weCAN Digest March 2019

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

Croatia Journalists Take to Streets Over Court Pressures
Reporters and media outlets in Croatia will protest in Zagreb on Saturday about the number of lawsuits filed against them – including by the national broadcaster – which they say is undermining their freedom.
Mar 1

Estonia election: opposition party wins but far-right support doubles
Estonia is on track for its first female prime minister after the opposition liberal Reform party won the general election, outpacing the governing centre-left party, and a surging far-right party buoyed by a backlash from mostly rural voters.
Mar 3

Croatian Journalists and PM Continue Argument about Media Freedom
The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) Executive Board on Monday dismissed in the strongest terms Prime Minister Andrej Plenković’s statement about HND president Hrvoje Zovko, noting that Plenković was denying that critical journalism in Croatia was exposed to pressure and was trying to discredit Zovko.
March 5

Exclusive: Romania’s opposition seeks Huawei ban in telecom infrastructure
Romania’s biggest opposition party will trigger a public inquiry into Huawei’s contribution to critical infrastructure and seek to bar it from 5G network development due to mounting security concerns, its IT expert said on Tuesday.
Mar 5

OSCE Representative Désir concerned about numerous lawsuits against journalists in Croatia and disputes involving public service broadcaster HRT
The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir today expressed his concern about the high number of lawsuits filed against journalists and news outlets by politicians and public officials in Croatia and an ongoing dispute involving the public service broadcaster HRT.
Mar 6

Journalists Are Living in Fear in Republika Srpska
Bosnia has a thriving media sector, but those who refuse to become mouthpieces for the government increasingly find themselves in exile or under police protection.
Mar 6

Czech media firmly in domestic hands
On January, the Czech online daily idnes.cz informed that the news platform Info.cz merged with the news aggregator Zdroj.cz. This merger is one of the latest manifestations of series of M&As on the Czech media market.
Mar 7

RFE/RL “Schemes” Journalists Attacked by Local Officials in Ukraine
Two RFE/RL Ukrainian Service journalists, reporter Katerina Kaplyuk and cameraman Borys Trotsenko, were attacked today by two officials of the village council of Chabany, located just south of the capital, Kyiv in Kyiv Region. Trotsenko was diagnosed with a concussion and his camcorder was damaged in the attack.
Mar 6

Polish government to draft bill to limit private labels by large retailers
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki has announced his government will draft a bill that will “make it more difficult for large retailers to sell products under their private labels” in a bid to increase the profit margins of Polish food producers that supply their products to retail chains.
Mar 6

Facebook removes fake accounts that tried to stir hate and political division in the UK and Romania
The social media giant said in a blog post Thursday evening on its blog that it took down 137 Facebook and Instagram accounts, pages and groups in the U.K., and another 31 Facebook accounts, pages and groups in Romania.
Mar 8

Austria protests over Ukrainian ban on reporter from its state broadcaster
Austria on Friday summoned the Ukrainian ambassador over his country’s decision to bar the Kiev bureau chief for the Austrian national broadcaster ORF, calling the move an act of censorship.
Mar 8

Fidesz’s media empire just became even more centralised
Until now, the only formal link between the almost 500 media outlets operating within the giant media conglomerate assembled last November by oligarchs close to Fidesz was their proprietor, the Central European Press and Media Foundation (KESMA). Not anymore.
Mar 8

Russia internet freedom: Thousands protest against cyber-security bill
Thousands of people in Russia have protested against plans to introduce tighter restrictions on the internet. A mass rally in Moscow and similar demonstrations in two other cities were called after parliament backed the controversial bill last month.
Mar 10

Facebook sues Ukrainian hackers who stole user info via personality quizzes
Facebook filed a lawsuit Friday against two Ukrainian nationals who allegedly used personality quizzes to steal user information. The hackers, Gleb Sluchevsky and Andrey Gorbachov, required users to download browser extensions to operate the quiz apps, which scraped data from Facebook pages and posted ads once they were loaded onto the browser.
Mar 12

