In Europe and beyond, journalists continue to be the target of attacks impairing their everyday work and spoiling their crucial role of watchdogs of freedom of expression. Intimidated, threatened, target of abusive litigation, verbally and physically assaulted, the alerts received by the Council of Europe Platform for the protection of journalism and safety of journalists disclose that the range of attacks on journalists can take a number of forms. In the most horrific cases, journalists even pay their refusal to be silent with their own life.
Online and offline, attacks against journalists correspond to attacks against democracy itself, as the public’s right to be informed is equally endangered. However, the rate of impunity remains extremely problematic. To step up their effort to effectively prevent, investigate and sanction threats and attacks against journalists’ safety, member States must continue keeping the subject high on their political agenda.
At the occasion of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, Inge Welbergen, Chair of the Council of Europe Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI), recalls: “Specific obligations towards the protection of journalists are provided under the European Convention on Human Rights. But the issue is so problematic and widespread that member States have gone further by adopting a specific instrument, the Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors, which requires: to put in place a comprehensive legislative frameworks for the protection of the physical and moral integrity of journalists and other media actors, to adopt appropriate criminal law provisions to prevent impunity and to afford journalists a broad scope of protection. In this context, the Implementation guide “How to protect journalists and other media actors?”, which will soon be extended, is a practical tool already at their disposal containing concrete suggestions for implementation of the Recommendation.
The member States commitment to further combat impunity was reiterated at the occasion of the Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and Information Society held in June 2021, when they adopted a Resolution on the safety of journalists and committed, inter alia, to devise dedicated national action plans on the safety of journalists, also to promptly and decisively address the specific risks that women journalists face on account of their gender; to make the protection of journalists a political priority. The same Resolution invites the Council of Europe to carry out a comprehensive campaign to promote the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists.
The path towards safeguarding the safety of journalists is still filled with hurdles, but the rights at stake are too valuable to leave the road.”