World Press Freedom Day: Statement by the High Representative Josep Borrell on behalf of the EU

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

Laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 75 years ago, the protection of freedom of expression remains a key priority for EU human rights action. This year we join UNESCO in emphasizing that, today more than ever, freedom of expression is crucial for all other human rights and contributes decisively to ‘Shaping a Future of Rights’.

While the preservation of free, independent and pluralistic media is vital for resilient and healthy democracies, press freedom is at stake in most parts of the world today. Journalists, media workers and all those who bring independent quality information to the public, shed light on the gross human rights violations and atrocities and hold those in power to account increasingly face discredit, threats and attacks, including through disinformation.

Reporters in an attacked Ukraine, journalists in Belarus and Afghanistan, independent media in the Middle East and North Africa, local journalists in Central America, the Nobel Prize laureates in the Philippines and Russia and many other media workers worldwide, including in Europe, continue to pay a high price for exercising their profession.

Women journalists are particularly vulnerable to threats and increasing attacks, both offline and online. They are exposed to stigmatization, sexist hate speech, trolling, sexual and gender-based violence and even murder. 73% of women journalists have experienced online threats, abuse and harassment in the course of their work. We have never seen as many women journalists in detention as today.

As a staunch defender of the right to freedom of expression, the EU condemn all forms of threats and violence against journalists and support media workers in danger through local missions and via dedicated programmes, such as the Safejournalists platform in the Western Balkans, the Support to independent media and fundamental freedoms project in Cambodia and the Media Resilience programme in Afghanistan.

In parallel, the EU is taking action within the Union: countering Strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP), regulating digital services and markets, and proposing an EU Media Freedom Act.

Simultaneously, we are building up critical capacity to counter foreign information manipulation and interference, and to help citizens in Europe strengthen their resilience to disinformation, manipulation and propaganda, with initiatives such as the EUvsDisinfo platform and the European Digital Media Observatory.

Defending and promoting press freedom is a universal mission that knows no borders. The EU will remain committed to engage with governments, the media and civil society, both in international fora as well as at the local level, to take initiative and strengthen press freedom around the world.