Maltese MEP David Casa has called on the EPP’s Spitzenkandidaten candidates to commit to introduce legislation to help protect journalists if elected European Commission President.
The EPP member's plea comes in the wake of the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in early October and a number of other journalists.
Casa wants the EPP’s two Spitzenkandidaten candidates, group leader Manfred Weber and former Finnish PM and MEP Alexander Stubb, to bring forward laws giving improved protection to journalists if either of them are elected next year.
Casa, who recently hosted a debate in parliament on independent journalism, said he believed both Weber and Stubb “share this concern.”
“Let us be pioneers for the protection of journalists across Europe and commit to introducing this legislation,” he said.
The issue of serious threats faced by journalists was highlighted by the first anniversary this month of the murder of Maltese reporter Daphne Caruana Galizia.
Casa is part of a group of MEPs that have been calling on the commission to introduce legislation that would counter "abusive" lawsuits in other jurisdictions which, he says, is “meant to silence journalists.”
"When a journalist pays the ultimate price for our European values, that journalist must be remembered and honoured but, more importantly, their work must go on. The killing of a journalist must never see the stories that journalist was working on, die too"
Casa said that the ability of journalists to hold power to account and to do it free from intimidation and harassment “is a prerequisite to a properly-functioning democracy.”
“When a journalist pays the ultimate price for our European values, that journalist must be remembered and honoured but, more importantly, their work must go on. The killing of a journalist must never see the stories that journalist was working on, die too.”
Casa said that if the objective of Galizia’s assassins was to silence people like her “then they have failed in their objective.”
“At the time of Galizia’s murder, she was unaware that the now notorious Pilatus Bank had started legal proceedings in Arizona in the United States for many millions of euro in an effort to silence her. How right she was about Pilatus Bank, which [has now been] exposed as a criminal organisation whose owner is facing 125 years of imprisonment in the United States for a string of crimes, including money laundering.”
Polish deputy Tadeusz Zwiefka, a vice chairman of the EPP group who is responsible for communication, said, “Politicians shouldn’t influence the media but be obliged to create laws strengthening the freedom of the media. Fighting for the freedom of the media is one of the main challenges today.”
The MEPs' comments are echoed by Galizia’s son, Matthew, also a journalist, who told the recent parliamentary hearing, “Since my mother was murdered, I was unable to continue working because putting pressure on police and prosecutors takes all my time.”
“Corruption and free journalism are interlinked. Journalists can expose corruption. Our work can only have consequences when press freedom is strong and law enforcement authorities are independent, otherwise there will always be murders of journalists.”
“A journalist is murdered when institutions fail to prosecute corruption. Political parties should make an example of a murder and say that, on this, we are united. We need to confront the corruption and continue the work of independent journalists. This should be work for cross-party cooperation.”
Further comment came from Daniel Alandete, also a journalist and former Managing Editor of leading Spanish newspaper El País, who said, “I have never seen such manipulation of information like we see today in Europe, not even during my experience as a war journalist. There is no other place with such a harassment of the media as in Catalonia these days.”
“Journalists administer the right of the public to receive independent information,” he added.
Another speaker, Paz Ferrin Quiles, an expert in political communication, noted, “Technology increases our possibility to act online but also to abuse. Algorithms can predict what will happen in the future and we can end up with stories being developed by them. They use the same wording used most frequently online.”
“We need to develop algorithms to prevent these stories from spreading. We need to invest in human and intelligence resources,” she added.