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Partner organisations call on the new Secretary General to make press freedom a priority

In an open letter, 12 partner organisations of the Platform for the Safety of Journalists and 9 other organisations urge new Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejcinovic-Buric to ensure that media freedom and the protection of journalists are top priorities. Pointing at the rising threats against journalists and press freedom throughout Europe, they stress that renewed and determined efforts are needed to achieve Member States’ compliance with the Council of Europe’s standards.
Strasbourg 19 September 2019
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Partner organisations call on the new Secretary General to make press freedom a priority

Dear Secretary-General,

On behalf of the undersigned organisations, we warmly congratulate you on your appointment as the new Secretary-General of the Council of Europe. We are motivated by our experience and understanding of the worsening of the environment for journalists and free expression across Europe to ask you to make sure that your commitment to democracy, the rule of law and human rights will be reflected in enhanced efforts for the effective protection of freedom of expression, press freedom and the safety of journalists, backed up by robust measures and strong and consistent statements and actions by yourself as Secretary-General. Media freedom and media pluralism must be given a clear and consistent priority across the Council of Europe area, as they enable the public to make informed choices about their government and society, and are thus prerequisites for the full enjoyment of all other rights.

Renewed and determined efforts to achieve Member States’ compliance with the Council of Europe’s conventions, recommendations and other texts, as well as the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) are vital in these times of rising threats against journalists and press freedom throughout Europe. The environment for media freedom has worsened significantly, as was documented in the Annual Report published by the partner organisations of the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists. We see extremely worrying developments in Azerbaijan, Poland, Hungary, Italy, Turkey, Russia and elsewhere.

Regarding the Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists, we urge you to provide all necessary means and support available to ensure that Member States respond concretely to alerts, intensify the dialogue and follow-up moves to provide redress, and to do everything possible to gain the active cooperation of those Member States which have failed to reply to alerts that highlight shortcomings or abuses on the part of state authorities. We ask you to establish a monthly exchange at the level of the Committee of Ministers to allow for a meaningful discussion on the progress of Member States in dealing with the alerts and persistent and serious threats to media freedom and the safety of journalists and other media actors.

In view of the well-documented increase in attacks on the media and backsliding in some states’ fulfilment of their commitments, we request you to prioritise actions and policies to implement Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4 of the Committee of Ministers on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors – including specific measures to comply with Council of Europe standards on Protection; Prevention of attacks; and Prosecution of crimes against journalists.

We hope that the concerns and recommendations outlined in the Platform partners’ latest report will be given priority by the Secretariat under your leadership, and through the projects and activities foreseen in the bi-annual Council of Europe programme and budget. To address these concerns, we request you to make available the resources and support needed to give it greater visibility, recognition and impact – both internally and externally to the Council of Europe.

We are convinced that strong and concerted political action from Member States and the Council of Europe is now essential. We request your energetic support against the ongoing impunity for attacks including murders of journalists within Europe, and against widespread attempts to adopt severely restrictive legislation on media regulation, defamation, anti-terrorism that are increasingly used to criminalise journalists. Anti-media rhetoric is creating a toxic atmosphere for journalists amongst the general public and must be countered. The spread of online disinformation intensifies this effect. We welcome the recent PACE resolution on the rule of law in Malta, which points to the urgent need for effective actions against the politicisation of state institutions, media capture by political forces, and a climate of impunity related to attacks against members of the media.

We call on you to provide your full political support, and necessary resources, to ensure the successful implementation of Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4, as is specified in the 2018 Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI) strategy 2018. It is especially important to us that robust and frank debate on the subject of implementation (including securing firm commitments to national action plans) takes place at the Conference of Ministers responsible for media and information society in Cyprus in May 2020, with the full participation of civil society to pave the way for meaningful actions to reverse the recent negative trends.

We call on you to use your influence on Member States to reform their domestic laws and practices so that they comply with their obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights and CM Recommendation (2016)4, and do everything in your power to improve the safety of journalists through the establishment of effective safeguards.

We thank Thorbjørn Jagland for his efforts in the past years and we are happy to continue to support the Council of Europe with our research and our international networks.

We request a meeting with you soon to discuss these matters in person and to share our knowledge and experience with you as you begin your term of office.

We look forward to your positive response.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary, International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)

Ricardo Gutiérrez, General Secretary, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

Lutz Kinkel, Managing Director, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia, ARTICLE 19

William Horsley, Special Representative for Media Freedom, Association of European Journalists (AEJ)

Gulnoza Said, Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)

Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN

Leon Willems, Director of Policy and Programmes, Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

Ralf Nestmeyer, Vice-President, German PEN

Bertrand Pecquerie, CEO, Global Editors Network (GEN)

Annie Game, Executive Director, IFEX

Joy Hyvarinen, Head of Advocacy, Index on Censorship

Ravi R. Prasad, Director of Advocacy, International Press Institute (IPI)

Ides Debruyne, Managing Director, Journalismfund.eu vzw

Hege Newth, Secretary General, Norwegian PEN

Chiara Sighele, Programme Director, Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT/CCI)

Alberto Spampinato, Director, Ossigeno per l’informazione

Aaliya Ahmed, International Programmes Director, PEN International

Christophe Deloire, Secretary General, Reporters without Borders (RSF)

Oliver Vujovic, Secretary General, South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)

Clothilde Redfern, Director, The Rory Peck Trust

Andrew Heslop, Director, World Association of News Publishers (WAN-IFRA)


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Follow-ups to alerts Follow-ups to alerts

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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Follow-ups to alerts Follow-ups to alerts

4 August 2020

TV Journalist Sinan Gluhić Attacked by Politician

3 August 2020

Journalist Bojana Pavlović Harassed in Front of the Police who Confiscated her Phone

31 July 2020

Critical Greek Media Excluded or Side-Lined from State Funding Package during Covid-19

30 July 2020

Blogging Site ‘Medium.com’ Blocked in Albania

28 July 2020

The Dutch Travel Restriction Law Threatens Media Freedom

22 July 2020

Photojournalist Wojciech Atys Taken to Court after Reporting on a Protest

21 July 2020

Death Threats against N1 Journalist Nikola Vučić

16 July 2020

Lawsuits Filed against the Romanian Centre for Investigative Journalism

16 July 2020

Heavy Fines and Shutdown Threat against Albanian TV Channel

16 July 2020

Media Owner Kastriot Reçi Killed in Albania

16 July 2020

Prime Minister Pressures Online Portals and Information Channels

16 July 2020

News 24 Channel Shuts Down two Critical Talk Shows

16 July 2020

British Journalist Targeted by Smear Campaign

15 July 2020

Slovak Investigative Journalist Peter Sabo Finds Bullet in His Mailbox

9 July 2020

Threats and Insults against Journalists in Faktor.ba Newsroom

7 July 2020

Reporter Eugenija Carl Receives Threatening Letter with White Powder

6 July 2020

Russia Investigates Reporter Svetlana Prokopyeva, Seizes Property over Allegations of "Justifying Terrorism"

2 July 2020

Journalists Attacked and Labelled as "Terrorists" during Far Right Protests in Rome

25 June 2020

Loyalist Threats against Journalists in Northern Ireland

25 June 2020

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16 June 2020

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15 June 2020

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12 June 2020

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10 June 2020

TV Journalist Sinan Gluhić Attacked by Politician

10 June 2020

Anti-Refugee Protesters Attack Journalists

9 June 2020

Journalist Metin Uca Sentenced to 14 Months for Tweeting Suspiciously Accurate Election Forecast by State-run News Agency

5 June 2020

Journalist Oleksandr Vlashchenko Assaulted by Unknown Assaillant

29 May 2020

Reporter Fabio Buonafiglio’s Car Set on Fire

29 May 2020

Journalist Gennaro Del Giudice Threatened by Mafia Group

27 May 2020

Smear Campaign Against Four Sport Journalists

26 May 2020

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22 May 2020

Investigative News Platform Slidstvo.info Hit with Criminal Probe

22 May 2020

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19 May 2020

Cartoonist Mahmoud Abbas Threatened with Death

18 May 2020

Portuguese Journalists Banned from Entering Spain

18 May 2020

Exiled Pakistani Journalist Sajid Hussain Baloch Found Dead

18 May 2020

Suspected Plot to Attack an "Irish News" Journalist

18 May 2020

Graffiti Threatens Safety of Northern Ireland Journalist Leona O'Neill

18 May 2020

Continued Impunity for Murder of Journalist Martin O'Hagan in 2001

18 May 2020

Journalist Lyra McKee Killed in Northern Ireland

12 May 2020

Polish Clothing Company LLP Files Lawsuit against two Polish Journalists for Newsweek Poland Article

11 May 2020

Loyalist Threats against Journalists in Northern Ireland

11 May 2020

Fox TV Banned from Broadcast, Anchor Fatih Portakal Faces Three-Year Imprisonment

