Media Freedom Coalition: terms of reference

Published 3 March 2020

The purpose of this document is to outline the structure and functioning of the Media Freedom Coalition (MFC) and complements the Global Pledge on Media Freedom. These terms of reference demonstrate the mutual understanding of its founding members that the structure and working methods of this Coalition should allow for strategic collaboration between members and relevant stakeholders.

The terms of reference is for internal use of MFC members and relevant stakeholders. It does not give rise to legal rights or obligations.

1. Objectives and aims

1.1 The MFC is a partnership of countries working together proactively to advocate for media freedom, online as well as offline, and the safety of journalists and media workers [footnote 1] , and hold to account those who harm journalists and severely restrict them from doing their job. The Coalition was formed in July 2019 at the first annual Global Conference for Media Freedom in London at the initiative of the governments of the United Kingdom and Canada.

1.2 All members have signed the Global Pledge on Media Freedom. As signatories, each member has made the commitment to work together in taking action to improve the media freedom environment and the safety of journalists both at home and abroad.

2. Purpose

2.1 The purpose of the Coalition is expected to be to promote media freedom and advocate for the safety of journalists in both member and non-member countries by:

  • raising individual cases and situations where those individuals practising journalism, as well as media organisations, have come under threat and encouraging fair trial guarantees and the reduction of cases of impunity

  • making collective statements, including in international fora

  • supporting members of the MFC and other countries to improve protections for the media, including identifying opportunities for use of the Global Media Defence Fund (GMDF) and other multi-donor funds

  • making collective diplomatic approaches where appropriate

  • providing support and co-operation with organisations advocating for media freedom and the safety of journalists

2.2 The MFC intends to build on the work of other media freedom initiatives and advance that work wherever possible.

2.3 As reflected in the Global Pledge, our countries are committed to speaking out and taking action collaboratively, through a coalition that intends to:

  • make the case for the fundamental importance of media freedom for the security, prosperity and well being of all societies

  • combine forces to share information, as appropriate, and take action on cases and situations where journalists and media organisations are at risk

  • shine a light on violations related to and abuses of media freedom, bringing them to the attention of the global public and working toward accountability

  • stand together to intervene at the highest level with the governments of countries where media freedom is at risk, including when those governments are Coalition members, and to support countries that are taking active measures to improve respect for media freedom

  • consider all available measures to address violations and abuses of international human rights, including rights related to media freedom

2.4 The MFC is committed to addressing the specific types of threats, intimidation and attacks faced by journalists, including women journalists and other targeted groups or individuals.

3. Membership

3.1 Membership to the MFC is open to all countries that sign up to the Global Pledge on Media Freedom, demonstrate active engagement and common desire, and support the objectives of the Coalition.

3.2 Any additional country that wishes to join the Coalition is expected to submit a request in writing to the co-Chairs. The request is expected to be submitted to the existing members for a silence procedure of one month. Such a silence procedure is expected to be considered to be broken when at least one third of membership indicates an objection, in which case membership should be denied. For countries wishing to join the Coalition, their record and the commitments they have demonstrated to promote media freedom in the future will be considered during the application phase. The Coalition intends to seek the views of the Advisory Network to aid the process.

3.3 If a country decides unilaterally to withdraw from the Coalition, they should write to inform the co-Chairs who are expected to share the decision with the wider Coalition.

3.4 If a country does not adhere to the principles contained in the Global Pledge or fails to respond to enquiries from the Coalition on cases and/or situations of concern, the Coalition intends to presume that the country intends to withdraw their membership. In case of ambiguity, it is expected that a two-thirds majority from the Coalition would determine the status.

