Monday, May 18, 2020
Free Press Unlimited has closely followed the alarming violations of press freedom and threats to journalists’ safety in Europe. Even in countries where democratic systems are in place, press freedom is at risk. In response, Free Press Unlimited joined a consortium led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) that organised the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide initiative that tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU member states and candidate countries.

Press and media freedom is increasingly at risk across Europe. The murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia (Malta), Jan Kuciak and Martina Kusnirova (Slovakia), Kim Wall (Sweden) and Lyra McKee (Northern Ireland) are proof of an increasingly hostile and dangerous climate for journalists and media operatives.

Increasingly, journalists are being silenced through an increase of state censorship, challenging lawsuits that require costly legal action, and the implementation of new laws that disempower the press and media. Clearly, there is a real need for immediate, coordinated, continent-wide action to protect journalists and media against these threats.

Plan of action

The MFRR has adopted a three-pronged approach: monitoring, support and advocacy. All press and media violations across Europe are monitored closely, and can be viewed on the Mapping Media Freedom platform. This forms the basis for further support, which can include arranging legal defense, emergency shelter in Germany and Italy and the provision of psychological support. All of this is aimed at protecting journalists and media operatives from harm so they can continue to do their work.

The MFRR will lead a number of fact-finding, fast response and advocacy missions across EU member states and candidate countries to advocate for improved press and media freedom protections. During the COVID-19 pandemic, these actual missions will be replaced with virtual missions, to make sure we can still hold states and other entities accountable during this unprecedented period.

Public Engagement

To create awareness regarding the threats to press and media freedom in Europe, the MFRR will actively inform the public about its activities. Project findings, resources, reports and toolkits will be shared through the website and social media platforms. In addition, several (online) events will be organised to stimulate debate, engage the public and encourage them to stand in solidarity with journalists and media operatives across the continent.

The MFRR is organised by an alliance led by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) consisting of ARTICLE 19, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Institute for Applied Informatics at the University of Leipzig (InfAI), International Press Institute (IPI) and CCI/Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT). The project is funded by the European Commission.