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Safety of Journalists' Platform report: media freedom conditions worsen

Strasbourg 12 February 2019
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Safety of Journalists' Platform report: media freedom conditions worsen

The environment for media freedom has worsened significantly in the Council of Europe area, according to a report published today by the partner organisations to the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists.

The report “Democracy at Risk: threats and attacks against media freedom in Europe assesses the situation of media freedom in Europe based on the 140 serious media freedom violations reported to the platform in 2018.

According to the report, the number of attacks on journalists has grown continuously. The number of threats reported, including death threats, doubled last year and there has been no progress in a number of long-standing cases of impunity for murder of journalists. In addition, journalists continue to be arbitrarily detained while a number of new legislative initiatives have weakened media freedom.

In a meeting in Strasbourg, the partner organisations presented the report to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, who thanked them for their continued involvement in the platform.

The Secretary General agreed with the partners that strong and concerted political action from member states and the organisation is needed to reverse the trend of eroding conditions for media freedom and to improve protections for journalists.

“Freedom of expression is crucial for the realisation of all other human rights and it deserves the highest attention of our member states. The report can serve as a basis for dialogue with the member states on the ways to improve the media freedom environment”, said the Secretary General.

The Council of Europe Platform was set up by the Council of Europe in 2015, in co-operation with prominent international NGOs active in the field of the freedom of expression and associations of journalists, to provide information which may serve as a basis for dialogue with member states about possible protective or remedial action.

The twelve platform partners are: the European Federation of Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, the Association of European Journalists, Article 19, Reporters without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Index on Censorship, the International Press Institute, the International News Safety Institute, Rory Peck Trust, the European Broadcasting Union and PEN International.


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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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