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Procedure : 2011/2081(INI)
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Document selected : A7-0176/2013

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PV 13/06/2013 - 7.3
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Thursday, 13 June 2013 - Strasbourg
Freedom of press and media in the world

European Parliament resolution of 13 June 2013 on the freedom of press and media in the world (2011/2081(INI))

The European Parliament,

–  having regard to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions,

–  having regard to Article 13 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, recognising the right to freedom of expression of children,

–  having regard to the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council of 28 March 2008 (7/36) extending the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression(1),

–  having regard to the reports of the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue(2), which also underline the applicability of international human rights norms and standards regarding the right to freedom of opinion and expression on the internet considered as a communications medium,

–  having regard to the resolution of the UN Human Rights Council of 5 July 2012 entitled ‘The promotion, protection and enjoyment of human rights on the Internet’(3), which recognises the importance of human rights protection and the free flow of information online,

–  having regard to the report of 21 March 2011 by the UN Special Representative on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, John Ruggie, entitled ‘Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ’Protect, Respect and Remedy‘ Framework’(4),

–  having regard to UN Security Council Resolution S/RES/1738 of 23 December 2006 on attacks against journalists, media professionals and associated personnel in armed conflicts(5),

–  having regard to the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949(6), in particular Article 79 of its Additional Protocol I regarding the protection of journalists engaged in dangerous professional missions in areas of armed conflict,

–  having regard to the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, endorsed on 12 April 2012 by the UN Chief Executives Board(7),

–  having regard to Resolution 1920(2013) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, entitled ‘The State of Media Freedom in Europe’ and adopted on 24 January 2013,

–  having regard to the work carried out by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on media freedom, and in particular the reports of its Representative on Freedom of the Media,

–  having regard to the reports by NGOs on the media such as those by Reporters Without Borders (Press Freedom Indexes), Freedom House (Freedom of the Press reports), and the International Press Institute (Death Watch and Annual IPI World Press Freedom Review),

–  having regard to its resolution of 6 February 2013 on ‘Corporate social responsibility: promoting society’s interests and a route to sustainable and inclusive recovery’(8),

–  having regard to its resolution of 6 February 2013 on ‘Corporate social responsibility: accountable, transparent and responsible business behaviour and sustainable growth’(9),

–  having regard to its resolution of 13 December 2012 on the Annual Report on Human Rights in the World and the European Union’s policy on the matter(10),

–  having regard to its resolution of 22 November 2012 on the World Conference on International Telecommunications (WCIT-12) of the International Telecommunication Union, and the possible expansion of the scope of international telecommunication regulations(11),

–  having regard to its resolution of 11 December 2012 on ‘A Digital Freedom Strategy in EU Foreign Policy’(12),

–  having regard to the Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy (11855/2012) adopted by the Council on 25 June 2012,

–  having regard to its recommendation to the Council of 13 June 2012 concerning the EU Special Representative for Human Rights(13),

–  having regard to the declarations made by High Representative Catherine Ashton on behalf of the European Union on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day(14),

–  having regard to the Joint Communication of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 12 December 2011 entitled ‘Human Rights and Democracy at the Heart of EU External Action - Towards a more effective approach’ (COM(2011)0886),

–  having regard to the communication of 12 December 2011 by the Commissioner for the Digital Agenda on the ‘No Disconnect Strategy’(15),

–  having regard to the Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions of 25 October 2011 entitled ‘A renewed EU strategy 2011-2014 for Corporate Social Responsibility’ (COM(2011)0681),

–  having regard to its resolution of 7 July 2011 on EU external policies in favour of democratisation(16),

–  having regard to the Joint Communication of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the Commission of 25 May 2011 entitled ‘A New Response to a Changing Neighbourhood’ (COM(2011)0303),

–  having regard to its resolution of 16 December 2008 on media literacy in a digital world(17),

