What can you do if you see politicians pocketing taxes while your roads and schools crumble? If you've been told that you can't hold a peaceful protest to complain about public spending cuts because police will fine you? What if you want to know why the authorities say they need to spy on the public's emails, but the government-friendly media won't give you the full picture? Who can you turn to if a hospital refuses to give your child a routine operation that will save his or her life because they don't like your religion? If you see that the judges in your country won't give you a fair hearing because they're controlled by politicians? What if your sister is a victim of domestic violence but the shelter providing her protection is going to be shut because your politicians don't believe that women have equal rights?
Click here to read the open letter
Find Out Why We Need a Freedoms Fund
You could try to take a case to your local court, or maybe the European Court of Human Rights. But that's expensive and complicated. You could try to organise a protest or write a letter to your elected representative. You could try to research what the law says. But you're just one voice, one person.
We all need NGOs
This is where rights and democracy groups - or independent non-governmental organisations - come in. They help us protect our rights by taking our cases through the courts. They can help us organise with thousands of other like-minded citizens to tell politicians what we think through protests and petitions. They can explain to us what complicated legal changes will mean for our freedoms, and how we can fight to protect our liberties.
But rights and democracy groups can't help you get organised to protect your rights without money. Most governments don't want to fund activists who criticise them.
It's not just countries like Poland, Hungary and Romania that are trying to starve independent non-governmental organisations by cutting or blocking donations. Funding for rights and democracy groups is down in most parts of the EU. The rise of the far right across Europe means that groups fighting to protect our democratic way of life and our freedoms are having to do more with less.
This is why Liberties and 80 other organisations from different countries have today sent a letter asking the European Commission and national governments in the European Council to create a new fund to support rights and democracy groups. The European Parliament has supported this call. But the European Commission has ignored our MEPs. Instead, the Commission has put forward a proposal for a funding programme that offers no help to rights and democracy groups working at the local or national level.
We can prevent the disappearance of activists who help ordinary citizens fight for their rights. We can breathe life into our struggling democracies and help citizens like you get organised and mobilised against the new authoritarians. But only if we can make the EU use our tax money to support and finance the organisations that keep rights and freedoms at the heart of Europe.