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Secretary General: European governments should show stronger political will to protect press freedom

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM DAY
Strasbourg 28 April 2021
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Secretary General: European governments should show stronger political will to protect press freedom

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 today 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).


Press release
Secretary General: European governments should show stronger political will to protect press freedom


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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”.