weCAN Digest February 2019

Media monitoring of the latest news about the media and advertising markets of Central and Eastern Europe

Latvia bans Russian channel
Latvia’s National Electronic Media Council (NEPLP) has imposed a three-month ban on the retransmission of Russian channel Rossiya RTR. In a statement, it says it has detected “irregularities” in the channel’s programmes that included hate speech and incitement to war.
Feb 1
https://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2019/02/01/latvia-bans-russian-channel/

Lithuania's government responds to concerns over LRT
The Lithuanian government responded to our concerns about the proposed amendments for the law on the country’s public broadcaster. In January, we wrote to the Lithuanian parliament to express our concerns about a law that could put the independence of the country’s public service broadcaster at risk.
Feb 1
https://www.publicmediaalliance.org/lithuania-government-responds/

Ukraine: physical assaults against female journalists rise by 50% in 2018
The National Union of Journalists of Ukraine (NUJU) released its 2018 “Ukraine’s Journalists Physical Safety Index”. The situation has worsened for journalists since last year with 86 attacks in 2018, with a notable rise of attacks on female journalists, from 23 in 2017 to 37 in 2018.
Feb 1
https://europeanjournalists.org/blog/2019/02/01/ukraine-physical-assaults-against-female-journalists-rise-by-50-in-2018/

Why the state should support Slovene media
One of Slovenia's foremost media experts has called for far-reaching reform of media legislation and state subsidies for media outlets struggling in the current business climate, arguing that Slovenian journalism needs strong support from the state.
Feb 1
https://www.total-slovenia-news.com/business/2966-why-state-should-support-slovene-media

Former journalist raises €78,000 in bid to be Ukraine’s next president
A former journalist raised a total of €78,000 in less than a fortnight in order to join the race to be Ukraine’s next president. Dmytro Gnap, who spent nearly a decade investigating corruption in Ukraine, raised the cash by Saturday.
Feb 1
https://www.euronews.com/2019/02/01/meet-the-man-crowdfunding-his-bid-to-be-ukraine-s-next-president

Romania becomes new front line in battle with 'fake news'
Even as Romania heads the presidency of Council of the European Union, observers in Europe worry about a crackdown on the nation's independent voices in the media and a rise in 'fake news'.
Feb 2
https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/romania-front-line-battle-fake-news-190202171741297.html

Netflix win for Slovakia
Netflix has begun to offer content in Slovakia with Czech dubbing and subtitles. As previously reported by Broadband TV News, we were made aware last month of an unusual situation that existed in Slovakia with respect to Netflix.
Feb 4
https://www.broadbandtvnews.com/2019/02/04/netflix-win-for-slovakia/

Bulgaria anti-trust watchdog fines retailer Metro 14.97M leva
Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) has imposed a fine of 14.97 million leva, or 7.66 million euro, on retailer Metro for unacceptable comparative advertising.
Feb 5
https://sofiaglobe.com/2019/02/05/bulgaria-anti-trust-watchdog-fines-retailer-metro-14-97m-leva/

Head of Hungary's powerful right-wing media portfolio resigns after bashing pro-government journalism
The chairman of the foundation that owns some 500 pro-government propaganda outlets resigned shortly after an interview in which he blasted the quality of right-wing journalism in Hungary, local media reported on February 5.
Feb 5
http://www.intellinews.com/head-of-hungary-s-powerful-right-wing-media-portfolio-resigns-after-bashing-pro-government-journalism-155895/?source=hungary

N1 TV Station Targeted by ‘Death Threat’ in Serbia
The N1 Balkan television network’s Serbian office said it received a letter threatening to kill its staff, while its executive producer blamed government politicians for stirring up antagonism against media.
Feb 5
https://balkaninsight.com/2019/02/05/n1-television-warns-on-new-threats-02-05-2019/

Political Daily ‘Magyar Nemzet’ Issued After 9-month Hiatus
Political daily Magyar Nemzet (Hungarian Nation) has been published again following government-friendly Magyar Idők’s (Hungarian Times) closure. The editorial staff of the old Magyar Nemzet divided after billionaire owner Lajos Simicska broke with his decades-long ally, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.
Feb 6
https://hungarytoday.hu/political-daily-magyar-nemzet-issued-after-9-month-hiatus/

Google Censors Search Results After Russian Government Threat, Reports Say
Google has begun censoring websites blacklisted by the Russian government after Russia’s communications watchdog threatened to block the search-engine giant for not following its increasingly stringent rules, the Russian daily Vedomosti reported.
Feb 7
https://www.rferl.org/a/google-censors-search-results-after-russian-government-threat-reports-say/29757686.html

