MFRR joins call for EU to prioritise rule of…

MFRR joins call for EU to prioritize rule of law

The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) consortium joined other media freedom and civil society organisations on Wednesday in calling on the European Commission to strengthen its fifth annual rule of law report, which assesses media freedom in European Union member states.

With Europe due to vote from June 6 to 9, the 39 groups also called on the new European Commission to prioritize implementation of their recommendations.


“The multiple attacks on press freedom in the European Union highlighted in the latest MFRR report and in the annual report of the Council of Europe Platform must encourage European political decision-makers to put more pressure on national governments,” insists EFJ President Maja Sever. “The alarm signals are multiplying: the refusal of the French government majority to consolidate the independence of editorial offices from media owners, threats to public broadcasting in Italy and Slovakia, the multiplication of slapps without any reaction from governments, and so on. What are governments waiting for to react to these threats to democracy?”


Our main recommendations to the European Commission are:

  1. Strengthen the rule of law as a key priority in the next Commission programme
  2. A strong mandate for the new Commissioner for Justice
  3. Better self-assessment of the rule of law effectiveness
  4. Continue the annual rule of law reports and make them more contextual and detailed
  5. Address continuing concerns about civic space
  6. Take firm and systematic action against the non-implementation of court decisions
  7. Protect freedom of expression and information and media freedom
  8. Improve the visibility and awareness of the rule of law report

Signed by:

  1. ACAT Belgium
  2. ACAT France
  3. ALDA – European Association for Local Democracy
  4. ARTICLE 19
  5. Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
  6. Citizens Network Watchdog Poland
  7. Civil Liberties Union for Europe
  8. Committee to Protect Journalists
  9. Community Media Forum Europe
  10. Democracy Reporting International (DRI)
  11. DEMAS – Association for Democracy Assistance and Human Rights
  12. Demo Finland
  13. Europäischer Austausch / European Exchange
  14. European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  15. European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  16. European Network Against Racism (ENAR)
  17. European Partnership for Democracy (EPD)
  18. Fédération internationale des ACAT / International Federation of ACAT
  19. Fédération internationale pour les droits humains (FIDH)
  20. Free Press Unlimited
  21. Human Rights and Democracy Network Internal Working Group
  22. Human Rights House Foundation
  23. Human Rights House Zagreb
  24. Human Rights Watch
  25. Hungarian Helsinki Committee
  26. IFEX
  27. ILGA Europe – European region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and
    Intersex Association
  28. Initiative for Freedom of Expression – Turkey (IFOX)
  29. International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
  30. International Planned Parenthood Federation European Network (IPPF EN)
  31. International Press Institute (IPI)
  32. International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)
  33. Netherlands Helsinki Committee
  34. Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa
  35. Protection International
  36. Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  37. Society of Journalists
  38. South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
  39. WACC Europe

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 Summit 2023 | Day 2

MFRR Summit 2023 | Day 2

SLAPPs, Impunity, and Rule of Law


Across Europe we regularly see powerful entities abusing legal systems to stifle and smother critical reporting. Strategic litigation poses a major threat to independent media across the continent, in particular in countries where rule of law is weakest and vulnerable to abuse. Day 2 of the Summit will shine a spotlight on these topics as experts discuss initiatives to counter SLAPPs, impunity for crimes against journalists, and disinformation laws.

Keynote: Fundamental rights and the rule of law in the EU

Taking stock and the way forward

12:30 – 13:00 CET

Day 2 of the MFRR Summit 2023 will open with a keynote address from Andreas Accardo, Head of Institutional Cooperation and Networks Unit, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights. Picking up on the theme set out by UNESCO concerning the World Press Freedom Day, “Shaping a Future of Rights”, this keynote will offer a perspective on how the EU can remain a role of model for human rights by responding to global developments in a fundamental rights compliant manner. A key element in this regard is the civic space, the role of civil society organisations, human rights defenders and journalists in upholding the rule of law and a fundamental rights culture.


  • Andreas Accardo, Head of Institutional Cooperation and Networks Unit, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights

Taking steps towards ending SLAPPs

13:00 – 13:45 CET

European institutions have already established some standards through recommendations on how to counter Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) while more European legislative and non-legislative initiatives are expected to be finalised in the upcoming months and years. At national level, civil society and other stakeholders have joined forces to push for measures that would discourage SLAPPs and help targets. This panel will bring together representatives from the Coalition Against SLAPPs in Europe (CASE) and various Anti-SLAPP national groups to discuss measures being taken at national level to counter SLAPPs.


