Journalists play a fundamental role in the functioning of democracies, in ensuring accountability of those in power, and in providing timely and factual information.
They help shed light on hidden issues and help us understand the world’s complexities. The information that they provide is important for our choices, whether related to health or elections, and affects our viewpoints. Their influence – and the responsibility that comes with it – cannot be overstated.
Across the world, journalists face intimidation, violence or abuse, often putting their life at risk. Disturbingly, impunity for abuses and crimes against journalists and media workers remains widespread worldwide, reaching 90% of cases in some countries according to a UNESCO report in 2019.
In Europe, only a few days ago, we marked three years since the murder of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. Light still needs to be shed on those behind her assassination and crimes against other journalists.
Inside Europe, we are committed to improving the working environment for journalists, their protection and safety. Thanks to the EU funding for projects such as the Media Freedom Rapid Response, journalists under threat can count on legal and practical help. The EU-funded Mapping Media Freedom Platform helps monitor threats to media freedom in the EU and candidate countries. The upcoming European Democracy Action Plan will outline measures to help improve the safety of journalists and address abusive litigation against them.
In our relations with other countries, we have always been clear on the key role of unrestricted media and civil society and the need to protect human rights defenders, many of whom are journalists. EU Delegations around the world attend and closely monitor court cases involving journalists, helping to identify those cases that need a special attention. In the last 12 months, the EU has supported over 425 journalists with emergency grants, temporary relocation, or support to their respective media outlets.
We call on all countries to bring to justice those responsible for crimes against journalists. This impunity only fuels fear, mistrust and creates barriers for free and independent media across the world.
The European Union will continue to defend freedom of expression and protect those who make use of this fundamental freedom to keep us informed every day. It is not something we can, nor will, compromise on.