Group of Friends on Safety of Journalists’ statement Stockholm Conference on Freedom of the Media (18-19 May 2021)

Delivered by Ambassador Katrina Katinka at Session I: Facilitating a safe media environment through national strategies, experiences and action plans, 18 May 2021.

Madam Chair,

I take the floor on behalf of the informal OSCE Group of Friends on Safety of Journalists, namely Austria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

I would like to thank the Swedish Chairpersonship in Office for organizing the Stockholm Conference on Freedom of the Media, which highlights the importance of media freedom and safety of journalists. I would also like to thank the guest speakers for their vey insightful presentations.

The Covid-19 pandemic has resulted in unprecedented challenges for journalists and other media actors. During the past year, we have observed a significant surge in serious threats to journalists and media actors, including smear campaigns, physical attacks, arbitrary detention and imprisonment, harassment and intimidation, death threats and even murder. Some governments have used the pandemic as an excuse to further restrict freedom of expression online and offline, including for members of the media, at exactly the time when access to accurate, reliable information is critical to the wellbeing of the public.

As highlighted in the Milan decision adopted in 2018, the ability of journalists to carry out their work under safe conditions, without fear of being subjected to repression, abuse and violence, is a key condition for freedom of expression and media freedom.

We fully recognize the importance to facilitate a safe media environment, both online and offline, through national strategies and action plans, as well as innovating measures to tackle the new challenges faced by journalists and other media actors. We commend participating States who have adopted, or are considering adopting, national action plans on safety of journalists, and thank others for sharing with us their best practices in this regard.

We would like also to reiterate our full support to the RFoM for her leadership in promoting the safety of journalists, and her focus on the safety of female journalists. We commend the Swedish Chairpersonship, ODIHR and the RFoM for the successful organisation in March of the first OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Media Freedom and Gender Equality, the results of which could usefully feed into our debates today.

Finally, we would like to thank the journalists and other media actors here with us today. We admire your resilience to increasingly challenging working conditions and welcome your suggestions in order to provide you with a safer working environment.