Thursday

30th Jun 2022

EU urges member states to better protect journalists

  • Press freedom is a measure of EU states' democracy, Věra Jourová said (Photo: European Commission)
Listen to article

The EU Commission, on Thursday (16 September), urged member states to better protect journalists amid a rise in physical and online attacks and threats against them across Europe.

In a set of legally non-binding recommendations to EU governments, the commission wants capitals to ensure fair and effective investigations and prosecutions against those attacking journalists, and to provide protection to those under threat.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"No journalist should die or be harmed because of their job. We need to support and protect journalists, they are essential for democracy," Commission vice-president Věra Jourová told reporters.

In 2020, 908 journalists and media workers had been attacked in 23 member states, and 175 of them had been victims of attacks or incidents during protests in the EU.

Since 1992, 23 journalists were also killed in the EU, with the majority of killings happening in the past six years.

In recent years, journalists have been killed in Bulgaria, Greece, Malta, the Netherlands, and Slovakia, while there has been a crackdown on independent media in Poland and Hungary.

According to the latest report by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based think-tank, EU countries have been backsliding on the organisation's press freedom index, with Bulgaria (112th), Hungary (92nd), Malta (81st), Greece (70th), and Poland (64th) receiving the worst rankings among EU countries.

According to the commission, 73 percent of female journalists have experienced online violence and the EU executive urges member states to establish helplines, shelters, and psychological support services for journalists under threat.

The recommendations come as the commission prepares a new Media Freedom Act, a package of binding and non-binding measures for member states to be adopted next year, which includes action against so-called 'SLAPP' lawsuits - Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation - designed to intimidate publications and journalists.

Taken seriously

However, RSF warned in a statement that Thursday's "recommendations will not help to bring about a concrete improvement in the situation of journalists unless member states implement them".

"Every effort must be made to ensure that these recommendations become a reality," Julie Majerczak, RSF's representative to the EU said.

"We urge the leaders of EU countries to act responsibly and we call on the EU to demonstrate a determination to ensure that these recommendations are not ignored," she added.

Jourová said the commission will put pressure on member states to do more, but without legal tools, there is little the commission can do to convince member states to adhere to the proposals.

"It's also my concern that recommendations will be taken more seriously by the states where we see fewer problems ... we will have to manage by proactive engagement with member states where we see a risky situation," she told reporters.

"We have already shown in the past that whenever we saw a problem in individual member states ... we engaged in dialogue with the government, it was the case in Slovenia," Jourová said.

Slovenia's prime minister, Janez Janša, who currently holds the rotating EU presidency, has repeatedly attacked the country's media outlets.

"The violence against individual journalists which is stemming from direct attacks from politicians is something that is unacceptable, it refers to all the politicians. We are here to stand criticism and respond with facts and figures, with our arguments, and not with violent or hateful comments directed at concrete journalists," Jourová noted.

The commission vice-president added that it not only concerns Slovenia and that "we see the very aggressive rhetoric in some other member states", but did not name others.

She warned member states that the protection of journalists was a measure of their level of democracy.

"If they [EU countries] want to be trusted that they are truly democratic countries, and democracy also means strong media sector, [then] they will do something to increase the protection of journalists," Jourová said.

"They [journalists] fight for democracy and society, it is time for democracy and society to fight for journalist too," she added.

EU condemns 'Pegasus' spyware use on journalists

An international investigation over the weekend by 17 media organisations, led by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden Stories, said 180 journalists had been targeted by Israeli spyware. Among them were Hungarian reporters.

EU condemns Slovenian PM's harassment of journalist

Slovenia's populist prime minister Janez Janša attempted to discredit a Brussels reporter after she published a critical article about the state of media freedoms in the country. The European Commission condemned the PM's language - but refrained from naming him.

Opinion

Romania — latest EU hotspot in backlash against LGBT rights

Romania isn't the only country portraying lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people as a threat to children. From Poland and Hungary in EU, to reactionary movements around the world are prohibiting portrayals of LGBT people and families in schools.

News in Brief

  1. EU announces trade deal with New Zealand
  2. Russia threatens Norway over goods transit
  3. Russia urges Nato not to build bases in Sweden, Finland
  4. New president for European Committee of the Regions
  5. Gas flows from Spain to Morocco, after Western Sahara row
  6. BioNTech, Pfizer test 'universal' coronavirus vaccine
  7. UK sanctions second-richest Russian businessman
  8. Hungary permits emergency supervision of energy firms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers write to EU about new food labelling
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEmerging journalists from the Nordics and Canada report the facts of the climate crisis
  3. Council of the EUEU: new rules on corporate sustainability reporting
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers for culture: Protect Ukraine’s cultural heritage!
  5. Reuters InstituteDigital News Report 2022
  6. EFBWW – EFBH – FETBBHow price increases affect construction workers

Latest News

  1. MEPs boycott awards over controversial sponsorship
  2. If Russia collapses — which states will break away?
  3. EU Parliament interpreters stage strike
  4. EU's post-Covid billions flowing into black hole
  5. Nato expands and reinforces on Russian flank
  6. EU Commission says it cannot find messages with Pfizer CEO
  7. EU ministers sign off on climate laws amid German infighting
  8. EU presidency still looking for asylum relocation pledges

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us