High profile speakers Irene Khan and Věra Jourová set the tone for the inaugural Media Freedom Rapid Response: solidarity. The online keynote session on 17th March, featured UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression, Irene Khan and European Commission Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová (via a video message) to paint a picture of the media freedom environment, both in Europe and the rest of the world.
Thanks @MediaFreedomEU for your relentless work to map violations of #mediafreedom, provide moral and practical support to journalists and their families in difficult situation.— Věra Jourová (@VeraJourova) March 17, 2021
This is European solidarity in action – I am committed to continuing working with you. #MFRR Summit https://t.co/WfS4TSBPBn
In a hard-hitting video documentary premiered during the keynote at-risk journalists, media workers and whistleblowers from eight European countries shared their stories. Each revealed how their work brought about a wide range of media freedom violations, including death and rape threats, as well as legal threat, smear campaigns and physical assault.
#MFRRSummit: @trishdevlin's chilling testimony @MediaFreedomEU summit about the death threats against her (and her family) for her reporting in Northern Ireland. "They told me to just live with it" #EndImpunity Register:https://t.co/AjPT9paItV pic.twitter.com/B11MtskEur— ECPMF (@ECPMF) March 17, 2021
Sunday World crime correspondent Patricia Devlin appears in the video. While her Twitter bio includes the Latin phrase “Noli timere” – “don’t be afraid”, she described the threats she faces from Northern Ireland paramilitaries and the lack of police response that has necessitated her complaining to the Ombudsman. In her words, ‘this impunity needs to end’ and a way to bring about change is ‘solidarity’, before calling on journalists to ‘speak out, highlight what’s wrong, help make a change’.
One of the other people featured on the documentary was Corinne Vella, one of the sisters of the assassinated Maltese journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, talking about the long fight for justice following the 2017 car bomb attack near her home in Malta. ‘Every inch has had to be fought for’ but Corinne highlights the importance of their family’s fight, not just for them, but for Maltese democracy.
“One thing that people have now understood is that you can’t take freedom for granted, you have to fight for it… If there’s one good thing that has come out of all this, is that civil society has started to find its voice.”
Other threats are less obvious. In a panel dedicated to the impact of COVID-19 on media freedom, Margo Smit, the News Ombudsman for the Netherlands, commented that in January alone, there were more than 40 incidents of violence against journalists and especially camera crews from the public broadcaster NOS recorded by the local journalist unions. This included people urinating against the outside broadcast vans, chasing journalists and blocking access, to the extent that NOS had to remove all logos from its vans. This escalation surprised her since the country has enjoyed a strong media freedom environment up until now.
“Solidarity is very important” said Margo Smit
“We need to be attentive to what’s happening in other countries – countries where we might like to go on holiday, nearby countries”.
Threats in one country are not too dissimilar at times to threats in another and bringing these experiences together is vital to ensure press freedom across the entirety of Europe is protected.
Hungary’s Veronika Munk described how solidarity from thousands of people demonstrating in the streets gave her and her colleagues the courage to build a new independent news portal through crowdfunding, after they quit their jobs at Index.hu in protest at government interference. The appeal for funds worked and she is now editor of Telex.hu, one of the fastest growing independent media outlets in a country where independence is fragile at best.
But for news outlets under the threat of state capture in Poland, Hungary and Slovenia, solidarity is not enough.
“The EU should be much more focussed on this problem” stressed Adam Bodnar, the Polish Ombudsman, referring to the commercial takeovers and politically-motivated distribution of state advertising that continues to threaten plurality and independence of the media.
For Irene Khan, safety of journalists is a top priority. In her Summit keynote she referred to the murders of journalists: “There must be no impunity. Europe must not be a place where journalists are murdered… impunity is the most dangerous form of censorship”.
The Media Freedom Rapid Response Summit continues until 20 March 2021. Register here for the next sessions and workshops on how to monitor violations of media freedom and how to protect against online harassment, threats and smears.
The consortium running the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) has been granted €1.95 million in funding from the European Commission to continue its work to defend and support press and media freedom throughout all EU member states, candidate countries, and Ukraine.READ MORE
Kristina Zelenyuk is a Ukrainian journalist with over ten years' experience. She currently works with the TV Channel 1+1 and the website TSN, one of Ukraine’s biggest media outlets. Kristina is currently participating in ECPMF's Journalist-in-Residence programme in Leipzig.READ MORE
The partners of the MFRR express serious concern over the decision by the Fidesz-controlled Media Council to block the frequency license renewal of Tilos Rádió.READ MORE
On 11 May, partners of the MFRR launched the report of its fact-finding mission to Italy during a live event with journalists and media freedom stakeholders.READ MORE
As part of the MFRR #HereToReport campaign, this article examines the threats facing photojournalists covering protests in EU member states and candidate countries.READ MORE
Partners of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) have published a statement urging the Czech Government to come good on its promises to strengthen the independence of public broadcasters and to seize the opportunity to put press freedom at the centre of its EU presidency programme.READ MORE
|_mcid||1 year||This is a Mailchimp functionality cookie used to evaluate the UI/UX interaction with its platform|
|_ga||2 years||The _ga cookie, installed by Google Analytics, calculates visitor, session and campaign data and also keeps track of site usage for the site's analytics report. The cookie stores information anonymously and assigns a randomly generated number to recognize unique visitors.|
|_gat_gtag_UA_84831681_1||1 minute||Set by Google to distinguish users.|
|_gid||1 day||Installed by Google Analytics, _gid cookie stores information on how visitors use a website, while also creating an analytics report of the website's performance. Some of the data that are collected include the number of visitors, their source, and the pages they visit anonymously.|
|ahoy_visit||4 hours||This cookie is set by Powr for analytics measurement.|
|ahoy_visitor||2 years||This cookie is set by Powr for analytics measurement.|
|CONSENT||2 years||YouTube sets this cookie via embedded youtube-videos and registers anonymous statistical data.|
|s_vi||2 years||An Adobe Analytics cookie that uses a unique visitor ID time/date stamp to identify a unique vistor to the website.|
|VISITOR_INFO1_LIVE||5 months 27 days||A cookie set by YouTube to measure bandwidth that determines whether the user gets the new or old player interface.|
|YSC||session||YSC cookie is set by Youtube and is used to track the views of embedded videos on Youtube pages.|
|yt-remote-connected-devices||never||YouTube sets this cookie to store the video preferences of the user using embedded YouTube video.|
|yt-remote-device-id||never||YouTube sets this cookie to store the video preferences of the user using embedded YouTube video.|