Safety of Journalists
A number of studies and reports have been commissioned by the Council of Europe to shed light on particular aspects of journalists’ safety.
Edited by Elena Brodeală
The last recorded interview with Daphne Caruana Galizia - 6 October 2017 (Abridged version)
- Marilyn Clark
- William Horsley
Issued in 2015, the “Journalism at Risk” study emphasized the rising death toll among journalists, physical attacks, acts of intimidation, judicial harassment, imprisonment, muzzling legislation, smear campaigns and abuse of financial levers. It equally underlined as challenges protracted investigations, media outlets being forced into becoming propaganda tools or shut down, new anti- terrorist legislation increasing media vulnerability to government control and pressures on journalists and their sources. It also underlined the widespread threat of police violence against those journalists who cover demonstrations. Finally, it indicated that defamation legislation was used to stifle dissent in many countries.
The “Freedom of Expression and Defamation” review, published in September 2016, examined the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. It explained how defamation laws that are overly protective of reputational interests and that provide for far-reaching remedies or sanctions can have a chilling effect on freedom of expression and public debate.
Issued in April 2017, the study “Journalists under pressure”, conducted among 940 journalists and other news providers in the 47 Council of Europe member states and Belarus, assessed the prevalence and impact of unwarranted interference on journalists. The survey documented extended attacks on the physical and psychological integrity of journalists, the harassment of journalists, the experience of impunity, threats to journalistic sources as well as measures and acts having a chilling effect on media freedom. The respondents indicated high levels of experience of unwarranted interference, fear of future experiences of interference and consequent self-censorship.
Addressing the challenges
The Council of Europe Secretary General’s annual report on “State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law” assesses the current level of protection of journalists and other media actors in member States according to specific criteria, identifies trends and provides recommendations.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe consistently follows the situation of journalists. In January 2020, based on the report on “Threats to media freedom and journalists’ security in Europe”, it adopted a Resolution and Recommendation under the same title calling on member States to review their legislation, set up national mechanisms and take other holistic measures to ensure journalists’ safety.
Committee of Ministers
The Committee of Ministers alerts member States about trends and developments in the field of safety of Journalists and adopts standards that help to address relevant challenges in a human rights compliant manner.
Please see, among others:
- Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4 on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors
- Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors, 30 April 2014
- Declaration by the Committee of Ministers on the protection and promotion of investigative journalism, adopted on 26 September 2007
- Recommendation Rec(2000)7 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the right to journalists not to disclose their sources of information
European Court of Human Rights
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has emphasised that States have a positive obligation to establish a sound legal framework for journalists and other media actors to work safely. The Court’s case-law sets important landmarks regarding effective investigation of attacks on journalists, protection of journalistic sources, the right of newsgathering and other relevant subjects.
Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists
Since 2015, the Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists serves to facilitate the compilation, processing and dissemination of information on serious concerns about media freedom and safety of journalists in Council of Europe member States. Alerts are posted by contributing partners - international NGOs and associations of journalists - and can be replied to by the States concerned. Partner organisations to the Platform publish annual reports on the situation of media freedom and safety of journalists in Europe.
Implementation Guide to Recommendation on protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors
The Implementation guide “How to protect journalists and other media actors?” contains concrete suggestions for implementation of the Recommendation. It offers a selection of practices developed in member States to enhance the protection of journalists and provides references to the relevant case-law of the European Court of Human Rights and to other sources that can inform law- and policy-making. Clear indicators and a self-assessment tool provided by the Guide will allow member States to independently review the state of implementation of the Recommendation in their respective jurisdictions. For further information on the implementation of the Recommendation please see the dedicated webpage.
Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4 on protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors
Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4 on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors, a landmark standard setting document in this domain, provides specific Guidelines to member States in the areas of prevention, protection, prosecution, promotion of information, education and awareness rising.
Specifically, member states are required to put in place comprehensive legislative frameworks for the protection of the physical and moral integrity of journalists and other media actors. Appropriate criminal law provisions should be adopted to deter the commission of offences and all crimes against journalists should be effectively investigated to prevent impunity.
Moreover, in order to create and secure a favourable environment for freedom of expression, member states should afford journalists a broad scope of protection fundamental to the pursuit of their activities, such as protection of confidential sources, protection of news and information-gathering processes and editorial autonomy.
2 November: International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists
Launch of a new book titled “A mission to inform: journalists at risk speak out” during the on-line event “Enhancing the Safety of Journalists in Europe” organized by the Council of Europe on 14 October 2020
Capacity building events
Over the past decade, the Council of Europe Cooperation Programme has been implemented in over 20 projects in member States and partner countries promoting media freedom, including various aspects of journalist’s safety. Targeted activities include seminars and training sessions for law enforcement and judicial authorities on protection of journalists, methodological recommendations for police on dealing with situations involving journalistic activities and legal support for journalists, victims of abuse.
For further information please visit the Co-operation activities webpage.