be the first time Russia is considering to punish the company. In 2018 the country issued a $7,663 fine for not complying to the law allowing the removal of certain search engine results.  

Lawyers attempt to prevent journalists’ investigations
European Federation of Journalists: After an enquiry, the German media’s legal departments noticed a rise in the lawyers practice of impeding journalists to report.
A new study titled “If you write that, I will sue you! Preventive strategies of lawyers against media”, published in August, revealed an increase of lawyers’ efforts to prevent journalists from investigating and reporting. According to the study, the lawyers usually use two methods. They either send a “press law information letter” to newsrooms in order to discourage them to publish information, fearing financial risks, or they use targeted communication in order to influence the reporting.
It is noted that media institutions have become more worried because of judicial risks. Moreover, editors don’t take the risk of defending journalist’s work in court because of financials reasons.
A draft bill that could punish whistleblowers and journalists in Belgium
Association of Professional Journalists in Belgium: A bill drafted by the Ministry of Defense and Foreign Affairs in Belgium would punish whistleblowers and journalists for disclosing ‘sensitive’ information.
The project, initiated by the Minister and unnoticed until May, has been approved on first reading. Its objective is to protect classified information about Belgium’s international obligations. In addition to “top secret”, “secret”, “confidential”, the classification “restricted” would be created. Failure to comply could lead to up to 3 years of jail time or a fine worth between 100 and 5000 EUR.

The State Council has however asked for the bill to be reviewed in order to include exemptions for journalists and whistleblowers.

Press freedom in Australia weakened after raids
ABC: A parliamentary inquiry has unfolded in Australia concerning press freedom and the national security law of journalists is being examined.
In June, News Corps and ABC have been the subjects of Australian Federal Police’s raids after stories based on leaked Government documents were published. According to the ABC managing director David Anderson, journalists are threatened and treated as if they have received 'stolen goods'. "Immediate and tangible reforms to legislation that inhibits the ABC's ability to do its job are required", he said during a parliamentary inquiry, also noting that Australia doesn’t do enough to facilitate the protection of whistleblowers investigating corruption. The executive chair of News Corp, Michael Miller, mentioned that the country needs a legislative change in order guarantee the democratic freedom of journalists.
The police raids are related to articles about alleged misconduct by Australian forces in Afghanistan. Australia introduced new espionage offences last year that human rights advocates say could be used to target journalists and whistleblowers.

The news for the International press review were selected by European Solidarity Corps volunteer, Melanie Michelot

Photo source: REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov