In a statement issued ahead of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić urged European governments to show stronger political will to protect journalists and independent journalism in order to put a stop to the deterioration of media freedom in the continent.
“Media freedom is an essential pillar of our democracies which is too often taken for granted. Respect for freedom of the media is in decline in many countries. In the last years we have witnessed an increase in the number of cases of violence and intimidation against journalists.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a strong rise in reports of violence against journalists as well as censorship and reprisals for questioning governments policies. At the same time, quality media face serious economic challenges and many journalists have lost their jobs due to the pandemic. These worrying trends are highlighted in my annual report to be published in the next days.
It is time to recall that states have an obligation to ensure that journalists can carry out their work free from violence and intimidation and fulfil their role as public “watchdog”, which includes holding public authorities accountable for their decisions and action.
The annual report of the Platform for the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists, released by 14 international media freedom organisations, lists 201 serious cases of threats to media freedom in the 47 Council of Europe member states in 2020, a 40% increase compared to 2019. A record number of alerts concerned physical attacks (52 cases) and harassment or intimidation (70 cases).