17 April 2020

From blueprint to footprint: Safeguarding media freedom and pluralism through the European Rule of Law Mechanism

Joint civil society organisation recommendations

ECPMF, together with 23 other press freedom and civil society organisations, gives joint recommendations to the European Commission. We believe the new European Rule of Law Mechanism needs strengthening in order to prevent breaches in the EU Member States.

 

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, the announcement by the European Commission Vice President for Values and Transparency Věra Jourová of a dedicated chapter to media freedom and pluralism in the Annual Rule of Law Report 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 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.

It is crucial that EU decision-makers aim for an ambitious European Rule of Law Mechanism, effectively upholding press freedom and media pluralism and leading to concrete improvements for journalists and the media sector.

The joint recommendations outline how to make the European Rule of Law Mechanism strong, timely, inclusive and representative of the challenges faced by journalists and the media sector. Main points include:

1) Assessing the timeliness of the Annual Rule of Law Report: Only releasing the Annual Rule of Law Report when it provides high-quality content and assesses the emergency measures taken in 2020 in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and their impact on press freedom and the rule of law.

2) Strengthening the Mechanism with country-specific recommendations, developing effective responses and establishing a sanction system: Accompanying the European Rule of Law Mechanism and the report with country-specific recommendations and sanctions for serious and systematic breaches of the rule of law.

3) Reflecting individuals, voices and diversity in the Annual Rule of Law Report: Ensuring the voices of journalists, judges and other rule of law defenders are consulted and reflected in the Annual Rule of Law Report,

4) Ensuring the Annual Rule of Law Report effectively captures the challenges faced by journalists and the media sector: As in the areas of transparency of ownership and government interference; an environment conducive to an online and offline independent and pluralistic media landscape; the framework for protection of journalists.

 

Click here to download the full recommendations.

Signatory organisations:

ActiveWatch
AMARC Europe – Association Mondiale des Radiodiffuseurs Communautaires Europe
Archiwum Osiatyńskiego
ARTICLE 19
Budapest Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation
DW Akademie
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation
Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)
IFEX
International Press Institute (IPI)
Media Diversity Institute (MDI)
Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC)
Norsk PEN
PEN International
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM)
Stichting Democracy & Media

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