Journalists play a vital role in safeguarding a democratic and pluralistic society. Recognised by the European Court of Human Rights as “public watchdogs”, they have a right and a duty to impart information and ideas of public interest within the framework of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Their duty to inform is mirrored by the public’s right to be informed and can be subject to narrow restrictions only if prescribed by law, necessary in a democratic society, and in pursuit of the legitimate aims listed under Article 10(2) of the Convention, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights.

Notably, according to the European Court on Human Rights, states are required to create a favourable environment for participation in public debate for all the persons concerned, enabling them to express their opinions and ideas without fear. Yet, intimidated, verbally and physically assaulted, threatened, target of abusive litigations – either online or offline –, journalists are under constant threat and their mission at risk.

As amply evidenced by the record number and variety of alerts received in recent years by the Council of Europe Platform for the protection of journalism and safety of journalists, journalists are the victims of a wide range of attacks impairing their everyday work. The online environment, while providing the remarkable opportunity to extend instant access to information at a worldwide level, has also provided a breeding ground for several other forms of attacks. In this context, although this happens offline as well, women journalists often encounter even harsher types of violence and threats on account of their gender. Certainly, what occurs online can have an impact offline, ultimately silencing journalists and, in the most horrific cases, condemning them to pay their refusal to be silent with their own liberty or life. Against this background, the rate of impunity remains extremely problematic.

This climate of violence against journalists represents a long-standing issue which concerns most of the member States of the Council of Europe and therefore asks for a high level of political attention and urgent action. 


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