The fight for freedom of mass media is one of core challenges in the today's world.
Conference "The fight for the truth: free and independent journalism in today's world" was held on October 18 at the European Parliament. The event was organized by the group of the European People's Party (EPP).
Speakers at the conference: Chair of the European People's Party Manfred Weber, member of the European Parliament for Spain and Deputy Chair of the EPP Esteban González Pons, MEP for Poland and member of the Legal Committee of the European Parliament Tadeusz Zwiefka, a former Managing Editor of El País David Alandete, the Editor-in-Chief of Charter97.org Natallia Radzina, Manuel Mateo Goyet (DG Information Society), the Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia (the son of the Maltese murdered journalist).
Opening the conference Manfred Weber stated: "Media freedom is a fundamental right and a prerequisite for functioning democracy everywhere in Europe. If journalists cannot do their job freely, in the long run, our democracies will cease to be democracies. That is why the EPP Group will not stop calling for justice for deaths and persecution of journalists."
Participants in the conference mentioned the influence of the Russian propaganda on the post-Soviet territory and EU countries, as well as its aggressive interference in election campaigns.
The Editor-in-Chief of Charter97.org Natallia Radzina told about the situation with the freedom of speech in Belarus and post-Soviet countries. According to her, amid the hybrid war waged by Russia, the situation is really hard one in the region and requires a prompt reaction on the part of the West.
"In my land, Belarus, the freedom of speech is destroyed by dictator Lukashenka, who has remained in power for 24 years. Everything is under the governmental control: television, radio, newspapers, the Internet. These several independent newspapers and websites, which survived in the country, work under constant pressure and self-censorship," Natallia Radzina said and enumerated latest repressions against independent media: the blockage of Charter-97, draconian amendments to the law on mass media, criminal cases against popular video bloggers, persecution of freelancers and Belsat journalists, searches and detentions of BelaPAN and tut.by journalists, pressure on independent media on the part of the KGB.
She stated that the censorship had reached monumental proportions.
"Free Internet is not available in Belarus, Russia, China, Iran, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan. In fact, half of Eurasia will soon remain without free speech, as traditional media is almost destroyed there. What do countries with no freedom of speech mean? These are tough dictatorships, murders, arrests, torture of dissidents and ultimately war. Therefore, the free Western world must react immediately and in the most fundamental way.
However, we observe an opposite reaction. For example, ties of the EU countries and the USA and the dictatorial regime of Belarus are getting closer. The EU has significantly increased its financial assistance to the Lukashenka regime. European Commissioners visit Minsk and meet with the dictator. They hold international conferences with almost no attention paid to the violation of human rights in Belarus. The support of independent Belarusian media is being cut; media is on the verge of closing-down.
There is a sense that structures of the EU are divided into two parts. On the one hand, we have MEPs who are now strictly treat the violation of human rights and freedom of speech in Belarus: over the year they have adopted two resolutions disapproving persecution of the opposition and independent media of Belarus and requiring an immediate unlock of Charter97.org. On the other hand, European officials and commissars ignore demands of MEPs and, despite of every good reason, cooperate with the Belarusian regime. Funds which state their support of the democracy, in reality, actively support dictatorships. It's extremely complicated for the Belarusian independent media to get grants. It is known that GONGO which cooperates with the authorities has no interruptions in funding.
The irony of it is that a drastic decline in assistance to independent media occurs amid sound public statements of the need of actions against Putin's propaganda as an essential part of the hybrid war.
Russian Novaya Gazeta announced problems with funding on the day Charter-97 did it. Crimean Tatar ATR TV Channel can barely stay afloat because of no appropriate funding in Ukraine. Civil rights defender from Azerbaijan Emin Guseinov told me that over the past ten years the aid to independent media of Azerbaijan had decreased tenfold!
Leading independent media of the Crimea, Belarus, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan are about to close down. Meanwhile, great politicians and democratic funds are vocal in combating Putin's propaganda.
This year I have repeatedly visited the European Parliament. I have heard many words of encouragement and I am grateful for all adopted resolutions. But it's time for actions. At the moment the Russian authorities are waging the hybrid war against our countries and EU countries, and their own people. If Putin meets military resistance, the information aspect of the war is lagging behind," Natallia Radzina stated.
Spanish journalist David Alandete told how the Russian propaganda operated in Catalonia. He says that the Russian influence there is significant. Russia Today TV channel provides biased information, then they become viral on social networks. The popularity of such "news" greatly exceeds ordinary news. In the meantime Catalan, Russian, Venezuelan accounts disperse biased information.
Russia Today is not a media source, but a weapon. And they themselves acknowledge it," David Alandete stated it and pleaded the quote of Russian propagandists Margarita Simonyan.
"Trying to solve the problem of false information with fact-checking is like treating cancer with roller bandage. Nothing can be done as soon as news is published. A comprehensive approach is required. Combating false information has extremely poor funding both in the USA and the EU. New laws should be developed. For example, when Germany adopted laws against false information, it held elections which resulted in a relatively low level of false information," the former Managing Editor of El País stated.
Maltese investigative journalist Matthew Caruana Galizia stressed the importance of the rule of law and investigative journalism in combating corruption: "An independent journalism and combating corruprion cannot be divided. Anticorruption efforts are useless when courts depend on the authorities."
MEP for Poland Tadeusz Zwiefka stressed the meaning of the truth for society's development:
"The fight for the truth is the fight for democracy. Democracy is based on the truth, the truth is based on democracy. The fight for freedom of mass media is one of core challenges in the today's world. Today we speak not only about the freedom of speech, but also about the fundamental right to true information. The role of journalism remains the same - to seek the truth, to cover real events and to help citizens to get a clear picture of a complicated world. Only free and independent journalism will be the guarantor of success of the mission.
Belarus is not a democratic country. Support of independent media, such as Charter-97, Belsat TV channel, Radio Racyja involved in support of democracy, is our obligation. Assistance to them is in the first place. Relations with politicians come second. In Europe we often support minor issues, which can be postponed for a while.
Non-governmental funds should support journalisms without any manipulations. But some of them build artificial barriers. The situation should be fixed. We should create the legal instruments which can strengthen independence and pluralism of mass media. We will lose democracy, if independent mass media and real journalism disappear," Tadeusz Zwiefka says.
During her visit to Brussels Natallia Radzina personally informed Johannes Hahn, the European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations, about the blockage of Charter97.org in Belarus. The situation in Belarus was also discussed with adviser to the European Commissioner Hanna Jahns. The editor-in-chief of the Charter-97 also met with Chair of the European Parliament Security and Defence Subcommittee Anna Fotyga, Head of the Eastern Partnership Division of the European External Action Service Richard Tibbels, European Deputies from Great Britain, Sweden, Czech Republic and Belgium.
It will be recalled that on September 3 editor-in-chief of Charter-97 Natallia Radzina announced the threat to informational resource cause by drastic reduction in financing and called readers for solidarity. Ways to support the website:
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