  • Marzena Blaszczyk, Board Member, Citizens Network Watchdog Poland
  • Susan Coughtrie, Director, Foreign Policy Centre, co-chair, UK Anti-SLAPP Coalition
  • Charlotte Michils, Legal Adviser Flemish/Belgian Association of Journalists & Lecturer Thomas More


  • Flutura Kusari, Senior Legal Advisor, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Media, politics, and vexatious lawsuits

An Italian perspective

13:45 – 14:00 CET

In recent months, Italy has drawn the attention of several international organisations working on media freedom. A cause for concern is the rapid succession of defamation lawsuits and subsequent legal proceedings against Italian journalists and intellectuals brought up by politicians and high-ranking public figures. By exploring the case study of Italian newspaper Domani – which in a matter of months has been respectively threatened to be sued and sued by two high profile public figures – we will discuss defamation, SLAPPs, and the challenges Italian media face when reporting on public figures.


  • Francesca De Benedetti, Journalist, Domani



  • Dr. Sielke Beata Kelner, Researcher and Advocacy officer, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa

Disinformation laws

Regulating the truth

14:15 – 15:00 CET

In Hungary, Greece, and Turkey governments have passed laws to regulate the basis of factuality under the title of “Disinformation Laws”. This session is going to bring forth the national contexts under which these laws have been drafted and passed, and how they have been implemented so far under different circumstances.


  • Dr. Kerem Altıparmak, Legal Consultant, International Commission of Jurists; Co-founder, Freedom of Expression Association
  • Tasos Telloglou, Journalist, Ekathimerini
  • Blanka Zoldi, Editor-in-chief, Lakmusz


  • Tom Gibson, EU Representative and Advocacy Manager, Committee to Protect Journalists

Rule of Law Reports

Protecting media pluralism and independence?

15:15 – 15:35 CET

The short panel will discuss the potential of the Rule of Law (RoL) mechanism by looking at the experience of transnational coalitions employing the RoL report for Europe-wide advocacy work. It will address the following key questions: How can European mechanisms such as the Rule of Law (RoL) report contribute to strengthening the protection of independent journalism across Europe? To what extent does it help foster an open and informed debate in member countries?


  • Tom Gibson, EU Representative and Advocacy Manager, Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Andrea Menapace, Executive Director, Italian Coalition for Civil Liberties and Rights (CILD)


  • Serena Epis, Editor and Researcher, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa

Significance of Public Inquiry process in combating the culture of impunity

15:50 – 16:10 CET

Impunity has an impact much wider than the person or outlet that has been the target of a crime; it also affects the whole media sector as well as leaving their target audience in the dark. The murder cases of Daphne Caruana Galizia, Jan Kuciak, and Giorgos Karaivaz have all left a stain in recent years, as have the declarations of “cold cases” for journalist murders. This session will discuss the cases of impunity in recent years in Europe, its impact on media freedom and people’s right to access information, and the significance of the public inquiry process as part of calls for justice.


  • Therese Comodini Cachia, Human Rights Lawyer
  • Corinne Vella, Head of media relations, The Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation


  • Sarah Clarke, Head of the Europe and Central Asia team, Article 19 Europe

Bolster Your Digital Safety

An Anti-Hacking, Anti-Doxing Workshop

17:00 – 18:30 CET

Learn to better protect yourself from impersonation, hacking, and doxing (the publishing of private info). With your devices in hand, join PEN America and Freedom of the Press Foundation for an interactive workshop where we’ll teach you how to audit your social media accounts, tighten your privacy settings, and track your personal information online so you can maintain the public profile you need to do your job.


Please note that this workshop is a closed event. You must register using the button below, even if you have already registered for the Summit.


  • Jeje Mohamed, Senior Manager, Digital Safety and Free Expression at PEN America
  • Harlo Holmes, Chief Information Security Officer & Director of Digital Security at Freedom of the Press Foundation
Czech Republic's Prime Minister Petr Fiala speaks with the media as he arrives for an EU Summit at Prague Castle in Prague, Czech Republic, Friday, Oct 7, 2022. Allgemein

Czech government edges closer to disinformation and public media…

Czech government edges closer to disinformation and public media initiatives

One year into term, progress on media reform remains slow


By IPI Contributor Tim Gosling

In October 2021, a new Czech government was elected amid promises to shore up democracy by fighting disinformation and strengthening public media. But one year into its term and with a key media legislation yet to be passed, there are calls for greater urgency in the ongoing reform process.