11 May 2020

Turkish Radio and Television High Council Cancels Broadcast of Northern Cypriot Diyalog TV

11 May 2020

Journalist Ana Lalic Detained Overnight after Reporting on Conditions in Hospital

11 May 2020

Journalist Tetiana Sivokon Attacked while Reporting on Sale of Protective Masks

6 May 2020

Emergency Restrictions Force Media to Suppress Independent Information on COVID-19

6 May 2020

Emergency Restrictions Force Media to Suppress Independent Information on COVID-19

24 April 2020

Chechen President Threatens Journalist Elena Milashina with Death

17 April 2020

Bulgarian Newspaper Editor Slavi Angelov Severely Beaten in Attack by Masked Men in Central Sofia

17 April 2020

Satabank Co-Owner Files SLAPPs against Maltese Blogger Manuel Delia and Times of Malta in Bulgaria

16 April 2020

Threats and Insults against Journalists in Faktor.ba Newsroom

15 April 2020

'La Repubblica' Chief Editor Carlo Verdelli under Police Protection after Receiving Death Threats

15 April 2020

Arson Attack against Holos Sambirshchyny Newspaper

7 April 2020

Slovenian Prime Minister Attacks Radiotelevizija Slovenija (RTVS) on Social Media

3 April 2020

Journalist Ana Lalic Detained Overnight after Reporting on Conditions in Hospital

1 April 2020

Government Plan to Strongly Reduce Funding for Public Service Broadcasting

31 March 2020

Bulgarian Newspaper Editor Slavi Angelov Severely Beaten in Attack by Masked Men in Central Sofia

31 March 2020

Satabank Co-Owner Files SLAPPs against Maltese Blogger Manuel Delia and Times of Malta in Bulgaria

28 March 2020

Slovenian Prime Minister Attacks Radiotelevizija Slovenija (RTVS) on Social Media

27 March 2020

Slovenian Journalist Blaž Zgaga Targeted by a Defamation and Hate Campaign Led by the New Government

27 March 2020

Media Freedom Advocates Raise Alarm over UK Counter-Terror Bill

27 March 2020

Proposal Set To Increase Prison Sentences For Leaking Official Documents

25 March 2020

Emergency Restrictions Force Media to Suppress Independent Information on COVID-19

24 March 2020

Hungary Seeks Power to Jail Journalists over ‘False Information’ in COVID-19 Coverage

23 March 2020

Hungary Seeks Power to Jail Journalists over ‘False Information’ in COVID-19 Coverage

20 March 2020

Continued Detention of WikiLeaks Founder and Publisher Julian Assange

20 March 2020

Journalists Ian Cobain and Solomon Hughes Denied Accreditation to the Defense and Security Equipment International (DSEI) Arms Fair

19 March 2020

Bulgarian Newspaper Editor Slavi Angelov Severely Beaten in Attack by Masked Men in Central Sofia

18 March 2020

Chechen Blogger Tumso Abdurakhmanov Assaulted

18 March 2020

Exiled Journalist Afgan Mukhtarli Abducted, Detained and Faces Charges in Azerbaijan

16 March 2020

Pipe Bomb Attack on Cyprus MC Digital Media News Agency Offices

12 March 2020

Public Radio Journalist Sanctioned for Refusing to Broadcast Discriminatory Information

10 March 2020

Slovak Columnist Charged with Criminal Defamation for Criticism of Priest

2 March 2020

The Work of the Ukrainian Public Broadcaster UA: PBC Blocked, all Accounts Arrested.

27 February 2020

Spanish Journalist Raquel Guillán Assaulted While Reporting Live on TV

27 February 2020

Journalist Katarzyna Wlodkowska Faces Investigation Following Report on Assassination of Mayor

27 February 2020

Thomas Jacobi, a Journalist Working for La Croix and Deutsche Welle, Attacked in Athens by Far-Right Protesters

14 February 2020

Two Journalism Students Arrested in Lille while Photographing Police Officers

14 February 2020

A French Police Union Releases a List of Journalists Described as Enemies of the National Police

11 February 2020

Thomas Jacobi, a Journalist Working for La Croix and Deutsche Welle, Attacked in Athens by Far-Right Protesters

27 January 2020

Ukraine’s Draft Law on Combating Disinformation and Regulating Media Activity Threatens Freedom of Speech

24 January 2020

Head of the Russian Republic of Chuvashia says Critical Journalists Should be “Wiped Out”

