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Summary: 4 June 2015, New York – Intervention delivered by Ambassador Ioannis Vrailas, Deputy Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations, Meeting of the Group of Friends of the Alliance of Civilizations on the role of media in building bridges among nations

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High Representative, Mr Al-Nasser,

Under-Secretary General Gallach,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for convening the meeting on this very topical and timely issue. We are very happy that the group of friends can have a discussion on media, one of the core pillars of the Alliance mandate.

Communicating across cultural differences and advancing mutual understanding has become more than ever a crucial challenge. In this regard, media have a ‘mediating position’ as they can provide public platforms for intercultural dialogue, where tolerance and acceptance of difference is promoted. We firmly believe in the use of media to counteract offensive speech and to speak out against intolerance.

Media play a crucial role in promoting and protecting freedom of opinion and expression: these freedoms are essential for the fulfilment and enjoyment of a wide range of other fundamental human rights, including freedom of thought, religion or belief. Such rights constitute essential foundations for democracy, rule of law, peace and stability.

The EU is also firmly committed to prevent violations of the right to freedom of opinion and expression. Blasphemy laws restrict expression concerning religious or other beliefs; they are often applied so as to persecute, mistreat or intimidate persons belonging to religious or other minorities and they can have a serious inhibiting effect on freedom of expression and on freedom of religion or belief; therefore the EU recommends the decriminalisation of such offences. The EU maintains that hate speech legislation should not be abused by governments to discourage citizens from engaging in legitimate democratic debate on matters of general interest.

To promote and protect freedom of opinion and expression and thus play a constructive role in fostering intercultural dialogue, it is essential for the media to be free, diverse and independent. Journalists are key figures in that respect. Last week we had an open debate in the Security Council on how to protect journalists in situations of armed conflict. Yes, we need to protect them but also to allow them to fulfil their important role at all times.

Strengthening freedom of the media is a longstanding top priority for the EU.  Almost one year ago the Council of the European Union adopted the Human Rights Guidelines on freedom of expression online and offline. The EU continues to use all appropriate EU financial instruments to further protect and promote freedom of opinion and expression and to support media freedom and pluralism. We do so in our bilateral cooperation with an increased effort in our southern neighbourhood (in Algeria, Tunisia, Syria and regionally) but also through UNESCO in Nepal, Jordan, Myanmar or Gambia.

I would like to  end my remarks by showcasing  the work  of the Anna Lindh Foundation which aims at  overcoming the misunderstandings and stereotypes between and within the societies of the Mediterranean Region, a task which became of utmost importance in the last years .  The Foundation and  the Alliance of Civilizations  collaborated on a programme in response to  the Danish cartoon crisis when they jointly created the ‘Rapid Response Media Mechanism’ a tool, offered to media,  to give voices to other actors and narratives in times of cultural crises. The Foundation continues to coordinate a rapid response media work, building relations with journalists at the national and international level and managing partnerships agreements with television and media bodies. In this field, it also supports young journalists in reporting across cultures and on issues of cultural diversity, and create exchange platforms for editors, media practitioners and television owners.

We very much look forward to the outcome of this discussion.

Thank you.

  • Ref: EUUN15-087EN
  • EU source: European Union
  • UN forum: Other
  • Date: 4/6/2015

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