"No room for complacency” about media freedom warns the NUJ

  • 29 Apr 2024

Union reacts to new report in run-up to World Press Freedom Day

“There is no room for complacency” warns the NUJ as a report from the Civil Liberties Union for Europe says media freedom and pluralism, “stand perilously close to breaking point in many EU countries” and “must be almost fully resuscitated in some”.

The Media Freedom Report 2024 is the third annual report from Liberties on media freedom in the European Union and maps the main trends and developments in 19 EU member states including Ireland,  Italy,  Latvia, the Netherlands and Poland.

Published in the run-up to World Press Freedom Day on Friday - which the NUJ is marking with an event discussing journalists in Gaza, attacks on Iranian press and Julian Assange - the review noted: “Journalists across Europe continue to face intimidation, surveillance, attacks and detention. In addition to these threats, they also face abusive lawsuits that drain time and resources and discourage them from pursuing stories.” 

“Journalists in Croatia, France, Germany, Greece and Italy faced physical attacks in 2023, in addition to threats and intimidation. In Hungary and Slovakia, abuse and threats against journalists came from politicians.”

“In Romania and Sweden, police failed to conduct sufficient investigations into attacks on journalists, either because of a lack of resources or a lack of will. In Bulgaria and France, the police themselves were perpetrators of attacks on journalists in 2023.”

It also said: “Freedom of expression and access to information remain areas of concern for media in many EU member states. Journalists who are critical of the government may find themselves excluded from press conferences or other official events, or denied access to documents that should be made available to them.

"Hate speech has not ebbed on social media, although legislative action in some member states and by the EU may bring change in the future. Civil society organisations in Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Ireland, Italy and Greece reported attempts to censor members of the press or otherwise restrict freedom of expression."

It added: “Media outlets face increasingly uncertain financing frameworks. TV licence fees, an important source of income for public service media, are at the heart of financial challenges in France, Ireland and Slovenia. 

“The failure to provide adequate funding and to reform Ireland’s licence collection system has impacted the main public service broadcaster RTÉ.”

The report also said: “The use of Pegasus and Predator spyware continues to be a problem in the EU. In 2023, journalists in Germany, Greece, the Netherlands and Poland were targets of spyware surveillance. The EU Anti-SLAPP Directive and the European Media Freedom Act are two new pieces of legislation that will better protect journalists.

“How effectively the European Media Freedom Act is enforced could be decisive to the media’s future in Europe."

Seamus Dooley, NUJ Irish Secretary, noted the report and its overview on Ireland and said: “Ireland enjoys a generally benign media landscape despite grave economic pressures across all sectors. 

“This is reflected in the report. There is no room for complacency, especially in relation to uncertainty surrounding the funding of pubic service broadcasting, with Ireland grouped alongside France and Slovenia as countries where uncertainty poses a major challenge.

“It is notable that the report drawn attention to hate speech, which was a problem in 2023 and continues to be a major concern in the context of some social media platforms. I strongly welcome the recommendation that member states should ensure the protection of sources and that spyware should not be used in monitoring journalists.”

The report comes the same day the BBC’s director general Tim Davie warned that “all the warning lights…are flashing red” about media freedom.

Speaking at a BBC World Service event in London Davie said these are “sobering times” and added: “The harassment and abuse that journalists now face just for doing their job, particularly online, has grown rapidly in recent years in frequency and intensity. 

“Women journalists above all face escalating threat levels from co-ordinated campaigns of online abuse that we all need to call out. Nearly three-quarters are reporting that they’ve experienced online violence in connection with their work.”

“Every major indicator is pretty much in decline”, said Davie, with “increased levels of persecution and harassment and ever more subtle modes of intimidation” of reporters.


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