There can be no security without media freedom – OSCE

The political will to improve media freedom is still lacking in several of OSCE’s participant countries. Nevertheless, media freedom is vital for security and democracy, which is why we need to fight for it, said the Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM), Teresa Ribeiro.

Ribeiro spoke during a meeting on 2 November in Ratsaal, Hofburg, where she also launched the report entitled “Can there be security without media freedom?”

The meeting was organised to mark the 25th anniversary of the mandate of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media. It also coincided with the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists and the 10-year anniversary of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity.

Ribeiro was joined by the Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Dunja Mijatović and other leading experts on media freedom to discuss the current and emerging challenges to media freedom and security.

Mijatović underscored that in many of OSCE’s participating countries as well as Council of Europe member states, the situation concerning media freedom remains challenging “to put it mildly,” especially when dealing with issues such as access to information, the safety of journalists, and impunity for crimes against journalists.

When stressing the need to bridge the gap between standards signed on paper and reality, Mijatović said, “I feel we are moving around in circles,” adding that “We still have commitments, resolutions, and conventions that all of you (participating states) voluntarily agreed to comply with, but the situation is different once you look at what is actually happening”.

 

The Human Rights Commissioner also added, “of course, there is a list of countries that are constantly on OSCE and the Council of Europe’s agenda because of their noncompliance and grave human rights violations. At the same time, there are those countries that call themselves democratic that are doing very similar things and getting away with it”.

The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media was established 25 years ago to support the participating States in upholding their “commitments to the furthering of free, independent and pluralistic media”. The Office of RFoM is now ingrained in OSCE’s comprehensive security concept, making media freedom a key pillar of security.

The report commissioned by the Representative on Freedom of the Media and presented on Tuesday was the result of the work of a panel of nine media freedom experts that discussed, over a period of six months, the emerging trends and challenges for media freedom and its link to security.

The overall intention of the discussion was to promote ways to safeguard the media’s ability to perform its role in reporting freely on matters of public interest, thus ensuring security across the OSCE region.

The report’s outcome also includes a comprehensive list of recommendations for the Office of RFoM and OSCE-participating states to consider. These include developing support networks of relevant stakeholders to enhance journalists’ safety and calling on participating States to respect the editorial independence of public service media.

Other recommendations include furthering the development of media literacy within the OSCE region and considering the need for more transparency of media financing and ownership structures, which directly impacts their political and economic independence and strengthening literacy regarding advanced social network algorithms.

When touching on the recommendations, Ribeiro noted that the recommendations provided in this report “are not a pick and choose menu” and that it is only by considering them all together that countries “can strengthen freedom of the media, human rights, democracy, and security in the years to come”.

In February, OSCE’s Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media commissioned a report analysing the media bill put forward by the Maltese government and had noted several gaps in the proposals, and listed recommendations needed to strengthen both the bill and press freedom in Malta but which the government has so far ignored.

                           
                           
                               
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