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You are here : Home > News > Speeches > March 2005 > Permanent Council No 547 of the OSCE: EU Statement in response to the quarterly Report by the OSCE Representative on freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti
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Permanent Council No 547 of the OSCE: EU Statement in response to the quarterly Report by the OSCE Representative on freedom of the Media, Miklos Haraszti

Date of Speech : 10-03-2005

Place : Vienna

Speaker : Jacques Reuter, Permanent Representative of Luxembourg at the OSCE

Policy area : General Affairs and External Relations

The European Union is pleased to welcome Mr. Haraszti to the Permanent Council once again and we thank him for his report.

The European Union attaches great importance to the work of the Representative and considers that a free, vibrant and independent media culture is one of the vital signs of democracy. Individual EU Member States take the comments and recommendations of the Representative very seriously and welcome his attention. The situation with regard to the media freedom in the OSCE region continues to raise our concern and we highly appreciate activities of the Representative covering all participating states and all aspects of his mandate. As outlined in his mandate, rapid response to serious non-compliance with OSCE principles and commitments by participating States in respect of freedom of expression and free media should stay high on the agenda.

The EU is glad that Mr. Haraszti has finally been able to visit Belarus and that he had for the first time the opportunity to get direct information about the situation of the media in Belarus. We thank him for his comprehensive report on this visit. However, we are seriously concerned about the grave situation of the independent media in Belarus and that it continues to deteriorate. The “filters�? that constrain the independent media, as identified in the report, clearly point out a media environment that is far from free. The declining number of registrations of independent newspapers and the increased number of warnings issued also make stark reading. Mr. Haraszti notes that independent media is under constant pressure through judicial, extra-judicial and economic means. This again underlines that the Belarusian authorities pay little heed to their OSCE commitments on freedom of the media but rather see the free and unimpeded exchange of ideas as a threat.

The European Union hopes that, in receiving the Representative, the Belarusian Government has signalled a renewed interest in meeting its OSCE commitments on the freedom of the media. There are a number of important recommendations in this report which could be implemented immediately without legislation and which would have a positive impact on media freedom. We urge the Belarusian Government to accept the offer of the Representative to host a Round Table on the reform of the Media Law, either in Vienna or in Minsk, before it is placed before Parliament. We share the concerns of the Representative about the implementation of criminal libel laws in Belarus. The cases of Valery Levonevski and Alexander Vasilyev, in particular, show the incompatibility of implementing these laws with a free and independent media.

We urge the Belarusian Government to study the report of the Representative closely and to implement his recommendations, to which the EU subscribes. The Belarusian Government should especially make it possible for the population to have an access to free and independent TV broadcasts. The Belarusian authorities should maintain close contact and cooperation with the Office of the Representative and take full advantage of the expertise and assistance on offer to create a media climate in keeping with its freely accepted OSCE commitments, in particular those to which it subscribed in the Charter for European Security in 1999.

The EU has also closely followed the work of the Representative on the media situation in the Transdniestrian region of Moldova. We regret that the Representative was discouraged from visiting the region in person by the local authorities, but we find the report by his Office useful and informative. The self-proclaimed Transdniestrian authorities must be encouraged to take account of his recommendations, in particular as regards the role of the so-called “Ministry of Information and Telecommunications�?.

Concerning the concrete matter of the physical safety and protection of media practitioners, the EU positively notes progress in the Gongadze case in Ukraine and the Klebnikov case in Russia. We were shocked to learn about the murder of the Azerbaijani journalist Elmar Huseynov which has been the subject of an EU Declaration in Luxembourg last week.

A focus of the Representative on the situation of the media in Georgia could assist authorities in furthering democratisation and pluralism.

The EU is also concerned about the recent request by the Kazakh authorities to the Almaty District Economic Court to liquidate the legal entity, which publishes the weekly opposition newspaper Respublika.

Recent elections in Central Asia illustrated the important role of the media in electoral campaigns. There are no free and fair elections without free media. The EU encourages the Representative to continue close cooperation with ODIHR in this regard.

The EU follows with interest the work done by the Office of the Representative on the matrix on libel legislation in participating States. The EU continues to attach highest importance to addressing the complex area of silencing journalists through the use of law, not only criminal law but for instance also taxation law.

The EU is pleased to note that the Representative is currently examining legislation which, in guise of safeguarding national interests, inhibits the free discussion of public policy including foreign policy.

Discussions of the Parliamentary Assembly in February highlighted new challenges regarding media concentration. We would welcome co-operation between the Assembly and the Representative in following-up on this issue.

To conclude, the EU would like to draw the attention to the up-coming OSCE Conference on Anti-Semitism and on other forms of intolerance in Cordoba in June. We are looking forward to closely working together with the Representative also in this area.

The Candidate Countries Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey and Croatia (1) align themselves with this statement.

(1) Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process

This page was last modified on : 11-03-2005

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