Sunday, December 5

EU Countries Urged To Protect Journalists As Number Of Attacks Rises | Journalist safety

Brussels has urged EU governments to take steps to protect journalists, following an increase in physical and online attacks against members of the press.

Issuing its first recommendation on the safety of journalists, the European Commission called on EU governments to establish free contact points for media workers facing physical or online threats, in order to ensure a response. swift police and prosecutors. It also wants to ensure that journalists who become victims of crime have guaranteed access to advice, legal advice and shelters.

According to the commission, 908 journalists and media workers were attacked in 23 EU member states in 2020, leading to physical and mental injuries as well as property damage. The intervention follows a series of high-profile killings that shocked Europe, including the murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia of Malta and Ján Kuciak of Slovakia, who investigated corruption in their home countries. This year, Dutch crime reporter Peter de Vries was killed on a busy street in Amsterdam and Greek investigative reporter Giorgos Karaivaz was shot and killed on his way home from work.

Reporters Without Borders (RWB) recorded the killing of four journalists in the 10 years prior to Caruana Galizia’s assassination in 2017. EU officials said they were alarmed by a growing number of attacks.

The commission’s vice-president, Vĕra Jourová, said that speaking with the families of Caruana Galizia and Kuciak had been the most difficult moments of her previous job as EU Commissioner for Justice, which ended in 2019. “I promised them that I would work to do that things change. Today’s recommendations are a first step toward fulfilling that promise. “

In her annual state of the union address on Wednesday, commission chair Ursula von der Leyen vowed to introduce a media freedom law in 2022 to safeguard the independence of the press and broadcasters, amid growing concerns. on some member states.

In Hungary, many independent media outlets have closed or been bought by pro-government figures. Poland is debating a media bill that would bar companies outside the European Economic Area from majority ownership of any television channel, seen as an attempt to silence the country’s largest independent broadcaster, TVN.

EU authorities have already crossed swords with Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša, who has called journalists liars and “suspected” during frequent tirades against the media.

“It is unacceptable that the violence comes from the mouths of political leaders,” said Jourová, adding that the aggressive rhetoric is not only coming from Slovenia.

The commission has limited power in this area, but Jourová promised to keep up the pressure.

“Of course, it is not legally binding legislation, but we will really monitor the situation,” he told reporters. “We will keep the pressure on member states to do more because what the recommendation is about … it is a very strong appeal to member states: do not underestimate the threats and warning signs that journalists face.”

Governments that did not defend the safety of journalists damaged their reputations, he added. “It is in the interest of the member states if they want to be entrusted that they are a truly democratic country.”

The commission urges national authorities to ensure vigorous prosecution of all breaches of the law, working across borders with other member states or with the EU police agency Europol, where necessary. Other recommendations include training police officers to ensure better protection for journalists covering protests.

The recommendations are addressed to all 27 EU governments, but the commission expects the EU candidate countries in the Western Balkans to adopt them.

Observers fear that the EU has limited tools to change the behavior of politicians who revel in aggressive tirades against the media.

Bulgaria is ranked as the worst EU member state for press freedom, according to RWB. The groups World Press Freedom Index It also reveals the dire situation of the media in Hungary (92nd), Malta (81st), Greece (70th) and Poland (64th).

RWB described the EU recommendations as a step in the right direction, but warned of the inability or reluctance of authorities in some countries to protect journalists.

“Every effort should be made to ensure that these recommendations become reality,” said Julie Majerczak, RWB representative to the EU. “We urge the leaders of the EU countries to act responsibly and ask the European Union to show its determination to ensure that these recommendations are not ignored.”

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