–  having regard to Regulation (EC) No 1889/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 December 2006 on establishing a financing instrument for the promotion of democracy and human rights worldwide (EIDHR)(18), as well as to all other EU external financing instruments,

–  having regard to its resolution of 14 February 2006 on the human rights and democracy clause in European Union agreements(19),

–  having regard to its resolutions on urgent cases of breaches of human rights, democracy and the rule of law, including its country-specific resolutions raising concerns over press and media freedom and particularly the imprisonment of journalists and bloggers,

–  having regard to Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, and in particular to its provision that ‘the freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected’,

–  having regard to Articles 3 and 21 of the Treaty on European Union and to Article 207 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union,

–  having regard to the European Union’s guidelines on human rights,

–  having regard to the European Convention on Human Rights of the Council of Europe and the ongoing negotiations on the EU’s accession thereto,

–  having regard to Rule 48 of its Rules of Procedure,

–  having regard to the report of the Committee on Foreign Affairs (A7-0176/2013),

Principles and role of the press and media

A.  whereas the right to freedom of expression is a universal human right, which lies at the basis of democracy, and is essential to the realisation of other rights which people around the world strive to obtain, such as development, dignity and the fulfilment of every human being;

B.  whereas restrictions on freedom of expression have serious consequences, should be very limited, and can only be justified subject to narrow and strict conditions provided by laws which themselves are considered legitimate under international law; whereas freedom of expression is a fundamental right and is closely linked to press and media freedom and pluralism; whereas states that have signed up to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) are obliged to ensure that independent, free and pluralistic press and media are guaranteed;

C.  whereas media platforms are essential for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression; whereas the independent press, as a collective manifestation of free expression, is one of the key actors in the media landscape, acting as a watchdog of democracy;

D.  whereas freedom of the press, the media, the digital sector and journalism are considered to be public goods;

E.  whereas (digital) media platforms increasingly have a global nature as well as a rising number of users;

F.  whereas the internet and the media are instruments employed by human rights defenders;

G.  whereas net neutrality is an essential principle for the open internet, fostering communication by ensuring competition and transparency, and is also beneficial for business opportunities and stimulates innovation, job creation and growth;

H.  whereas freedom of speech and expression and of the media and the freedom of journalists are under threat all over the world, and journalists are often also human rights defenders and promoters of freedom of association, opinion, religion and belief; whereas, however, journalists are often persecuted and imprisoned;

I.  whereas new digital and online media platforms have contributed to increased diversity and pluralism;

J.  whereas the EU’s efforts and programmes fostering and protecting press and media freedom worldwide need to be optimised, building on the valuable work of civil society and journalists’ organisations;

K.  whereas the EU can only be credible on the global stage if press and media freedoms are safeguarded and respected within the Union itself;

Recent developments

1.  Recognises that governments have the primary responsibility for guaranteeing and protecting freedom of the press and media; points out that governments also have the primary responsibility for hampering freedom of the press and media and, in the worst cases, are increasingly resorting to legal pressures in order to restrict that freedom, e.g. through the abuse of anti-terrorism or anti-extremism legislation and laws on national security, treason or subversion; notes that a balance between national security issues and freedom of information needs to be struck in order to prevent abuses and guarantee the independence of the press and media; recognises that media empires owned by politicians are sometimes empowered to carry out misinformation campaigns; emphasises that it is essential that the press and the media can operate independently and free of pressure through political and financial means; is alarmed at the general downward trend in the grading of the press and media freedom environments in various countries both within and outside Europe, according to the latest annual Indexes and Analysis Reports (see list in the Annex at the end of this report);

2.  Emphasises that free, independent and pluralistic online and traditional media are one of the cornerstones of democracy and pluralism; recognises the importance of information resources as real guarantees of freedom and media pluralism; points out that maintaining and strengthening the freedom and independence of the media in the world is in the common interest; notes that the role of free and independent media and the free exchange of information are of the utmost importance in the context of democratic change occurring in non-democratic regimes;