Critics admit that Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s governing coalition has had plenty on its plate since taking power during the tail end of the Covid pandemic. Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine soon unleashed a wave of refugees, and energy and inflation crunches have followed. But at the same time, they contend that these crises make action all the more urgent.

The worry is that, having leveraged the threat stalking the media environment to help depose populist billionaire Andrej Babis a year ago, the five-party coalition is struggling to maintain the enthusiasm of all factions for the plan to protect the free press. However, there are signs that the role of disinformation networks in driving recent anti-government rallies may help to revive the effort.


“Pensioner’s Facebook”

With a population highly sceptical of the political establishment, the Czech Republic has proved fertile ground for the development of disinformation networks.

Ironically, it’s the relative health of the media landscape that has encouraged the growth of “alternative” networks, says Vaclav Stetka, senior lecturer in Communication and Media Studies at Loughborough University.

Elsewhere in the region, disinformation can find its way through mainstream media. In Czechia, it must find alternative channels, often fairly unique, he says.

“Chain emails have become something of a speciality,” he notes, pointing at research by The Illiberal Turn project that shows that this format enjoys far deeper penetration than in neighbouring states.

The “pensioner’s Facebook,” as these email networks have been dubbed, was instrumental in mass protests in September. Claims that sanctions against Russia and support for Ukrainian refugees are preventing the government from offering more help amid the energy and inflation crises helped put an estimated 70,000 on Prague’s Wenceslas Square.

The turnout was a surprise, in no small part because the networks used to set the protest up are largely hidden, says investigative journalist Lukas Valasek. The pro-Russian agenda put forward by the organisers – veterans of the anti-vax movement – was a shock.

These unexpected developments seem to have helped jolt the government into action, agrees Dominik Presl, a member of a team being assembled by the commissioner for media and disinformation that Fiala appointed in March. In the wake of the protests, government and security officials have been busy warning of the dangers.

“Russian disinformation is an effective means to try to weaken our democracy, as we saw in the streets last month,” Markéta Pekarová Adamová, head of the Top09 coalition party and parliament speaker, told IPI.

Alongside the rhetoric, the interior ministry is reportedly set to deliver a bill this month aimed at laying down a legislative framework that will allow the authorities to block websites considered a security risk. While the legislation is still being crafted, currently it would allow the interior ministry to order internet providers to restrict access to website content that threatens security or democracy. The ministry stresses that the bill is not aimed at halting the publication of disinformation per se, although measures to supress the spread of fake news are being developed separately.

An option to hand the oversight to an independent body is being left open to assuage worries regarding abuse by the government. Websites targeted would be able to challenge the action in court and seek compensation.


Talking the walk

Researchers say, however, that such headline-grabbing restrictive tools need to be matched with more strategic measures. And one of the prime weapons is a strong and independent public media. A bastion of independent journalism in Central & Eastern Europe, Česká televize (Czech Television; CT) has faced assault from political forces jealous of its nonalignment for decades.

The broadcaster came under sustained pressure during Babis’s reign, as populist forces sought to wrest control of its executive body, the CT Council. Then in opposition, the parties now making up the government, fought hard to hold off the assault. It was this fight as much as anything that prompted Fiala’s campaign promises. But the momentum in carrying them out has slowed.

“The promise to strengthen the resilience and independence of public media was key, especially after accusing Babis of being a threat,” points out Stetka. “But up to now it seems it was more talk than walk. The effort and the results have been disappointing.”

Progress towards this goal now looks to finally be on the way, with a package of reforms regarding appointments to the CT Council on the cards. As overseer of the broadcaster’s management, and therefore its editorial independence, many have sought to stuff the executive board with political lackeys in the past.

The proposed new measures would aim to prevent that by allowing the upper house Senate to join the lower house Chamber of Deputies in appointing the council, which would be expanded by three seats to eighteen. New rules would also govern who could propose candidates and how the executive could discipline management.

“The goal is to avoid the Polish or Hungarian route, where the current governments have taken over the public service media and completely subjugated them,” says one of the sponsors, Jan Lacina

The bill has been awaiting a hearing in parliament for months. It was finally introduced to the Chamber of Deputies for initial debate on October 13, with Lacina insisting that the government was prepared for a “big battle”.