Hungary’s democracy just got a failing grade
This week, the Washington-based think tank Freedom House published its annual Freedom in the World report assessing the state of democracy and freedom in countries around the world. […] The report found a “consistent and ominous” pattern of democracy in retreat across the globe, but its judgment on Hungary was especially notable.
Feb 7
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2019/02/07/hungarys-democracy-just-got-a-failing-grade/?utm_term=.22d36583bfef

In Poland, media coverage of mayor’s killing underscores polarization
The death of Gdańsk Mayor Paweł Adamowicz, who was stabbed at a charity event on Jan. 13, has shocked Poland. While tragedies of this kind can help bring people together, the killing has instead underscored the polarization of Poland’s media landscape.
Feb 7
https://ipi.media/in-poland-media-coverage-of-mayors-killing-underscores-polarization/

Sudden dismissal of Ukrainian Public Broadcaster Chief: political, or apolitical reasons?
The abrupt dismissal of the Ukrainian Public Broadcaster director Zurab Alasania has raised a media fury in Ukraine, with accusations ranging from censorship to state coercion prior to elections.
Feb 7
http://euromaidanpress.com/2019/02/07/sudden-dismissal-of-ukrainian-public-broadcaster-chief-political-or-apolitical-reasons/

Serbia’s Protest Wave Moves Into Third Month
As anti-government demonstrations enter a third month in Serbia, marked by fresh rallies across the country and in parts of Kosovo, the opposition remains under pressure to define a coherent response.
Feb 9
https://balkaninsight.com/2019/02/09/serbias-protest-wave-moves-into-third-month/

Slovakia: "right of reply" legislative proposal raises concerns
Almost one year after the killing of Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak, which still remains unsolved, we are concerned about the planned proposal, introduced by Slovakia's ruling Smer party, to reintroduce a "right of reply" to media content politicians don't approve.
Feb 8
https://www.ecpmf.eu/news/ecpmf/slovakia-right-of-reply-proposition-raises-concerns

Lithuania set to ban fake news from Russia
Lithuanian lawmakers want to outlaw spreading distrust of the state and attempts to distort historical memory. Critics say the bill to crack down on disinformation equates investigative journalism with propaganda
Feb 10
https://www.dw.com/en/lithuania-set-to-ban-fake-news-from-russia/a-47409350

UK Ofcom Mulling Over Sanctions Against NTV Mir Baltic, Lithuania Channels
The UK Office of Communications (Ofcom) said Monday it was considering sanctions against the NTV Mir Lithuania and NTV Mir Baltic channels, owned by the Baltic Media Alliance Limited (BMAL), over alleged failure to be impartial in covering the Skripal case.
Feb 11
https://sputniknews.com/europe/201902111072314057-uk-sanctions-ofcom/

Poland’s media battle gets political
Calls for Poles to tone down political rhetoric in the wake of the murder of Gdańsk Mayor Paweł Adamowicz didn't last more than a few days. The latest battleground is over TVP, Polish state television that is under the firm control of the ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.
Feb 11
https://www.politico.eu/article/tvp-pis-poland-media-battle-gets-political/

What happens, if Russia cuts itself off from the internet
[...] Now Russia, too, wants to test whether it can disconnect itself from the rest of the world, local media reported last week.
Feb 12
https://www.wired.com/story/russia-internet-disconnect-what-happens/

Reebok pulls advert which told women to 'sit on men's faces' instead of asking for 'approval'
Reebok has pulled an advert which suggested women should “sit on men’s faces” rather than asking for their approval. Alexander Golofast, the sportswear brand’s marketing director who promoted the idea within the company, resigned over the advert which sparked criticism on social media.
Feb 12
https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/reebok-russia-advert-women-sit-faces-controversy-men-a8775146.html

Ukrainians pranked at fake election rally
Oleksiy Utkin used social media to offer 1,000 hryvnyas (£28; $37) of "easy money" to anyone willing to turn out in freezing conditions for three hours in support of Serhiy Filatov's bid to become president of Ukraine.
Feb 12
https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-news-from-elsewhere-47215200

OSCE Media Freedom Representative deeply concerned about new laws in Russia which would further strengthen state control of Internet
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, today expressed his serious concern regarding the amendments to the Russian federal laws on Communication and on Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information, which were adopted by the State Duma, in the first reading on 12 February.
Feb 14
https://www.osce.org/representative-on-freedom-of-media/411464