3.  Deplores the fact that journalists are frequently wounded or murdered or are being subjected to serious abuses throughout the world, often with impunity; emphasises, therefore, the importance of combating impunity; stresses that the authorities cannot deal with threats and violence directed at journalists or ensure their safety unless the political, judicial and police authorities take decisive action against those who attack journalists and their work; points out that the effects of impunity have an impact not only on the freedom of the press, but also on the daily work of journalists, as well creating a climate of fear and self-censorship; believes that the EU should take a tougher stance towards countries that constantly allow such acts to go unpunished, and calls on all states to guarantee the safety of journalists;

4.  Stresses that laws, statutory regulation, intimidation, fines and highly concentrated ownership by politicians or others with conflicting interests are all factors that can limit the freedom to acquire and access information and that can result in threats to freedom of expression;

5.  Stresses that indirect pressure on the press and the media can be brought by governments; considers that in many countries the media rely heavily on government advertising, which can then become a tool to pressurise the media, and that licences or fiscal penalties can also be used to restrict the operation of critical media;

6.  Deplores the fact that the criminalisation of expression is on the rise; recalls that journalists worldwide are frequently imprisoned because of their work; is aware of the use of defamation, blasphemy and libel laws, as well as legislation referring to ‘the degrading of the country’s image abroad’ or to ’homosexual propaganda’ in order to imprison or censor journalists and block free expression; regrets that censorship fosters self-censorship; calls for an end to the harassment of journalists, who should be able to carry out their work in an independent manner without fear of violence and recrimination, and for the immediate release of journalists and bloggers wrongfully imprisoned because of their work;

7.  Strongly condemns the fact that many journalists have no access to legal assistance while their profession increasingly finds itself in the frontline of the struggle for human rights, whether online or offline;

8.  Considers the trend of concentrated media ownership in large conglomerates to be a threat to media freedom and pluralism, especially with digitisation occurring in parallel; stresses the importance of an open and enabling underlying media infrastructure, as also of the existence of independent regulators;

9.  Recognises the potential of private foundations and NGOs supporting quality journalism and being drivers of innovation;

10.  Stresses that, while businesses bear new responsibilities in a globally and digitally connected world, they also face new challenges in areas that have traditionally been the preserve of public authorities; is aware that government blocking orders affecting online content and services have put pressure on editorial independence and continuity of service;

11.  Is aware that all too often media are used as and/or are involved in traditional propaganda tools and that, specifically regarding public service media, financial and political independence, as well as pluralism, are essential; emphasises that free and independent public media play a crucial role in deepening democracy, maximising the involvement of civil society in public debates and affairs, and in empowering citizens on the path to democracy;

12.  Encourages the development of ethical codes for journalists as well as for those involved in the management of media outlets, in order to ensure the full independence of journalists and media bodies; recognises the importance of enforcing such codes through the establishment of independent regulatory bodies;


13.  Recognises the potential impact of today’s ever more digitised media and their empowering effects on individuals by increasing levels of information and critical thinking, and is aware of the fact that these developments create anxiety, for authoritarian regimes in particular;

14.  Acknowledges the major role played by digital and online media platforms in the uprisings against dictatorial regimes in recent years;

15.  Stresses that access to information, both online and offline, is necessary for the evolution of opinion and expression, as well as for the expression and communication of content via media platforms, since these constitute essential checks on power;

16.  Recognises that the digitisation of media and information has magnified their reach and impact but has also blurred the fine line between information and opinion; notes the significant increase in user-generated content and citizen journalism;

17.  Considers that the digitisation of the press and media is adding new layers to the media landscape, raising questions regarding access, quality, the objectivity of information and its protection;

18.  Stresses that digitisation makes it easier for people to access information and scrutinise officials, and to ensure that data and documentation are shared and spread and that cases of injustice or corruption are brought to light;