The effort quickly turned to farce. With Fiala absent from the chamber, the opposition blocked the proceedings. It is understood that the bill should be ready to be voted on again on November 1.

A spokesperson for the ministry of culture told IPI that “we believe the amendment will enter into force at the beginning of 2023”.

On a leash

However, even if the bill is passed and the changes are made, the long-term future of the country’s public service media remains under question.

While the CT Council reform should help protect the broadcaster, it will remain under political pressure unless its perilous financial situation is solved. And Fiala’s government has ruled out dealing with the chronic underfunding at CT and its public broadcasting cousin Český rozhlas (Czech Radio) by raising the licence fees that feed their finances.

The annual fee for CT was last raised in 2008, to CZK135 (€5.48) per household. The fee for Český rozhlas has sat at CZK45 since 2005. Both broadcasters have long warned that this leaves them unable to maintain all services. And the inflation surge is only antagonising the situation.

However, Minister of Culture Martin Baxa insists that, amid the cost-of-living crisis, the government cannot propose even a minor increase. “It’s difficult to tell people that fifteen or twenty crowns is nothing for them,” he said last month, even though vulnerable households are exempt from paying.

The lack of funding threatens to leave the two public broadcasters dependent on the government, and is therefore a serious risk to independence, watchdogs warn. Stetka calls it “a means of keeping public service media on a leash”.

Others insist that it reflects an unwillingness on the part of some government factions to lose control of public media.

“It’s an open secret that the conservative wing of Fiala’s ODS party has little time for public media independence,” said one journalist, who’s close to the topic, off record. “They have no intention of handing the country’s main TV broadcaster free reign.”

The country’s illiberal forces are just as opposed to allowing CT its financial freedom. And in the absence of action to protect the broadcaster, MPs from ANO and SPD are proposing that all pensioners be made exempt from paying fees.

“It’s another … attempt to starve the public media and … push them to future dependence on the state budget – de facto to nationalization and easy control and service of political interests,” states Robert Břešťan, editor at independent media outlet HlídacíPes.

The culture ministry is discussing options regarding the “sustainability of public media,” the spokesperson said, but noted that “increasing fees is not on the agenda”.

Alongside the failure to so far put in place a cohesive strategy for fighting disinformation or to reform the oversight of public media, that appears to leave Fiala’s promises of media reform still needing a shot in the arm.

This article is part of IPI’s reporting series “Media freedom in Europe in the shadow of Covid”, which comprises news and analysis from IPI’s network of correspondents throughout the EU. Articles do not necessarily reflect the views of IPI. This reporting series is supported by funding from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and by the European Commisson (DG Connect) as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response coalition.

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Detail of the national flag of Slovakia waving in the wind with blurred european union flag in the background on a clear day. Democracy and politics. European country. Library

Slovakia: Government pushes ahead with ambitious media reform program

Slovakia: Government pushes ahead with ambitious media reform program

New laws on source protection and media ownership transparency provide model for neighbouring countries

By IPI contributor Miroslava Kernová,

In recent months Slovakia has passed important legislative changes which will ensure a better media environment and move the country closer to standards outlined by the recently published European Media Freedom Act (EMFA).

Moreover, in addition to the laws already passed, others are in preparation. If the full package is achieved, Slovakia can become a leading example of press freedom for other EU countries, such as Hungary or Poland, where press freedom continues to face major challenges from media capture.

In its program statement (2020-24), the current government promised a complex reform which would reflect modern changes in the media environment. The changes this reform introduces and proposes are revolutionary by Slovak standards.

The problem with previous Slovak media legislation was that it did not reflect the online environment, titled the scales in favour of political forces, and allowed ways for these forces to influence public media.

The motivation for the change is also public pressure for better protection of journalists after the brutal murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová in 2018.


Reforms passed already

In August, the parliament passed a new Act on Media and the Act on Publications, replacing two outdated laws, the Press Act and the Compulsory Copies Act.

These new laws strengthen the protection of journalists, extend source protection to online media, and bring greater transparency to media ownership and funding, which strengthens their credibility against media disseminating disinformation.

Firstly, under the new Act on Media and Act on Publications, the right to protect the confidentiality of sources – which was in the past only guaranteed for broadcast and print media journalists – has been extended to include journalists from online media.

