More than 150 representatives from the judiciary, legal professionals, media regulatory authorities, journalists, media organisations and other media actors from the Western Balkans, discussed their achievements and challenges of actively implementing JUFREX activities in their countries for three years.
During the last three years, nearly 250 activities were implemented, reaching out to more than 4000 beneficiaries. More than 2000 judges, prosecutors, and lawyers have been trained, while more than 1500 media actors participated in JUFREX events.
Silvia Grundamnn, Head of Media and Internet Division, Information Society Department, Directorate General Human Rights and Rule of Law, Council of Europe, Strasbourg stressed that “The role of JUFREX was to enable dialog and enhance expertise of legal professionals and all other actors on freedom of expression and freedom of the media. When working on freedom of expression, it is vital to involve all actors on the scene and JUFREX did that.”
During 2017 and 2018 domestic courts in some of the participating countries from the region, delivered judgments on freedom of expression cases explicitly referring to the ECtHR case law. As a former ECtHR Judge for North Macedonia stated that “JUFREX brought in a real change in the behavior, attitude and understanding of the judiciary over freedom of expression cases”.
The School of Magistrates of Albania has integrated the training materials and methodology in their in-service training. Through support of the project, the Ethics Code for journalists was updated and serves as guidance for the Albanian Media Council’s Complaints’ Board in deciding the complaints they receive. Of particular value were inter-professional seminars that gathered journalists and media actors, as well as representatives of judiciary and media regulatory bodies to discuss issues of common interest. These activities were organized with the aim of strengthening dialog and understanding among all relevant actors in the field of freedom of expression.
At the end of the Conference it was concluded that guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression and the safety of journalists are still major challenges in the region. Therefore, both the European Union and the Council of Europe representatives confirmed their commitment to further promote and support freedom of expression initiatives in Western Balkans and announced the continuation of JUFREX under the Horizontal Facility II that will be implemented during 2019-2022.
This event was implemented with the financial assistance of the European Union and the Council of Europe. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.