A new report “Balancing act: press freedom at risk as EU struggles to match actions with values” published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) was launched at the Press Club-Europe in Brussels on 29 September. Jean-Paul Marthoz, CPJ’s EU correspondent and author of the report, said at a press conference that “the future of the EU’s global influence will largely determined by its credibility and consistency by following a press freedom diplomacy based on principles and free of double standards.”
The report examines EU policies and institutions, finding that while they maintain an outward commitment to press freedom, in many cases they lack a robust mechanism to hold member states accountable when they are in violation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. Hungary’s deteriorating pres freedom climate illustrates how ill-equipped the EU is when to reprimanding countries that renege their commitments.
“Spying journalists is the norm, security goes over liberty. Confidentiality of sources is threatened, mass surveillance is all over Europe”, Marthoz warned.
The 60-page report covering themes as challenges to press freedom and how EU policies and law influence journalism, includes also a list of recommendations to the EU and to the member states. The list includes:
- Swiftly establish a clear, objective, and legally enforceable Rule of Law mechanism, in consultation with multiple stakeholders, to hold member states responsible for keeping to their commitments under the EU treaties, in particular under Article 2 of the Treaty on European Union on fundamental values and under Article 11 on freedom of expression and media freedom in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
- Monitor the conformity of member states with the EU Charter—with a focus on freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and media pluralism—through the creation of a Copenhagen Commission composed of independent high-level experts or through advancing the mandate of the Fundamental Rights Agency.
- Utilize Article 7 and the suspension of voting rights against member states that break press freedom commitments as determined by the mechanism established in recommendation 2.
- In the review of the Data Protection Directive and the adoption of the Trade Secrets Directive, grant an exception for reporting in the public interest.
- Prevent data and privacy protections from being used to censor or deny access to information that is lawfully in the public domain, and institutionalize transparency practices that improve access to public documents. Provide effective protection for whistleblowers.
- Clarify and limit intermediary liability and refrain from turning private companies into proxy censors. Ensure that the EU Internet Forum with technology companies is transparent, involves civil society and press freedom groups, and ensures the protection of fundamental rights.
- Support strong encryption everywhere and prohibit cryptographic backdoor requirements.
The full report is available here.
Photo Credit (from left to right) : Jean-Paul Marthoz, Courtney Radsch, Kati Marton and Nina Ognianova of CPJ (MK/EFJ)