Action needed: The European Commission Safety of Journalists Recommendation

Action needed: The European Commission Safety of Journalists Recommendation

Today, 16 March 2023, marks 18 months since the adoption by the European Commission of its Recommendation to the Member States on ensuring the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists and other media professionals in the European Union. The European Commission is due to perform an evaluation based on key performance indicators, to take stock of the progress achieved by the Member States. In this context, the partners in the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) call on the European Commission and the Member States to develop comprehensive and regular reporting mechanisms that involve all key stakeholders to effectively measure and continually follow up on the Recommendation’s implementation.

We urge the Member States to take action for the safety of journalists without further delay and implement the provisions of the Recommendation.


The European Commission’s Recommendation came at a critical time. As documented by the MFRR on our Mapping Media Freedom platform and analysed in the Monitoring Reports, as well as the Council of Europe’s Platform to promote the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists, the safety of journalists in Europe is in deep crisis. Reporters across the Union face many forms of pressure and attacks. In 2022, the MFRR recorded 415 alerts in EU Member States. Verbal attacks such as intimidation and threats or insults constituted the main type of incident, involving 42% of all alerts, while physical attacks were involved in 20% of cases and attacks to property in 17%. The latest Annual Report by the Council of Europe Platform partners meanwhile characterises the situation as a “context of a continued degradation of press freedom across the continent”.


At the time of its publication, the MFRR partners underlined that the key to the Recommendation’s success will lie in following up on its outcomes and holding the Member States to account. Despite clear international laws and standards for improving journalists’ safety, they did too little to turn the tide on the rising number of attacks on journalists. The Recommendation in this regard explicitly aims to support the implementation of the Council of Europe’s standards, particularly its Recommendation 2016(4).


To help kickstart the conversation on the Recommendation’s implementation, the MFRR is currently surveying EU-based affiliates of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), which are journalists’ unions and professional associations, on the actions and progress achieved so far. Their active involvement, and that of journalists and media workers more broadly, by the Member States and the European Commission in putting the Recommendation into practice is central to ensuring that the measures taken by Member States are effective. The survey focuses, in particular, on those specific recommendations that explicitly call for the involvement of journalists’ representatives. While the MFRR will publish the full results of the survey later this Spring, three key preliminary findings are worth highlighting now:


  • After 18 months, the implementation of the Recommendation is very uneven, with pronounced differences between the Member States and from one recommendation to another.
  • Evaluating the implementation status is a nuanced undertaking, with our research indicating many instances of partial implementation.
  • Obtaining a clear picture of any progress achieved becomes even more challenging when considering the impact. For one, some of the implemented measures and actions may need time to yield results, and it may simply be too early to draw either positive or negative conclusions about their effectiveness. In some other cases, even partial implementation of a recommendation has had a positive impact already, which can provide helpful insight on how to proceed with structuring further reforms for the Member State involved or for others who are lagging behind even further.


Although merely preliminary, these findings are nevertheless instructive as to the task ahead for the Member States and the Commission. It is clear that they must develop reporting and evaluation tools and procedures at national and regional levels that result in a meaningful assessment of the measures and actions that have been undertaken to implement the Recommendation. Measuring performance will require a nuanced approach to collecting data and developing indicators to capture the complexity of the challenge at hand. Only then will the Recommendation be able to deliver on its aim of strengthening media freedom and pluralism by promoting joint and coordinated efforts by the Member States. Moreover, given the uneven implementation, the process focusing on the Recommendation’s implementation evidently cannot be a one-off. Sustained engagement will be needed going forward and must involve all relevant stakeholders, including journalists and media workers, their associations and unions, civil society and media owners.


