COE Media Freedom Reports

The AEJ works closely with the Council of Europe which publishes annual reports through the Council’s online Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists. The AEJ is part of the core editorial team on the annual reports and contributes to the Platform’s regular alerts on media freedom and threats.
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The 2023 annual Council of Europe report on the safety of journalists documented a record high number of attacks on journalists and a continued degradation of press freedom across the continent.

The 2023 report – War in Europe and the Fight for the Right to Report – documented 289 alerts concerning 37 countries, with journalists being murdered, imprisoned, physically attacked, legally harassed, and subjected to smear campaigns throughout 2022 – including a 60% rise in the number of imprisoned journalists since 2021. As of 31 December 2022, 127 journalists were reported in detention – 52 in Turkey, 32 in Belarus, 22 in Russia, 14 in the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine, 4 in Azerbaijan, and one each in the United Kingdom, Georgia, and Poland.

The AEJ joined the other 14 partner organisations of the CoE Platform in a statement noting “a range of new and established methods of silencing independent journalism, including surveillance and spyware, legal harassment, arrests and detention, media capture, restrictive legislation, and continued cases of impunity.”

The partners said the 2023 annual report “casts doubt on CoE member states’ commitment to upholding obligations on freedom of expression, the protection of journalism, and the safety of journalists under the Council of Europe’s statute and the European Convention on Human Rights” and illustrates “a clear and urgent need for the Council of Europe, Member States, and other European institutions to address the threats facing journalism in Europe with swift and coordinated action.”
CoE Platform 2023 annual report
AEJ and other Platform partners statement
CoE Platform for journalists
AEJ UK reports on war in Ukraine

The 2022 annual report on media freedom by the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists particularly noted the long shadow cast over journalism by the war in Ukraine and its “dramatic consequences on press freedom.”

It said journalists had to navigate a news environment “strewn with misinformation from all sides” in a long running information war which “has fiercely intensified, with the dissemination of fake news and doctored videos, the creation of social posts masquerading as fact-checking websites, unconfirmed stories of feats of arms, the posting of brutal images of the war and the public exposure of prisoners of war, a potential violation of the Geneva Conventions.”

It detailed the series of actions by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government to shut down independent media and control the message as well as retaliatory action by western governments.

And it noted that they had overshadowed key ongoing issues of media freedom particularly “a clear and worrying degree of democratic backsliding” and “a concerted and deliberate strategy to impose an ‘illiberal’ model, as authoritarian regimes draw from their electoral majority the ‘right’ to subvert constitutional constraints on their power and to disenfranchise opposition or dissenting groups.”
2022 CoE Platform annual report on media freedom
Summary of CoE 2022 report
Statement from CoE secretary general
CoE Platform for journalists
AEJ UK reports on war in Ukraine

The 2021 annual report on media freedom by the Council of Europe platform for the protection and safety of journalists noted a strong rise in reports of violence against journalists as well as censorship and reprisals for questioning government policies. At the same time, quality media faced serious economic challenges and many journalists have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

The report said extraordinary damage was inflicted on free and independent journalism in 2020 as governments across Europe adopted emergency laws and regulations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic that also imposed extraordinary restrictions on journalists’ activities.
CoE media freedom report 2021
CoE Platform for journalists

The coronavirus pandemic marked a worrying new wave of serious threats and attacks on media freedom in Europe said the 2020 annual report of the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists.

The fourteen member press freedom organisations documented how several Council of Europe member states 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. It warned that attacks on press freedom in Europe risked creating a new normal as the Covid-19 pandemic accelerated a growing pattern of intimidation to silence journalists on the continent.

These attacks underscored the report’s urgent wake-up call for CoE member states to act quickly and resolutely to end the assault against press freedom, so that journalists and other media actors could report without fear.

The international media freedom groups and journalists’ organisations warned of a growing pattern of intimidation to silence journalists on the continent through attacks, intimidation, media ‘capture’ and sweeping emergency laws that are open to abuse and severely restrict the media’s ability to hold state power to account.
CoE warning re Covid 19
CoE media freedom report 2020

Press freedom was more fragile than ever even inside the EU said the 2019 annual report from the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists.

It painted a disturbing picture of media freedom:
– across Europe journalists were intimidated and attacked.
– murders of journalists went unpunished.
– freedom of media – a cornerstone of democracy – was under threat.

The report blamed an atmosphere of impunity, weakened institutions and lack of accountability – and called for urgent action by the Council of Europe, the European Union and their Member States.
CoE media freedom report 2019

2017 Survey
The Council of Europe published the first large-scale survey of journalists across Europe in 2017.

More than two-thirds of the 940 journalists taking part said they had experienced physical assaults, intimidation or harassment on account of their work in the past three years. 

The AEJ’s Representative for Media Freedom and AEJ UK chairman William Horsley described the survey as a “wake-up call” to national governments in Europe to review their laws and practices to better protect press freedom.
“This survey,” he added, “demonstrates how the increasingly hostile working conditions for journalists reflect dangerously repressive tendencies in states across east and west Europe, and a shrinking of the space for free speech and the proper scrutiny of state power.”

It was conducted by experts from the University of Malta and supported by the AEJ, the European Federation of Journalists, Index on Censorship, International News Safety Institute and Reporters Without Borders. 

At the same time the Council of Europe released its annual report from the Council’s Secretary-General on the State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Europe.

The report highlighted a dangerous tendency towards “legislative nationalism”,  showing nearly half the Council’s 47 member states fail to satisfactorily guarantee the safety of journalists, with an increase in violence against journalists, criminalisation of the media’s newsgathering work, and growing threats to whistle-blowers and the ability of journalists to protect their confidential sources.
CoE survey 2017
CoE report on democracy, human rights and rule of law