Delivered by Montenegro in the Closing Session of the OSCE Ministerial Council in Belgrade on 4 December 2015
We make the statement as a demonstration of our deep concern at the continuing deterioration in the exercise and enjoyment of the fundamental freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly. We have throughout the year heard examples of violations of these fundamental freedoms online and offline. We draw attention to one of the key findings in the outcome document of the OSCE Parallel Civil Society Conference which highlights a backlash against independent civil society and increasing restrictions to these vital freedoms.
We recall the conferences which took place this year in Belgrade and Vienna on Safety of Journalists provided a reminder of the need to address the deteriorating situation of journalists’ safety and the phenomenon of state or state-sponsored monopoly of the media and state or state-sponsored propaganda inconsistent with Helsinki principles.
Such developments represent an attack on democracy and have a chilling effect on freedom of expression. At the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association, we heard numerous examples of the obstacles that civil society is experiencing due to the restriction of these freedoms. We applaud the engagement of the Representative on Freedom of the Media, and ODIHR on these issues.
We regret that it was not possible to reach consensus on draft Ministerial Decisions on the Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association and on the Safety of Journalists.
For our part, we remain committed to strengthening our OSCE commitments in this area. We believe that the focus of participating States should be on the respect for the exercise, facilitation and enjoyment of these freedoms and of ensuring that no one should face murder, violence, threats, intimidation, harassment, arrest, detention or imprisonment for simply exercising their rights.
We will continue to highlight violations of these freedoms, stress the urgent need for participating States to implement their obligations under international law to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, implement their OSCE commitments in this regard, and strengthen the OSCE’s capacity to help participating States’ to fulfil those obligations and commitments. We owe this to our citizens, particularly those brave journalists and other media actors and human rights defenders risking their safety to monitor and expose human rights abuses.
In conclusion, we wish to reiterate our strong support and appreciation for the contributions of OSCE institutions. Their unimpeded, impartial and professional performance of their mandates and institutional independence are essential to the promotion and protection of fundamental freedoms and human rights – right and freedoms which are a cornerstone of our security community.