Suspected terrorist attack in Berlin: Secretary General statement

Secretary General 19 December 2016 Strasbourg

'The Council of Europe mourns with Germany today for the victims of the suspected terror attack on a Christmas market in Berlin which killed and injured so many innocent people. The responsible way in which the German authorities are handling and communicating this crisis is exemplary. I express...

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Statement by Secretary General Jagland on murder of Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov

Secretary General 19 December 2016 Strasbourg

"I am shocked and deeply saddened by the assassination of the Russian Federation's Ambassador to Turkey in Ankara today. I present my sincere condolences to the Russian authorities and to the family and colleagues of Ambassador Karlov. All of us at the Council of Europe express our solidarity...

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Cooperation with national human rights bodies to protect freedom of expression and journalists

Council of Europe 15 December 2016 Strasbourg

The Council of Europe and the European Network of National Human Rights Institutions (ENNHRI) are jointly organising on 15 December in Strasbourg a high level seminar to discuss the potential for co-operation to promote and protect freedom of expression and the safety of journalists in member...

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Hate speech is not free speech, says Secretary General ahead of Human Rights Day

Secretary General 9 December 2016 Strasbourg

Speaking ahead of Human Rights Day on 10 December, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, has warned that hate speech and free speech should not be confused. “We look back at what has been achieved and we think of the many people who have endured hardship and given...

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Secretary General Jagland on official visit to Moscow for talks with President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov

Secretary General 6 December 2016 Moscow

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland is visiting Moscow on 6-7 December 2016 with an official visit to meet with the President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Speaker of the Duma Vyacheslav Volodin, Speaker of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation...

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

Secretary General 1 December 2016 Strasbourg

In the run-up to the International Day of Persons with Disabilities (3 December), the head of the 47-nation Council of Europe has called on European governments to draw on the newly-adopted Disability Strategy (2017-2023) to make human rights a reality for all. Secretary General Jagland said:...

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Celebrating 10 years of stronger Council of Europe/EU relations

Council of Europe 23 November 2016 Strasbourg

Secretary General Jagland and the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, are launching a series of initiatives to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between the Council of Europe and the European Union. In the presence...

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Azerbaijan: Statement by Secretary General Jagland on the decision of the Supreme Court today rejecting the appeal by Ilgar Mammadov

Secretary General 18 November 2016 Strasbourg

“Today, Azerbaijan’s highest court has failed to uphold the country’s legal obligation to execute the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. The severity of this development for Azerbaijan as a member of the Council of Europe cannot be underestimated. Azerbaijan’s flagrant disrespect of...

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Official visit of the President of Poland Andrzej Duda

Secretary General 16 November 2016 Strasbourg

Polish President Andrzej Duda today paid an official visit to the Council of Europe. Following a meeting with Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland, President Duda had an exchange of views with the Ministers’ Deputies. He also met with Guido Raimondi, President of the European Court of Human...

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Cybercrime: towards a new legal tool on electronic evidence

Secretary General 16 November 2016 Strasbourg

“The 15th anniversary of the Budapest Convention on Cybercrime is a turning point, in that the Convention is now reaching out into the ‘clouds’,” said the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, at the opening of the 2016 Octopus conference. Data, and therefore electronic...

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Turkey: Secretary General in Ankara today

Secretary General 10 November 2016 Strasbourg

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has arrived for a series of meetings in Ankara today. He is scheduled to meet President Erdoğan, Prime Minister Yıldırım, Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu, Minister for European Affairs Çelik and representatives of opposition parties He will also have a meeting with...

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Secretary General Jagland concerned about the situation of Ildar Dadin

Secretary General 4 November 2016 Strasbourg

Thorbjørn Jagland yesterday expressed his concern about allegations of ill-treatment of human rights activist Ildar Dadin in a telephone call to Alexander Konovalov, Minister of Justice of the Russian Federation. The Secretary General underlined the importance of the joint work carried out by the...

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Turkey: Secretary General Jagland concerned about state of emergency measures and freedom of expression

Secretary General 31 October 2016 Strasbourg

Council of Europe of Secretary General Jagland has commented on recent developments in Turkey in a statement released on Monday: "It is highly questionable if the raid against Cumhuriyet can be justified as a proportionate measure, even under the state of emergency. I am also concerned about the...