19.  Stresses that to unlock the full potential of IT infrastructures, global interoperability and appropriate regulation is required and that, these ICT elements should be incorporated in both the existing and evolving media landscape, in conjunction with the basic conditions of independence, plurality and diversity;

20.  Deplores all attempts to create various forms of ‘closed internet’, since they represent serious breaches of the right to information; urges all authorities to refrain from such attempts;

21.  Is concerned over mass surveillance, mass censoring, and blocking and filtering tendencies affecting not only the media and the work of journalists and bloggers but also hindering the work of civil society in bringing about significant political, economic and social change; condemns all arrests and attempted arrests of bloggers, viewing such actions as an attack on freedom of speech and opinion;

22.  Deplores the fact that numerous technologies and services deployed in third countries to violate human rights through censorship of information, mass surveillance, monitoring, and tracing and tracking of citizens and their activities on (mobile) telephone networks and the internet originate in the EU; urges the Commission to take all necessary steps to stop this ‘digital arms trade’;

23.  Stresses the need for greater understanding of the role of intermediaries and their responsibilities; considers that market regulators can help preserve competition, but that it is also necessary to explore new ways of engaging private actors in order to preserve the public value of information; recognises that self-regulation can entail specific risks where (democratic) oversight is lacking;

24.  Stresses the fact that digital and (computer) data-driven platforms or services such as search engines are privately owned and require transparency so as to preserve the public value of information and prevent restrictions on access to information and freedom of expression;

25.  Stresses the need for whistleblower and source protection, and for the EU to act to that end globally;

26.  Strongly condemns all attempts to use the internet or other online media platforms to promote or foster terrorist activities; urges the authorities to take a firm stance in this respect;

EU policies and external actions

27.  Stresses that in order for the EU to be considered a community of values, the promotion and protection of global press and media freedom are essential; stresses that the EU should demonstrate maximum political leadership in order to ensure the protection of journalists globally;

28.  Believes that the EU should lead the way in ensuring that the media remain independent, pluralistic and diverse, and in defending the situation, freedom and security of journalists and bloggers; stresses that, to this end, the EU should not interfere with content but should, rather, support an enabling environment and the lifting of restrictions on freedom of expression globally;

29.  Notes with concern that in recent years some media, notably in the EU, have come under scrutiny themselves for unethical and allegedly illegal behaviour; considers that the EU can only lead by example if it addresses these issues within its own borders;

30.  Encourages the Commission to continue to closely monitor the independence of the press and media in the Member States;

31.  Considers that, while the EU addresses press and media freedom through several policies and programmes, it lacks a specific overall focus on the issue, as well as lacking a coherent driving vision and benchmarks;

32.  Considers that the lack of a comprehensive strategy leads to fragmentation and risks forgoing the important policy principles of transparency and accountability;


33.  Urges the Commission, especially DG DEVCO, and the European External Action Service (EEAS) to improve their cooperation and coordination of programming, particularly by synergising political and diplomatic work and through the joint implementation, including via monitoring and assessment, of funding and projects; calls on the Commission to improve its analysis and evaluation of past, existing and future programming, and to make the results public;

34.  Calls for a shift from ad hoc funding of projects to a more sustainable approach, also involving private donors and interlocutors; recognises the need for a tailored approach to programming, both at national and regional level;

35.  Urges the EU to play a more significant role notably in the candidate countries, as well as in relation to its immediate southern and eastern neighbourhood and in the context of trade and association agreement negotiations; calls on the EU to adopt a strategy to ensure that it closely monitors and reacts to changes in legislation which restrict pluralism and freedom of the press in third countries;

36.  Stresses that existing external financial instruments, such as the EIDHR, geographical instruments and others, need to be used flexibly in order to help strengthen civil society; stresses that local ownership and capacity-building are essential to ensure sustainable development and progress;

