Tomorrow is World Press Freedom Day. This is an occasion to value the work of independent media and journalists, to call out abuses and urge politicians everywhere to ensure the best possible protection.
The EBU’s Director General Noel Curran said: “Journalists are facing unprecedented levels of insecurity, harassment and intimidation. It is up to institutions both national and international to stand behind press freedom. With initiatives such as European Media Freedom Act, SLAPP and the Defence of Democracy Package, there is now a recognition of the importance of journalist safety at European level. But the EU needs to keep this momentum going and maintain legislative protection for media and journalists from state, private or foreign interference.”
The European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) does not raise the bar high enough in the protection of journalist sources and communications. The proposed protections (Article 4) are rather unclear and would fall significantly short of the existing level of protection in some Member States as well as that of the ECHR. Together with other media associations, journalist federations and unions, the EBU has published an open letter calling on Member States’ representatives to show more ambition and to effectively shield journalists from undue interference, prohibit surveillance of journalists and protect journalistic sources and communications.
Journalists are also increasingly subject to abusive lawsuits, aimed at intimidating and ultimately silencing critical voices. These threats, known as SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation), often target the media, including EBU Members. SLAPPs add to the current climate of insecurity in the profession and have a devastating effect on media coverage. The EU’s anti-SLAPP initiative aims to stop these lawsuits from undermining media pluralism and effective journalism and is welcomed by the EBU.
A third upcoming EU initiative is the Defence of Democracy Package, which aims to strengthen the resilience of the EU's democratic space against covert "foreign interference". Public service media play an essential role in maintaining healthy democratic societies. The EBU welcomes this package as a complement to European action on enhancing democracy online and offline.
Every day, our journalists put their safety and well-being at stake to ensure that people have access to reliable and trustworthy information. We can therefore only encourage the EU to pursue its initiatives guaranteeing that the media and their journalists can do their job properly, without fear, intimidation or interference.