Press freedom in Europe is more fragile now than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Journalists increasingly face obstruction, hostility and violence as they investigate and report on behalf of the public. Urgent actions backed by a determined show of political will by Council of Europe member states are required to improve the dire conditions for media freedom and to provide reliable protections for journalists.
The 2019 Annual Report by the partner organisations of the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists shows the worsening environment for the media across Europe, and its underlying causes. Impunity routinely protects those responsible for violent crimes who deliberately target journalists for their work. Legal protections have been progressively weakened and denied. The space for the press to hold government authorities and the powerful to account has been diminished.
The 12 partners, including journalists’ and media organisations as well as freedom of expression advocacy groups, reported 140 serious violations in 32 Council of Europe member states to the Platform in 2018. The Platform was launched in April 2015 to provide information which may serve as a basis for dialogue with member states about possible protective or remedial action.
As well as providing a regional overview, the report also highlights issues in key countries, including Turkey, which, which remains the world’s biggest jailer of journalists; the Russian Federation, where state actions and policies continue to severely restrict the space for free expression; Italy, the state which saw the sharpest increase in the number of media freedom alerts reported in 2018; and Hungary, in the light of the very high concentration of media in the hands of pro-government oligarchs. The report also assesses disturbing new trends, including impunity for journalists’ murders inside the European Union (EU) as well as elsewhere; attacks on freelance journalists; and reports to undermine the independence of public service media, including in countries once considered ”safe harbours” for such media.