24 January 2020

Russian State News Agency Sputnik Shuts Tallinn Bureau Under Pressure From Estonian Police

23 January 2020

Thomas Jacobi, a Journalist Working for La Croix and Deutsche Welle, Attacked in Athens by Far-Right Protesters

21 January 2020

Journalist Miodrag Sovilj Targeted by Smear Campaign after Interviewing President Vučić

14 January 2020

New “Anti-defamation” Legislative Package Threatens Online Media Freedom

10 January 2020

Journalist Anđela Đikanović Charged with “Causing Panic and Disorder”

9 January 2020

Russian State News Agency Sputnik Shuts Tallinn Bureau Under Pressure From Estonian Police

6 January 2020

Information Website joqalbania.com Blocked

31 December 2019

Blogger Mehman Huseynov Beaten by Police

20 December 2019

Crimean Tatar Journalists Osman Arifmemetov, Remzi Bekirov and Rustem Sheikhaliev Detained by Russian Authorities

19 December 2019

Journalist Nadège Picard Targeted by Police Fire

19 December 2019

Government Decided to Abolish Public Funding to the Press

19 December 2019

Deputy Prime Minister Di Maio and former MP Battista Insulted Journalists

19 December 2019

Police Searched the Home of Journalist Salvo Palazzolo

19 December 2019

Minister Di Maio Threatens to Reduce Indirect Public Funding to the Press

19 December 2019

Journalist Enrico Nascimbeni Attacked with a Knife in Milan

19 December 2019

Italy: Journalist Sentenced to Four months in Jail for "Trespassing"

19 December 2019

Journalist Daniele Lupo slapped by former Minister

19 December 2019

Italian Newspaper La Repubblica's Headquarters Attacked by Forza Nuova Supporters

19 December 2019

Italian Investigative Journalist Suffered Data Theft In Home Burglary

17 December 2019

Attack on Online Portal Hayeli.am

17 December 2019

New “Anti-defamation” Legislative Package Threatens Online Media Freedom

17 December 2019

Leader of La France Insoumise Party Calls to ‘Badmouth’ France Info Journalists

17 December 2019

Violence Against Reporters During 11 Days of Protests in Armenia

17 December 2019

Lack of Effective Investigation into Police Violence and Obstruction of Journalist’s Work

16 December 2019

Reporters Michael Colborne and Oleksiy Kuzmenko Threatened and Harassed

16 December 2019

Ukrainian Court Rules to Block Access to 17 Online Media

16 December 2019

Threats to the Independence of the Daily "Le Monde"

16 December 2019

Journalist and Blogger Igor Stakh Beaten in Ukraine

16 December 2019

Violent Attack Against France 3 Cameraman

10 December 2019

New “Anti-defamation” Legislative Package Threatens Online Media Freedom

6 December 2019

Journalists Locked Inside the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta Following a Press Conference

5 December 2019

AfD’s Politician Björn Höcke Threatens Journalist of ‘Massive consequences’ over Interview Questions

4 December 2019

Belgian Journalists Nicolas Lahaut and Adrien Heylen Fined and Detained by the Police

4 December 2019

Journalists Covering the G7 Summit Victims of Abusive Police Confiscations and Controls

4 December 2019

Duma Committee Approves Legislation to Label Individual Journalists “Foreign Agents”

2 December 2019

Journalists Locked Inside the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta Following a Press Conference

2 December 2019

Investigative Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia Killed by Car Bomb

27 November 2019

New Restrictions on Journalists Working in Hungarian Parliament

27 November 2019

Journalists Banned from Covering the Evacuation of Amazon France's Headquarters

20 November 2019

Duma Committee Approves Legislation to Label Individual Journalists “Foreign Agents”

18 November 2019

TV Reporter Robert Bas Jailed for Refusing to Disclose Source at Murder Trial

14 November 2019

Suspension of Bulgarian National Radio Broadcasts Points to Vulnerability of Editorial Independence

13 November 2019

Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan Detained for Words Used on TV

13 November 2019

Ahmet Altan and Mehmet Altan Detained for Words Used on TV

8 November 2019

Violent Arrest of Photo Reporter Albert Garcia

8 November 2019

Twelve Journalists Victims of Violence on the Sidelines of Demonstrations in Catalonia

5 November 2019

Journalists Arrested in Major Clampdown following Failed Coup in Turkey

28 October 2019

Slovak Investigative Journalist Jan Kuciak Killed at Home

25 October 2019

Violent Arrest of Photo Reporter Albert Garcia