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Secretary General on official visit to Monaco

Secretary General 27 October 2016 Monaco

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland will have an Audience with Prince Albert II of Monaco and meet the followings officials: - Mr Philippe Narmino, Director of Judicial Services - Mr Serge Telle, Minister of State - Mr Christophe Steiner, Chairman of the National...

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Statement by the Spokesperson of the Secretary General on the arrest of co-mayors of Diyarbakır

Spokesperson of the Secretary General 26 October 2016 Strasbourg

It is a matter of particular concern to the Council of Europe when democratically-elected representatives are deprived of their liberty. We will ask the authorities in our member state Turkey to provide us with the necessary explanations.

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Secretary General meets Hungarian Justice Minister László Trócsányi

Secretary General 25 October 2016 Strasbourg

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland on Tuesday met the Hungarian Justice Minister, László Trócsányi. Minsiter Trócsányi reported that new legislation had been adopted to provide an effective remedy to victims of prison ovecrowding in line with a pilot judgment (Varga and others) by the European...

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Thorbjørn Jagland: “Congress' thematics are in line with the Council of Europe's priorities”

Congress of Local and Regional Authorities Session 20 October 2016 Strasbourg

“It is very important for the Council of Europe to work with the Congress which represents the grassroots level closest to the people of our member countries”, said Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland in his address to the 31st Session of the Congress on 19 October 2016. He...

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New call for effective national torture watchdogs

Secretary General 13 October 2016 Strasbourg

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe has been joined by prominent human rights activists and experts in a call to ensure that national anti-torture bodies function effectively and meet international ambitions. 10 years ago the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention against...

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Speeches Speeches

European Broadcasting Union’s General Assembly

Dublin , 

Check against delivery



Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to open the EBU’s General Assembly, in the home country of your new Director General, Noel Curran.

I have no doubt that you will have much to discuss here.

This is after all a time in which generational, technological and political change is altering the environment in which the broadcast media operates.

On this the Council of Europe and the EBU have issues and interests in common.

The threat to freedom of expression and media pluralism.

The rise of fake news and hate speech.

And finding the solutions that uphold truth and democracy, without stifling debate and dissent.

These challenges are fundamental for our organisations and I want to focus on them today.

The onus for the Council of Europe is clear.

Established in 1949 – with Ireland as a founding member – the Council work with our 47 member states to maintain the standard of rights outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights and defined by the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights too.

These are binding obligations that uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law –

And they have played a pivotal role in delivering unprecedented peace on our continent, after the terrible tragedy of two world wars.


The challenges we face are dynamic and fast-evolving, but solutions are to be found in the consistency of our values, and their application by our member states.

Today, the challenges are as plentiful as ever.

Specific problems in individual countries.

The threat of terrorism and the best means to counter it.

And the literally millions of refugees and migrants who go to extraordinary lengths to escape their old lives and seek a better existence in Europe, by any means possible.

These are complex problems.

Mismanaged, they create a context in which populism can take root, as we see in some parts of Europe today.

We should be precise about the definition of populism. It must not be a catch all label for every person or movement that rocks the establishment. Misusing the term will only render it meaningless.

Populism is in fact an emotional appeal that harnesses grievance against the establishment.

Its leaders then claim exclusive moral authority to act on behalf of the people, thereby undermining the legitimacy of any opposition, institution or dissenting voice.

And it is the subject of my 2017 annual report on the state of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.

This matters because it is a live threat to freedom of expression and media pluralism, here and now.

A report commissioned by the Council of Europe, Journalists under pressure throws this into stark relief.

With 940 journalists taking part from across every member state, plus Belarus, 46% of respondents reported that they had been threatened with force in the exercise of their professional duties.

Many others had experienced physical assault, robbery, theft, destruction of property, surveillance, judicial intimidation and various and sexual and psychological violence.

Understandably, if regrettably, this leads to cases of self-censorship where journalists tone down, alter, or abandon a story in order to suit the line of those intimidating them.


And this in turn leads to diminished debate and loss of dissenting voices.

