EU celebrates World Press Freedom Day
EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said the EU “is determined to do more, in Europe and abroad” to defend press freedom.
His engagement was scheduled to mark World Press Freedom Day on Monday, May 3.
Speaking just before the international day, Borrell, a former MEP, said: “The EU will continue to denounce any restrictions on freedom of expression and censorship.
“At a time when independent and free media coverage is more essential than ever, press freedom continues to be threatened. Journalists continue to face difficult working conditions with increasing financial and political pressures, surveillance, arbitrary prison terms or violence for doing their jobs. “
According to the UNESCO Observatory, 76 journalists have been killed since 2020, while many more have been arrested, harassed or threatened around the world.
Gender-based violence targeting female journalists is of particular concern, Borrell says.
The Spaniard said: “Freedom of the press is a fundamental value for the EU, supported by many recent initiatives.”
“At a time when independent and free media coverage is more essential than ever, press freedom continues to be threatened. Journalists continue to face difficult working conditions with increasing financial and political pressure, surveillance, arbitrary prison terms or violence for doing their jobs ” The High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell
He said media freedom and the safety of journalists are “key” priorities of the new action plan for human rights and democracy and the action plan for European democracy.
The European Commission says that in 2020 more than 400 journalists have benefited from the European Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, while the EU has taken action to support journalists, independent media and the fight against disinformation.
He says his EU delegations “are the voice of the EU on the ground” who closely monitor legal proceedings against journalists, denounce the crackdown on human rights defenders and media workers and concerns with national authorities regarding communication, media, information and broadcasting. legislation.
Borrell added: “The EU is determined to do more, in Europe and abroad. The EU will continue to coordinate with international organizations and mechanisms and launch new approaches. “
One example, he noted, is the Commission’s proposal for a digital services law to hold major platforms accountable “to make their systems fairer, more secure and more transparent”.
“We will also continue our action against disinformation and seek with all partners effective ways to support sustainable business models for independent media.”
He said: The EU will continue to denounce any restrictions on freedom of expression and censorship, online and offline, in violation of international human rights law. Freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democratic societies, which can only prosper if citizens have access to reliable information and can make informed choices. “
“A law on freedom of the media would be important. The EU must make media freedom a central part of its legislation to oblige governments across Europe to respect journalism and independent media ”Marius Dragomir, director of the Center for Media, Data and Society of Central European University
European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency Vera Jourová also spoke out in favor of defending the press, saying that there are examples of restrictions on press freedom in Europe . She said she was “very concerned” about countries “trying to copy the Kremlin playbook” with attacks on independent journalists and attempts to control the media.
Although it did not name any country, a parliamentary event learned on Monday that Hungary had fallen again in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Global Press Freedom Index, ranking 92nd out of 180 countries, i.e. a drop of three places compared to last year. .
RSF has named Hungary as one of 130 countries which partially or totally block journalism.
They said emergency legislation, in force since March 2020, despite a name change, “continues to criminalize ‘fake news’ about the coronavirus and block access to information” in Hungary. RSF also points out that the government accused independent media of spreading disinformation when around 30 news organizations called on the government to lift the ban on reporting in hospitals during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Foreign media have reportedly been targeted by a campaign of intimidation.
According to RSF, “Hungary’s shameless political decision to restrict freedom of speech and press freedom is an inspiration to some other EU members and sets a bad example for the candidates for the EU. EU membership ”, citing Poland, Slovenia and Albania as examples.
Another comment came from Marius Dragomir, director of the Center for Media, Data and Society at the University of Central Europe, who told this website: “There is a tendency towards concentration of ownership. media in the region for many years. But over the past decade, it has escalated to a level where the media is heavily captured by groups of oligarchs and political entities. “
Speaking on Monday, he said: “The most pronounced form of media capture is in Hungary, where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s party Fidesz has taken control of most of the country’s private media; and Poland, where the catching trends and patterns seen in Hungary are imported by the current ruling party, the PiS.
“A law on freedom of the media would be important. The EU must make media freedom a central part of its legislation to oblige governments across Europe to respect journalism and independent media. “
Later Monday, parliament hosted a webinar for journalists on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on the theme “What are the main threats to journalists in Europe?”