Freedom of expression and free flow of information are cornerstones of public debate and democracy. Being the watchdogs of these freedoms, journalists are crucial to the very functioning of our societies. Yet, freedom of expression and the safety of journalists are facing major challenges in Europe today. In many countries, journalists and other media actors are facing threats such as censorship, political and economic pressure, intimidation, job insecurity, abusive use of defamation laws as well as physical attacks. These offences are often committed in an intolerable context of impunity, which fuels recidivism and has a chilling effect on media freedom. Another danger for journalists and their sources comes from surveillance laws passed in some States under exceptional circumstances and often by resorting to extraordinary legal procedures, which may also lead to self-censorship in the media community.

On the basis of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights’ case law, member States have both negative and positive obligations to protect journalists. Not only must they refrain from intimidating political declarations or judicial practices against media actors, they also have the duty to actively grant them full protection of the law and the judiciary in order to create an enabling environment for their journalistic activities. To achieve implementation of the Council of Europe standards in all member States, a strong and specific legal framework is needed, along with an effective enforcement of the protection of media actors by the judiciary.