‘Distracted boyfriend’ couple star in Hungary pro-family ads
Hungary’s new family policies are being promoted by one of the internet’s best-known dysfunctional couples. The government of Viktor Orban is bringing in a “family protection action plan”, which includes tax breaks for mothers of multiple children.
Mar 13

Telemach monopoly challenged in Bosnia
The Association of Cable Operators and Distributors of Bosnia & Herzegovina (AKOP BiH) has called on state institutions to tackle the monopoly status enjoyed by Telemach.
Mar 14

Slovakia charges man with ordering journalist Kuciak’s murder
Slovak police have charged a man with ordering the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee, prosecutors said on Thursday, a case that triggered mass protests and the resignation of a prime minister.
Mar 14

Protesters invade Serbian state TV amid demonstrations across Balkans
Protesters broke into Serbia’s state television building for the first time in almost 20 years and Albanian police used tear gas to disperse a crowd trying to break into the parliament on a day of anti-government demonstrations across the Balkans.
Mar 17

Russia’s Putin Signs Into Law Bills Banning ‘Fake News,’ Insults
President Vladimir Putin has signed legislation enabling Russian authorities to block websites and hand out punishment for “fake news” and material deemed insulting to the state or the public.
Mar 18

Why Demands for a Free Press Are Front and Center in Serbia’s Protests
For more than three months, thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Belgrade and other Serbian cities to demand free and fair elections, an end to violent attacks against politicians and journalists and investigations into them, and more independent and unbiased reporting in the country.
Mar 18

Slovakia’s first investigative journalism centre honours legacy of murdered reporter
Almost a year after the murder of investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírova, a group of Slovakian journalists came together to continue his work on investigating international organised crime. The non-profit organisation Investigative Centre of Jan Kuciak is the first of its kind in Slovakia.
Mar 20

Google Backs Bulgarian Project that Fights Misleading Numbers in News Through Quantum Computing
“The project will be one of the first practical applications of quantum computing, allowing us to visualize inaccuracies in data. By providing this extra layer of information, our aim is to help readers make more informed conclusions on the news they consume,” explains Benev, who is also the founder of the AI service company SHYN.
Mar 21

Next Step in Disinformation: How a Dating App Becomes a Weapon
A troubling case may signal that disruptive innovation is already underway in the post-Soviet space, whether by Russia or by others: ruthless operatives in Ukraine have weaponized the dating application Tinder for political purposes.
Mar 21

Slovakia puts squeeze on free press ahead of election
Slovakia is seeking to crack down on its domestic media with a new law, ahead of a presidential election run-off later this month. The revisions to the country’s press code come amid threats against journalists, and an election campaign between EU commission vice-president, the Smer-backed candidate Maros Sefcovic and liberal anti-corruption lawyer, Zuzana Caputova.
Mar 21

Bulgaria’s Advance Media Group gets nod to buy Nova Broadcasting Group
Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition said on Friday that it has given approval to local Advance Media Group to acquire 100% of Nova Broadcasting Group from Swedish entertainment company Modern Times Group (MTG) and Luxembourg-registered Eastern European Media Holdings.
Mar 22

Oligarchs and their media outlets influence Ukraine’s presidential election
Five years since the Euro-Maidan and the Revolution of Dignity fervently rejected systemic corruption and graft, Ukrainian politics continues to experience enormous influence from local oligarchs. In this environment, Ukraine’s presidential election campaign is in full-swing, with the vote scheduled for March 31.
Mar 22

TVP targets Lithuania
The Polish public broadcaster TVP has signed an agreement with Poland’s foreign ministry to launch a TV channel aimed at ethnic Poles in Lithuania. […] It adds that the channel will be in the Polish language and produced by ethnic Poles in Lithuania.
Mar 22

How Russian media saw the long-awaited Mueller report
Russia’s state media is heavily dominated by US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe, with news channels making an issue out of the amount of money spent on it and gloating at its findings.
Mar 25

Ukraine Denies Entry to Italian Journalist, Says He’s Biased
Ukrainian authorities have denied entry to an Italian journalist, accusing him of an “anti-Ukrainian” bias.
Mar 25

