Brussels, May 2020 – Media4Democracy launched a series of meet-the-expert webinars – Defending Independent Media During COVID-19 – for EU Delegations to learn about and discuss threats to independent media and freedom of expression, which are greatly exacerbated during the pandemic.
During an interactive session convened every two weeks from May to July, international experts will lead sessions on critical issues such as the safety of journalists, the spread of disinformation and regressive government actions. Experts will present their analysis of the situation, provide updates on important international initiatives and share resources that EU staff can leverage to defend independent media and freedom of expression during the pandemic. Webinars are open to all EU Delegation and institution staff, as well as EU Member States.
Experts include, among others, Tom Gibson, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), Guilherme Canela, UNESCO, and Dave Banisar, ARTICLE 19, all from leading freedom of expression and media development organisations working on the frontline to support media, freedom of expression and access to information through the crisis.
During the first webinar on 14 May Tom Gibson of CPJ discussed with more than 30 participants the increased threats journalists are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic. He outlined how the international press freedom sector is responding to protect journalists, answered questions from EU Delegations and heard their reports of the situation for journalists in the countries where they work. EU staff also highlighted the practical challenges of continuing to work with media and media development partners at this time.
Gibson reported that CPJ’s monitoring has identified the use of new restrictive laws by authoritarian and democratic governments, as well as abuse of existing laws to crack down on independent reporting on the public health crisis and government policies. CPJ is spearheading a campaign with a network of press freedom groups and support from the EU Special Representative on Human Rights, Eamonn Gilmore, to advocate for the release of journalists from prisons, where the threat of contracting the virus is high, and he encouraged EU Delegations to support the campaign.
Additionally, Gibson highlighted the threats to journalists’ physical and mental well-being and digital security when reporting on COVID-19 – journalists often work without adequate protective equipment, digital equipment or digital security skills. He discussed ways EU Delegations can support journalist safety by engaging with journalism networks and by sharing CPJ’s Safety Advisory which is a comprehensive set of resources and tools for journalists and media organisations.
Upcoming webinars in the series are outlined below:
EU or Member State staff who wish to participate in forthcoming webinars, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.