Delegation of the European Union to Armenia

Working session 1: Fundamental freedoms I, including freedoms I, including freedom of expression, free media and information

22/09/2017 - 16:49
Annexes

Mr./Ms. Chairperson,

 

I am honoured to speak on behalf of the European Union.

Freedom of expression is crucial for our common security and remains a top priority for

the European Union. The EU takes this opportunity to warmly welcome the new

Representative on Freedom of the Media, Mr Harlem Désir, and to thank his team for their

excellent continuous work. Mr Désir, freedom of expression is more at danger now than it has

been for a long time. This makes your autonomous role and fearless voice all the more

important. Your strong and flexible mandate must be preserved and your budget safeguarded.

 

Regrettably, we see a continued trend toward infringements of freedom of expression

and opinion. The EU has raised specific concerns in this regard over the past year in inter alia

Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkey,

Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. We once again call on all participating States to fully respect

their international commitments, to reverse violations, and to enable rather than restrain

independent voices. The EU remains committed to addressing our own shortcomings and

working with the RFoM, and call on all participating States to do the same. Let us highlight a

few specific situations, where urgent steps need to be taken.

 

In Budapest in 1994 participating States agreed to hold all those responsible for attacks

and harassments against journalists to account. Nevertheless intimidations, threats and

attacks on journalists and media workers as well as impunity for such acts continue to have a

chilling effect on freedom of the media and free expression in parts of our region, nurturing

self-censorship and silence and thereby depriving society of an open and informed public

debate.

 

The EU has raised concerns regarding the intimidation of journalists, e.g. those working

for the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta following their reporting on human rights violations

in Chechnya, the recent deaths of the journalists Dimitry Popkov and Nikolay Andrushchenko,

and the disappearance of blogger Stanyslav Aseyev. In Crimea and Sevastopol, illegally

annexed by Russia, and in the parts of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed

separatists, enforced disappearances, harassment and threats of journalists and persons

speaking out against the de-facto authorities, contribute to the culture of fear and silence.

 

Excessive anti-terrorism or anti-extremism legislation is also used to silence dissenting

voices. In Turkey, imprisonments of journalists continue. We are deeply concerned by the

forced closure of hundreds of media outlets and the imprisonment of more than 160

journalists, including Die Welt correspondent Deniz Yücel and French journalism student Loup

Bureau. We are closely following the indictment against 19 journalists and executives of the

Cumhuriyet newspaper. Furthermore, intimidation and detention of journalists in connection

with peaceful demonstrations, as was done in Belarus and in the Russian Federation, is

unacceptable. Journalists and media workers must be allowed to cover public protests without

fear.

 

We reiterate our deep concern with the recent crackdowns in Azerbaijan, putting

bloggers and media workers behind bars after criticizing the authorities. We take note that the

head of the Turan press agency, Mehman Aliyev, has been released but we regret that he is

still under house arrest. Ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in the ´Reporters without borders’

World press freedom index, Azerbaijan stands out in the region. Reports of ill-treatment in

detention engrave the concern. The situation for freedom of expression and media in Central

Asia remains deeply disturbing. We are closely following the media freedom situation in

countries of the Western Balkans, where intimidation and harassment of journalists and media

workers remains a problem, as well as the lack of independent media. The EU acknowledges

the willingness of Ukraine to work with the RFoM noting, however, that more needs to be done

by the authorities.

 

Disinformation campaigns continue to distort the media space in the OSCE region, as

also identified by EEAS East Strat Com, and continue to be a key tool of Russia’s destabilizing

actions abroad. In Budapest in 1994 and in Istanbul in 1999 participating States recalled the

risks of depriving citizens of a free media, of exploiting media in conflict and of fomenting

hatred and tension. We recall that participating States have committed themselves to refrain

from propaganda for wars of aggression and welcome the work of the RFoM in this regard.

 

We urge participating States to pay due attention to this phenomenon and take

appropriate measures: awareness, media literacy, pluralism and knowledge is the best filter

and defense.

 

In Sofia 2004, participating States agreed to take action to ensure that the Internet

remains an open and public forum for freedom of opinion and expression. This is a crucial

issue today. Internet has to be secure with equal access and inclusiveness for all, as well as

being guided by the rule of law and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. In

several countries, including the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan, the EU sees opposite

developments.

 

In conclusion, we would like to put forward the following recommendations to participating

States:

- Engage constructively with the RFoM and make use of expertise and recommendations.

- Respect the RFoM mandate and autonomy and provide the RFoM with the necessary

resources to fulfil this mandate

- Abide in good faith by their commitments in the area of Freedom of Expression and free

media and safety of journalists, and further strengthen the OSCE commitments in this

regard.

- Take active steps to prevent and respond to violence and harassment against

journalists ensuring that all those responsible are brought to justice, paying special

attention to gender-based threats on-line and offline.

- Devote special attention to the phenomenon of disinformation campaigns.

- Respect the freedom of expression and refrain from propaganda for wars of aggression.

- Refrain from unduly and disproportionally restricting freedom of speech, online and

offline, and prosecuting critics under the guise of fighting extremism or terrorism.

The Candidate Countries the FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA*, MONTENEGRO* and ALBANIA*,

the Country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and Potential Candidate BOSNIA and HERZEGOVINA,

and the EFTA country NORWAY, member of the European Economic Area align themselves with this

statement.

* The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation

and Association Process.