Brussels, 3 May 2007
Today, the European Commission joins the celebration of the 2007 UN World Press Freedom Day, dedicated this year to the safety and impunity of journalists. Freedom of information – and access to information – are basic human rights which should be available to everyone world wide. Freedom of expression is one of the first human rights priorities of the European Union inside and outside its borders.
Margot Wallström, Vice-President of the European Commission, responsible for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy said: "Free and active media providing full and fair information is a key element in building democratic legitimacy and allowing citizens to exercise their basic democratic rights. Just as we encourage open debate within the Union, the EU must promote press freedom around the globe with all the means at its disposal. Openness leads the way to stability and progress."
Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Commissioner for External Relations and Neighbourhood Policy, said: "Promoting democracy and human rights are central to our foreign policy. Freedom of expression is a fundamental right and an essential element of a democratic discourse. A free press and journalists able to exercise their profession without hindrance and intimidation is the indispensable cornerstone of building vibrant civil societies and any democratic reform process. We are providing active support to securing these basic conditions in third countries."
One of the main themes of this year's World Press Freedom Day is the safety of journalists. The Commission also takes this opportunity to again appeal strongly for the release of Alan Johnston, the BBC’s Gaza correspondent, who has now been held for nearly two months. Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner said: "His captors are doing the Palestinian people no service by preventing him and others from doing their job - bringing the story of life in Gaza to the outside world."
Freedom of the press is still under attack in various guises in many countries. Journalists are intimidated, censored and killed around the globe because of their commitment to unbiased and truthful reporting. The European Commission is committed to support the fight against these obstructions and violations of fundamental rights. The Commission is undertaking considerable efforts to support the development of free media through the whole range of the Commission's external assistance programmes. In particular, within the framework of the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, assistance to civil society will be available to activities enhancing freedom of expression and independent media, strengthening professionalism and ethics in journalism, and empowering journalists to take actions in defence of their rights. Moreover, the aspect of freedom of expression constitutes an important element in the Commission's regular contacts with countries worldwide.
Established by the UN in 1993 and run by the UNESCO, the World Press Freedom Day celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluates press freedom around the world, defends the media from attacks on their independence and pays tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. This year’s topic is press freedom, safety of journalists and impunity, and the prize has been awarded posthumously to the Russian reporter Anna Politkovskaya. The day serves as an occasion to inform citizens of violations of press freedom - a reminder that in dozens of countries around the world publications are censored, fined, suspended and closed down, while journalists, editors and publishers are harassed, attacked, detained and even murdered.
Information on the EU Human Rights policy at
Information on the UN World Press Freedom Day at