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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
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
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
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
In conclusion, we would like to put forward the following recommendations to participating
- 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
- 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
* The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania continue to be part of the Stabilisation
and Association Process.