Journalism and Covid-19: Freedom of the press is essential in times of crisis

Joint statement by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the German Federal Minister of Justice

In a joint statement to mark world press freedom day May 3, the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, and the Federal Minister of Justice and Consumer Protection of Germany, Christine Lambrecht, representing the German Presidency of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, expressed their concern over attacks on journalists and restrictions on press freedom in many parts of Europe.

“The right to freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights to which the 47 member states of the Council of Europe – including the 27 members of the European Union – they are engaged.

In a democracy, journalists play a vital role in uncovering the truth and holding those in power to account. Their job is to ensure that citizens receive timely, accurate and reliable information, which has become even more important in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The media must be free to scrutinize and criticize the government’s response to the crisis. However, as a new report from civil society organizations working with the Council of Europe confirms, many journalists are in fact facing growing obstacles to fulfilling this important role during the pandemic.

Unfortunately, we have also witnessed an increasing number of attacks and threats against journalists covering public protests. This is unacceptable. It is more important than ever that journalists can report freely and safely.

The promotion of freedom of expression throughout Europe is one of the main objectives of the Council of Europe, of which Germany currently holds the chairmanship. As Europe gradually emerges from the pandemic, all governments must work to make our shared commitment to free speech even stronger and crisis-proof in the future.

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