Media freedom has never been more important in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and other global challenges. However, journalists continue to be killed, threatened and otherwise pressured into silence. These attacks have to stop. Democratic Societies cannot survive and flourish without an enabling environment for free, independent and pluralistic media. Worryingly, authoritarianism is on the rise. Time is of the essence.
We are calling on you, the MFC and its members, to fulfill the commitments expressed in the Global Pledge on Media Freedom. Concrete actions and effective measures to improve the media freedom situation both domestically and internationally must be taken. Specifically, we are asking the MFC to:
1. Take immediate action on the most urgent situations, such as Afghanistan, Belarus, Ethiopia, Myanmar, Nicaragua and Sudan, by creating coordinated systems of emergency support for journalists at risk and their families. This should include providing emergency visas that have simple, clear and secure methods of submission and communication, and in the absence of such visas, expedite processing of visas for journalists and their families as well as ensuring safe passage, as per the recommendations of the High-Level Panel of Legal Experts. Effective coordination with local and international civil society organizations working to protect and evacuate journalists should also be ensured.
2. Increase support to media development to a minimum of 1.0 % of international development, in particular to those initiatives enabling a free, independent and pluralistic media environment, expanding capacity building of national media actors, including media in exile, and strengthening the fight against impunity for crimes against journalists. Key to this is ensuring civic space for press freedom organizations to freely and safely operate at the local level and collaboration with international and local organizations with long-standing media development experience.
3. Take measures to end impunity for crimes against journalists at the global and local levels, with priority support for the creation of an international multi-stakeholder Task Force to investigate threats and crimes against journalists that includes the participation of UN special rapporteurs, civil society, media and journalists worldwide.
4. Introduce or amend targeted sanctions regimes to address serious human rights violations against journalists and systemic restrictions to media freedom, including Internet shutdowns and surveillance, in line with international human rights and humanitarian laws.
5. Ensure MFC members fulfill their obligations under international human rights law and contribute to the effectiveness of existing international human rights mechanisms and coordination initiatives, for example:
Report in detail on Sustainable Development Goals indicators 16.10.1 (safety of journalists) and 16.10.2 (access to information) in Voluntary National Reports (VNR), using data from international and local monitoring groups, and provide support to these groups to reinforce their monitoring. In 2021, only four VNRs out of 44 included this information.
Contribute meaningfully to UN reports monitoring the implementation of UN resolutions. In the last two years, no more than 20 States have provided inputs to the reports.
6. Support the work of the UN special procedures.
We call on this Ministerial meeting to consider and agree on the above concrete actions to be taken by the Media Freedom Coalition.
Media freedom can be improved and must be improved. We can start today.
The Media Freedom Coalition – Consultative Network will be available to help; we will also hold you accountable.
MFC-CN members: ARTICLE 19, Association of International Broadcasting (AIB), Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR), Comité por la Libre Expresión (C-Libre), Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), DW Akademie, Free Press Unlimited (FPU), Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (FLIP), IFEX, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), International Media Support (IMS), International Press Institute (IPI), Internews, Maharat Foundation, Media Action Nepal, Media Monitoring Africa, Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Public Media Alliance (PMA), Reporters sans Frontières (RSF), South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM), The Guardian, WAN-IFRA (World Association of News Publishers)