MEPs call on the EU to take the lead in ensuring the protection of journalists worldwide and in promoting freedom of religion or belief without harming other freedoms or rights, in two separate resolutions passed on Thursday.
"The EU, as a community of values, should aspire to lead in ensuring the free word, whether blogged or spoken, and information, whether researched or photographed, are protected. Journalists and a free, pluralist media, are essential for democracies and checks on power. Freedom of speech and freedom after speech are at the core of open and free societies," said Marietje Schaake (ALDE, NL), rapporteur for press and media freedom in the world.
"In its recommendation the Parliament adopted an ambitious set of instruments providing suggestions for the practical implementation of the new EU Guidelines in order to achieve remarkable progress in the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief in the world. "These detailed priorities of action will allow the EU to make informed decisions about whose freedom of religion or belief is under attack, substantially help in ensuring a high level monitoring assessment and support in cases of violation of this fundamental right, as well as help promote freedom of religion or belief" said Laima Liucija Andrikiene (EPP, LT), rapporteur for freedom of religion or belief.
MEPs stress that the press and media must be able to operate independently and "free of pressure through political and financial means". They are "alarmed at the general downward trend up the grading of the press and media freedom environments, both within and outside Europe".
Parliament points out that journalists are frequently abused, injured and murdered, often with impunity, and urges the EU to take a tougher stand against countries that allow such acts to go unpunished, calling on all states to guarantee the safety of journalists.
MEPs deplore the rising criminalization of expression and urge the EU to lead the way in ensuring that the media remain independent, pluralistic and diverse. They note that some media in the EU have come under scrutiny themselves for unethical and allegedly illegal behaviour and point out that the EU can only lead by example if it addresses these issues within its own borders.
In the other resolution passed on Thursday, Parliament recalls that freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression are mutually reinforcing rights and that modern media tools allow for a greater degree of interconnectedness between cultures and faiths. Steps must therefore be taken, it says, to avoid intercultural violence as a reaction against acts of freedom of expression, and the EU should contribute in this respect.
During the annual debate on human rights in the world, on Wednesday, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton highlighted the progress on human rights made in the past year and the importance of the appointment of the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, Stavros Lambrinidis.
Procedure: own initiative reports, Statement by the Commission