In July 2019, the European Commission announced the launch of the European Rule of Law Mechanism: a new policy process aiming to promote of rule of law culture and prevent breaches in the European Union (EU).
Press freedom is one of the key components of the rule of law, alongside independent judiciary and democratic accountability. In states where the rule of law and democracy are threatened, journalists are among the first to be prevented from doing their job and holding governments into account.
The main output of the Mechanism is the release of an Annual Rule of Law Report assessing the situation in each EU member state, with a dedicated chapter to the state of media freedom and pluralism. The first report is due to be released at the end of 2020.
This new initiative was strongly welcomed by press freedom organisations, including Free Press Unlimited. The Rule of Law Mechanism is the opportunity to use the EU leverage to address the worrying recent developments impacting the safety of journalists and the independence of the media sector. Strong action from the EU is even more crucial, at a time when the COVID-19 crisis is being used by some governments to curtail rule of law principles and illustrates how access to information is essential for the public’s right to know.
The joint recommendations outline how to make the European Rule of Law Mechanism strong, timely, inclusive and representative of the challenges faced by journalists and the media sector. Main points include:
- Only releasing the Annual Rule of Law Report when it provides high-quality content and assesses the emergency measures taken in 2020 in the context of the COVID-19 crisis and their impact on press freedom and the rule of law.
- Accompanying the European Rule of Law Mechanism and the report with country-specific recommendations and sanctions for serious and systematic breaches of the rule of law,
- Ensuring the voices of journalists, judges and other rule of law defenders are consulted and reflected in the Annual Rule of Law Report,
- Ensuring the Annual Rule of Law Report effectively captures the challenges faced by journalists and the media sector.
AMARC Europe - Association Mondiale des Radiodiffuseurs Communautaires Europe
Budapest Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
Gazeta Wyborcza Foundation
Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU)
International Press Institute (IPI)
Media Diversity Institute (MDI)
Netherlands Helsinki Committee (NHC)
Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM)
Stichting Democracy & Media