The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has sent a letter on Monday to EU commissioners Mariya Gabriel and Guenther Oettinger, urging them to prioritise the protection of media freedom in the 2021 to 2027 budget.
“We write to you on behalf of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Europe’s largest journalists’ organisation representing about 320,000 journalists in 44 countries.
“We together with other press freedom organisations – express our concern that the EU proposal on funding (Multiannual Financial Framework, MFF) does not include a sustainable budget line allocated to the protection of freedom of expression in Europe,” the letter read.
“Unfortunately, the situation of press and media freedom is deteriorating in Europe. Many EU member states fail to guarantee an enabling environment for journalists.
“We notice worrying developments, e.g. in Poland, Hungary, France, Spain and Bulgaria, to name but a few,” the EFJ said.
The union cited recent killings of journalists in Slovakia and Malta as examples of the sad state of affairs.
Earlier, the EU annual report on human rights and democracy in the world, adopted by the Council of the European Union, stressed the intensification of attacks on freedom of press and freedom of expression across the world, including Europe.
“Freedom of expression and freedom of the press are under increasing attack around the world, including in Europe.
“The last decade has seen a significant increase in different forms of violence, and abuse against journalists and other media actors,” the report read.
According to the report, the forms of violence against “critical voices” included physical attacks, intimidation, as well as targeted surveillance and cyberbullying.
The EU has repeatedly raised this issue at different levels of political dialogue, including in its human rights dialogues and consultations with partner countries, the report said, adding that the bloc continued to provide financial support for projects and activities in this field.
The support includes capacity building, training as well as protection of journalists, bloggers and human rights activists.
Axxording to the report, these support programs are usually financed by such EU’s geographic instruments as the Development Cooperation Instrument (DCI) or the European Development Found (EDF).
“Media freedom and pluralism are also under threat within the EU. While it is primarily for Member States to guarantee media freedom and pluralism at national level, the European Commission is taking a number of measures to support media freedom and pluralism across the EU,” the report noted.
For instance, the European Commission has funded the launch of the European Center for Press and Media Freedom, which is based in Leipzig and addresses violations of media freedom in the EU member states as well as outside the bloc.
Another EU-financed project to observe the press freedom situation is the Media Pluralism Monitor (MPM), which measures risks to media pluralism across all the EU member countries.
In 2017, the MPM also covered Serbia, Macedonia and Turkey, with its results expected in mid-2018, the report underlined.
In 2014, the Council adopted the EU Human Rights Guidelines on Freedom of Expression Online and Offline which outlined the basic principles and how they should be incorporated in the European Union’s partner countries across the world.