EU puts into place new rules for support of media freedom, calls for more action

brussels times​​​​

    The European Commission reiterated its commitment to support media freedom and pluralism on World Press Freedom Day on Friday while calling for more action to protect journalists amid new rules entering into force next week.

    In a statement on behalf of the EU, its High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell, drew the attention to the precarious situation of journalists working in conflict areas, such as Gaza, Myanmar, Sudan and elsewhere, and reporting about Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine.

    “As our eyes and ears on the ground, journalists must be protected at all times, everywhere. The EU firmly condemns all acts of violence, including threats, against journalists for exercising their profession, whether perpetrated by states, organised groups or individuals. There must be no impunity for such crimes, no matter where they take place.”

    “Journalists and media workers reporting from armed conflict must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law,” he added. “The EU deplores the dramatic increase in the number of journalists killed or injured while reporting on the devastating consequences of war.”

    Referring to the new EU rules, Vice-President for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourovácalled on the EU member states to implement them as soon as possible.

    “Today we pay tribute to all the journalists and media workers who inform us, sometimes at the risk of their lives. It is the duty of democracies to protect them. In the EU, we passed unprecedented laws, with the Media Freedom Act and a Directive to fight abusive litigation against journalists

    On Monday, 6 May, the new rules against Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) will enter into force, providing journalists and human rights defenders with tools to fight back against abusive court proceedings. As previously reported, the European Parliament adopted already in November 2021 a report on measures to counteract the threat of strategic lawsuits against journalists and civil society.

    Strategic lawsuits against public participation, commonly known as ‘SLAPPs', are a particular form of harassment used primarily against journalists and human rights defenders to prevent or penalise speaking up on issues of public interest. The new directive covers SLAPPs in civil matters and enables judges to swiftly dismiss manifestly unfounded lawsuits against journalists and human rights defenders.

    On the following, 7 May, the European Media Freedom Act will also enter into force. The Commission explains that the new rules will better protect editorial independence, media pluralism, ensure transparency and fairness and bring better cooperation of media authorities through a new European media Board.

    Last but not the least, the Commission published on Friday a study showing some but uneven progress in EU member states to implement its Recommendation on the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists.

    Among the member states, Sweden is known for its press freedom and the oldest legislation in Europe on access to public information. While allowing a new Quran burning in Malmö as an expression of freedom of expression - during an already explosive situation in the upcoming Eurovision Song Contest in the city – it is also curtailing the rights of migrant journalists and threatening to expel them to Iran or Syria.

    The Swedish-Kurdish author Kurdo Baksi reported on Friday in Dagens Nyheter that a number of Kurdish journalists have not got their residence permits extended or are not allowed to work as journalists. The Swedish security police (‘SÄPO”) consider them as “security risks” but no evidence has been shown to them or their lawyers, according to Baksi.

    Update: A previous version of the article has been updated.

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