Press freedom is under threat in Europe

Press freedom day
Strasbourg 30/04/15
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Press freedom is under threat in Europe

As the world will celebrate press freedom day on 3 May, journalists have increasingly become fair game in Europe. Just a few weeks ago, we mourned another journalist killed in Ukraine. He was the 14th journalist to be killed in Europe in the last 16 months. The rising death toll is the most extreme manifestation of an increasingly difficult working environment for journalists, which features physical attacks, acts of intimidation, judicial harassment, imprisonment, muzzling legislation, smear campaigns and abuse of financial levers.

Investigations on crimes against journalists often drag on for years. At best they bring to justice the actual perpetrators, but rarely the masterminds. Media freedom is also among the victims of political tensions and armed conflicts, with media outlets sometimes forced into being propaganda tools or simply shut down.

In addition, new anti-terrorism legislation discussed in several European countries risks increasing the vulnerability of the media to undue government control and to pressures on journalists over their sources.

We cannot continue down this path, lest we weaken our democracies.

I urge European leaders to reverse these trends and sincerely commit to improving the conditions in which the press works. They have to remove all legislative obstacles which impinge on the rights of the press, free journalists who are imprisoned for what they have reported and change attitudes towards journalists, refraining from violent or intimidating reactions and accepting a higher degree of public criticism and scrutiny.