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The Arab uprising opened a window of opportunity, sending in a fresh wind of hope: hope for freedom of speech, freedom of choice, the right to information and to hold politicians accountable.
However, the new winds blowing seem to have lost some of their freshness in the region. The window of opportunity is slowly closing and the new masters seem to be regressing to the bad habits of former regimes.
Faced with these developments, the European Union (EU) has a strategic, political and moral obligation to help and manage the transition by contributing to the development of open and pluralistic societies. This means offering smart support for self-help.
European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) members have actively taken up the challenge. Over two days in October2012, the EESC gathered about 100 press and media people from Civil Society organisations in Nicosia, Cyprus, to debate media freedom in the Euro-Mediterranean region.
The event was chaired by EESC Vice President Anna Maria Darmanin with the support of the EESC Communication Group, and was actively supported by the Cyprus EU Presidency, the European External Action Service (EEAS), the European Commission Representation to Cyprus and the European Parliament, as well as the Committee of the Regions.
This was a full-blown inter-institutional “going local” initiative, in which the EESC also drew on the experience gathered within the Venice Club and a previous workshop in Warsaw encouraging specific steps to engage with the new free media in the Mediterranean region. The debate clearly showed that the situation of media in the countries affected by the Arab uprising is still quite fragile.
The meeting concluded that in order to uphold media freedom, action must be taken in key areas such as media regulation, capacity-building, security and media management.
The EESC has already reported the outcome to the Venice Club annual meeting in Venice in November and intends to draw up the conclusions in a readable format, and to continue the dialogue and engagement with civil society organisations. You can read more on http://www.eesc.europa.eu .
By Peter Lindvald-Nielsen
Head of Communication, The European Economic and Social Committee