Secondly, media outlets must also declare any investor or donor who invests more than €2,000 per year. This change should make the media environment in Slovakia more transparent. A number of anonymous sources of disinformation, pro-Russian or politically motivated websites operating in Slovakia would have to declare their real “final beneficiaries” in a public register, which will allow anyone to verify whose is behind these outlets. For non-compliance with this obligation, media may receive a warning or a fine of up to €20,000.

Thirdly, the new law also strengthens the protection of minors, improves access to audio-visual content for the disabled by increasing quotas for multimodal access, and specifically promotes broadcasting for national minorities and ethnic groups in public service broadcasting.

It also regulates the conditions for television and radio, regardless of whether they broadcast standardly or online, and introduces several rights and obligations for television and radio. Every viewer will now be able to find out who owns a given medium and there will be a register where all the information will be available. This will be administered by the Ministry of Culture, which is to establish the register within 30 months of the adoption of the law.

In addition, the law redefines general rules for advertising in both public and private media and, in line with European requirements, introduces the notion of community periodicals into the Slovak legislation and allows for the application of self-regulatory mechanisms.


Last minute amendments from politicians

The downside of the new media laws, however, is that MPs in the last steps of finalising the legislation process introduced a “right to expression” for public officials into it, thus securing for themselves more media space than ordinary citizens. The right to expression for public officials was only included in the bill at the end of the second reading in parliament – as amendments by MPs from Sme rodina and OĽaNO.

“Politicians have their channels of communication. The most followed profiles on social networks belong to politicians, they express themselves in press conferences that are broadcast. So there is no reason for a politician to exercise his right to express himself in the exercise of his public office,” media lawyer Tomáš Kamenec told the daily SME.

In the original draft law, the right to expression could only be used to deny, supplement, clarify or explain factual allegations. Parliament eventually approved amendments that extended the right to expression to value judgments based (columns or opinion pieces) on disputed claims.

Alexej Fulmek from the Association of Print and Digital Media (ATDM) and CEO of the Petit Press publishing house considers the adoption of the “right to expression” as a step backwards. “Unfortunately, politicians in Slovakia are mostly under the impression that the media are causing harm to this country and that they are the ones who have to fight them. They don’t understand that the role of the media is to be critical, especially towards politicians. In this atmosphere the idea prevailed that politicians need some ‘stick’ against the media. This probably seemed to them as an adequate solution,” Fulmek told Strategie magazine.


Increasing protection for journalists

Additional planned changes deal with the protection of journalists. Draft amendments to the Criminal Code would remove the long-criticised prison sentence for defamation, which has been a major threat to journalists in Slovakia for years. Under the current law, defamation carries a prison sentence of two to eight years. Under the new legislation, defamation would not carry a prison sentence.

The planned amendment to the criminal code also introduces so-called “special motives” for crimes, which will include a crime committed against someone for exercising of their job, profession or function. This may contribute to better protection of journalists and other professions (doctors, teachers, security forces…) who face many threats and can face attacks in their work. A crime committed with a specific motive will carry higher penalty.

For now, the draft of this law remains parked at the ministry of culture. Questions remain over whether the government will find the political will to pass such legislation.


Further changes planned

The Ministry of Justice has also proposed amendments to extend the scope of the Freedom of Information Act. The amendment expands both the scope of information to be provided and the persons obliged to provide it. For example, the draft also extends the list of companies that are obliged to provide information to state-owned companies and second- and third-tier subsidiaries of state-owned companies, which are not covered by the current law.

The proposal also extends the mandatory disclosure of information to persons seeking public office as well as to public officials themselves. It also introduces an obligation to publish all amendments to contracts subject to mandatory publication.

The Ministry of Culture wants to implement the PersVeilig (Press Safe) platform for greater protection of journalists in Slovakia, following the example of the Netherlands.

In 2019, the PersVeilig platform was launched in the Netherlands to improve the safety of journalists. The platform was also created because although journalists faced threats, they often did not report them because they felt they were not sufficiently dealt with by the police. PersVeilig improves cooperation between journalists, their employers, the police and prosecutors.

The Slovak Ministry of Culture wants to work with the Netherlands to improve the protection of journalists domestically. “We are not talking about whether it should be an organisation, a platform, a technical or procedural solution. What we want is to reach a concrete result that can be implemented and traced,” said Radoslav Kutaš, the ministry’s state secretary, told Denník N.

