How to protect journalists, and not just in regimes and third world. The Council of Europe speaks in the heart of British Parliament

London, 19 May 2022- “Defending Press Freedom in Times of Tensions and Conflict” is the title of the annual report presented Wednesday 18th May in London’s Houses of Parliament. The report is made up of the works of the Council of Europe’s partner organisations of the Platform to promote the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists. Among them RSF (Reporters sans frontières) author of the annual World Press Freedom Index. We interviewed William Horsley, British journalist and Chairman of the Association of European Journalists.

The report gives an update on the impact of the war in Ukraine on press freedom in Russia where those who try to report or give information on the war face detention; as we know the Council of Europe suspended Russia one month after the invasion of Ukraine; the human rights organization said suspension would have an immediate effect over Russia’s participation in the Committee of Ministers and parliamentary assembly made up of 47 countries. Arrests, arbitrary detentions, immediate closure of independent media and persecution of critics of Lukashenko dictatorship are not news in Belarus where the war has even made life for journalists harder and more dangerous.

Beyond the Putin-Lukashenko dictatorships, in the developed democracies such Britain concerns are rising. Of course here the cracking down on independent journalists is not blatantly visible, but there are rising concerns over further curbs on freedom of speech; “the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill rises huge threats to freedom of press” said Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament Fabian Hamilton MP speaking of the amendments the Labour Party will put on the contested Bill to limit its draconian restrictions of basic public freedoms and rights of the press.

The Council of Europe 2022 Annual Report examines the key media freedom trends across Europe with 282 ‘alerts’ raised by NGOs to the Platform in 2021, a 41% increase on the previous year.

Tells about the six journalists killed in Europe in 2021, (three of whom in Greece, the Netherlands and Turkey) were directly targeted, while the others lost their lives covering street protests and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The report explains also how 56 journalists and media were imprisoned and a range of other important tools used to intimidate them, including the use of strategic lawsuits against public participation, the so called SLAPPs, smear campaigns, reporting restrictions, online threats, and surveillance as well as impunity for past crimes against journalists.