Europe Must Act to Counter Threats to Media Freedom

To mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has called on European policy-makers and national governments in Europe to put greater effort into reviving media freedom and pluralism to counter the worrying trends that are eroding media freedom in Europe. The call follows the launch of EFJ’s Manifesto which reminds all candidates for the European elections on 22 – 25 May that they must not be complacent about the state of press freedom in Europe.  ‘‘Europe’s media freedom is in danger,’’ said Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, EFJ President. ‘‘In recent years, journalists, whether in Ukraine, Turkey or the United Kingdom, have been witnessing increasing attacks on their professional rights.’’ In Ukraine, journalists have been among the first casualties of the political crisis. Since November 2013, around 200 journalists have been attacked and one journalist (Vyacheslav Veremei) was killed while reporting on the crisis. There have also been many cases of journalists being intimidated, having their equipment confiscated and being detained or kidnapped. In Turkey, 34 journalists are still behind bars for doing their jobs. Among them four journalists, Füsun Erdoğan, Ziya Ulusoy, Bayram Namaz, Ibrahim Cicek, were recently condemned to life sentences. Many journalists were also confronted with excessive police violence during the coverage of Gezi events. In the United Kingdom, investigative journalism and journalists’ rights to confidential sources are threatened by national security and anti-terrorism laws. The arrest of David Miranda and the destruction of documents held by the Guardian were the most high profile incidents in these threats. In Greece and Spain, the closure and drastic downsizing of public service broadcasters, ERT, Valencia TV and TeleMadrid, have not only threatened the livelihood of thousands of journalists but also media pluralism in the countries. It has set a worrying trend in Europe’s media landscape. In Macedonia, Tomislav Kezarovski, an investigative journalist, is still under house arrest after he was sentenced to four and a half years in prison. Kezarovsk’s conviction and the country’s draconian media law have created a climate of fear and self-censorship in the media.Elsewhere in Europe, journalists are witnessing their labour rights diminishing, working conditions deteriorating, quality in journalism dropping and the loss of public confidence in the media. Various forms of (self-) censorship as a result of political and economic pressures on journalists and media have also grown across Europe.‘‘A free, safe, independent and pluralistic media is the cornerstone of Europe’s democracy.’’ emphaised Blicher Bjerregård. ‘‘There are no grounds for complacency for Europe’s media freedom.’’‘‘All candidates for the European elections must commit to the revival of Europe’s media freedom and pluralism by turning their promises into actions.’’The EFJ has called on all candidates for the European elections to show their commitment by endorsing the Journalists’ Manifesto. You can see a list of candidates, including candidates for the European Commission President, MEPs Ska Keller (Greens Party) and Guy Verhofstadt (ALDE Party), Martin Schulz (Socialist and Democratic Party), who have endorsed our Manifesto Here.