GFMD COMMENDS FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS IN THE EU REPORT

On 16 January, the European Parliament (EP) voted to adopt the annual report on the situation of fundamental rights in the European Union (EU) in 2017, which was prepared by the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice, and Home Affairs (LIBE).

Articles 24-30 are directly related to media freedom and freedom of expression. Article 27 in particular insists that member states secure the safety of their journalists, highlights the recent assassinations of journalists in EU member states, and stresses that funding for media freedom needs to be secured within the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework (MFF).

We commend the EP for its strong focus on media and freedom of expression, especially in light of our past advocacy urging the EU to ensure stable funding for human rights and democracy globally as well as for journalism and media pluralism in Europe within the 2021-2027 MFF. We also appreciate that the report recognised the provisions for media freedom in the EU’s external funding instruments.

The report is encouraging because it suggests that the concerted efforts of our community as well as the wider journalism support, media development, and freedom of expression communities have helped to highlight the lack of funding in the original 2021-2027 MFF proposal. We hope this further demonstrates to the European Commission (EC) how important supporting high-quality journalism is to the principles and values that underpin the entire EU.

This is but a small step in the right direction, and it is a reminder to all EU member states about the commitments they have to protecting journalists and freedom of expression.

As GFMD’s Netherlands-based member Free Press Unlimited stressed,

“Support to quality journalism should be a core priority in and of itself for the MFF. Especially at this time when freedom of expression and the pluralistic debate are under extreme pressure. Small and medium-size independent media face enormous challenges: financial challenges, safety challenges, as well as trust issues due to the enormous amount of disinformation that is spread. The information ecosystem has changed rapidly with the result that the resources they need to continue existing are running out, while the pressures on them from various sides are tremendous. If the EU truly believes in the importance of informed citizens and pluralistic debate for functioning democracies, it needs to step up its support for quality journalism.”

Given the myriad challenges facing quality journalism today, we urge the EU and the governments of its member states to ensure the implementation of safety mechanisms and protections for journalists, and to remove threats to journalism and independent, pluralistic media from the public discourse.

We also call on the EU and member state governments to secure funding for media freedom and public service journalism from the MFF as well as other related funding sources to ensure that Europe can continue to take a leading role in promoting democratic values.