On 3 December, 2022, UNESCO Chair on Media Freedom, Journalism Safety and the Issue of Impunity, Professor Jackie Harrison (pictured left), took part in a panel discussing media freedom and journalism safety issues around the world. The event, ‘Media Freedom and Impunity of Crimes Against Journalists’, took place between 2-3 December 2022 and was co-organised by European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS) and Fight Impunity. Discussions took place at Jean Monnet House and Professor Harrison contributed to the panel session ‘Media Freedom and Protection of Journalists in the World’.

Professor Harrison discussed the work and research that has been conducted at the Centre for Freedom of the Media (CFOM) in her talk. She emphasised how research had shown that there are key trends in human rights abuses affecting the safety of journalists and constraining media freedom across the world. These key trends include the fact that, while the killings of journalists have declined, there has been a growth in other forms of targeted attacks, such as non-lethal physical violence, kidnapping, torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance as well as legal, digital, psycho-social, gender and identity-based intimidation.

Professor Harrison also noted that there are political challenges as global trends have indicated an increase in politically motivated restrictions and diminishment of media freedoms. In addition to this, Professor Harrison acknowledged that there has been an increase in legislation designed to curtail independent journalism, such as through the use of Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPPs).  Online restrictions were also identified as another key trend impacting journalists’ safety and media freedom. In particular, broadband internet shutdowns, mobile internet shutdowns and service-specific shutdowns were emphasised as impacting journalists’ ability to carry out their work.

It was also stated by Professor Harrison that in some instances we are witnessing a decline or stagnation in media pluralism in numerous parts of the world. For example, we are seeing more state-led capture of the media landscape, which is often accompanied by the concentration and monopolisation of media institutions to serve vested political interests. In parallel to this state capture, some forms of commercial ownership serve to generate political partisanship.

Professor Harrison concluded by noting potential recommendations to address abuses against journalists, including working on repealing or amending legislation inconsistent with international human rights standards and law. Other recommendations focused on offering support, such as by funding initiatives to address the need for more reliable quality data on the full range of human rights violations against journalists. Funding research by academia and civil society which try to better understand patterns of restrictions and attacks against journalists was also noted as being of importance alongside supporting journalists in exile and promoting improved country engagement with the Voluntary National Review mechanism under the Sustainable Development Goal’s Agenda.

More information can be found in the policy brief: ‘Safety of journalists and media freedom: trends in non-EU countries from a human rights perspective‘ that was written by Professor Harrison and CFOM Research Associate, Dr Sara Torsner and published by the European Parliament in June 2022.