The launch of the European Rule of Law Mechanism in July 2019 marks the renewed 1 opportunity for
the European Union (EU) to uphold democracy and overcome the limits of the Article 7 procedure.
Among the proposed actions, the announcement by the European Commission Vice President for
Values and Transparency Věra Jourová of a dedicated chapter to media freedom and pluralism in
the Annual Rule of Law Report was strongly welcomed by press freedom and journalists’
It is not only the acknowledgment that independent journalism and access to pluralistic
information are one of the pillars of democracy, but also a key step in addressing the worrying state
of media freedom and pluralism in the EU.
The killings of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta and Ján Kuciak in Slovakia shed light on the
numerous threats faced by journalists within EU member states. Journalists are daily exposed to
censorship, intimidation, online and offline harassment, abusive lawsuits2 and physical violence for
doing their work and exercising their fundamental right to freedom of expression.
In parallel, media capture3 by states and ownership concentration by private actors pose a huge threat to media
pluralism, in a broader context where the media sector struggles for its financial sustainability. This
has a chilling effect on press freedom and endangers citizens’ right to information. As the COVID-19
crisis is being used by some governments to curtail rule of law principles4, access to information is essential for the public’s right to know. This crisis also illustrates the crucial need for safe working conditions for journalists and an independent, pluralistic and sustainable media sector.
It is crucial that EU decision-makers aim for an ambitious European Rule of Law Mechanism,
effectively upholding press freedom and media pluralism and leading to concrete improvements for
journalists and the media sector. The recommendations outline how to make the Mechanism strong, timely, inclusive and representative of the challenges faced by journalists and the media sector.