Presentation of report "Freedom of the Press and Media in the World"

Marietje
During the June Plenary Session  in Strasbourg of the European Parliament Marietje presents her report on "Freedom of the Press and the Media in the World" in a broad debate on human rights and democracy with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Policy Catherine Asthon. Watch Marietje's speech below. You can read the full report here. Marietje Schaake, rapporteur − Madam President, Madam High Representative, Special Representative, colleagues, I am glad we are here together to discuss this important topic. In Syria, over 150 journalists have been murdered over the past two and a half years. The violence makes it nearly impossible to report independently on the violence and the war. Only this week in Turkey, which has more journalists in prison than any other country in the world, the President stated that social media are more dangerous than a bomb and regulators fined media for ‘inciting hatred’. These actions speak volumes about the power of the free word. In Iran, in the run-up to the elections, the media and internet have been restricted even more than we deemed possible. In Russia, the government has granted itself authority to use deep packet inspections of the internet. Journalists and bloggers have been murdered and beaten up. Intimidation is hardly investigated. In China, an estimated 30 000 people work on monitoring micro-blogging sites and adjusting the terms of censorship, some of which have been set technologically to make sure no search results are found when looking for information on, for example, Tiananmen Square. These countries are not at all unique in their repression of media and journalists. There are many countries where governments are using anti-terrorism and other national security laws to repress. Other problems are political interference through public media budgets, tax fines, or when politicians are owners of ever-growing media conglomerates. Of course media are still used for outright propaganda as well. The criminalisation of speech, such as through blasphemy laws, libel and restricting ‘homosexual propaganda’, is also worrying. The EU as a community of values should aspire to lead in ensuring that the free word, whether blogged or spoken, and information, whether research or photographs, are protected. Journalists and free pluralist media are essential for checks on power; and a focus on neighbouring countries is natural. By improving coordination between the Directorate-General for Development Cooperation (DEVCO) and the External Action Service, we can achieve stronger results and impacts globally. We must mainstream press freedom in all our policies on election observations, democracy, neighbourhood policy, trade and development programmes. The programmes we have should be deployed more effectively, but new ones are also necessary. Journalists facing trial should be able to rely on our know-how and on a legal defence fund. The end goal in all of our programmes should be that people do not depend on EU funding but that programmes can run independently, that local capacity is built to stay. We must engage both at government level and at local and civil society levels. Indeed the private sector also has a role to play to foster open societies. We call on businesses to take their responsibility. With growing digitisation, the public value of information must be preserved. Self-regulation and privatising of policing and law enforcement on line are dangerous. At the same time we see opportunities in the empowerment of individuals who, through social media, can access information, assemble and speak freely. Citizen journalism makes us eye-witnesses to events as they unfold. In order to ensure our own independence in this Parliament and to make sure that the rankings of countries are not politicised, we have not mentioned countries explicitly in this report but instead we have addressed trends and problems faced and we have focused on concrete solutions. But the assessment on the country-by-country situation is left to the combined work of four NGOs and the work of them you will find in the annexes. It will be updated on a rolling basis and I want to thank them for their work, as well as the shadow rapporteurs. We have worked very well as a team and it has been great to receive input from stakeholders, journalists, bloggers and people all over the world on an online draft that has certainly made the work of this report and the content of this report more relevant on the ground. It is closely related to the digital freedom strategy for the EU’s foreign policy which was adopted last December and we look forward to hearing about how a strategy for press and media freedom will be set up by the European External Action Service and the Commission. I believe that we have both the responsibility and an opportunity that we can take together.