To mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the European Parliament approved a non-legislative resolution calling on European Union member states to “create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and secure environment for journalists”.

To protect journalists from violence and threats, the MEPs agreed that an independent and impartial regulatory body should be set up, in cooperation with journalists’ organisations, to monitor and report on violence. Journalists whose freedom to work has been threatened need effective legal procedures to be able to avoid self-censorship, notes the text.

The resolution, which was voted by 488 to 43, with 114 abstentions, also calls on the European Commission to allocate permanent and adequate EU budget funding to support the Media Pluralism Monitor and create an independent monitoring mechanism to assess risks to media pluralism and freedom in the EU.

Barbara Spinelli (GUE/NGL, IT), who drafted the resolution, said “The crucial point of reference of the report is article 19 ICCPR and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. I tried to stress that concepts like ‘fake news’ are misleading, and are increasingly applied to the internet sphere alone.

“I tried to adhere as much as possible to the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and ‘Fake News’, Disinformation and Propaganda with which I share the view that the human right to impart and receive information and ideas cannot be limited to supposedly ‘correct’ statements, but must also ‘protect information and ideas that may shock, offend and disturb’.”

To mark World Press Freedom Day, European Parliament President Antonio Tajani paid special tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia, the investigative journalist in Malta who was killed in a car bomb last October.  He also mentioned Jan Kuciak, a Slovak investigative journalist who was shot dead in February.

“The European Parliament is at the forefront to protect journalists, their quest for truth and their independence,” said Tajani. “They are the real guardians of our democracy. The rule of law, the very foundation of our Union, stands to suffer when they are threatened, silenced or worse, injured or murdered as is the case with the barbaric murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Jan Kuciak.

“Daphne and Jan, we did not forget you,” added Tajani. “We will not forget you. We will continue to call, strengthened by the voice of 500 million citizens, that justice be done. We want real justice, not only with those who pulled the trigger, but also with the masterminds and accomplices. That is the call we share with the thousands attending the funeral of Daphne and Jan.”

For the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) Group in the European Parliament, independent is increasingly under threat, both in Europe and around the world.

“An independent press, able to hold those in power to account, is an essential part of a functioning democracy,” said the S&D Group spokesperson for the report, Caterina Chinnici. “As we have seen from several recent scandals, journalists play an essential role in shining a light on shady dealings or illegal activity. Worryingly, a robust and independent media is under threat in many parts of Europe.

“We are also seeing a dangerous rise in fake news pushed by organisations or foreign powers for political or financial gain,” she added. “Today we are calling for more money to be devoted to media literacy training and education, to ensure that citizens are equipped to read news in a critical manner.”