As concerns the design of this process, we believe useful lessons can be drawn from the experience with the Rule of Law reports to ensure its credibility, inclusiveness and impact. The MFRR partners call on the European Commission and Member States to develop a transparent process for collecting and evaluating pertinent data. Core information about all main aspects should be communicated well ahead of time. This should include clear timelines, criteria for selecting stakeholders based on protocols established jointly with non-State actors, and a transparent methodology for processing their input. To ensure the process generates action, it should result in specific recommendations and follow-up questions, guiding governments on the actions needed to address identified shortcomings, enabling civil society to monitor follow-up action and seek accountability, and promoting a transparent and participatory dialogue between all stakeholders.

Signed by:

  • ARTICLE 19 Europe
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • International Press Institute
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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MFRR Monitoring Report 2022 – 813 media freedom violations…

MFRR Monitoring Report 2022

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) has published the latest edition of its annual Monitoring Report, outlining the state of press freedom throughout Europe in 2022. This year, the MFRR recorded 813 media freedom violations in EU Member States and candidate countries. 

The Monitoring Report – produced by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), and the International Press Institute (IPI) as part of the MFRR – gathers and analyses all media freedom violations recorded on Mapping Media Freedom throughout the year 2022.


The report is divided into the following chapters: an overview offering data and graphics about the press freedom situation in the EU and candidate countries in 2022, four thematic sections with quantitative and qualitative analysis regarding the aforementioned topics, and country reports offering a summary of the most relevant threats in the following EU countries: Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, and Sweden; and in the following candidate countries: Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Turkey.


You can download the report in full using the button below or keep reading for an overview of the 2022 edition.

Throughout 2022, 813 media freedom violations were recorded in EU Member States and candidate countries, involving 1,339 individuals or media outlets. This marks an increase from 654 in 2021, although it must be noted that Ukraine and Moldova were not included in the previous year’s analysis.

EU Member States

In the EU Member States, verbal attacks were the main type of incident (involving 42.4% of all alerts) – such as intimidation and threats (24.6%) or insults (13.3%) – followed by legal attacks (27.2%). After legal incidents, physical attacks were the third most common type of attack against journalists and media workers in the EU (20.5%), followed by attacks to property (15.7%), and censorship incidents, which rose from 8.6% of the total attacks in 2021 to 14.5% in 2022.

Monitoring Report types of attacks EU MS

Private individuals remained the main perpetrators of attacks against journalists in the EU (37.8% of cases), representing a decrease from 50% of cases in 2021. Government and public officials were the second most common source of attacks (17.1%), followed by police and state security (11.3%).

In terms of contexts in which the violations occurred, attacks taking place online rose from 14.1% in 2021 to 20.7% in 2022. Attacks at protests (the most frequent context in 2021) fell from 39.8% to 21% of the total.

EU Candidate Countries 

The Monitoring Report also covers the media freedom situation in candidate countries, where the MFRR registered the most severe violations of media freedom: 10 deaths of journalists. Nine of them took place in Ukraine and affected media workers covering the war, and another one in Turkey, where Güngör Arslan, managing editor of the Turkish newspaper Ses Kocaeli was murdered.


Out of the 813 alerts recorded in 2022, 398 took place in candidate countries. Legal attacks were the most common type, making up 38.3% of the total, followed by verbal attacks (35.5%), physical (19.8%), censorship (11.3%), and damage to property (8.9%).

Monitoring report - types of attacks in candidate courts

Private individuals were the most frequent perpetrator of media freedom violations in candidate countries (37.8%), followed by public officials (17.1%), and police or state security (11.3%).

Reflecting the high number of legal violations, 25% of attacks in candidate countries took place at court. This is followed by attacks occurring online (18.5%), at demonstrations (16.5%), and in public or on the street (11.7%).

Click the button below to download the full 2022 Monitoring Report, including the thematic analyses and country-specific breakdowns.

This report was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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EU flags outside the European Commission Library

Joint Statement on the Proposal for the European Media…

Joint Statement on the Proposal for the European Media Freedom Act

The undersigned journalists’, media freedom, and human rights organisations welcome the European Commission’s initiative to strengthen the free and pluralistic media system and the commitment to protect journalists and editorial independence within the European Union.

These values directly link to fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression, the right to access to information, the formation of opinion, and making informed choices in elections, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights.