Viktor Orban says he may resume media attacks on EU institutions
Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban, has said his government could resume its media attacks on European Union institutions. He made the suggestion on public radio on Sunday. The comments come as his nationalist Fidesz party gears up for European Parliament elections on May 26.
Mar 25

WarnerMedia-Controlled Central European Media Enterprises to Consider Sale, Merger
WarnerMedia-controlled Central European Media Enterprises, which runs a stable of television and other media outlets in Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Romania, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia, is looking at a sale or merger.
Mar 25

Latvian television company employee fired after Russia Today incident
Latvian Television employee Harijs Lavkinaitis has been fired from his job because of the interview to Russia Today shown in LTV News Service’s studio, LTV board member Ivars Priede told Saeima Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee during a meeting.
March 26

New head of Latvian Television named
Latvia’s broadcast regulator, the National Electronic Media Council (NEPLP) announced March 28 it had decided to approve Einars Giels as the new Chairman of the Board of the Latvian Television (LTV), and Eva Juhņēviča as the board member responsible for Digital Development and Content.
March 28

Feature: Changing Structure of Slovenian Media Ownership Leads to Crisis of Legitimacy
Leading Slovenian media companies, except the public broadcaster and national press agency, are in the hands of many different owners, domestic and foreign. But their ownership is often blurred, which a media expert believes contributes to the crisis of legitimacy they are in.
Mar 28

BBC to pay ‘substantial’ sum for story libelling Ukrainian president
The BBC has agreed to pay substantial libel damages to Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, after wrongly claiming he had been involved in making a secret $400,000 payment to Donald Trump’s lawyer in return for access to the US president.
Mar 28

Google Bankrolls Oligarch-Owned Media Group in Hungary
The recent decision of technology giant Google to award a grant worth up to €50,000 to New Wave Media Group, a Hungary-based media company, left freedom of expression activists and independent journalists baffled.
Mar 28

MEPs demand probe into corruption in Malta and Slovakia
The call comes after Parliament at its Strasbourg plenary endorsed a resolution on the rule of law in Malta and Slovakia by a large majority. The resolution follows the murders of two journalists in the countries and is the result of a working group on the issue.
Mar 29

FB Page Attacking Serbian Media ‘Linked’ to Breitbart
A popular Serbian Facebook page that targets ‘Serb-hating’ journalists and opposition politicians appears linked to a Serbian franchise of the far-right Breitbart website.
Mar 29

IPTV advances in Slovenia
IPTV accounted for 54.3% of all pay-TV connections in Slovenia in Q3 2018, according to data published by Telekom Slovenije in its latest annual report. At the same time, the incumbent accounted for over half (50.9%) of IPTV connections in the country.
Mar 29

In Ukraine, Russia Tests a New Facebook Tactic in Election Tampering
A pre-election rally for presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko in Kiev, Ukraine. The vote on Sunday presents Facebook with an opportunity to take what it has learned about election meddling and confront Russia on what the Kremlin considers its home turf.
Mar 29

Facebook launches EU election transparency rules
Political ads in the EU are to be labelled as having been “paid for by” and restricted to their home countries, US tech giant Facebook has said in its bid to clamp down on abuse ahead of European Parliament (EP) elections in May.
Mar 29

Ad Market Continues to Grow, Albeit at Slower Pace
Advertising spend in Hungary reached HUF 259.69 billion last year, with online remaining the most dominant segment and outdoor registering the largest increase, the Hungarian Advertising Association (MRSz) has announced.
Mar 30

Russian Social Media Giant VK Eyes Launching its Own Crypto
The most popular social media platform in Russia, VKontakte (VK), is considering developing its own cryptocurrency, local news outlet RNS reported on March 28.
Mar 31

Zuzana Caputova becomes Slovakia’s first female president
Anti-corruption candidate Zuzana Caputova has won Slovakia’s presidential election, making her the country’s first female head of state. Ms Caputova, who has almost no political experience, defeated high-profile diplomat Maros Sefcovic, nominated by the governing party, in a second round run-off vote on Saturday.
Mar 31

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