Human rights in the world: MEPs assess the 2017 situation
Attacks against journalists hit a record last year, while the spread of fake news affected the outcome of elections and undermined democracies, MEPs say.
In a report adopted on Monday, Foreign Affairs Committee MEPs express their concern about the gradual shrinking space for civil society, which is occurring even in established democracies and high-income countries. Journalists, human rights defenders and non-governmental organisations are too often the target of harassment, intimidation and violence, including killings, they say.
Media freedom, in particular, is facing hard times. In 2017, the attacks against the press hit a record, as hundreds of journalists were abused, arrested and forced to pay high fines in trials that did not meet the minimum procedural standards, according to the report.
MEPs also welcome the EU’s signature of the Istanbul Convention on combating violence against women and domestic violence and call on EU countries that have not yet done so to ratify and implement the Convention as soon as possible.
Freedom of expression online
MEPs stress the importance of protecting the freedom of expression both online and offline. The spread of fake news and disinformation through the internet represents a serious threat to the state of democracy, since it limits people’s access to impartial information, incites violence against certain groups and has already affected the outcome of political elections, they say.
On 1 January 2017, the number of people residing in an EU Member State with the citizenship of a non-member country was 21.6 million, accounting to 4.2% of the EU population. MEPs highlight the need to develop better protection frameworks for migrants and refugees, in particular through establishing safe and legal migration routes and granting humanitarian visas.
At the same time, “all attempts to work with third countries, including countries of origin and transit on migration, must go hand in hand with improving human rights conditions within these countries and complying with international human rights and refugee law”, MEPs say. The EU should also monitor with full transparency the funds allocated to third countries to ensure that they are used properly.
Rapporteur Petras Auštrevičius (ALDE, LT) said: “The year 2017 was marked with a deteriorating human rights and democracy situation within and outside the EU. Among the number of ongoing crises, such as the Rohingya situation and the migration crisis, we also encountered new threats like misinformation and growing populism, which have contributed to human rights violations and shrinking civil society space around the world”.
The annual report on human rights and democracy in the world 2017 was approved by 41 votes, with 6 against and 8 abstentions. The full house is to vote on it at the December plenary session in Strasbourg.