On 2 November 2017, we have celebrated for the first time the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists as proclaimed on the same day by the UN General Assembly in its Resolution A/RES/68/163. This was done in reaction to a series of assassinations of journalists, landmarked by the recent death of the Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia on 16 October 2017, who was internationally acclaimed for her investigative journalism and reporting on the political events in Malta.
For the occasion, the High Representative Federica Mogherini in its declaration on behalf of the EU said: “An attack on journalists represents an attack on democracy and pluralistic societies. Information comes to us at a price: journalists are still being persecuted, detained or even killed, not only in situations of armed conflict, but also in peacetime, including in the European Union, as we have sadly witnessed only a few weeks ago. (…) The EU will continue to use all appropriate external policy and financial instruments to enhance the quality of journalism, access to public information and freedom of expression.”
The freedom of expression and freedom of press are both established and guaranteed in the EU in Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, reading as follows: “1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. 2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.” The Charter has a legally binding effect and the provision in question corresponds to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human rights adopted within the framework of the Council of Europe.
The EU can call upon Member States to ensure the exercise of the freedom in their respective territories, as well as to leverage its economic power over countries to which the EU provides external financial aid to ensure that these countries comply with their international obligations to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms, including the freedom of expression and the freedom of press. This can be already established in the terms and conditions for providing such aid.
As for other instruments tackling the underlined issue, the EP adopted in 2013 the EU Charter: standard settings for media freedom across the EU and addressed the oppressions on press freedom beyond the EU borders in its resolution on the freedom of press and media in the world. Furthermore, the EU provided a funding in 2015 to facilitate the establishment of the European Centre for Press and Media freedom (ECPMF), a platform that unites media, press organizations and academia to counter attacks on press and media freedom both nationally and internationally.
If you want to know more about what the EU can do to defend freedom of speech, join us on the 23rd November for our event on the topic!