Journalists in times of crisis

Wars, terrorism, threats to stability and natural disasters are leading to stricter security and surveillance all over the world. What effect does this have on access to information and on journalism?

Concerned about the erosion of press freedom in times of crisis, the Council of Europe has adopted three particularly significant documents:

  • a Declaration on freedom of expression and information in the media in the context of the fight against terrorism,
  • Guidelines on protecting freedom of expression and information in times of crisis, and
  • a Declaration on the protection and promotion of investigative journalism.

They are based on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights which aims to guarantee freedom of expression and information within the jurisdiction of the 47 Council of Europe member states.

World Press Freedom Day was introduced by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993.

The date chosen for this annual celebration was 3 May, which is a day of action in the form of initiatives designed to uphold press freedom, as well as a day for assessing the state of press freedom in the world, a day for warning the public and raising awareness, a day for encouraging debate among media professionals, and a commemoration of all the journalists who have lost their lives while doing their job.

The Council of Europe's action to promote press freedom and freedom of information is based on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, under which this fundamental right is one of the cornerstones of democracy. The Council carries out co-operation activities helping countries to draft legislation and introduce practices which comply with European standards. One of the things that it has done is set up an international group of specialists on freedom of expression and information in times of crisis. The information society is changing, so the Council of Europe now faces the challenge of upholding and maintaining its fundamental principles in new environments, the main one of which is the Internet.

2022 Edition 2022 Edition
Statement by the Secretary General
Secretary General Strasbourg 2 May 2022
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Press Freedom Day: Media and journalists need better protection

In a statement to mark World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, urged European governments to provide greater protection to media and journalists so they can perform their essential role in democracy.

“In these critical times, when our democracies face many challenges such as widespread disinformation, there is an urgent need for governments to create an environment that enables quality media to perform their role as the ‘fourth power’, an essential pillar of democracy which ensures that citizens have access to diverse and independent news sources and can actively participate in society making informed choices.

The conditions in which journalists work in many countries have become very challenging, and they are often exposed to violence and intimidation. Year after year, we see a worrying trend of increasing threats to media freedom across the continent, as the latest report by 15 media freedom organisations working with the Council of Europe´s Safety of Journalists platform shows.

A particular cause for concern is that the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights reveal a trend of persistent shortcomings in certain national legal frameworks for the protection of freedom of expression and a failure by domestic courts to take into account the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights in the interpretation of domestic law.

In addition, it is regrettable that there is a high and growing number of judgments on freedom of expression issues awaiting implementation: more than 300 such cases were pending execution under the supervision of the Committee of Ministers by the end of 2021.

Press Freedom Day is an opportunity to recall that democracy is not possible if freedom of expression and media freedom are subject to restrictions that do not comply with human rights standards. European governments should prove their commitment to respecting and promoting freedom of expression by strengthening their legal frameworks so these rights can be fully exercised, including specific measures to ensure that journalists can do their jobs safely - and fully implement the Court´s judgments concerning freedom of expression in a timely manner.”

 On the occasion of Press Freedom Day, the Council of Europe has published a report entitled “Freedom of Expression in 2021”, assessing the state of freedom of expression in its member states, mainly based on the findings of different Council of Europe bodies.

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Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights

''Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.''