The AEJ is among 14 media freedom organizations which have noted and monitored a worrying new wave of serious threats and attacks on media freedom since the coronavirus pandemic first spread in early 2020.
In a statement marking World Press Freedom Day on May 3 2021, Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić urged governments to avoid misusing the COVID-19 situation to silence or hinder journalists.
The 2020 annual report of the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists was titled Hands Off Press Freedom: Attacks on Media in Europe must not become a New Normal. The fourteen Platform members documented how several Council of Europe member states had detained journalists for critical reporting, vastly expanded surveillance, and passed new laws to punish “fake news” even as they decided themselves what was allowable and what was false without the oversight of appropriate independent bodies.
The report said these threats risked a tipping point in the fight to preserve a free media in Europe and aggravated an already gloomy outlook.
Even as the pandemic started the AEJ was involved with other media freedom groups to warn against misuse of pandemic emergency measures – including urgent calls to European leaders to protect media freedom referencing three specific European governments, an open letter to EU leaders to protect the free flow of information, and support for a joint statement from three global special rapporteurs on freedom of expression with the UN, OSCE and the OAS.