Against the backdrop of increasing threats to journalists and thus impediments to freedom of expression and freedom to inform, the Council today approved conclusions on the protection and safety of journalists and media professionals.
Member states call on the Commission to strengthen funding for independent and investigative journalism and take into account online safety and freedom of speech for journalists and other media professionals in all relevant initiatives following from the EU’s digital strategy.
The Council recognises that many journalists and other media professionals are not able to work freely and independently everywhere as they should be. According to a Council of Europe report the number of alerts about serious threats to the safety of journalists and media freedom in Europe has almost doubled since 2016 (the number of alerts in 2021 stood at 282).
In addition to threats to their safety, the economic situation of journalists and other media professionals is also becoming more and more precarious. The digital transformation, the closure of media outlets and the consequences of the pandemic have led to a worsening of journalists’ economic insecurity.
Learning, international action and support to journalists
In its conclusions, the Council invites member states and the Commission to – among other things:
- Encourage lifelong learning for newsroom managers, law enforcement authorities, judges and other concerned stakeholders about the protection of journalists and media professionals
- Commit to work for the protection of journalists and other media professionals around the world in relevant multilateral fora, in bilateral relations and in international initiatives
- Support – for instance through professional, financial, social and legal assistance – independent and exiled journalists and media professionals, particularly from countries such as Ukraine, Belarus and the Russian Federation
Background and next steps
These conclusions approved today are part of a broader set of initiatives. On 16 September 2021, the Commission presented a recommendation that sets out guidance for member states to take effective, appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists. On 27 April, the Commission proposed a draft EU law to protect journalists and human rights defenders from abusive court proceedings (known as the SLAPP directive). The Commission is finally also planning to adopt a European Media Freedom Act which intends to safeguard the pluralism and independence of the media in the EU internal market.
Member states agreed to exchange best practices as regards the implementation of the measures and to take stock of the implementation of the conclusions in 2025.
A link to the text of the conclusions will be made available soon.