Lagardère Finalises the Sale of Its Magazine Publishing Titles in France to Czech Media Invest
As part of its strategic refocusing around Lagardère Publishing and Lagardère Travel Retail, today the Lagardère group finalised the sale of most of its magazine publishing titles in France, including Elle and its various extensions, Version Femina, Art & Décoration, Télé 7 Jours and its various extensions, France Dimanche, Ici Paris and Public, to Czech Media Invest (CMI).
Feb 14
https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20190214005817/en/Lagard%C3%A8re-Finalises-Sale-Magazine-Publishing-Titles-France

OSCE Media Freedom Representative Désir and Head of Mission Berton condemn threats against journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir, and the Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bruce G. Berton, today condemned several threats made against journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Feb 15
https://www.osce.org/representative-on-freedom-of-media/411680

IPI sets up new media freedom watchdog in the Czech Republic
A new media freedom watchdog has been established in the Czech Republic, as a branch of the International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists set up in 1950 to protect press freedom.
Feb 15
https://emerging-europe.com/news/ipi-sets-up-new-media-freedom-watchdog-czech-republic/

Russia's RT attacks Facebook for suspending 4 viral news channels that broadcast Kremlin talking points to millennials
The editor of the Russian state-owned broadcaster RT has attacked Facebook for suspending four viral video channels that broadcast Kremlin talking points to millennials.
Feb 18
https://www.businessinsider.com/rt-attacks-facebook-for-suspending-in-the-now-soapbox-other-pages-2019-2

Serbia Protests: How Social Media Facilitates Political Protest
Anti-government demonstrations in Serbia have entered their third month – against the ruling Progressive Party (SNS); a conservative, populist, and pro-EU party. Fresh rallies are rolling out across the country and in parts of Kosovo, and social media is playing an increasingly important and necessary role.
Feb 19
https://www.forbes.com/sites/rebeccabanovic/2019/02/19/serbia-protests-how-social-media-facilitates-political-protest/#6d1231ed1ccf

Romanian Senate adopts project banning commercial advertising in schools
The Senate adopted on February 18 a project banning commercial advertising in both public and private schools. The project, initiated by MPs from the ruling coalition PSD – ALDE, is aimed at the pre-university school cycles, Profit.ro reported.
Feb 19
https://www.romania-insider.com/senate-ban-commercial-advertising-schools

Ukraine's flourishing e-commerce sector is catching up with Russia's
Ukraine saw the second fastest e-commerce sector growth in Europe last year, up by just under a third (31%) y/y, according to the Better Regulation Delivery Office, or BRDO, a regulatory advisory body funded by the EU. Only Romania’s market grew faster and Ukraine was well ahead of the global average of 25%, according to BRDO.
Feb 19
http://www.intellinews.com/ukraine-s-flourishing-e-commerce-sector-is-catching-up-with-russia-s-156651/

Twitter tightens political ad rules ahead of EU election
Twitter will introduce new restrictions on political campaign ads on the platform ahead of the European Parliament election May 23-26, the company announced Tuesday.
Feb 19
https://www.politico.eu/article/twitter-expands-political-ads-rules-in-the-eu-ahead-of-parliament-election/

A Firebomb Exposes East Europe's Struggle With Media Freedom
Barefoot and in pajamas, Milan Jovanovic watched flames engulf his Belgrade house after a Molotov cocktail crashed through a window in an attack before dawn.
Feb 20
https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-03-05/dirty-money-scandal-widens-with-reports-on-nordea-and-lithuania

Russia bans smartphones for soldiers over social media fears
Russia's parliament has voted to ban soldiers from using smartphones while on duty, after their social media use raised issues of national security. The bill forbids military personnel from using a phone with the ability to take pictures, record videos and access the internet.
Feb 20
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47302938

Murder of Jan Kuciak: What did Slovakia's government know?
One year after the murder of Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, serious questions remain unanswered. The latest media revelations have raised concerns about the extent to which the government was involved.
Feb 21
https://www.dw.com/en/murder-of-jan-kuciak-what-did-slovakias-government-know/a-47605658

MPs Debate Situation on HRT Public Broadcaster
Thursday's parliamentary debate on the appointment of Antonija Petrušić to the supervisory board of the HRT public broadcaster turned into a debate on the HRT and lawsuits against journalists, with the opposition requesting quality public broadcasting and supporting 30 civil society organisations in their boycott of the HRT and a protest to protect journalism announced for March 2.
Feb 21
https://www.total-croatia-news.com/politics/34275-hrt-public-broadcaster

