Safe­guard­ing media free­dom and plu­ral­ism through the Euro­pean Rule of Law Mech­a­nism: two GR con­sor­tium mem­bers sign the let­ter

24 civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions have signed a let­ter and joint rec­om­men­da­tions on how to effec­tive­ly safe­guard media free­dom and plu­ral­ism through the Euro­pean Rule of Law Mech­a­nism.

Among the orga­ni­za­tions that signed the call sent to the EU Com­mis­sion­er for Jus­tice, Didi­er Reyn­ders, and Vice Pres­i­dent for Trans­paren­cy & Val­ues, Věra Jourová, there are also Active­Watch and the Asso­ci­a­tion Mon­di­ale des Radiod­if­fuseurs Com­mu­nau­taires Europe (AMARC Europe), two active mem­bers of the Grass­roots Radio con­sor­tium.

The let­ter aims to urge the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion (EC) to imple­ment an effec­tive Euro­pean Rule of Law Mech­a­nism in order to uphold press free­dom and media plu­ral­ism and lead­ing to con­crete improve­ments for jour­nal­ists and the media sec­tor. The launch of the Euro­pean Rule of Law Mech­a­nism in July 2019 marks the renewed oppor­tu­ni­ty for the Euro­pean Union (EU) to uphold democ­ra­cy and over­come the lim­its of the Arti­cle 7 pro­ce­dure. Among the pro­posed actions for the EC, there is a ded­i­cat­ed chap­ter to media free­dom and plu­ral­ism in the Annu­al Rule of Law Report, which was strong­ly wel­comed by press free­dom and jour­nal­ists’ organ­i­sa­tions. It is not only the acknowl­edg­ment that inde­pen­dent jour­nal­ism and access to plu­ral­is­tic infor­ma­tion are one of the pil­lars of democ­ra­cy, but also a key step in address­ing the wor­ry­ing state of media free­dom and plu­ral­ism in the EU.

The call empha­sizes the con­stant threat­ens under which jour­nal­ists in EU area are work­ing as well as the risk of a demo­c­ra­t­ic deficit that extreme and unpre­dictable events – such as the ongo­ing COVID-19 pan­dem­ic – can gen­er­ate:

The killings of Daphne Caru­a­na Gal­izia in Mal­ta and Ján Kuci­ak in Slo­va­kia shed light on the numer­ous threats faced by jour­nal­ists with­in EU mem­ber states. Jour­nal­ists are dai­ly exposed to cen­sor­ship, intim­i­da­tion, online and offline harass­ment, abu­sive law­suits and phys­i­cal vio­lence for doing their work and exer­cis­ing their fun­da­men­tal right to free­dom of expres­sion. In par­al­lel, media cap­ture by states and own­er­ship con­cen­tra­tion by pri­vate actors pose a huge threat to media plu­ral­ism, in a broad­er con­text where the media sec­tor strug­gles for its finan­cial sus­tain­abil­i­ty. This has a chill­ing effect on press free­dom and endan­gers cit­i­zens’ right to infor­ma­tion. As the COVID-19 cri­sis is being used by some gov­ern­ments to cur­tail rule of law prin­ci­ples, access to infor­ma­tion is essen­tial for the public’s right to know. This cri­sis also illus­trates the cru­cial ​need for safe work­ing con­di­tions for jour­nal­ists and an inde­pen­dent, plu­ral­is­tic and sus­tain­able media sec­tor.

Four rec­om­men­da­tions accom­pa­ny the call:

  • Assess­ing the time­li­ness of the Annu­al Rule of Law Report.
  • Strength­en­ing the Mech­a­nism with coun­try-spe­cif­ic rec­om­men­da­tions, devel­op­ing effec­tive respons­es and estab­lish­ing a sanc­tion sys­tem.
  • Reflect­ing indi­vid­u­als, voic­es and diver­si­ty in the Annu­al Rule of Law Report.
  • Ensur­ing the Annu­al Rule of Law Report effec­tive­ly cap­tures the chal­lenges faced by jour­nal­ists and the media sec­tor.

 

 The full text of the call is avail­able here.

 

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