Statement on the execution of Kiryl Kazachok in Belarus

Spokesperson of the Secretary General 9 March 2018 Strasbourg

“The Council of Europe deeply regrets that a further execution has reportedly taken place in Belarus. We call on the Belarusian authorities to stop executing people and to join all of the other countries in Europe in rejecting capital punishment. Death is not justice.“

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Meeting of Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland with Italian Justice Minister Orlando

Secretary General 20 February 2018 Strasbourg

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland and Minister of Justice of Italy Andrea Orlando had an exchange of views today at the Palais de l’Europe to discuss current developments and issues of common interest. The Secretary General and the Minister underlined the excellent co-operation between Italy...

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Turkey: Secretary General Jagland meets Turkish leadership in Ankara on 15-16 February

Spokesperson of the Secretary General 13 February 2018 Strasbourg

Speech to the candidate judges and prosecutors of the Justice Academy

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Ceremony to mark International Day of Holocaust Commemoration

Secretary General 25 January 2018 Strasbourg

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland and Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen led tributes to the memory of Holocaust victims, at a ceremony outside the main Council of Europe building in Strasbourg. Other participants who made addresses and laid wreaths in front of the commemorative stone...

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Secretary General meets the new French parliamentary delegation

Secretary General 22 January 2018 Strasbourg

The Secretary General and members of the French delegation today discussed key issues for the Council of Europe in a difficult political and budgetary context. “The Council of Europe must remain a unifying force for a tangible and powerful ideal; the protection of human rights,” said Nicole...

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Secretary General to PACE: member states have equal obligations and equal rights

Secretary General 22 January 2018 Strasbourg

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has called on the Organisation’s member states to recommit themselves to fulfill their obligations and cooperate in good faith with the Council’s statutory bodies. He said “equal obligations – equal rights” was the only concept that would keep...

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Statement of the Spokesperson of the Secretary General on new death verdicts in Belarus

Spokesperson of the Secretary General 22 January 2018 Strasbourg

"Two new death verdicts handed on 20 January to by the Minsk City Court are a very disturbing development. We reiterate our call on the Belarusian authorities to introduce a moratorium on capital punishment as the first step to its abolition. We call on the authorities not to proceed to the...

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Statement by the Secretary General on the situation around Memorial Human Rights Centre

Secretary General 17 January 2018 Strasbourg

“The arson attack this night on the Ingushetia office of Memorial, a leading Russian rights group, is very alarming. I call on the federal and regional authorities to investigate it thoroughly and in full transparency. Human rights NGOs have an important role to play in the civil society in all...

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FIFA and the Council of Europe to promote human rights

Secretary General 10 January 2018 Strasbourg

FIFA President Gianni Infantino and Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland met in Strasbourg today to discuss how to better promote human rights in sport. The meeting followed an exchange of views between the FIFA President at the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers....

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Secretary General Jagland urges Bucharest to rethink reform of the judiciary

Secretary General 22 December 2017 Strasbourg

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has today sent a letter to the President of Romania, Klaus Iohannis, urging the authorities to seek the expertise of the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission (European Commission for Democracy through Law) regarding the legislative reforms on the judiciary...

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Secretary General Jagland on the passing of Arseny Roginsky, President of International Memorial

Secretary General 18 December 2017 Strasbourg

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland expressed his condolences today in the following statement:“I am deeply saddened by the passing of Arseny Roginsky, one of the founders and the President of the International Memorial, one of the best known and most respected human...

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Secretary General in Madrid to commemorate 40th anniversary of Spain's accession

Secretary General 23 November 2017 Madrid

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland is in Madrid today to speak at the opening of an event in the Spanish Parliament to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Spain´s accession to the Council of Europe, on 24 November 1977. The Secretary General said that “over the last 40 years Spain has developed a...

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Secretary General Jagland attends Social Summit for Fair Jobs and Growth

Secretary General 17 November 2017 Strasbourg

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland is attending a major European Summit to promote fair jobs and growth. The Social Summit is taking place on Friday 17 November in Gothenburg, Sweden, and is jointly organised by the European Commission and the Swedish government. The summit was...

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Council of Europe partners with leading technology companies to promote respect for human rights

Council of Europe 8 November 2017 Strasbourg

The Council of Europe will strengthen its co-operation with the private sector in order to promote an open and safe internet, where human rights, democracy, and the rule of law are respected. Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland signed the agreement – in the form of an exchange...

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Press conference with Council of Europe Secretary General Jagland and CHP Leader Kılıçdaroğlu

Spokesperson of the Secretary General 7 November 2017 Strasbourg

Strasbourg, Wednesday 8 November, 14.30, in front of the Secretary General’s office

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PEN International joins Council of Europe platform to protect journalists

Council of Europe 6 November 2017 Strasbourg

The Executive Director of PEN International, Carles Torner, today signed the agreement to join the Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists with the Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland. The platform allows trusted media freedom organisations to...

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European Conference of Judges "Judicial Integrity and Corruption"

Consultative Council of European Judges 6 November 2017 Strasbourg

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe Thorbjørn Jagland will open the European Conference of Judges: "Judicial Integrity and Corruption", to be held at the Council of Europe on 7 November 2017. This conference, organised by the Consultative Council of European Judges (CCJE) will allow to...

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Secretary General Jagland on official visit to Denmark

Spokesperson of the Secretary General 2 November 2017 Strasbourg

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, made an official visit to Denmark on 3 November where he met the Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Anders Samuelsen, the Minister for Justice Søren Pape Poulsen and the Minister for Equal...

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French President Emmanuel Macron visits the Council of Europe

Secretary General 31 October 2017 Strasbourg

President Emmanuel Macron has reaffirmed France’s support for the Council of Europe and its institutions during a visit to the organisation’s headquarters in Strasbourg, where he met the Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland before making a speech at the European Court of Human Rights. During a...

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Secretary General appalled by attack against Russian journalist

Secretary General 23 October 2017 Strasbourg

Secretary General Jagland is appalled by the violent attack against Tatiana Felgenhauer, Deputy Editor of Ekho Moskvy, which took place on the premises of the well-known Russian radio station. The Secretary General wishes to express his support to Ms Fegenhauer, who is now hospitalised, and to...

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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.