OSCE must urgently appoint new representative on freedom of the media

Index on Censorship has joined with seven other organisations to urge OSCE to appoint a new representative on freedom of the media

20 Jun 2017

We, the undersigned, journalists’ and freedom of expression organisations, are writing to urge the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe to appoint a new mandate holder to the Office of OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFoM) following the end of Ms Dunja Mijatović’s tenure in the position in March of this year.

As we stated in our letter dated 16 February 2017, we believe strongly in the high value and importance of the Office of the RFoM, and in the mandate of the Representative that has been agreed by all OSCE participating states:

“The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media has an early warning function and provides rapid response to serious non-compliance with regard to free media and freedom of expression. The OSCE participating States consider freedom of expression a fundamental and internationally recognised human right and a basic component of a democratic society. Free media is essential to a free and open society and accountable governments. The Representative is mandated to observe media developments in the participating States and to advocate and promote full compliance with the Organisation’s principles and commitments in respect of freedom of expression and free media.”

The work of the RFoM remains of critical importance, with journalists and media workers facing significant and new pressures across the OSCE region

Since its inception in 1998, the Office has had a mandate holder without interruption, and successive Representatives on Freedom of the Media have helped to maintain freedom of media on the policy agenda within the OSCE and made a considerable contribution to a number of initiatives related to press freedom in the OSCE region. This was made possible by both the independence conferred on the Office and the profile of the Representatives who have shown determination, vision and steadfastness in fulfilling their mandate.

The former mandate holder, Ms Dunja Mijatović, left the Office on 10 March 2017, having served a one-year extension of her two three-year terms. The Austrian Chairmanship of the OSCE gave a deadline of 7 April 2017 for nominations for her replacement and yet, to date, there has been no announcement of her successor.

This situation is of great concern to media and other stakeholders, including many organisations actively concerned for media freedom in Europe who fear losing a valuable partner and voice. The work of the RFoM remains of critical importance, with journalists and media workers facing significant and new pressures across the OSCE region.

While the Office of the Representative has continued to uphold its mandate in the transition period since Ms Mijatović’s departure, the strong leadership of the Representative is essential to ensure national governments across the region remain accountable to their commitments to the protection of journalists and media independence. A failure to appoint a new mandate holder risks rolling back progress achieved in protecting media freedoms, undermining advances into promoting stable, tolerant and accountable societies.

That is why we urge all Participating States to press on the OSCE the need to appoint a new Representative on Freedom of the Media without delay and to ensure the Office’s achievements over the last two decades are not lost.

We also encourage the Participating States to use their collective weight to influence the choice of the new Representative, and by doing so, ensure the best profile possible with a track record of independence and proved commitment to freedom of expression and freedom of the press for this important position.

19 June 2017

Association of European Journalists (AEJ)
Article 19
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Index on Censorship
International Press Institute (IPI)
Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF)

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