We are united in our values on International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists
Joint statement by Ambassador Mark Gitenstein and Vice President Věra Jourová.
The energy of any democracy is its people, and a strong and independent media is their voice. Democracy could not exist without the unwavering courage of journalists.
Their dedication to finding and sharing the truth holds leaders and institutions to account. Their work exposes corruption that poisons faith in government, and harms society and the economy at large.
Journalists foster transparency and provide citizens with the information to make informed decisions.
Authoritarians and dictators fear a free press because they are terrified journalists will expose their crimes and tell citizens the truth. In intimidating or killing journalists, these leaders seek to destroy truth itself.
As we observe the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists today, we reaffirm our shared commitment to the protection of journalists and the fundamental values that underpin our democratic societies.
We remember with resolve and compassion journalists like Alsu Kurmasheva and Evan Gershkovich, wrongfully detained in Russia. We remember Andrzej Poczobut, held in isolation in Belarus. We remember the thousands of journalists worldwide who continue to face violence or death for their commitment to share truth with citizens. And we call again for them to be released immediately.
The transatlantic relationship between the United States and the European Union is rooted in shared values, including the belief that a free and vibrant press is essential for the well-being of our societies and the functioning of our governments.
In recent years, the rise of disinformation and attacks on journalists has challenged press freedom. As two of the world’s foremost democratic entities, we must stand together to counter these challenges. This includes fostering an environment that protects journalists from violence, ensuring legal frameworks that safeguard their rights, and promoting media literacy to combat the spread of disinformation.
In the United States, President Biden has reaffirmed the essential role a free, independent, diverse, and inclusive media play in resilient democracies, including as part of the Summit for Democracy. The United States is proud to work alongside our partners in the EU and around the world to maintain journalists’ ability to inform the public and to improve citizens’ capacity to hold their governments accountable. This includes $20 million to support independent media in low- and middle-income countries through USAID, which will also soon launch Reporters Mutual, an innovative global insurance vehicle that will cover the cost of defending journalists, civil society activists, and their organizations from defamation, libel, and other lawsuits meant to silence their reporting.
The EU has established ProtectDefenders.eu to provide journalists at high risk with physical and digital protection, legal support, and relocation. Under the Global Europe Human Rights and Democracy programme, the EU provides €185 million for support to independent media, harnessing digitalisation worldwide.
Key U.S. and European organisations, the National Endowment for Democracy and the European Endowment for Democracy, are working closely together to support democratic actors across the world.
At the same time, the EU is taking unprecedented steps to protect journalists within the Union. The European Commission proposed for the first time ever EU legislation to protect the pluralism and the independence of the media: the Media Freedom Act. The Act will help ensure media plurality and protect the independence of media from interferences, whether political or private. This is in addition to the many national laws of member states devoted to media freedom. Media freedom is a core EU value, and we are confident that new EU rules will soon become a reality and bring improvements on the ground.
We need to defend and protect media freedom in all its dimensions.
The dominance of social media in disseminating news and information has disrupted the traditional media business model. Big online platforms have significantly eroded the advertising revenue that once sustained media organizations, particularly at the local level. This phenomenon has often created “news deserts,” where communities are left without reliable sources of local information. As traditional media has withered, social media has flourished, providing unprecedented ways for disinformation to spread and communities to group in likeminded echo chambers, further highlighting the crucial role of independent media in promoting accurate, balanced, and community-focused reporting.
Sustainable funding mechanisms are essential to ensure that independent media can continue to uphold the public’s right to credible, diverse, and accountable journalism. This is why we are encouraging public and private investments in the media, bringing investors together to find new ways to support the sector, without editorial interference. Investing in democracy is the best value for money.
Collaboration between our nations extends beyond mere rhetoric. By jointly addressing the challenges faced by journalists, we strengthen the bonds of our transatlantic partnership. This collaboration should encompass not only governmental efforts but also involve civil society, media organizations, and international institutions working together to create a safer environment for journalists worldwide.
The United States and EU are committed to the principles that bind us together — the principles of democracy, human rights, and freedom of the press. By standing united against impunity for crimes against journalists, we send a powerful message that attacks on the free press will not be tolerated. In doing so, we honor the memory of those journalists who have lost their lives in the pursuit of truth and justice and work towards a world where journalists can carry out their vital work without fear or hindrance.
Mark Gitenstein, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
Věra Jourová, Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency