The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is calling on governments across Europe not to take advantage of emergency measures, designed to address the coronavirus pandemic, to restrict freedom of expression, freedom of the media or the free flow of news and information.
During this unprecedented time, it is even more important to protect the independence and sustainability of public service media (PSM).
At times of crisis, such as this, citizens turn to PSM for reliable and trustworthy news and information. As the COVID-19 outbreak has escalated across Europe, people have turned to PSM in record numbers. We’ve seen our Members’ evening news bulletins doubling their audience when there are major breaking news announcements and online news services have tripled their reach in key markets.
Our Members are committed to supporting society in these difficult days. They have extended the number of news broadcasts - providing regular special broadcasts, fighting misinformation surrounding the virus and giving airtime to competent specialists and relevant authorities. In many cases, programming is open for audience participation, allowing citizens to address their most pressing issues and ask urgent questions during a period of uncertainty.
PSM are also supporting society on many other fronts – providing educational content for young audiences when schools are closed, launching humanitarian campaigns, supporting local communities and providing much needed entertainment for home-bound audiences.
The current crisis brings to the fore the indispensable role of independent PSM.
We ask governments and relevant authorities to ensure PSM continue to have the adequate means to respond to the crisis in a timely and professional manner and are allowed to operate in conditions that uphold their core values of independence, universality, diversity, accountability, innovation and excellence.
Journalists need to be able to do their work free of pressure and intimidation. They also need to be equipped with the necessary means of protection while reporting on the virus and its consequences.
We support the joint statement by the three global and regional special rapporteurs for freedom of expression, David Kaye (U.N.), Harlem Désir (OSCE) and Edison Lanza (OAS), which requests governments to promote and protect access to and the free flow of information during pandemic. We also welcome the statement on emergency measures in Member States by Ursula Von Der Leyen which recognizes the importance of free and independent media to democracy.