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Speech by H.E. Vincent Guérend, the EU Ambassador to Indonesia,
at the award ceremony of
"EU Award for Journalists" (#eu4wartawan)
Jakarta, 8 February 2019
Dear Mr Masni Eriza, Director for American and European Intra-Regional Cooperation of the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Dear Ambassadors, colleagues and journalists,
Ladies and Gentleman,
It is a pleasure and a privilege to be here with you today for the award ceremony of the EU Award for Journalists – EU for Wartawan. We have chosen this day deliberately as tomorrow Indonesia also celebrates its National Press Day.
Unfortunately, a representative of the Ministry of Human Rights and Law could not join us today.
This is an occasion for all of us to reflect on the important role of free, diverse and independent media in any democratic society. Without freedom of expression and free media, an informed, active and engaged citizenry is impossible. It is crucial to make sure that critical voices can be heard and that journalists can perform their work independently and without undue interference.
For more than two decades Indonesia has now enjoyed a free press. Until 1998 the media was tightly regulated and closely monitored and controlled. With the arrival of the reformasi era most of these restrictions were cast aside and allowed a diverse and open media landscape to develop. Today, it is no exaggeration to say that Indonesia's media is among the freest, liveliest and most competitive in the region.
This is, of course, not to say that everything is perfect. Nothing ever is, either here in Indonesia, in Europe or elsewhere. Domestic organisations, such as AJI, the Alliance of Independent Journalists, or international groups, such as Reporters Without Borders, highlight a number of issues: among them are the use of defamation lawsuits against journalists, intimidation and violence against reporters or the emergence of a media oligarchy. Moreover, there are laws that threaten to stifle freedom of expression and freedom of the media, including the blasphemy articles in the criminal code or the Electronic and Information Transactions Law.
As I noted earlier, an active and robust media sector is a key prerequisite for any modern democratic society. Another crucial element that tends to be overlooked is diversity of content and viewpoints.
Today's society is growing ever more diverse. Diversity is a reality: young people, old people, people of various faiths and beliefs, persons with a different sexual orientation or gender identity or people with disabilities and various ethnic origins are part of the fabric of all societies.
Ensuring that the full spectrum of views, interests and concerns are represented fully in the media is central to any inclusive democracy. To do so it will require the media, as well as societies at large, to have an honest look at existing biases, prejudices and discrimination.
It is also important to acknowledge that when we are talking about discrimination against certain groups the media can be part of the problem as well as part of the solution. In many past violent conflicts, let's think of Rwanda or the former Yugoslavia, the media exacerbated conflict. On the other, hand if the media can give a voice and visibility to all people – including minorities and the marginalised – it can help address inequalities, abuses and tensions.
We in the EU believe that the media should ensure plurality of content but also diversity among its journalists and contributors. This also requires an adequate legal and policy framework. In the EU, for instance, the commitment to respect the freedom and pluralism of the media as well as the right to freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 11 of the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights.
The EU is not only committed to respecting, protecting and promoting freedom of expression within its borders but is also to promote the freedoms of opinion in its external human rights policy.
Based on these convictions and considerations and on the occasion of the 2018 Asian Games and Para Games in Jakarta and Palembang, as well as the Festival Bebas Batas (Indonesia's first festival of art work by disabled artists), the EU Delegation to Indonesia decided to launch the “EU Award for Journalists", dubbed EU for Wartawan (#eu4wartawan). With this award we aimed at encouraging reporting on issues of diversity, non-discrimination and equality based on the spirit of the universality of human rights.
I am delighted to say that we received a great number of excellent articles. It was tough work but our jury managed to identify five outstanding winners. They are:
All winning articles displayed excellent journalistic skills and found unique angles to tell captivating stories of individuals facing prejudices and discrimination and how they addressed or overcame these issues.
I would like to congratulate the five winners and thank all journalists who participated in this competition. The winners will enjoy a week-long study tour to the EU Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, in April 2019.
Before I close, let me also thank the three judges: Mrs Hermien Kleden, media expert, senior editor and journalist; Mr Andreas Harsono, journalist and human rights expert, and Mr Florian Witt, human rights focal point at the EU Delegation to Indonesia.
Thank you all for being with us today and I hope you enjoy the award ceremony and the rest of the day.