Insights European Commission consults on roadmap on ensuring journalists’ safety in the EU


The Commission explains that journalists and other media actors are increasingly facing threats and attacks (physical and online) across EU Member States. To address these challenges, in the European Democracy Action Plan (published in December 2020), the Commission announced its intention to issue a Recommendation to Member States aimed at ensuring journalists’ safety in the EU.

Building on the comprehensive approach set out in the Council of Europe’s 2016 Recommendation on the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists and other media actors, the Commission’s aim is to make a number of practical recommendations to Member States, to further tackle safety issues and to counter the most worrying trends identified recently in the EU.

The Recommendation aims to:

  1. introduce a robust system of safeguards that could be implemented at national level to allow journalists to fulfil their crucial role “on the ground” and ensure their unrestrained operation in terms of access to venues, sources and reporting events of public interest; the system will also take into consideration the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on media workers;
  2. set out measures for Member States to counter impunity and ensure timeliness of investigations and proceedings for crimes committed against journalists; it will also aim to foster effective cooperation and interaction between journalists and law enforcement authorities and introduce support tools that provide direct support for journalists in need (e.g. points of contacts, hotlines);
  3. explore measures that could be taken by Member States to address the online threats that journalists are exposed to, boost digital empowerment and strengthen cyber-resilience among journalists; and
  4. consider measures that could be taken by Member States to improve the situation of female journalists as well as journalists representing or reporting on minorities; for example, it will aim to increase transparency in the reporting on gender-based attacks as well as ensure the availability of training that focuses on the gender, equality and inclusiveness challenges faced by journalists; the Recommendation will be fully aligned with the initiative on preventing and combatting gender-based violence against women and domestic violence.

Recognising the fact that legal proceedings used to hinder journalist activity (so-called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation or SLAPPs), represent a serious form of harassment used to intimidate journalists, the Recommendation will be complemented by an initiative targeting SLAPPs (planned for the end of 2021).

The Recommendation will be linked to the proposal to extend the list of EU crimes under Article 83(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to cover hate crime and hate speech, including online hate speech, as well as ongoing work under the Code of conduct on tackling illegal hate speech.

The Commission’s roadmap is open for consultation until 20 May 2021. To access the roadmap, click here.

As reported in N2K, the UK Government published its own National Action Plan for the Safety of Journalists last month (March 2021). To access the UK Action Plan, click here.