Sommaire: 3 May 2012, New York - Every day, thousands of journalists, bloggers, and citizen activists put their lives in danger to report on conflicts, humanitarian disasters or simply to tell human stories. In too many parts of the world, press freedom is still undermined or violated. The European Union is committed to promoting human rights and strengthening democracy around the world-and a free media is integral to this agenda.
Human rights, democracy and the rule of law are core values of the European Union. Embedded in its founding treaty, they were reinforced when the EU adopted the Charter of Fundamental Rights in 2000, and strengthened still further when the Charter became legally binding with the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty in 2009.
To promote human rights around the world, the EU funds the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights. The initiative, with a €1.1 billion budget for 2007-13, puts respect for human rights and democracy into a global context and focuses on areas such as strengthening democracy, good governance and the rule of law (support for political pluralism, a free media and sound justice system).
Funding through the EIDHR ranges from financing for projects submitted by civil society and/or international/intergovernmental organizations to small grants for human rights defenders, to support for operating costs of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the European Inter-University Centre for Human Rights and Democratisation (EIUC) which partners with UNESCO.
In this context, the EU cooperates with Reporters Without Borders to fund a project to coordinate a rapid response to calls for assistance from media at risk, under threat or in difficulty. The organisation provides legal aid to journalists in prison or on trial and financial aid to their dependants and to the families of murdered journalists. This help desk in Paris also funds medical expenses where necessary, helps obtain visas for media forced to flee their countries and subsidises accommodation for displaced journalists.
Working closely with Reporters Without Borders, each year the European Commission awards the Lorenzo Natali Journalism Prize for outstanding reporting on Human Rights, Democracy and Development issues. Winners, selected from each of the five geographic areas - Africa, the Arab World and the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean - receive prize money and are special guests of the European Commission at an annual awards ceremony in Brussels.
Democracy and human rights also form a central part of EU development policy. In the wake of the Arab Spring, this year's European Development Days, a major event attended by more than 5,000 participants, focused on "Development and Democracy" to highlight the links between political change and socio-economic progress.