The European Union is pleased to welcome the Representative on Freedom of the Media back to the Permanent Council and to thank him for his report on his activities.

Media freedom is one of the cornerstones of democracy and essential to any free society. The European Union therefore attaches great importance to the work of the Representative and his office. We welcome the fact that the geographical scope of his efforts extends throughout the OSCE area, east and west of Vienna.

We have followed with interest the work being done on legal reviews and defamation and welcome the successful media conferences held in Central Asia and the Caucasus, which were supported by a number of EU Member States.

We are pleased by the broadly positive tone of the report of Mr. Haraszti’s visit to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and trust that the relevant authorities will take careful note of his recommendations, particularly in respect of the broadcasting law. On a further positive note, we welcome the prompt response of the Government of Croatia to concerns raised by the Representative about criminal defamation.

However, we note with regret that problems in certain participating States, which have been referred to in previous reports, remain unresolved. In particular, we urge the Government of Belarus to reconsider recent amendments to the Criminal Code which fly in the face of OSCE commitments and further restrict free discussion in that country. Belarus should avail itself of the expert assistance which is at its disposal from the Office of the Representative and other OSCE Institutions.

The European Union shares the concern of the Representative at the case of Orhan Pamuk in Turkey. We note with great concern that some fifty individuals are under judicial process in that country for publishing or writing.

The EU encourages the Representative on Freedom of the Media to maintain and further develop his cooperation and co-ordination with other OSCE structures and institutions, particularly with the ODIHR. Issues such as the role of the media in promoting mutual respect and understanding and in combating hate speech while protecting the fundamental principle of freedom of expression merit due attention.

We support the plans of the Representative on Freedom of the Media for the coming year. We wish Mr. Haraszti and his staff continued success in their efforts.

The Acceding Countries Bulgaria and Romania, the Candidate Country Croatia1, the Countries of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidates Albania, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, EFTA country Iceland, member of the European Economic Area, as well as Ukraine align themselves with this declaration.

1 Croatia continues to be part of the Stabilisation and Association Process