Press freedom organisation partners forming the Media Freedom Rapid Response mission (MFRR) on Friday sent a letter to European Council President Charles Michel, expressing their “serious” concern at the “sharp decline” in freedom of the press in the European Union.
In the letter, they revealed that 2020 was “an unfortunate record year”, in which the platform recorded 245 alerts, (with 873 attacked persons or entities related to media) in 22 EU Member States, while the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism recorded 115 media freedom violations in 27 EU Member States – the highest level since 2015.
The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) tracks, monitors, and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.
In 2020, some 11 incidents were reported from Malta. These included reports of threats of vexatious lawsuits, the government’s attempt to bring the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination public inquiry to an end, and the harassment of Italian journalist Nello Scavo, among others.
Read our letter to @eucopresident Charles Michel:
Time for EU Member States to act to protect #journalists
via @efjeurope @article19europe @globalfreemedia @ECPMF @freepressunltd @BalcaniCaucaso#MFRR https://t.co/nKsxDZWhP9
— EFJ (@EFJEUROPE) February 19, 2021
“The EU is not immune and has been profoundly shaken by a series of dramatic events,” the letter said after mentioning the recent Capitol Hill riots, pointing to the murders of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak.
Not mincing their words when it comes to stating their expectations from those in authority, the signatories said that European leaders should “not wait for another murder before acting decisively”. This is also crucial to set a much-needed worldwide example, they added.
The platform noted that throughout the year, incidents during protests across the European Union have become increasingly serious and common.
The organisations welcomed the European Commission’s recommendation on the safety of journalists included in its European Democracy Action Plan, however said it requires the “strong support and commitment of Member States at the highest level,” in order to succeed. Such a recommendation should lead to a deeper dialogue between national authorities and associations of journalists and press freedom, they said.
Co-funded by the European Commission, the MFRR is organised by a consortium led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) including ARTICLE 19, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Institute for Applied Informatics at the University of Leipzig (InfAI), International Press Institute (IPI) and CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT).