Media freedom under threat in Europe
London, 08/12/11 –
Ahead of human rights day (10 December 2011), Thomas Hammarberg, the
Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, launched the
Human rights and a changing media landscape at a press
conference in London, hosted by ARTICLE 19, on Thursday 8 December 2011.
“The defence of all human rights depends on media freedom and pluralism.
This makes it urgent to counter government restrictions and monopoly
tendencies,” said Thomas Hammarberg at the launch.
“Journalists are murdered or threatened with violence, state authorities
seek to control broadcast media and prevent access to government
information. At the same time we have seen that unrestrained commercial
ambitions can encourage a culture of illegal and unethical activity in
the newsroom – as the News of the World phone hacking scandal
demonstrated with shocking clarity.”
The Commissioner invited eight experts to give their personal
assessments of six topics and how they relate to human rights: social
media; protection of journalists from violence; ethical journalism;
access to official documents; public service media; and media pluralism.
“Together these contributions give an indication that there is a need
for stronger protection of media freedom and freedom of expression in
Europe today,” said the Commissioner at the launch, which took place at
Article 19 in London.
In his foreword Thomas Hammarberg highlights the role media plays in
exposing human rights violations and in offering an arena for different
voices to be heard in public discourse. He argues that public service
broadcasting is important to ensure media pluralism and counteract
monopolies. He also underlines that every case of violence or threats
against a journalist must be promptly and seriously investigated –
impunity encourages further murders and has a chilling effect on public
The phenomenon of social media presents us with a range of fresh
challenges. Blogs, video and social networking sites have become key
forums for political debate and organisation – so much so that they have
provoked counter-responses from some repressive states. While there is a
need to ensure better protection of personal integrity in social media,
the right to freedom of expression must not be undermined.
The traditional media have felt the pain of the global economic crisis.
Thousands of jobs have been eliminated, leaving little space for
research, checking and original investigation – and training. The term
ethical journalism is highly relevant in this context. The media
community needs to develop a system of effective self-regulation – based
on an agreed code of ethics - and a mechanism to receive and respond to
“I hope this book will serve as a spotlight on current challenges. There
is a strong need for a serious public debate on media developments and
their impact on human rights”, said the Commissioner.
Human Rights and a changing media landscape can be ordered from:
book.coe.int (Council of Europe
Read the publication
Human rights and a changing media landscape
Thematic page on media freedom
Press contact in the Commissioner’s Office:
Anki Wood, +33 (0)6 61 14 78 35;
Keep up to date with the Commissioner on