(Source: European Commission)
“Check against delivery”
Honourable President Alar Karis,
Honourable Nobel Prize Laureate Dmitry Muratov,
It is an honour to speak today in this conference – which is particularly timely.
I would like to thank the Estonian authorities for the invitation.
Some journalists pay a high price for doing their job.
You are part, Mr Muratov, of those journalists, along with Mrs Maria Ressa who won the Nobel Peace Prize with you and whom I had the pleasure to meet on several occasions.
Without journalists like you, we would not know what is really happening in those countries where authorities want to destroy freedoms at all costs. Where authoritarian regimes do not want to be asked questions; where they want to rewrite history. They do not want the world to know the reality on the ground. But thanks to journalists like you, we know.
Thank you for that.
I know gratitude is not enough. Action is needed.
In this context, democracies have two major duties : protecting journalists, media freedom and pluralism – which are at the core of our values. And fighting disinformation which aims at dividing us and undermining our democratic model. These duties go hand in hand, and they are both part of my role.
Last September, the European Commission presented its first-ever recommendations on the safety of journalists. We ask Member States to create independent national support services, including helplines, legal advice, psychological support and shelters for journalists and media professionals facing threats. We call for an increased protection of journalists during demonstrations, greater online safety and particular support to female journalists.
We are also working on measures to protect journalists and civil society rights defenders against abusive litigation – the so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation or SLAPP. Because SLAPP is another way to try to put pressure on journalists and silence them.
At the same time, we are preparing the European Media Freedom Act. This Act will introduce safeguards to protect the independence of the media and media pluralism in the EU. We are consulting widely and I would like invite the participants in the conference to contribute.
One important measure, in my view, should be to strengthen the cooperation between European media regulators. Independent regulators play a key role in the protection of media freedom and pluralism.
Strengthening European media regulators and their cooperation would also help the EU to deal more efficiently and consistently with disinformation and foreign propaganda channels.
We have seen decisive action by several regulators, including in the Baltic States and in Germany.
As announced in the European Democracy Action Plan, the EU is working to impose costs on purveyors of foreign interference and influence operations.
We are also working on the new anti-Disinformation pact with the digital players, such as Facebook and Google, but also with advertising sector, to ensure that it becomes more difficult to amplify propaganda and that we protect our information space.
Dear Mister Muratov,
You rightly said in your Nobel Lecture, that “aggressive marketing of war affects people and they start thinking that war is acceptable. Governments and their propaganda supporters are fully responsible for the militaristic rhetoric on state-owned television channels”.
Today Ukraine is the main target of this aggressive marketing of war.
Experts reported that Ukraine was in nearly 40 per cent of the disinformation cases that they have identified since 2015.
Ukraine and NATO would be the aggressors, and Russia would be the victim of broken promises. Promises that were never given.
This might sound incredible in some parts of Europe and of the world. It might well be credible in other parts.
Democracies should be united. The only answer to Russia’s action is unity. Of the EU, of NATO.
Nothing is off the table in order to protect the integrity of Ukraine.
We stand for our values.