Global, 20 October 2020 — Chiara Adamo, Head of Unit DEVCO B1, and the distinguished Filipino/American journalist Maria Ressa opened the formal launch of the Media4Democracy EU Delegation Handbook: Protecting Safety of Journalists, Protecting Freedom of Expression.
The Handbook provides highly practical information and best practice examples to support EU Delegations’ and EU Member States’ work in diverse contexts. It was developed with EU staff and in consultation with relevant services.
Joined for this online session by more than 60 staff from EU Delegations from all regions and from Headquarters, Ms. Adamo stressed that protecting the safety and security of journalists was a human rights cornerstone of democracy. While issues confronting independent media and journalists’ safety had been exacerbated during COVID-19, she said the pandemic could not be an excuse for the weakening of human rights protections. Ensuring democratic accountability and monitoring violations – including against journalists – has been a core part of the EU response to the pandemic; an effort complemented by the ongoing work of EU Delegations and longstanding EU mechanisms for protecting media, including ProtectDefenders.EU.
Ms. Ressa described the worsening situation in the Philippines for independent media and discussed the broad targeting of journalists as well as her personal situation of ongoing prosecution by the government. She flagged the increased ‘totalitarian’ actions of the Government during COVID as a further consolidation of power being used to restrict free speech and open reporting of the facts. With this as a top down repression of rights and free expression, she said this was matched by a bottom up erosion of rights by the online manipulation of truth on social media and the ever-increasing control of information by large internet platforms. Addressing EU staff attending this session, Ms. Ressa said the EU had done much to defend the safety of journalists and free expression in the Philippines and was well positioned to continue this work in many countries globally.
Representatives from the EU Delegations to Russia, Tanzania and the Philippines took part in a panel discussion to profile their work to meet the unfolding challenges to the safety of journalists in the countries in which they operate. A representative from Free Press Unlimited also spoke during the launch and reviewed other mechanisms available to EU Delegations, including the Reporters Respond Fund. EU Delegation staff on the panel, while all acknowledging increasingly complex and varied threats to journalists, presented a range of actions that can be undertaken in even the most complex setting, across both the Political and Cooperation Sections.
Resources on increasing threats during the digital age
During her keynote address, Ms Ressa highlighted a range of relevant resources, some outlined below.
The Real Facebook Oversight Board with tagline: Democracy is at risk. Join the fight to hold Facebook to account. The above has been established as a parallel or shadow mechanism managed by civil society and international experts alongside that of the Facebook Oversight Board, which Facebook itself set up and in the past referred to as its ‘Supreme Court’.
Lighthouse – Rappler Online Platform launched May 2020 Lighthouse, a new content delivery and community engagement platform.
The Forum on Information and Democracy – established by Marietje Schaake and Maria Ressa. ‘The Forum will ask experts, academics and jurists all over the world to define a policy framework (set of recommendations) to respond to the infodemic and the information chaos. The ambition is to find a way for systemic change.’
Global Conference for Media Freedom – hosted by UK and Canada in London 2019. There Amal Clooney announced the establishment of the High Level Panel of Legal Experts which has released its first report The Use of Sanctions to Protect Journalists.
International Fund for Public Interest Media – with tag line ‘Providing an effective and efficient way to increase institutional support of public interest media’ Luminate Group and James Deane at BBC Media Action. This short film explains the IFPIM proposition.
The Hype Machine by Sinan Aral at MIT Sloan School of Business.
The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff Harvard.