The European Union’s Western Balkans Strategy has created a new dynamic in some aspects but not in the field of media freedom, European Commissioner Johannes Hahn said at the opening of this year’s EU-Western Balkans Media Days in Skoplje.
“Our Western Balkans Strategy has created a new dynamic in the European perspective for the Western Balkans and the overall picture is one of new and positive momentum in the enlargement process but unfortunately this is not the case in the area of media freedom,” he said.
“Most disturbing of all is that violence against journalists has not been eradicated, and is even on the increase,”Hahn said said added that the Regional Platform for media freedom and safety of journalists reported 11 cases of physical attacks on journalists in the Western Balkan countries this year.
The commissioner warned that the authorities were not doing enough to find and convict the attackers which lead to “a terrifying atmosphere of impunity impacting heavily on free and independent reporting”.
“Media freedom cannot exist without an independent and functioning judiciary,” he said.
Hahn recalled that the Western Balkans Strategy, stressed the importance of safeguarding fundamental rights, which need to be respected, including media freedom and freedom of expression.
“In all the country reports, we clearly state that there will be no accession without safeguarding media freedom and granting journalists working environments free from intimidation and pressure,” he said.