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Global Conference for Media Freedom: Joint communiqué

February 9, 2022 - Global Affairs Canada

We, the members of the Media Freedom Coalition, have come together at the ministerial meeting at the Third Global Conference for Media Freedom, held on February 9 and 10 and hosted by Estonia and the Estonian Institute of Human Rights

Media freedom is a cornerstone of democracy. Free and independent media is necessary for ensuring accurate information and informed public debate and discussion, holding governments accountable and drawing attention to human rights violations, and it serves as a watchdog for the public interest.

Media freedom has continuously been in decline in recent years, driven in part by anti-democratic and illiberal pressures and practices and by the misuse of digital technologies to restrict media freedom. Challenges to media freedom include unduly restrictive laws, arbitrary and/or unlawful surveillance, censorship, undue interference in the circulation of information online and physical violence; these challenges are exacerbated by financial threats, which jeopardize media independence and sustainability.

Women journalists are disproportionately targeted by online harassment, threats, sexist hate speech and trolling. In many instances, women journalists are subject to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination and gender-based violence because of their sexual orientation, race, disability, religion, ethnicity or gender identity, as well as other reasons. This can lead to self-censorship such that women choose to withdraw from the public sphere, which undermines media pluralism and democracy as a whole.

By joining the Media Freedom Coalition, we have made a commitment to continue working together to improve media freedom and the safety of journalists online and offline both at home and abroad. As representatives of governments, it is our responsibility to ensure that people in our countries can freely enjoy all their human rights.

Today, we recall the commitments made in the Global Pledge on Media Freedom. We committed to speaking out and taking action together: by combining forces to share information, as appropriate, and to take action in cases where journalists and media organizations are at risk; by shining a light on violations and abuses of media freedom, bringing these to the attention of the global public and working toward accountability; by standing together to intervene at the highest level with the governments of countries where media freedom is at risk and to show solidarity with countries that work to build media freedom; and by considering all available measures to address violations and abuses of international human rights law related to media freedom.

We reiterate our commitments to increase coordination locally through our diplomatic missions around the world, to defend media freedom and to increase support for and engagement with journalists and independent media under threat.

We support measures to tackle the precarious working conditions and poverty of journalists, which undermine their independence.

The Media Freedom Coalition expresses its gratitude to Estonia and the Estonian Institute of Human Rights for shining a spotlight at the Global Conference for Media Freedom on the important topics of disinformation and freedom of speech, the protection of journalists and the interlinkages between media freedom and Internet freedom. We also thank them for creating the Media Freedom Coalition’s website, which provides the members of the coalition with a platform to continue addressing abuses of media freedom together.

We commend the tireless work of all journalists and media workers who uphold and defend media freedom. We pay tribute to all journalists and media workers who have been targets of intimidation, violence or arbitrary detention or who, in the most extreme cases, have been killed in the course of exercising their profession.

We again wholeheartedly congratulate Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov on being awarded the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, which emphasizes the importance of independent journalism.

We need journalists to report the facts, keep us informed and hold those in power accountable. When violence against journalists triumphs, media cannot be free and democracy cannot function.

We look forward to celebrating the upcoming 10th anniversary of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity—a milestone in media freedom and the protection of journalists.

We welcome the ongoing work of the independent High Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom to provide advice to governments to ensure the protection of media freedom in legislation, and we note the recommendations contained in the reports of the panel. We also warmly welcome the newly appointed deputy chairs of the panel, Can Yeginsu and Catherine Amirfar. We look forward to working together with them.

We recognize the importance of media development work, which supports media organizations in becoming more viable and resilient and improves the enabling environment for media. We commit to working together to improve the effectiveness of this work including through the Working Group of the Coalition on Media Development.

We underscore the important role played by international and regional organizations in the protection and promotion of media freedom, including the UN, UNESCO, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Organization of American States, the African Union and the Council of Europe. We also note the complementary and fundamental role of other like-minded initiatives, such as the Freedom Online Coalition and the International Partnership on Information and Democracy.

We commend the work of the Global Media Defence Fund, administered by UNESCO, in enhancing journalists’ legal protections and improving media freedom by supporting investigative journalism and strategic litigation.

We commend the work of civil society organizations, and especially that of the Media Freedom Coalition—Consultative Network, co-chaired by IFEX, ARTICLE 19 and the Pakistan Press Foundation, in providing the Media Freedom Coalition with expert counsel and strategic direction.

Finally, we would like to thank Maldives, Germany and Latvia for their commitment to media freedom as members of the Media Freedom Coalition’s Executive Group, and we would like to welcome the Czech Republic and Estonia as new members of the Executive Group, as well as Ireland, which has officially joined the Media Freedom Coalition as its 50th member.

We would like to express our gratitude to the United Kingdom for initiating the work of, and being a strong co-chair of, the Media Freedom Coalition. We are also thankful to the United Kingdom for launching the Media Freedom Coalition Secretariat, which will ensure the sustainability of the coalition.

We also thank Canada for its ongoing leadership as co-chair of the Media Freedom Coalition since 2019 and welcome the Netherlands as a new co-chair of the coalition. The Netherlands will provide strong leadership in this role.

Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belize, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kosovo, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Maldives, Montenegro, the Netherlands, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Serbia, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, the United States

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