I am delivering this statement on behalf of the informal Group of Friends on Safety of Journalists, which consists of the following participating States: Austria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
We welcome the Representative on Freedom of the Media Ms. Teresa Ribeiro to the Permanent Council and thank her for her analytical report calling for action to defend freedom of expression, media freedom and our shared OSCE commitments in the face of many challenges.
As is clear from the RFoM’s statement – and as we stressed in our statement marking World Press Freedom Day last week – the issue of safety of journalists is more pressing than ever. Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has imperilled journalists throughout the region. It has led directly to the deaths of journalists, who are working to expose the brutal realities, including atrocities, of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Just this week, French AFP journalist Arman Soldin was tragically killed while covering the battle near Bakhmut.
The internal repression and clampdown on media freedom in Russia and Belarus is an attempt to silence all independent voices and impartial reporting. As the RFoM rightly points out, this has in both States led “to media and information spaces that are almost completely controlled by the governments”. Journalists and other media actors are harassed, detained, prosecuted, sentenced, and forced into exile. We echo the RFoM’s call for the release of all journalists who are serving prison sentences or are being held in pre-trial detention for their journalistic work by Russia and Belarus and by other OSCE participating States.
We commend the RFoM’s continued work on the Safety of Journalists, including through providing participating States with advice on how to improve the implementation of their commitments from the 2018 Milan Ministerial Council decision. We look forward to the launch of the toolbox in November. It will provide practical advice to all participating States on how to improve the safety of journalists, online and offline. In this context, we very much appreciated the first meeting of National Focal Points in March which provided concrete input to the coming toolbox.
We also look forward to the Safety of Female Journalists Online Monitoring Guidelines that will be presented shortly with advice to participating States on how to monitor online violence to prevent offline attacks.
We once again thank you, Representative Ribeiro, for your work – and the work of your entire dedicated team – as well as for your commitment to your mandate, more relevant than ever.