Achtung! Press freedom on the agenda as Germany leads OSCE

by Katharina Mikulčak

It is Germany's turn to chair the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in 2016 and its mandate includes press and media freedom. Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier made a strong speech in Berlin.

Frank Walter Steinmeier Frank Walter Steinmeier. Picture by Armin Kübelbeck via Wikimedia commons.

He stressed freedom of expression is a core value of democracy, and even more important nowadays in the background of terrorism.

Germany just lost more than 10 citizens who were killed in a bomb attack in Istanbul, Turkey, this week. Steinmeier took the chance to combine his speech on the OSCE chairmanship with this sad loss.

Today the freedom of media, art and culture is jeopardized in many regions.

So, freedom of expression must defended at all times and the OSCE may not lose sight of the core targets it embraced in Helsinki in 1973, Steinmeier added.

With 57 member states it is the world’s largest intergovernmental security organisation. Looking at the status quo in some of the member states (amongst them Turkey, Azerbeijan, Belarus, to name a few) press freedom is far from being guaranteed in the OSCE.

One of the reasons could be that the budget for the Representative on Freedom of the Media is only 1% of the OSCE annual budget. So, Steinmeier took the chance on Thursday in the press conference at the beginning of the chairmanship to urge the countries to take into account in the budget the significance of this position, currently held by Dunja Mijatović.

Dunja Mijatovic OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic at OSCE PA Winter Meeting, 19 Feb. 2015, Vienna. Picture by OSCE Parliamentary Assembly via flickr

Mijatović is leaving the office soon and her successor has no easy job in times when terrorism attacks and conflict seem to sprawl into the heart of Europe. At the moment one could see a tremendous step backwards for freedom of expression in many OSCE countries: e.g. Turkey's policy against critical voices, imprisoned journalists like Khadija Ismailova and many others or journalists being killed, beaten and threatened in Italy and Germany.

The ECPMF follows a clear agenda for the German leadership period, summed up in our appeal to Europe’s journalists and politicians:

• To resist all the dark forces of nationalism, racism, xenophobia and violence against refugees,

• To fearlessly stand up for open societies,

• To fight for a humane, united Europe that shows solidarity,

• Together to resist violence and pressure on journalists,

• To ensure that the duty to carry out accurate reporting, courageous commentary and        enlightening analysis are incorruptible,

• To defend the humanitarian and enlightening traditions of the media during crises with all our strength.

Katharina Mikulčak – Berlin PR Officer and Event Manager of ECPMF. She organises media coverage with the national press and foreign correspondents corps in the German capital.