Freedom of expression, in all its forms, is the very essence of democracy. Only with a thriving, free and independent media landscape, we can hold governments, businesses and society at large accountable. And precisely for this fundamental right, far too often, journalists and media workers are attacked, persecuted, harassed, or intimidated for carrying out their work. Most journalists are not wounded in the heat of war coverage, but suffer violence in our immediate surroundings. In 2018 alone, 94 journalists and media staff were killed in work-related incidents as reported by the International Federation of Journalists. Hundreds more have been subjected to arbitrary arrest or detention without ever having been tried in a court.
Time and again, governments fail to protect journalists, hesitate to prosecute perpetrators or even perpetrate the crimes themselves. Impunity for these crimes multiplies their impact and erodes democratic societies by fuelling fear, mistrust, and anxiety.
Only last month we remembered the killing of Saudi national Jamal Khashoggi, whose case still awaits court handling, and the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in the midst of Europe, proving that no region of the world is immune to such crimes. On this day we reiterate our commitment to combat impunity for crimes against journalists and to continue using all appropriate means possible to respect and protect freedom of expression and to ensure the safety of journalists and media workers.
The EU provides support and legal assistance via the EU-funded mechanism for Human Rights Defenders, a network that delivers fast response to human rights defenders under threat, including journalists. The EU also funds the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) and its important Media Pluralism Monitor that continues to measure threats to media pluralism in the EU and in neighbouring countries and informs our policy-making processes. In 2019, the European Commission committed a budget of €2.2 million to support ECPMF projects geared at promoting quality journalism, and cross-border cooperation between media professionals and self-regulatory bodies. In many countries, we provide financial and expert support to foster protection of journalists, bloggers and media workers.
On this day dedicated to the end of impunity for crimes against journalists, we pay tribute to all those who lost their lives and suffered attacks in the exercise of their freedom of expression online and offline and stand by all those who have the courage to speak up for all of us.