Russia's Sberbank is in talks to buy media holding Rambler
Russia’s largest lender, Sberbank, is in talks to buy Russian media holding Rambler from businessman Alexander Mamut, a source close to Sberbank, a banking source, a source close Rambler, and two industry sources told Reuters.
Feb 21
https://www.reuters.com/article/russia-sberbank-rambler/russias-sberbank-is-in-talks-to-buy-media-holding-rambler-sources-idUSR4N1VW01T

Facebook to tighten policy of placing election ads in Ukraine in mid-March
The world's largest social network Facebook will tighten from the middle of March the policy of placing by users of advertisements regarding the upcoming March 31 presidential election in Ukraine, Facebook Product Manager Sarah Schiff has said.
Feb 21
https://en.interfax.com.ua/news/general/567716.html

Half of urban Romanians check social media first thing in the morning
Over half (53%) of Romanians in the urban area access online social networking channels as soon as they wake up, according to a survey by iSense Solutions and presented on Thursday at the Digital Marketing Forum.
Feb 22
https://www.romania-insider.com/urban-romanians-social-media-morning

MTG sells Bulgaria’s Nova Group at €185m valuation
MTG has agreed to sell its 95% shareholding in Bulgaria’s Nova Broadcasting Group to Advance Media Group in a deal that values the full business at €185 million (SEK 1,917 million).
Feb 22
https://www.digitaltveurope.com/2019/02/22/mtg-sells-bulgarias-nova-group-at-e185m-valuation/

Poland: RSF decries criminal libel proceedings against Polish daily
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is appalled by Polish ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s request for the highly respected Warsaw daily Gazeta Wyborcza to be prosecuted for criminal libel because it has been raising questions about his involvement in plans to build a luxury skyscraper in Warsaw.
Feb 22
https://rsf.org/en/news/poland-rsf-decries-criminal-libel-proceedings-against-polish-daily

European Commission's Timmermans meets hostile reception in Hungary: report
Local media and several unidentified people “intimidated” the lead candidate for the main left-leaning grouping in the European Parliament when he visited Hungary last week to campaign for the upcoming European elections, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf reported on Friday.
Feb 22
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hungary-eu-timmermans/european-commissions-timmermans-meets-hostile-reception-in-hungary-report-idUSKCN1QB1ZV

Bank advertising under control of the National Bank of Serbia
The National Bank of Serbia intends to monitor advertising activities of banks in future, whether their advertisements are accurate, decent and whether they insult customers or competition.
Feb 25
https://www.bizlife.rs/en/business/business-news/bank-advertising-under-control-of-the-national-bank-of-serbia/

Croatian startup breaks record after raising 3.1 million kuna in 26 hours
They are young and ambitious, and have just achieved their greatest success so far. Croatian startup Top Digital Agency is proof that effort and hard work pays off. The Croatian startup has just broken a crowdfunding record after raising 3.1 million kuna in funding in just 26 hours.
Feb 27
https://www.croatiaweek.com/croatian-startup-breaks-record-after-raising-3-1-million-kuna-in-26-hours/

Hungaryʼs ’advertisement cake’ grows 7.77% in 2018
The Hungarian Advertising Association (MRSz), with its partner associations, presented Hungaryʼs so-called "advertisement cake" for 2018 at the Evolution conference, revealing that advertising expenditures reached HUF 259.69 billion last year.
Feb 28
https://bbj.hu/business/hungarys-advertisement-cake-grows-777-in-2018_162207

EU Commission strikes back at Hungarian migration campaign 'fiction'
The European Commission sought on Thursday to address suggestions in a Hungarian government information campaign that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and billionaire investor George Soros seek to flood the country with migrants.
Feb 28
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-hungary-eu/eu-commission-strikes-back-at-hungarian-migration-campaign-fiction-idUSKCN1QH22C

EU Countries Should Be Free to Tackle Online Hate Speech: EU Court Adviser
EU countries should be able to curb the spread of hate speech online without fear of breaching the bloc's broadcasting rules, an EU court adviser said on Thursday, in a vote of support for Lithuania's fight against inflammatory content.
Feb 28
https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2019/02/28/world/europe/28reuters-lithuania-court-hatespeech.html

Croatian Government Responsible for Unprecedented Attacks on Media
Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) president Hrvoje Zovko said on Wednesday that an "unprecedented campaign of persecution against reporters and the media" was underway in Croatia, and that Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's Croatian government was responsible for not responding to it, adding that reporters would try to hand in to government officials a list of eight demands against censorship at a protest rally set for March 2.
https://www.total-croatia-news.com/politics/34389-croatian-government