37.  Stresses that the EU should support the education and training of policymakers, regulators and media alike in third countries, with the goal of fostering press and media freedom and appropriate and technology-neutral forms of market regulation, especially recalling that in periods of transition freedoms are often restricted in the name of stability and security;

38.  Stresses that the issues of media development and enabling freedom of expression should form an important part of the EU’s dialogue at country-specific level; emphasises that clear benchmarks and conditionalities should be respected in the EU’s trade, partnership, cooperation, and association agreements with third countries and aid programmes, in compliance with Article 21 TEU; urges the EEAS and the Commission to respect and implement Parliament’s reports and recommendations on the negotiations for such agreements; recalls that coherence, consistency, coordination and transparency between Parliament, the EEAS and the Commission over the implementation and monitoring of these fundamental human rights are crucial for the EU’s credibility and effectiveness in its relations and interactions with third countries;

39.  Calls on the Commission to make the fight against impunity one of its priorities in its programmes concerning freedom of expression and the media, also by offering assistance in the investigation of crimes against journalists, by establishing legal defence funds and providing expertise;

40.  Considers that EU funding should not be limited to specialised international organisations (intermediaries) but should also include local organisations;

41.  Calls on the Commission to reconsider the confidentiality clauses in its human rights funding in the context of the press and media, since this leaves room for the discrediting of journalists, media outlets or NGOs, thus also damaging the credibility of EU human rights activities which are in themselves open and transparent;

42.  Emphasises that press and media programmes should also focus on improving (state and legal) structures and on supporting local media companies and businesses, in order to improve their transparency, independence, ability of being sustainable, professionalism and openness; stresses that EU media policies should also seek to maximise pluralism and diversity by supporting independent media and start-ups;

43.  Recalls that freedom of expression and media pluralism, including on the internet, are core European values; stresses the fundamental importance of press and media freedom in the EU’s enlargement policy and of digital freedoms in this context, considering these freedoms as human rights and therefore as part of the Copenhagen political criteria;

44.  Considers that the EU should include press and media support components in its electoral assistance, for instance by fostering cooperation between electoral management bodies in third countries and the press, so as to improve the transparency and legitimacy of election processes and results;

45.  Considers that in transition countries the EU should focus on press and media freedom in the context of the process of reconciliation and reconstruction;

46.  Applauds and welcomes the important work of a number of international (journalists’) organisations dealing with press and media freedom, and stresses that these organisations should have the EU’s full support, considering the essential nature of their liaison work;

47.  Calls on the EEAS to make optimal use of the EU’s engagement in multilateral forums which focus on press, media and digital freedoms, such as the Council of Europe and the OSCE, and also in the context of the UN;

48.  Calls on the Commission, the Council and the EEAS to adopt a Press and Media Freedom Strategy in the framework of EU foreign policy, as soon as possible, and to incorporate the recommendations of the present report in the forthcoming Guidelines on Freedom of Expression (online and offline);

49.  Asks for the present report be read and taken up in close conjunction with its resolution ‘A Digital Freedom Strategy in EU Foreign Policy’;

o   o

50.  Instructs its President to forward this resolution to the Council, the Commission, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy / Vice-President of the Commission, the European External Action Service, the EU Special Representative for Human Rights, the governments and parliaments of the Member States, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNESCO, the Council of Europe, and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

(2) In particular, those of 16 May 2011 (A/HRC/17/27), 10 August 2011 (A/66/290), 4 June 2012 (A/HRC/20/17) and 7 September 2012 (A/67/357), available at:
(4) A/HRC/17/31, available at:
(8) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0050.
(9) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2013)0049.
(10) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0503.
(11) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0451.
(12) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0470.
(13) Texts adopted, P7_TA(2012)0250.
(16) OJ C 33 E, 5.2.2013, p. 165.
(17) OJ C 45 E, 23.2.2010, p. 9.
(18) OJ L386, 29.12.2006, p 1.
(19) OJ C 290 E, 29.11.2006, p 107.

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