Whether an authority seeks directly to close down media outlets, or simply to create the environment in which they wither, populism is the enemy of freedom of expression.

This cannot be allowed to stand.

Freedom of expression is protected under Article 10 of the Convention.

This obliges member states to take the legal, administrative and practical measures required to ensure the safety of journalists and their freedom of speech.

We have been clear about what this entails: prevention, protection and prosecution.

Journalists’ security must be established through a comprehensive legislative framework in every country.

The authorities must ensure that structures are in place to stop intimidation and interference.

And they must also take all steps required to bring the full force of the law against anyone who perpetrates a crime against a journalist or media actor.

Another weapon in our armoury is the Safety of Journalists Platform.

Launched two years ago, the Platform tracks media freedom violations – and the member state’s response – in any given country.

The Council of Europe can then react on the basis of facts and open dialogue with that member state.

This initiative allows journalists to disseminate information and sound alerts freely and without third party intervention.

Transparency is powerful and I am pleased that the EBU is joining the Platform.

But while the intimidation of journalists is a long-standing issue, populism is also giving rise to new problems.

Chief among them, fake news and hate speech.

Propaganda, misleading and inaccurate news has always existed.

But the mass dissemination of fake news through the internet and social media is a new manifestation of an age-old problem.

And the lack of editorial control, fast and anonymous distribution and limited capacity to sift real news from false heighten the urgency.

Fake news about migrants and refugees can turn innocent citizens into innocent victims.

And fake news about candidates and parties can move votes and effect outcomes on false pretences.

These things matter.

But they cannot be solved by a blanket ban or catch-all law.

It is not illegal to say things that are inaccurate but it is wrong to go down the road of state censorship.

We are, after all, trying to protect freedom of expression.

So while we cannot rule out some kind of limited legal initiative in future, that should not be our primary recourse.

Instead, we must make the practical adjustments that will stem the flow of fake news and to give people the skills to see through it when it reaches them.

Big media organisations should take the steps they can to weed out misinformation.

So I commend the BBC for its new fact-checking unit and welcome the announcement that Facebook is using experts to alert users where information posted is of dubious quality.

Other media and social media companies will surely follow and I urge them to do so.

But we can also empower individual news consumers to tell fact from fiction more effectively.

This is a matter of education.

We need to teach internet literacy, including in the classroom.

Young, open minds must also be street-wise and discerning when it comes to the information they read.

We can help them to understand that what they see at first glance cannot be taken at face value –

And that they must instead look for the signs that differentiate the reliable from the unreliable.

Hate speech on the other hand is another matter.

Where posts on websites or through social media are designed to incite violence, promote racism or deny the Holocaust, this content is already illegal.


Fake news can easily spill over into this territory.

We have seen this on multiple occasions when false stories about migrants and minorities are designed to stir public hostility.

Internet providers and social network companies are obliged to remove hate speech and, increasingly, that is what they do.

The authorities are free to prosecute, and here too we are seeing increasing activity.

Earlier this month, for example, 36 people from across 14 German states had their homes raided after accusations that their social media postings amounted to threats, coercion and incitement to racism.

Certainly, it is right that member states should act within the law to curtail the abuse of their citizens.

But where do your members sit in relation to these challenges?

I have no doubt that the EBU is also grappling with the issues that I have outlined.

And I look forward to hearing your thoughts and questions on these matters.

But let me finish by explaining where I see the added value that your members – and your members alone – can contribute in this context.

It is not enough to ask private companies only to sort out the challenges of fake news and hate speech.

Yes, they must play their part, but it is not realistic to expect wholly commercial enterprises to possess all three of the independence, motivation and resources to cure these current ills.

Broadcasters with a public service mission are an important part of the solution.

Not state-controlled media, but broadcasters that operate in an independent manner, with guaranteed administrative autonomy, and editorial freedom.

Given adequate resources, it is these news outlets that have the motive and the means to deliver accurate, reliable and impartial information.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are engaged in a battle against populism and the threat it poses to human rights here in Europe – and you are on the front line.

Freedom of expression must prevail.

That means protecting the integrity of our journalists, and taking democratic measures to combat fake news and hate speech.

But to complete that picture, we need real and impartial news centre-stage.

Now more than ever, we rely on you.