3.5 A full list of membership of the Coalition can be found at Annex 1.

3.6 A full list of the membership of the Advisory Network can be found at Annex 2.

4. Structure

4.1 The MFC consists of the Executive Group, co-Chairs, the Contact Group and the wider Coalition.

The Executive Group

4.2 The Executive Group (EG) is a core group of around 8 governments, together with the Advisory Network.

a. The EG is expected to have the principal responsibility for providing strategic direction to the Coalition, shaping the Coalition’s meetings and holding discussions on an ad hoc basis, including by identifying and presenting issues of concern to the broader membership.

b. The EG is expected to draw on input from the Advisory Network and multilateral organisations to inform discussions by inviting relevant organisations to participate in discussions of the EG or MFC. Three representatives chosen by the Advisory Network are expected to be invited to participate in meetings of the Executive Group. UNESCO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights also are expected to be invited to participate in such meetings. Other relevant governments, international or regional organisations or entities, including all relevant international mandate holders, may be invited to participate in meetings on an ad hoc basis and may be consulted to assist the EG’s work.

c. Members of the Executive Group intend to serve for 2 years, with half of the membership rotating on an annual basis. Membership is expected to be decided by expressions of interest to the co-chairs. Consideration is expected to be given to geographical representation.

d. Initial Members of the EG can be found at Annex 3.


e. The Executive Group and Coalition is expected to be chaired by 2 countries, with one country retiring at the annual Ministerial meeting each year.

f. Any MFC member that wishes to serve as co-Chair is expected to inform the current co-Chairs of its wish in writing by 1 September or as determined to enable confirmation at the annual Ministerial meeting each year. A full list of interested members is expected to be shared with the EG for a vote at the next EG meeting. Countries will be expected to serve as co-Chair for 2 years and preferably represent different regional groupings.

4.3 The responsibilities of the co-Chairs include:

  • organising, chairing and setting the agenda for Coalition and Executive Group meetings
  • ensuring the participation of key stakeholders in relevant Executive Group meetings
  • ensuring the necessary follow-up to Coalition and Executive Group meetings
  • reporting annually on the MFC’s activities and accomplishments to the wider Coalition

Contact Group

g. The Contact Group of the Coalition, as set out in the Global Pledge, is expected to include diplomats from Coalition countries at posts and at headquarters working together to promote media freedom through joint lobbying on cases, participating in activities designed to support journalists in-country or promoting best practice related to Media Freedom.

Wider Coalition

h. The wider Coalition consists of all members of the MFC.

i. Three representatives chosen by the Advisory Network may be invited to participate in meetings of the MFC.

j. UNESCO and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, along with other international or regional organisations or other entities may be invited to participate in meetings of the MFC on an ad hoc basis.

5. Working methods


5.1 The Coalition commits to meet annually at Ministerial level, to renew commitments and to address emerging threats and opportunities. In addition, officials of the Coalition expect to meet at least once per year and partake in teleconferences as necessary.

5.2 All members are expected to attend meetings. If the usual designated representative is unable to attend, they should send a suitably empowered deputy.

5.3 The Coalition intends to publicly highlight cases and situations where action needs to be taken, use diplomacy to push for systemic change, and show solidarity with countries that work to build on media freedom.

5.4 Through the Executive Group, the Advisory Network expects to identify cases which should be addressed through diplomatic intervention either publicly or privately. The EG expects to discuss and decide on which of these cases to take forward to the wider Coalition.

5.5 All members of the Coalition intend to appoint a senior official to act as point of contact for the work of the Coalition. As issues of concern emerge and cases are chosen, the co-Chairs (at official level) expect to reach out to points of contact of relevant members that have diplomatic officials on the ground who can help address the issue at hand, in collaboration with local stakeholders.

5.6 The configuration of Contact Group countries actively engaged on situations of concern in-country is expected to vary from case to case.

5.7 Statements made by the Coalition should be made by consensus or, if consensus cannot be achieved, for example if the statement is regarding a case or situation of concern in a Coalition member state, be open to signature by association by smaller groups of members, issued by the co-Chairs on members’ behalf.

Peer to peer review and support

5.9 All members of the Coalition have committed to being open to scrutiny of the media freedom situation in their country. The group is expected to act as an internal peer-to-peer review system, both in terms of supporting members to improve the situation in their country and in holding them to account.

