The EU should take the lead in ensuring the protection of journalists, said foreign affairs MEPs in a vote on Tuesday. The independent press, a watchdog for democracy, is suffering increasing harassment, with journalists being persecuted and imprisoned, they warn, stressing the need to combat impunity for threats and attacks against journalists.
MEPs point out that governments have the primary responsibility for protecting the freedom of the press and media but also bear the prime responsibility for restricting it. They stress that legal pressure, intimidation, fines or blocking orders affecting online content and services constitute means for public authorities to hamper freedom of expression and the editorial independence of journalists.
The EU must take a tougher stand against countries that allow acts of violence, murders and abuse of journalists to go unpunished, MEPs insist.. They warn that impunity not only has an impact on press freedom, but also instils a climate of fear and self-censorship and they call on all states to guarantee the safety of journalists.
Defamation, blasphemy, libel and other laws are used to criminalise expression and to imprison or censor journalists, MEPs say. They call for the immediate release of journalists and bloggers wrongfully imprisoned because of their work.
MEPs are concerned about mass surveillance, mass censoring and blocking and filtering tendencies affecting the media and the work of journalists and bloggers. They stress that the digital and data-driven platforms or services such as search engines need more transparency to prevent restrictions on access to information and freedom of expression.
The resolution also stresses that the public value of information must be preserved by market regulators since self-regulation entails risks where democratic oversight is lacking.
Lead in the neighbourhood and by example
The EU should play a more significant role in ensuring pluralism and press freedom in the candidate countries, its neighbourhood and in the context of trade and association agreement negotiations, MEPs say.
MEPs also point out that the EU can only lead by example if it addresses the issues within its own borders. They call the EU to act globally for whistleblower and source protection.
Plenary vote in June
The resolution on the freedom of press and media in the world, drawn up by Marietje Schaake (ALDE, NL) and adopted by 54 votes to 1, with 1 abstentions, is scheduled for a vote by the full House during the June plenary sitting.
In the chair: Elmar Brok (EPP, DE)