A new study has made an in-depth analysis of undue pressure exerted against journalists to prevent them from reporting freely and of the strategies they use to overcome fear and continue to perform their public watchdog mission. “A Mission to Inform: Journalists at Risk Speak Out”, authored by two Council of Europe experts on media freedom, Marilyn Clark and William Horsley, is based on interviews with 20 journalists from 18 countries who have suffered different kinds of violence and intimidation. One of the journalists, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was interviewed ten days before 16 October 2017, when she was killed, almost three years ago.
The study calls for effective measures to protect the safety of journalists at risk, prosecute the perpetrators of attacks and create a favourable environment for free, independent and diverse media, in line with Council of Europe recommended measures. These include legal and regulatory reforms, improved reporting mechanisms to protect against threats, public media literacy programmes and support to journalists via professional training and psycho-social support. Whilst this sample of 20 interviews cannot be considered representative of the general situation in Council of Europe member States due to its focus on individual cases, the authors underline that it allows the development of a socio-psychological interpretation of the complexity of journalists’ experience of dealing with high levels of intimidation or threat.
The aim of this qualitative research is to exemplify and enable better understanding of different forms of interference with press freedom already identified in a quantitative study of the risks faced by media and journalists, published in 2017 and based on a survey of 940 journalists from Council of Europe member States and Belarus. In the interviews, the 20 journalists spoke about the risks encountered when exercising their profession, the intrusions and limitations of their private life, the experience of sometimes putting their lives at risk, and about their strategies to build resilience and carry on their “mission to inform”.