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Attacks against free press are part of a global trend, requiring a global fight
November 2, 2018
Author: Christina Lassen and Gisèle Khoury

In a time of growing hostility against media, when journalists are being harassed, arrested, kidnapped or even murdered for carrying out their job, commemorating the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists is more important than ever. Today, the fight for a free press and for the safety of journalists is no longer limited to a few oppressive countries. A growing number of leaders no longer see the media as a cornerstone of democracy but rather as a threat. Attacks against free press are increasingly becoming a global trend, requiring a global fight.

In the Middle East, armed conflicts, terrorism charges against independent journalists and media, growing online surveillance and censorship, and restrictive cybercrime laws, make the region one of the most dangerous places for journalists to operate in. Lebanon has historically been a beacon of freedom and Lebanese media a pioneer in the field. However, the past years have witnessed a worrying setback with regard to freedom of speech and freedom of the press. An increased number of journalists have been summoned, detained and charged for investigative pieces or social media posts.

A crime against one journalist is a crime against freedom of speech. It is a crime against our societies, our values and, most importantly, it is a crime against all of us. To face this, we need to join efforts. This is why today, on the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, the European Union joins hands with the Samir Kassir Foundation’s SKeyes Center for Media and Cultural Freedom to show that the fight for freedom of the press and the safety of journalists concerns us all. We want Lebanon to shine as one of the freest countries in the region, a hub for free artists, filmmakers, writers and journalists.

Free speech lies at the core of the values of our respective organisations. Democratic and open societies make states stronger and more resilient. For years, various national and regional programmes to promote professional journalism, ensure the safety of journalists and increase the capacities of media outlets across the region have received EU support. For the European Union protecting freedom of speech will continue to be the basis for our global efforts and for our engagement in Lebanon. With the same objective, SKeyes has increased efforts to offer a safe haven in Beirut for persecuted Arab journalists, organize safety training workshops for media workers, and join international actions to hold to account the perpetrators of all-too-common crimes against journalists.

Equally important to guaranteeing freedom of the press and freedom of speech, is an independent and efficient judiciary immune to political pressure and shifts in the balance of power. This is why the European Union and SKeyes engage extensively in strengthening the capacity and independence of the judiciary in Lebanon and in supporting judiciary action by journalists and artists who have been victims of assault, unlawful detention and censorship.

Today, we pay tribute to all those journalists around the world who lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. We urge the government of Lebanon, civil society organisations and the Lebanese people to join us in the fight for freedom of speech and the safety of our journalists. The trend is global but the battle is ours.

Christina Lassen, Ambassador of the European Union in Lebanon

Gisèle Khoury, President of the Samir Kassir Foundation