Stronger collective efforts needed to protect journalists against growing threats, concludes seventh OSCE South-East Europe Media Conference
VIENNA/BELGRADE, 18 September 2020 – The seventh South-East Europe Media Conference entitled “The New Frontline: Working together to Foster Media Freedom”, organized jointly by the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) and the OSCE Mission to Serbia, in collaboration with OSCE field operations from South-East Europe, concluded today.
The two-day online event gathered over 200 participants, including journalists and media experts from the region and abroad, civil society organizations and representatives from law enforcement and the judiciary. Participants discussed the most pressing media freedom challenges in the region. Special attention was paid to the safety of journalists and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on journalists’ ability to perform their professional activities.
“The safety of journalists and the fight against impunity for attacks against journalists are paramount to safeguarding freedom of expression and ensuring a safe and enabling media environment,” said Jürgen Heissel, Director of the Office of the OSCE RFoM. “This is a commitment that all 57 OSCE participating States jointly pledged to uphold in the landmark OSCE Ministerial Council Decision on Safety of Journalists adopted in 2018.”
Participants also discussed the overarching impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on media freedom. “Over the past months, the media witnessed a heightened public demand for information and were faced with COVID-19 related restrictions and lockdowns, including an ever more impeded access to reliable data retained by public authorities,” added Heissel.
In addition, the event provided all participants with an opportunity to exchange experience and best practices in the area of establishing effective national mechanisms for co-ordinated responses to threats and violence against journalists. In this light, Heissel underlined the crucial role of law enforcement agencies and the judiciary in protecting and ensuring a safe and conducive media environment, both online and offline, and in combating impunity for crimes against journalists and other media professionals.
Andrea Orizio, Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia, highlighted the opportunities and challenges in establishing national mechanisms to ensure the safety of journalists. “The OSCE Mission’s partnership with Serbia’s Permanent Working Group for the Safety of Journalists can serve as a model of professional and fruitful co-operation between the State institutions, civil society and the international community. This is illustrated by the fact that the law enforcement authorities, the media and journalists’ associations have successfully taken ownership of the process that we jointly initiated. Only together can we achieve more in terms of growth of media freedom in the region,” said Orizio.
Heissel underscored the need for stronger efforts to tackle the specific challenges to the safety of women journalists online, who face additional threats of sexual violence, intimidation and gender discrimination, especially in the online sphere. In this light, a preview of the OSCE RFoM’s newly developed Resource Guide on safety of female journalists online was presented at the conference, outlining important points of action for different stakeholders to reinforce the safety of women journalists online through gender-responsive approaches.
More information about the conference can be found here: