In memory of David Sassoli, journalist and President of the European Parliament

OSSIGENO 12 JANUARY 2022 – by Maria Laura Franciosi – In a speech in October 2021, relayed to the press room of the European Parliament in Brussels, President David Sassoli said, on the occasion of the announcement of the winner of the first journalism prize dedicated to Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese journalist murdered four years ago, that “the loss suffered cannot be described in words. The assassination of Daphne marks a turning point because it has struck our democracy in Europe at its base “.

“Ossigeno per l’Informazione”, convinced that the role played by David Sassoli in the European Parliament has been valuable for Europe as a whole, wishes to remember here the late President of the European Parliament David Sassoli who died on the 11th January 2022 in Italy.

As a television journalist who had dedicated years of his life to this profession, Sassoli was a staunch defender of press freedom. “Even today – he wrote in a message to the president of    ” Ossigeno per l’Informazione “, Alberto Spampinato, on the occasion of the Colloquium on the Freedom of the Press and the Protection of Journalists organized by the Press Club of Brussels on the 6th November 2019 – journalists are subjected to intimidation and threats that endanger their lives and jobs. It is wrong to think that these issues concern us only marginally, because threatening a journalist means threatening the freedom of all of us”.

“Against intolerance and criminal powers – his message went on to say – there is also a need for greater transparency, condemnation and many initiatives such as this meeting on press freedom and the protection of threatened journalists organized by “ Ossigeno per  l’informazione”.  And he promised Ossigeno that “the European Parliament will be at the forefront of taking support actions and not just mere condemnation. Because the right to be informed belongs to everyone “.

And Sassoli kept his word –even until the end. 

In October 2021, in announcing the winner of the journalism award created by the European Parliament on his initiative dedicated to Daphne Caruana Galizia, Sassoli defined the journalist’s murder “a turning point for European journalism, for our politics and our societies, since it has touched the very core of our European identity. No one can possibly understand the horror this day meant for her family. The loss you have suffered cannot be described. I sincerely thank you – he said to Daphne’s children present at the ceremony – for being here with us today”.

Each year, hundreds of journalists face both physical and on-line assaults. Journalists are harassed, intimidated, insulted on a daily basis. Often, they suffer vexatious lawsuits repeatedly, as in the case of Daphne Caruana Galizia.

 “I am happy – Sassoli continued in his speech for the journalism award – that, despite all this, we continue to see numerous examples of exceptional reportage all over the world. The death of Daphne Caruana Galizia has led to a resurgence of investigative journalism, just think of all the colleagues committed to continuing her work. Recent examples, such as the Pandora Papers, have demonstrated the unique power of bold and resolute journalism, particularly when done in the context of an international network. By creating transparency, investigative journalism allows voters to make informed decisions. Protecting and supporting journalists is in the vital interest of democratic societies. “

 “Parliament is the first to speak up when media rights are under attack, even when such attacks happen among us… Journalists must be able to rely on the authorities to protect and defend their interests, rather than fear them”. 

After the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the European Parliament decided to inaugurate an award in her honour to confer the recognition of the European Parliament to journalists who deserve it. “We would like this award to become a powerful symbol which can promote greater awareness and a spur to do more on the subject. Without independent journalism there are no free societies”.

The “Daphne Caruana Galizia Prize for Journalism” was awarded to the journalists of the Pegasus Project coordinated by the “Forbidden Stories” Consortium. 

“This is an award given to journalists by journalists in an independent jury composed of members from all over Europe. I am very proud to host this first edition of the Daphne Caruana Galizia award, and I would like to extend my congratulations to the winner. Thank you for your precious work; it is a service for all of us”.

“Europe – Sassoli then reiterated – is proud to be a free society, founded on democracy and the rule of law. Many people around the world look to us as a role model. However, we must never forget that the rights and privileges we enjoy in Europe cannot be taken for granted. They are not set in stone”. 

It is a sad truth that journalism has become a dangerous job, even in Europe. In recent years, Ján Kuciak and his girlfriend Martina Kušnírová have been killed in Slovakia; in the Netherlands Peter R. de Vries was murdered as was the Greek journalist Giorgos Karaivaz. And this only in Europe. “Journalists should never fear for their live- Sassoli said- Instead they are insulted, arrested, injured”.

Sassoli reiterated that because of its role as guardian of rights, “the European Parliament is the first to react when attempts are made to silence the media”. And he supported the European Commission which presented a recommendation for the protection of journalists and journalists. 

The award of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize to journalists Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitry Muratov of Russia came at just the right time, as it highlighted the crucial role critical journalism plays in ensuring lasting peace. Protecting and supporting journalists is in the vital interest of democratic societies”.

Sassoli then concluded by inviting to tear down walls, such as the Berlin wall of which he still retained vivid memories. Yet, he concluded, “We have seen new walls. Our borders, in some cases, have become the borders between moral and immoral, between humanity and inhumanity. Walls erected against people who seek shelter from the cold, from hunger, from war, from poverty. We have fought alongside those who ask for more democracy, more freedom, alongside women who ask for rights and protections, those who ask to protect their thoughts, alongside those who continue to ask for free and independent information “.

“Walls between people must not be built, but demolished. Years have passed – concluded David Sassoli – but I haven’t changed my mind”. MLF

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