Didier Reynders advocates for media freedom and safety of journalists

Today is the International Day to end impunity for crimes against journalists. Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Didier Reynders reiterates the importance of freedom of expression and media freedom to promote and protect human rights. Allowing journalists to work freely and independently, is a fundamental cornerstone for a well-functioning and open democracy. Apart from informing the public, they also have a supervisory role to hold those in power accountable and address wrongdoings.

Journalists can only fully play their role if they can work independently, in an environment with respect for freedom of expression, freedom of information and freedom of press.

Unfortunately, the critical role of journalists and media is too often undermined by intimidation and violence. Sometimes journalists risk life and limb to do their job and some even get killed. The shocking dead of de Saudi journalist J Khashoggi has been in the headlines for weeks, but also in Europe journalists have lost their lives in the past year. Furthermore we notice anti-press rhetoric in a number of countries, coupled with an increase in the number of press freedom violations and intimidation against journalists.

According to Reporters without Borders 61 journalists, 11 citizen journalists and 4 media assistents were killed in 2018 while exercising their job. Moreover, 167 journalists and 150 citizen journalists are in prison as we speak.

Minister Reynders calls upon all countries to do everything necessary to stop threats and attacks against journalists and to safeguard their security. To do so, a solid legal framework to protect the freedom of expression and media is essential. It is also important to track down and prosecute those who commit crimes against journalist, so perpetrators don’t get away unpunished.

Belgium continues to call for freedom of press and safety of journalists in bilateral contacts, within the EU and regional and multilateral organizations as the United Nations, the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe. Our capital Brussels hosts one of the highest numbers of foreign journalists globally, an openness we want to continue conveying to the rest of the world.