Press Freedom Day: Media and journalists need better protection

In a statement to mark world press freedom day the 3 Maythe Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burićurged European governments to better protect the media and journalists so that they can play 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 for quality media to play its role as the ‘fourth estate’, an essential pillar of democracy which ensures that citizens have access to diverse and independent sources of information and can participate actively in society by making informed choices.

The working conditions of journalists in many countries have become very difficult and they are often exposed to violence and intimidation. Year after year, we see a worrying trend of increasing threats to media freedom on the continent, as shown by the latest report from 15 media freedom organizations working with the Safety of Journalists Platform of the Council of Europe.

It is of particular concern 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 of a failure by national courts to take account of the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights in the interpretation of domestic law.

Furthermore, it is regrettable that there is a high and growing number of judgments on freedom of expression matters awaiting execution: more than 300 such cases were awaiting execution under the supervision of the Committee of Ministers at the end of 2021.

Press Freedom Day is an opportunity to remember that democracy is not possible if freedom of expression and freedom of the media are subject to restrictions that do not comply with human rights standards. European governments should demonstrate their commitment to respecting and promoting freedom of expression by strengthening their legal frameworks so that these rights can be fully exercised, including specific measures to ensure that journalists can do their job safely – and fully implement the judgments of the Court concerning freedom of expression 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 various Council of Europe bodies.

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