EBU Director General, Noel Curran has spoken at the UN in Geneva, and in Brussels, on the importance of continuing to fight for the protection of journalists to mark the 25th anniversary of World Press Freedom Day.
Curran told the "Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and the Rule of Law" session at the United Nations Office in Geneva that "defending press freedom and freedom of expression are not lost causes."
"If we cease to work tirelessly to protect these key democratic pillars, we play right into the hands of those that want to rid us of them," he said. "That would be the ultimate disservice to those that have already lost their lives on the front line in too many places around the world."
Curran's speeches at the UN, and the Difference Day Gala Ceremony in Brussels on 2 May focused on the current state of press freedom. He paid tribute to the murdered journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia from Malta and Jan Kuciak and his partner in Slovakia. Curran also highlighted the harassment of BBC Persian service journalists in the UK and other broadcasters covering Iran in Europe such as Deutsche Welle.
He lamented that “the public discourse around the press is coarsening and hardening”. In relation to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, he stressed that the figures are “worrying” and that Europe’s rating “dropped more than that of any other region this year”.
In light of the deterioration of press freedom in Europe, Curran called on the European institutions to “play a role”, publicly criticizing countries who restrict press freedom. They must also shape an adequate legislative framework that limits media concentration and “reviews the draconian libel laws in some countries”.
Against the growing threats that press freedom faces, Curran presented some of the initiatives that the EBU has developed to safeguard media freedom and protect journalists in their daily work in Europe.
Since 2004, the EBU Academy has delivered 70 training courses on Safety & Security. “We have trained 717 journalists to face potential dangers when reporting in unsafe and unpredictable situations”. In addition, the EBU is “supporting RSF’s campaign to create a Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for the Safety of Journalists and is a member of the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists.”
Curran noted that continued investment in investigative journalism is “vital” and “a particular responsibility” for Public Service Media. In close cooperation with Members, the EBU is launching a new investigative network that facilitates investigative journalists “to work together on important stories that cross national boundaries”.
Read the full UN speech here.