At the OSCE, Azerbaijan sets a negative precedent for media freedom

Representative on Freedom of the Media Harlem Désir takes part in ceremonies commemorating the two-year anniversary of the assassination of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, 16 October 2019, Malta. Source: OSCE

Harlem Désir’s mandate as OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media (RFOM) will end on 18 July 2020 and will not be extended for a second term. The blocking of a consensus vote on the renewal of the mandate sets a negative precedent for fundamental freedoms across the OSCE region.

The Representative’s mandate is to promote full compliance with the OSCE’s principles and commitments to media freedom and free expression and to provide a rapid response to serious non-compliance by OSCE member states. The lack of a consensus vote indicates that Mr Désir is being removed from his post because he is fulfilling his mandate independently and impartially.

The Representative plays a critical role in protecting free expression and promoting media freedom, as Mr Désir showed in the case of Daphne Caruana Galizia. His office provides support to journalists and media organisations as well as to member states reshaping their policies and legislation to meet international standards and OSCE commitments.

The vindictive abuse of an OSCE procedure, notably by Azerbaijan and Tajikistan, to undermine consensus on protecting fundamental freedoms in Europe is alarming in itself. The non-renewal of Harlem Désir’s mandate now leaves the institution without a mandate-holder, weakening its watchdog function at a time when threats to free expression and media freedom are escalating.