Lithuania expresses its support for safety of journalists and media freedom in fight against COVID-19 pandemic
On 15 April, the four Groups of Friends on the Safety of Journalists at UNESCO, the United Nations, and the OSCE issued the first joint statement on the safety of journalists and access to information during the COVID-19 crisis. Lithuania, which chairs the Groups of Friends on the Safety of Journalists in New York and Vienna, has also actively contributed to the preparation of the joint statement.
The joint statement stresses that free media play an indispensable role in informing the public during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Thus, it is necessary to protect journalists’ and media workers’ safety, safeguard a free and independent media, and ensure unhindered access to accurate and reliable information. Declarations of state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic should not be used as a basis to limit freedom of expression.
The joint statement also expresses concern over an increase in restricting measures taken by some states that disproportionately limit the right to freedom of expression, including arrests, persecution and harassment against journalists and media workers, especially women, as well as smear campaigns to discredit their work.
Representatives of the four Groups of Friends on the Safety of Journalists at UNESCO in Paris, the United Nations in New York and Geneva, and the OSCE in Vienna from as many as 41 countries have issued the joint statement. The informal groups of like-minded states are active in the fields of journalists’ safety and media freedom. They organize various events, conferences, and discussions on the safety of journalists. Lithuania has been a member of all four groups since their creation. The safety of journalists and media freedom has been among Lithuania’s main human rights priorities.