If all these plans are indeed implemented, Slovakia will meet many of the requirements of the European Media Freedom Act regarding of the protection of media pluralism and independence, and in some respects may even go beyond them, such as the ambition to create a special platform to protect journalists.


Challenges remain

Despite many positive ambitions, the media environment in Slovakia continues to face problems. Journalists, especially those from the opinion-making media, are constantly targets of verbal attacks from politicians, mainly from former Prime Minister Igor Matovic, but also from the opposition.

For example, the deputy chairman of the opposition Smer party, Ľuboš Blaha, regularly dehumanises journalists. Matovič, who leads the biggest party in parliament, also regularly attacks journalists on his Facebook page and recently accused unspecified media of corruption, “spreading lies” and compared the work of Slovak journalists to Nazi propaganda.

In Slovakia, the problematic environment for independent public service media also remains a major issue. The main problem is that both the director and the supervisory boards of Slovak Radio and Television (RTVS) are elected in parliament after political agreements are made. Politicians still have influence over the funding of public service media. Changes need to be made to guarantee that public service media management and funding are more independent and more resistant to political pressures.

Even if the political will is there, the road ahead contains multiple pitfalls. The forthcoming changes may be stalled by the current unstable political situation that brings about the possibility of the fall of the current government and of early national parliamentary elections, which may result in a government of such parties that do not favour the idea of a free media.

However, if the planned changes are passed, Slovakia would take major steps forward in strengthening the legal frameworks for media freedom and provide a positive example to follow for other EU Members States in Central and Eastern Europe in the years to come.

This article is part of IPI’s reporting series “Media freedom in Europe in the shadow of Covid”, which comprises news and analysis from IPI’s network of correspondents throughout the EU. Articles do not necessarily reflect the views of IPI. This reporting series is supported by funding from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom and by the European Commisson (DG Connect) as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response coalition.

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EU flags outside the European Commission Library

EU Rule of Law report: Little bark, no bite

EU Rule of Law report: Little bark, no bite

On 20 July, the European Commission published the 2021 Rule of Law Report. The document, which is the outcome of months of painstaking work, can be a valuable tool that empowers civil society, the EU institutions and Member State governments who care about the rule of law in the Union. The Report, comprised of a Communication that covers EU-wide developments and country chapters for each Member State, is designed “as a yearly cycle to promote the rule of law and to prevent problems from emerging or deepening and to address them … It seeks to strengthen the rule of law in full respect for national traditions and specificities, stimulating a constructive debate and encouraging all Member States to examine how challenges can be addressed and to learn from each other’s experiences.” 

In its current form, the Report represents a significant descriptive documentation effort. However, for it to live up to the high expectations and truly become a critical tool that can contribute to the promotion and safeguarding of EU values, we believe several fundamental changes are needed in future iterations of the report.

Firstly, we believe that more transparency from the Commission on the methodology and selection process of stakeholders invited to consultation meetings, as well as closer consultation and collaboration with civil society to design a more straightforward and more easily accessible process, would greatly benefit its credibility. We appreciate that the Commission has “further deepened our assessment, which benefited from even more outreach than last year,” as Commissioner Reynders said at the press conference presenting the Report. However, given the current lack of openness concerning the methodology, it is difficult to assess how inclusive the process really is and to what extent shortcomings in this regard are systematically addressed.

Secondly, looking at the Communication and country reports as a whole, it appears that the process of “looking at all Member States equally” has resulted in depoliticised analyses in anodyne language that present the situation in all Member States as roughly equal, allowing for measured praise and criticism of each. Subsequently, we believe that the Report as a whole does not reflect the reality of the depth of the rule of law crisis in Poland and Hungary or how starkly the intentional violation of core EU values in these Member States contrasts with the situation in the rest of the Union. It also undermines the Report’s ability to prevent problems from emerging, as is currently the case in certain other Member States including Slovenia, or to stimulate debate and mutual learning.

Lastly, to strengthen the process’ capacity to bring about substantial change, we continue to call for country-specific recommendations. These should be framed in the context of Member States’ obligations under EU law and international human rights law and standards, which would allow for tracking and evaluating progress and regression against an agreed, binding framework.

Signed by:

  • Article 19
  • European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
  • European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
  • Free Press Unlimited (FPU)
  • International Press Institute (IPI)
  • OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)