Ambassador Neil Holland recalls the vital contribution of media freedom to security in the OSCE region, and calls on Russia and Belarus to live up to their OSCE commitments.

Neil Holland

Thank you Madam Chair, and welcome back to the Permanent Council Madam Representative, dear Teresa. Thank you for your detailed report and your broader reflections on the Helsinki Spirit. The UK commends your personal commitment to upholding your mandate at a time of increasing challenges which you describe with great skill in your presentation.   

As you have consistently argued, there can be no security without media freedom. Since 1975, all OSCE participating States have – as you remind us – accepted individuals’ right to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas without interference. The UK will remain a strong supporter of the mandate for the Representative on Freedom of the Media. 

Securing media freedom requires continued investment and effort in all participating States. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your work with the UK on our approach to online safety and the safety of journalists.  

As you note in your report, Madam Ribeiro, journalists and other media workers face torture, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, intimidation, and harassment in many parts of the OSCE region.     

According to UNESCO’s Observatory of Killed Journalists, fourteen journalists have been killed in the line of work since Russia’s full scale, illegal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.  

Russia continues to persecute dissenting voices in Ukrainian territory under its temporary control, as it has been doing in Crimea since 2014. Since 2012 the free media inside Russia has been silenced. The September 2022 Moscow Mechanism report showed a clear correlation between Russia’s internal repression and its external aggression. Sadly, as you note in your report, Russia’s relentless domestic crackdown on media freedom continues today, including through ongoing imprisonment and harassment of journalists and media workers.   

Last year’s Moscow Mechanism report found that freedom of expression in Belarus has been seriously undermined. Legislation can target any independent voice, particularly critics of government or of Russia’s illegal war in Ukraine. Anyone who administers social media networks or communication channels for listed so-called “extremists” can face serious charges, even of terrorism.    

Such actions are not compatible with participating States’ obligations under international law and their OSCE commitments. So the UK once again calls on Russia and Belarus to live up to their OSCE principles and commitments, to enable freedom for the media to report on matters of public interest without undue interference, threats, and intimidation.    

Teresa, thank you again for your commitment to your mandate and your professionalism in the defence of media freedom. And many thanks to your dedicated team. I assure you that the UK will continue to reiterate – in this Council and beyond – the importance of free media for peace and security in the OSCE region. We wish you all the very best for whatever comes next.

Published 13 June 2024