The second Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights is taking place on 17-18 November 2016 in Brussels, with a focus on media pluralism and democracy. First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, President of the Court of Justice of the European Union Koen Lenaerts, Slovakian Minister of Culture Marek Maďarič and Vice-President of the European Parliament Ulrike Lunacek opened the first day of the event, which introduced disscussions with a wide range of experts on the key role in democratic societies of a free and pluralist media, in particular digital media.
During the session „An independent media, free from political and commercial pressures“, Croatian Ombudswoman and ENNHRI Chair Lora Vidović presented the mechanisms NHRIs can use in order to help protect freedom of expression. "As Chair of ENNHRI, network that brings together 40 NHRIs from across Europe, I increasingly hear reports of the restriction of free media in other European states, and I hope this Colloquium will help address this trend", noted Vidović.
On the second day, as part of the session on „Protecting journalists and new media actors from hate speech“, Vidović stressed NHRIs and Equality bodies use individual complaints received from journalists and media actors as well as their monitoring, reporting and advisory mandates to ensure the right to freedom of expression. She encouraged participants to report violations of freedom of expression to their national institutions. “We act as a bridge between civil society and the state, and between the national and international arenas, and have actively used these functions to help support freedom of the media”, said Ombudswoman and ENNHRI Chair Vidović. She emphasised the importance of political will to better regulate and implement freedom of expression, as well as the need to educate the public on it, including the politicians.
The 2016 Colloquium brings together EU institutions and Member States, NGOs, journalists, media representatives, companies, key academics and international organisations to reflect on a wide range of topics – from how to protect and promote media freedom and independence, empower and protect journalists to the role of media and ethical journalism in promoting fundamental rights as well as how can a pluralistic media environment foster political debate on crucial issues for democratic societies.