In a letter to the new President of the European Commission, a coalition of international press freedom organisations stressed the need to “ensure that media freedom, the protection of journalists, and EU citizens’ access to information are top political priorities”.
The organisations urged Ursula von der Leyen to continue the important steps taken by the last Commission in addressing and protecting media freedom throughout the bloc.
Noting the “rapidly changing media environment,” the letter addresses the issue of increasingly severe threats and restrictions to press freedom as well as the “recent murders of journalists”.
Calling for more to be done, they strongly urged the President to appoint a Vice President with a clear and robust mandate to use “all available EU mechanisms” to defend press freedom and ensure journalists safety.
“We urge you to explicitly list this mandate in your mission letter to one of the Vice Presidents establishing it as a political priority over the next five-year term.”
The letter was signed by the European Federation of Journalists Article 19, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, IFEX, Index on Censorship, International Press Institute, PEN International, Reporters Without Borders, and the South East Europe Media Organisation.
The organisations identified five areas of reform the Commission should address. These include creating a legal and regulatory environment that will protect freelancers, staff, bloggers and all kinds of media workers from judicial harassment, defamation, arbitrary surveillance, overly broad national security, and SLAPP lawsuits.
Special attention should be given to protecting female journalists as well as ensuring access to effective protection and prevention measures from physical, legal, psychological, and digital threats.
Combating impunity was also on the list of reforms suggested by the organisations which said this should include “support and capacity building for law enforcement, prosecutors, and the judiciary and the development of specialised protocols for investigations.”
They also asked the Commission to continue fighting disinformation through “robust public defence of independent journalism”. Describing it as critically important to democracy, the organisations state that efforts should be made to increase public understanding of media freedoms, social media self-regulation, and building media literacy.
They called for support for sustainable models for independent journalists. These models should promote pluralism, media independence and diversity, while allowing for effective self regulation and capacity building.
Reminding the Commissioner that “media freedom and pluralism are pillars of modern democracy” they reiterated the importance of the right of EU citizens to access information and for journalists to work without “numerous threats”.