European Union (EU) countries were urged by Brussels to take measures to protect journalists after an increase in the number of attacks on members of the press.
The European Commission urged governments to create free contact points for threatened media professionals, ensuring a quick response from the authorities. Brussels also wants reporters who are victims of crimes to have guaranteed access to legal advice and shelter, reported this Thursday the Guardian.
The Commission stated that, in 2020, 908 of these professionals were attacked in 23 EU Member States. He also pointed to the murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia, from Malta, and Ján Kuciak, from Slovakia, who were investigating cases of corruption in their countries of origin. This year, the Dutchman Peter de Vries was murdered in Amsterdam and the Greek Giorgos Karaivaz was gunned down on his way home from work.
In her annual “state of the union” speech, which took place on Wednesday, Commission Chair Ursula von der Leyen said that in 2022 she would present a law to safeguard the press independence.
In Hungary, independent media outlets were shut down or bought up by pro-government figures. Poland is debating a bill to ban companies outside the European Economic Area from majority ownership in national broadcasters.
Bulgaria is considered the worst EU member state in terms of press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The World Press Freedom Index, created by the organization, reveals the gloomy situation for the media in Hungary (92nd place), Malta (81st), Greece (70th) and Poland (64th).
For RSF, the EU recommendations are a “step in the right direction”, but warned of the inability or reluctance of authorities in some countries to protect journalists. “Every effort must be made to ensure that these recommendations become a reality,” said Julie Majerczak, the organization’s EU representative.