In a statement to mark World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, Council of Europe´s Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić urged European governments to make the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists and other media actors a political priority:
“As journalists and other media actors are increasingly subject to undue pressure, intimidation, violence and other forms of interference with their work in many European countries, it has become urgent to devise national action plans for the safety of journalists. Governments should address the need to strengthen the protection of journalists, effectively prosecute perpetrators of crimes against them, and to raise awareness in our societies about the crucial role diverse and independent media play to preserve true democracy.
To protect our democratic freedoms, it is essential that states create a favourable environment for plural and independent media to flourish and play their essential “watchdog” role. And for this to be possible, they must be able to hold governments and other actors to account, by disseminating information, promoting the participation in the public debate and the expression of ideas and opinions without fear. Anti-media rhetoric has no place in a democratic society. Any threat or attack against journalists should be condemned by politicians.
The recently published 2023 annual report by the partners to the Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists “War in Europe and the Fight for the Right to Report" portrays a worrying trend towards a continued degradation of media freedom in some countries, particularly drastic in Russia and Belarus. Against this alarming scenario, the Council of Europe has developed an arsenal of standard-setting instruments to provide guidance to governments to ensure the safety of journalists, notably the 2016 Committee of Ministers Recommendation on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors.
The focus should now be on effectively implementing these standards in practice at national level. We expect the upcoming five-year Council of Europe Campaign for the Safety of Journalists, to be launched in October 2023, to be a step forward in the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists at European level, to be supported by corresponding campaigns at national level. It has long been time for meaningful action to address the deterioration of press freedom. The campaign will provide a remarkable opportunity to apply in practice the Council of Europe´s standards to protect journalists”.