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Freedom of the press. Photo by geralt on Pixabay

Brussels, 1 November 2022

Ahead of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists on 2 November, High Representative Josep Borrell and Vice-President Věra Jourová issued the following statement:

“Journalists are our eyes and ears reporting from conflict zones. They put their lives in danger to provide accounts of what is happening on the ground. Their accurate, impartial media reports serve a fundamental public interest: accounts, images and news from the ground can have a decisive impact on the development and outcome of armed conflicts.

Consequently, journalistic work is often deliberately obstructed in armed conflicts. Media professionals face access denial, censorship, and harassment, as well as arbitrary detention and brutal attacks. In Ukraine, several journalists and media workers have been killed or injured, sometimes deliberately targeted, while documenting the truth about the atrocities committed by Russian troops in Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine. Their work is essential, as the Russian regime wages a global disinformation campaign on the realities of their war.

Intentionally directing attacks against journalists, as civilians, constitutes a war crime.

War zones are however not the only places where journalists come under attack. Across the world, journalists face increasing threats in their work. They are victims of hate crimes, harassed online, targeted by spyware, and even murdered.

We must put an end to impunity for these crimes and uphold human rights and the rule of law by providing justice to the victims. Over the past 10 years, 80% of journalists’ murders worldwide have not been held to account.

The EU supports networks of at-risk journalists and reinforcing journalists’ ability to operate in hostile environments across the world. This includes provision of protective equipment and assistance. Under the new Global Europe programme for Human Rights and Democracy, we are establishing an Observatory on the Fight Against Impunity to contribute to collect and use evidence and knowledge for advocacy and accountability at global, regional and national levels.

Also within the European Union journalists can face difficult conditions. Member States are expected to comply with the Commission Recommendation on the safety of journalists adopted in 2021. Candidate countries and those in its neighbourhood are also expected to adopt these standards.

The new Media Freedom Act aims to safeguard the independence and the pluralism of the media and to support journalists, enabling them to hold those in power to account without fear or favour. The Commission also took action to fight strategic lawsuits against public participation which put pressure on journalists and silence them.

These legislative proposals should be adopted as soon as possible to improve the environment in which journalists and media are working.

States must investigate and prosecute all criminal acts committed against journalists in an impartial, independent, effective, transparent, and timely manner.

Impunity for crimes against journalists must end.

Justice must be served.


The Committee to Protect Journalists reminds us that nobody has been held to account in 80% of journalists’ murders during the last 10 years.

The growing number of physical, legal and online threats to and attacks on journalists and other media professionals in the EU over the past years, is a worrying trend reflected in the Commission’s Rule of Law Reports. Physical attacks have been reported in the context of public protests, and journalists in several Member States have been subject to aggression from protesters, but also in some cases police forces. Online threats are on the rise across the EU, with female journalists and journalists of minority background particularly at risk.

This situation is particularly concerning when politicians or powerful public figures are initiating such attacks.

On 16 September, the European Commission adopted a European Media Freedom Act, a novel set of rules to protect media pluralism and independence in the EU. The proposed Regulation includes, among others, safeguards against political interference in editorial decisions and against surveillance of journalists. This proposal complements the recently adopted Recommendation on the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists and the Directive to protect journalists and rights defenders from abusive litigation (anti-SLAPP package).

The EU works around the world to contribute to the safety and protection of journalists by condemning attacks, as outlined in the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy for 2020-2024. The EU assists those intimidated or threatened via the EU human rights defenders protection mechanisms and supports media initiatives and appeals to state authorities to prevent and condemn such violence and take effective measures to end impunity. EU Delegations around the world attend and monitor court cases involving journalists, helping to identify those cases that need a special attention.

In December, we will invite human rights defenders, civil society and non-governmental organizations from across the world to an EU-NGO Human Rights Forum dedicated to: Stop impunity: the road to accountability and justice. This will be an important opportunity to discuss together more effective strategies to reinforce accountability and justice.

Source – EU Commission

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