"Freedom and democracy can not exist without freedom of the press", the President of the European Parliament Roberta Metsola said on Tuesday, on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day.
"The European Parliament is always committed to promoting and protecting freedom of the press in Europe and around the world," she said.
She emphasized that journalists should not have to face the dilemma of either having to reveal the truth or stay alive. Moreover, she added that journalists can not be faced with punitive lawsuits as well, the so-called SLAPP, which is a particular form of harassment used primarily against journalists and human rights defenders to prevent or penalize speaking up on issues of public interest.
"We support the truth. "A strong democracy also needs strong journalism," she said, adding that freedom and democracy could not exist without freedom of the press.
Metsola then opened the debate on threats to the safety of journalists and media freedom in Europe.
Taking the floor, Commissioner for European Values and Transparency Vera Jourova paid tribute to the journalists who covered Russia's attack on Ukraine while reporting to the world what "Russia does not want us to see."
The main priority, she said, is the safety of journalists while providing substantial and legal protection to those facing threats.
According to Jourova, the European Commission had, a few days ago, submitted a proposal for legislation to protect journalists from the strategic lawsuits against them, the so-called SLAPP. She also said that in honor of the Maltese journalist who was killed, this legislation will be called the "Daphne Legislation".
"We will not stop supporting pluralism, the independence of the press and freedom of the press," Jourova said, calling the EP a "valuable ally" in the fight to defend Europe's values and freedoms.
The floor was then given to the representatives of the political groups. Vladimír Bilčík of the European People's Party said that the job of a journalist is a brave job. "A reporter in Ukraine today is also a freedom fighter".
Tiemo Wölken of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats said that there is no democracy without freedom of the press, so journalists should be given maximum protection.
Ramona Strugariu from the Renew Europe Group said that journalists facing collective lawsuits should be protected, while Daniel Freund of the Greens said that democracy ends where the persecution of journalists begins.
Earlier, Metsola announced that the 2nd annual Daphne Caruana Galizia award ceremony would take place and that journalists should submit work or nominate other outstanding journalists for their great achievements, thereby emphasizing the European Parliament's significant support for investigative journalism and how important it considers freedom of the press.
The award ceremony is held every year on October 16, the anniversary of the death of Daphne Caruana Galizia, an investigative journalist from Malta who was assassinated in 2017.
Candidates can submit their articles until midnight, July 31. The winner will be awarded a 20,000 euro cash prize.