Matters relating to the media have traditionally been the competence of member states, however such is the threat posed to media freedom that an EU wide action has become necessary to protect Europe’s democratic values.


Therefore we support the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) which breaks significant new ground in our efforts to protect media freedom in Europe. The EMFA has identified many of the key issues where the EU and member states must urgently act in order to protect media freedoms. This statement of intent, alone, is very welcome.


However, if the EMFA is to become effective in the struggle to guarantee media pluralism, to protect journalists’ rights and ensure editorial independence from the impact of vested commercial and political interests, it should strengthen efforts to increase the transparency in media ownership; introduce rules governing all financial relations between the state and media (in addition to advertising); guarantee the independence of national regulators as well as the independence of the European Board for Media Services; and fully protect journalists from all forms of surveillance (in addition to spyware).


The undersigned organisations look forward to continuing to engage with the institutions of the European Union to ensure that the text of the European Media Freedom Act is as robust and effective as possible and helps provide a foundation for generations of journalists to come.

Signed by:

  • Association of European Journalists (AEJ) 
  • Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties) 
  • Coalition for Creativity (C4C) 
  • Committee to Protect Journalists 
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) 
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) 
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU) 
  • Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) 
  • Index on Censorship 
  • International Press Institute (IPI) 
  • Media Diversity Institute, Belgium (MDI) 
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT) 
  • Reporters WIthout Borders (RSF) 
  • Society of Journalists, Warsaw 
  • South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) 
  • The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation 
  • Transparency International EU 
  • World Association Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC Europe)
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The EC Recommendation on journalists’ safety: A view from…

The EC Recommendation on journalists’ safety:

A view from the field one year on

21 September, 14:00 CEST.

On 16 September 2021, the European Commission published their Recommendation on the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists. The Recommendation illustrated the European Commission’s commitment to the safety of journalists and set out a range of measures that – if implemented – would see a marked improvement to journalist safety in EU member states.


One year on, journalists in Europe still face major threats to their safety and security. In this webinar, we will hear from a range of journalists about their experiences with the aim of creating a view from the media field, one year after the publication of the Recommendation.


Guusje Somer

Policy & Advocacy Officer, Free Press Unlimited


Emilia Sercan

Romanian investigative journalist, author and senior lecturer at the Faculty of Journalism and Communication Science within the University of Bucharest

Maja Sever

Journalist and President of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)


Launching Media Freedom Rapid Response III

Launching Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) III

18 May 2022


(Leipzig, Germany) We are pleased to announce that the consortium running the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) – consisting of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), ARTICLE 19 Europe, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), International Press Institute (IPI), and Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBC Transeuropa) – has been granted a further €1.95 million in funding for 18 months from the European Commission to continue its work to defend and support press and media freedom throughout all EU member states, candidate countries, and Ukraine.


In 2020 and 2021, the consortium – which also included the Institute of Applied Informatics at the University of Leipzig (InfAI) for its first two years – established, designed, and delivered the MFRR in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. As of April 2022, the United Kingdom is no longer a part of the MFRR mandate due to Brexit. Beginning in May 2022, the MFRR region now also includes Ukraine. 


Following the announcement, the Coordinator of the MFRR, Gürkan Özturan, said: 


The significance of defending free expression and the right to access information has once again been reiterated in the past year, with organisations across Europe working tirelessly to monitor, report, support, and advocate for issues related to press and media freedom. In the next 18 months of the Media Freedom Rapid Response we will continue monitoring press and media freedom violations, offering practical and legal support for journalists and media workers, and advocating for free and pluralistic media in EU member states, candidate countries, and Ukraine.


The rapid response mechanism monitors, tracks, and responds to media freedom violations. Attacks on and threats to journalists, media workers, and outlets are observed and documented as alerts on the Mapping Media Freedom platform. Responding to these documented media freedom violations, the MFRR then offers legal support, practical support, and public advocacy.


The new project started on 04 May 2022. 

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