Plenary debate on the safety of journalists at EU Parliament

Brussels, Belgium
16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

UNESCO welcomes EU Parliament’s plenary debate on the issue of safety and impunity for crimes against journalists

On the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists (IDEI), the European Parliament held a Plenary Session to discuss how to promote a safe and enabling environment for journalists, offline and online, in and outside of the European Union. The session took place in Brussels on 13 November.

Media freedom is an indispensable pillar of our democratic society, journalists are among the guardians of a functioning democracy

Tytti Tuppurainen, Finnish Presidency of the European Council

"Media freedom is an indispensable pillar of our democratic society, journalists are among the guardians of a functioning democracy," said Ms. Tuppurainen for the Finnish Presidency of the European Council. Taking good note of the various concerns highlighted during the debate, Ms. Tuppurainen emphasized the Presidency’s commitment to fight impunity for crimes against journalists, recalling the duty of the European Union to guarantee freedom of expression and media, including the safety of journalists.

"According to UNESCO figures, only 10% of cases of killings of journalists between 2006 and 2016 worldwide have been resolved. Impunity for these crimes multiplies the impact of violence against journalists and media workers," said Mr. Julian King, European Commissioner for the Security Union in his address to the Parliament. “We strongly condemn the increase in violence against journalists,” he added.

Alongside with the Commissioner, many Members of the European Parliament took the floor to share their concerns about the declining working conditions of journalists both in Europe and abroad. They called for a more vigorous commitment from EU institutions and Member States to end impunity for crimes against journalists and ensure a safe working media environment. Some stressed for instance the immediate need for an EU anti-SSLAPs legislation (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation), to prevent such lawsuits that intend to censor and intimidate journalists by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Other suggested the establishment of media freedom monitoring mechanisms at national level within the European Union.

As the leading agency for the implementation of the UN Plan of Action on Safety of Journalists and Issue of Impunity, UNESCO has been coordinating global efforts and raising awareness on the need to provide a safer environment for journalists to do their work. According to UNESCO’s new report Intensified Attacks, New Defences in the last 12 years (2006-2018), 1109 journalists have been killed in their functions. In nine out of ten cases, the perpetrators go unpunished. It is in recognition of the far-reaching consequences of impunity, especially for crimes against journalists, that UNESCO has launched the IDEI campaign, and calls for justice for the journalists whose killings remain unpunished. UNESCO also calls for greater political attention to these threats and thereby welcomes efforts of the European Parliament to put the issue at the forefront of its agenda.