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EU Staff across Latin America and Caribbean Join Session to Operationalise Media4Democracy Handbook on Journalists’ Safety

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Latin American & Caribbean (LAC), 10 March 2021 – As media actors across the LAC region confront increasing threats, more than 60 EU staff from regional EU Delegations and HQ participated in a webinar organised by Media4Democracy and INTPA (formerly DEVCO). The two-hour webinar worked to support EU Delegations in the region to operationalise tools in Media4Democracy’s Handbook Protecting Safety of Journalists, Protecting Freedom of Expression, as well as on means to increase collaboration with other actors working to defend media safety.

Pedro Vaca, the recently appointed IACHR Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, gave a keynote address emphasising that enhanced collaboration between his office and the EU Delegations could strengthen the ability to respond to threats across the region.  Noting with concern a general erosion of the rule of law and independent judiciaries, Mr. Vaca outlined concrete means for collaboration including associated to ongoing monitoring of violations of crimes against journalists, his office’s on-site visits and provision of technical advice to EU Delegations.

The essential work of EU Delegations in protecting journalists, especially those in imminent danger, was highlighted during remarks by Chiara Adamo Head of the Gender Human Rights and Democratic Governance Unit at INTPA.  Ms. Adamo stressed the importance the EU places on providing leadership in protecting journalists’ safety and noted its continued support for media and freedom of expression linked to its thematic human rights and democracy programming. Foreseeable global actions in support of independent media included direct financial support, protecting individual journalists at risk, capacity building, and assisting journalists and media houses to tackle issues in the digital domain.

Responding to the increasing risks to journalists during the COVID pandemic, Ms. Adamo noted the 1 million Euro project recently awarded under EIDHR funding to Internews – the Rapid Response Fund in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Internews Regional Director for LAC, Maria Fernandez, also addressed the group, saying collaboration with EU Delegations would be valuable in executing aspects of this programme focused on address multi-faceted challenges to journalists and communicators across LAC, compounded by the pandemic. The programme includes providing small grants to local information initiatives to increase the production of relevant information as well as the safety of journalists.

As regards the ongoing efforts of EU Delegations, Ms. Fernandez stressed the importance and value of the EU Delegations’ role in facilitating long-lasting partnerships among diverse stakeholders – efforts that have been seen to enhance collaboration, reduce tensions and build trust among stakeholders.

Following these presentations during the first hour of the webinar, the session closed to external guests and focused on allowing EU Delegations to discuss their work. Staff from the EU Delegations to El Salvador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Mexico discussed the specifics of their ongoing activities across the cooperation and political sections to enhance the safety and security of journalists and to fight impunity for crimes against journalists.

Throughout the discussion, Media4Democracy reviewed a range of best practice approaches outlined in the new Handbook as well as specific tools designed to strengthen EU Delegations’ ability to respond to emergency threats to journalists or media houses, and to support them in assessing their local context in preparation for ongoing actions.