International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists: Joint statement by the High Representative Josep Borrell and Vice-President Vera Jourova
November 2, 2023.
On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November, and in the year that marks the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, High Representative Josep Borrell and Vice-President Vera Jourova issued the following statement:
“In these difficult times, marred by wars, conflict and terrorist acts, we recall and praise the essential role played by journalists and media workers in fighting for the truth and for human rights. Journalists contribute to counter disinformation and hate speech and to keep checks and balances on governments and public institutions. They shed light on war crimes and human rights violations, sometimes at the risk of their own lives.
We firmly condemn the killings, physical attacks, arbitrary detentions, online and offline intimidation, harassment, and surveillance, that journalists at times face while exercising their profession. Media worldwide continue to be raided or closed, and journalists are increasingly targeted by legislation that curtails freedom of expression, and by abusive litigation, thus limiting pluralism, editorial independence, and infringing freedom of expression.
There can be no impunity for human rights violations and abuses against journalists. We call to establish national frameworks for the safety of journalists, that include awareness raising, prevention, protection, and prosecution elements, with an attention to include specific measures for women journalists and those belonging to minority groups.
The EU remains committed to support independent journalists and media workers everywhere. We will continue to mobilise all the diplomatic tools at our disposal to raise attention to individual cases of journalists in detention or at risk. We have also established ProtectDefenders.eu to provide journalists at high risk with physical and digital protection, legal support, and relocation.
The EU stands united to support the United Nations human rights system, including the critical work of both the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and UNESCO to promote the safety of journalists and to identify common solutions.
Under the Global Europe Human Rights and Democracy programme, the EU provides Euro 185 million for support to independent media, harnessing digitalisation worldwide.
Protecting journalists means protecting our own rights. Democracy cannot work without free and independent media. This is why the EU is also taking unprecedented steps at home to protect journalists.
We call on Member States to implement the Commission Recommendation on the safety of journalists. The proposal for a Media Freedom Act aims to safeguard their independence and media pluralism. The Commission also took action to fight strategic lawsuits against public participation, which put pressure on journalists and want to silence them. These legislative proposals should be adopted swiftly to improve the environment in which journalists and media operate and to set global standards.
The European Union stands with journalists around the world who, each and every day, exercise their freedom of expression for the benefit of us all.”
The EU continues to promote and protect the right to freedom of opinion and expression both online and offline, as well as media freedom, and to condemn harassment, threats and attacks against journalists, bloggers and other media workers. As outlined in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy for 2020- 2024, the EU works around the world to assist those intimidated or threatened, by appealing to state authorities to prevent and condemn human rights violations and take effective measures to end impunity. In 2021, the EU also adopted a Recommendation on the protection of journalists, highlighting the importance of ensuring the safety of journalists and media professionals within the EU. Last year, the Commission adopted a proposal to tackle Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), providing journalists and human rights defenders with tools to fight back against abusive court proceedings. Furthermore, we have made the protection of journalists one of the key elements of the European Media Freedom Act, put forward in September 2022.
Independent NGOs document an impunity rate of 80% for murders against journalists over recent years. As of October 2023, the UNESCO Observatory on killed journalists documents 688 ongoing and unresolved cases concerning the murder of journalists. The Journalists' Safety Indicators developed by UNESCO as well as its Observatory of Killed Journalists are essential tools for making individual cases visible and putting an end to impunity.
ProtectDefenders.eu is the EU human rights defenders mechanism, established to protect defenders at high risk and facing the most difficult situations worldwide. The mechanism provides financial assistance for physical and digital protection, legal support, medical support, monitoring of trials and monitoring of arrests or imprisonment, support for families, training, and other support measures.
The EU's Global Europe Human Rights and Democracy programme includes the priority of “Safeguarding fundamental freedoms, including harnessing the opportunities and addressing the challenges of digital and new technologies”. The programme aims to strengthen the capacity of independent, pluralistic and quality media, including investigative journalists, bloggers and fact-checkers to provide the public with reliable information through responsible and professional reporting. It will support civil society in fostering online media literacy and digital skills and in promoting an open, global, free and secure internet equally accessible to all. The estimated budget for support to media and harnessing digitalisation is € 185 million for the period 2021-2027. The programme complements further support at bilateral and regional level.
Through projects, such as the Media 4 Democracy initiative, our Delegations can enhance their work with journalists all around the world. We are committed to continue to provide financial assistance to promote media freedom and advance media pluralism projects, including those supporting independent journalists exiled in the Union.
The EU Special Representative for Human Rights raises the safety and protection of journalists and media workers, as well as issues around freedom of expression in his bilateral engagements, where appropriate. This also includes highlighting individual cases of journalists and media workers imprisoned or detained for their work as well as regular engagement with civil society.