The members of the International Press Institute (IPI), meeting at their 66th Annual General Assembly during the IPI World Congress on May 20, 2017 in Hamburg, Germany, adopted by majority vote a resolution calling on Germany and the European Union to firmly embrace their role as defenders of human rights globally, including the rights to freedom of expression and the press.
IPI members expressed concern that U.S. President Donald Trump’s demonstrated lack of understanding of the value of a free press and his attempts to smear and discredit the critical news media signal the loss of one of the world’s most consequential defenders of press freedom, creating an opening for authoritarian regimes to persecute journalistic scrutiny with greater impunity. At the same time, the concept of press freedom as a public good is under threat around the world from rising nationalism, state-sponsored propaganda and so-called “illiberal democracy”.
Amid these developments, members emphasised that the remaining EU member states must urgently and energetically assume the mantle of the world’s single most important voice in defence of human rights. Members called on Germany in particular, as one of the EU’s undisputed economic and diplomatic leaders, to not shy away from its growing power and responsibility to shape global developments in favour of freedom, openness and inclusivity. Germany needs to hold strong as a counterweight to authoritarian models of society exemplified by China and, increasingly, Russia.
IPI members urged the EU and Germany in particular to show strong resolve when it comes to protecting the rights of journalists to challenge and scrutinise power in countries both near and far, including the bloc’s European neighbours Azerbaijan, Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. They also stressed that Germany cannot remain a spectator to the brutal crackdown on press freedom in Turkey, currently a candidate for accession to the EU despite its relentless assault on basic democratic principles such as the rule of law and the separation of powers.
IPI members finally urged EU states to take steps to remove outdated legislation – in particular criminal defamation, insult and blasphemy laws – that unwittingly give cover to authoritarian regimes’ abuse of similar provisions to silence free speech.