  • the Advisory Network may be invited to share a list of their existing resources reporting on the state of media freedom in member countries

  • members may be invited to voluntarily exchange information and updates on the protection and promotion of media freedom within their domestic frameworks and contexts during the meetings of the Coalition, and to identify areas where they would like to receive advice and support

  • individual countries may offer bilateral support to other members through a variety of means

  • regional meetings may be held, where some members of the Coalition meet to discuss local issues of relevance to them and update the wider group at an opportune moment

  • in the event of a serious incident threatening media freedom occurring in a Coalition country, the wider group may seek a clarification from that country on the facts of the case. If the response is inadequate the Coalition may:

    • issue a statement of concern
    • take measures to have a country removed from the Coalition. (The co-chairs intend to write to all members of the Coalition seeking their views on membership, if two-thirds of the Coalition concur, membership is expected to be revoked)

Relationship with relevant stakeholders

5.10 The MFC values the expertise and work of international organisations, relevant Special Rapporteurs, civil society organisations, practitioners, and other relevant stakeholders working to improve media freedom and the lives of journalists worldwide. A positive relationship and successful co-operation with such bodies is intrinsic to the effective delivery of our campaign initiatives.

5.11 Through the Executive Group, the MFC intends to actively pursue co-operation and input from the Advisory Network and existing multilateral bodies involved in the promotion of media freedom.

6. Review

6.1 The Coalition may review the Terms of Reference as needed. Any amendments are expected to be adopted by consensus.

6.2 All members of the Coalition may initiate amendments to these Terms of Reference and should do so by writing to the co-Chairs.

6.3 The Advisory Network is expected to be informed of amendments to the Terms of Reference.

6.4 The Coalition is expected to conduct a comprehensive review of its objectives and purpose every 5 years.

6.5 Where there is a need to interpret the practical application of the Terms of Reference or any issue arising from them, this is expected to be done by the Executive Group.

Annex 1: Coalition membership full list

The current membership of the Coalition as at February 2020 is as follows:

  1. Afghanistan
  2. Argentina
  3. Austria
  4. Bulgaria
  5. Canada
  6. Costa Rica
  7. the Czech Republic
  8. Denmark
  9. Estonia
  10. Finland
  11. France
  12. Germany
  13. Ghana
  14. Greece
  15. Honduras
  16. Iceland
  17. Kosovo
  18. Latvia
  19. Lebanon
  20. Lithuania
  21. Luxembourg
  22. Maldives
  23. Montenegro
  24. the Netherlands
  25. North Macedonia
  26. Serbia
  27. Seychelles
  28. Slovakia
  29. Slovenia
  30. Sudan
  31. Switzerland
  32. Ukraine
  33. the United Kingdom
  34. Uruguay
  35. the United States

Annex 2: Advisory Network membership full list

The Media Freedom Coalition: Advisory Network (MFC-AN) is integrated by the following 17 members:

  1. ARTICLE 19
  2. Association for International Broadcasting
  3. Committee to Protect Journalists
  4. DW Akademie
  5. FLIP
  6. Frontline Freelance Register
  7. IFEX
  8. International Federation of Journalists
  9. International Media Support
  10. International Press Institute
  11. Internews
  12. Pakistan Press Foundation
  13. Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms
  14. Public Media Alliance
  15. Reporters without Borders
  16. The Guardian
  17. WAN-IFRA

The 3 co-chairs for 2020:

  1. ARTICLE 19
  2. IFEX
  3. Pakistan Press Foundation

Annex 3: Executive Group initial members

A. Original members of the EG were identified and selected by the founding co-Chairs in response to an expression of interest. The following countries constitute the initial membership of the EG as at December 2019:

  1. Canada
  2. Germany
  3. Ghana
  4. Latvia
  5. the Maldives
  6. the Netherlands
  7. the United Kingdom
  8. the United States

B. Advisory Network Representation.

C. Multilateral Representation:

  2. OHCHR
  1. References to ‘journalists’ in this text should be understood in the widest context, at times including media workers, bloggers and others involved in the production of news and media content.