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Rhetoric, hostility, and complicity of public officials

Matteo Salvini, the far-right Interior Minister of Italy (1st quartile), threatened to remove police protection from the investigative journalist Roberto Saviano after he criticised government hostility towards migrants. Saviano, whose work exposing organised crime has made him a target for mafia, has been under police protection for over a decade.[1] Journalists also joined protests after leaders of Italy’s Five Star Movement (M5S) described media workers as ‘jackals’ and ‘whores’.[2]

Hungary’s pro-government weekly, Figyelő, published a list of government critics, named ‘Soros mercenaries’, which included journalists and media outlets. [3]

Harlem Désir, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, linked verbal attacks by state officials in Bosnia and Herzegovina with an attack on journalist Vladimir Kovačević with metal bars, which put Kovačević in hospital.[4] The OSCE Ministerial Council further recognised this link in December 2018.[5]

Bosnia and Herzegovina sits at the bottom of the 2nd quartile globally. It has seen significant declines under all themes in recent years, but XpA data shows a particular deterioration under Protection and Transparency. Globally, the country has dropped 20 places in the rankings since 2017.

Figure 28: 

At the end of October, the state-owned weekly, Ilustrovana Politika, called journalists critical of the government ‘traitors and collaborators with the enemies of Serbia’. Attacks on journalists are common in Serbia (3rd quartile), and impunity reigns (see section on Milan Jovanović).[6]



[1] Reporters without Borders, Italian Minister Threatens to Remove ‘Gomorra’ Author’s Police Protection, 22 June 2018, available at

[2] Angela Giuffrida, ‘Italian journalists respond with fury to M5S’s “whores” insult’, The Guardian, 13 November 2018, available at

[3] Freedom House, Freedom and the Media: A Downward Spiral, 2019, available at

[4] Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe, OSCE Representative Désir and Head of Mission Berton Condemn Physical Attack Against Journalist in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Urge Swift Investigation, 27 August 2019, available at

[5] Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Ministerial Council, Decision 3/18 on the Safety of Journalists, 7 December 2018, available at

[6] Mapping Media Freedom, Serbia: State-Owned Weekly Describes Independent and Government-Critical Media as ‘Traitors’, October 2018, available at