Photography by Amaury Cornu / Hans Lucas.
WPFD 2024: Media freedom groups sound the alarm over press freedom in Europe

ECPMF

03 May 2024

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More than 1,000 media freedom violations recorded in past year 

 

On World Press Freedom Day (WPFD) 2024, the partner organisations of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) stand in solidarity with media workers everywhere and draw attention to the deteriorating press freedom situation in Europe. Since WPFD 2023, the MFRR partners have documented more than 1,000 media freedom violations affecting over 1,500 journalists or media entities in European Union Member States and candidate countries. 

 

As the year progressed, the MFRR witnessed physical attacks, harassment online and offline, the continued use of vexatious lawsuits to stifle critical reporting, further pressure on sustainable revenue streams for independent media, government attempts to muzzle public media, and tragically the killing of yet another journalist in the line of their work; Arman Soldin in Ukraine. 

 

We have also seen ongoing impunity for crimes against journalists, including stalled progress in investigating the murder of Giorgos Karaivaz, the overturning of convictions for the killers of Slavko Ćuruvija, and the forced departures of the special prosecutors in the case of Ján Kuciak

 

Online attacks have risen once again and now make up 25% of all incidents recorded by MFRR partners on the Mapping Media Freedom platform. In addition to this, many countries are seeing the growth of coordinated smear campaigns and discrediting of journalists, particularly around election periods, often led by political groups seeking to silence journalists

 

Elsewhere, EU Member States including France, Germany, and Hungary have all played host to a range of digital attacks against media workers, as well as ongoing spyware and surveillance scandals and a surge in hacking and DDoS attacks, which have more than doubled in the last year.

 

As Europe moves further into a crucial election year, the need for independent, public interest journalism has never been more important and the pressure on journalists has never been more intense. Journalists must be able to operate and report free of pressure and intimidation, to scrutinise political campaigns and records in office, and to help provide the public with the information necessary to make informed democratic choices. Policy makers must ensure a free and pluralistic media landscape, without which the democratic process is fatally compromised.

 

Moreover, the election results can also have a profound impact on media freedom. The contrasting fortunes of journalism following elections in Poland and Slovakia set out the risks and opportunities at stake. In Poland, a reforming government has helped end the eight years of political stranglehold of the governing party over public media TVP. While in Slovakia, a new era of intimidation and pressure on private and public media has just begun.  

 

Significantly, Europe’s policy makers have made notable progress in developing instruments to address elements of the crisis. The recent adoption of the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA), the European Anti-SLAPP Directive, and the Council of Europe Recommendation on countering the use of SLAPPs all provide Europe-wide legislative protection for media freedom. The Anti-SLAPP Directive provides significant safeguards for journalists faced with vexatious lawsuits while the EMFA seeks to stall the spread of media capture by protecting media pluralism, editorial independence, and the independence of public media.

 

To mark WPFD, the MFRR also calls on European governments and media stakeholders to get behind the Council of Europe’s “Journalists Matter” campaign and to build national responses to the safety crisis facing journalists. 

 

Since 2020, the MFRR has supported 228 cases of journalists at risk, ranging from replacing damaged equipment and covering medical expenses, to paying for psychosocial support and living or relocation costs. On World Press Freedom Day, we stand in solidarity with journalists and media workers everywhere and reaffirm our commitment to defending press freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

 

Signed: 

ARTICLE 19 Europe

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

International Press institute (IPI)

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

 

More information about MFRR support offerings for journalists can be found here

This statement was coordinated as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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