This statement is delivered on behalf of the Group of Friends on the Safety of Journalists and Media Freedom in Strasbourg, which consists of the following member States: Austria, France, Greece, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
We mark this year’s World Press Freedom Day and recall the crucial role played by journalists, other media workers and free and independent media for our democratic societies. Against the backdrop of multiple crises, such as the backsliding of democracy the increase of disinformation and internet shutdowns and the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine, the member states of the Council of Europe must come together to counter threats to our democratic foundations, including media freedom and the freedom of expression. The Reykjavik Summit will be a unique opportunity to recommit to democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Following the Summit, the Group of Friends is determined to further strengthen our organisation’s focus on media freedom and safety of journalists, including the particular threat posed to women journalists and journalists belonging to other vulnerable groups.
The work of the Council of Europe provides a valuable contribution to the protection of media freedom and the freedom of expression. The case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, the oversight of the Commissioner for Human Rights, and the essential work of the Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists help to improve the protection of journalists, better address threats and violence against media workers and foster early warning mechanisms and response capacity. Through its expert- and steering committees, the Council of Europe is at the forefront of standard setting in this field. In this regard we acknowledge the ongoing work of the Council of Europe's Steering Committee on Media Information and Society (CDMSI) and its subcommittee to draft a recommendation on Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation and look forward to the result.
We welcome the Platform’s annual report and look forward to discussing it with the Platform’s partners on 29th of June. We express our full support for the Platform, acknowledge the recommendations given to member states in its annual report and will, as far as possible, work towards their realisation. As of this year the Platform covers Belarus and continues to cover Russia. The alerts of the Platform provide us with information regarding the magnitude of press freedom violations taking place in these countries, further underlining that decisive action is needed by the international community.
Today, World Press Freedom Day, is the 434th day since Russia launched its aggression against Ukraine. During this time at least twelve journalists and media workers have been killed while performing their professional duties. Many more have been injured. At the same time, journalists in Russia and Belarus are silenced through intimidation and harassment or sentenced to severe prison terms.
In conclusion, we must do more and do better to protect the safety of journalists and to promote media freedom. Supporting freedom of expression – online and offline – must be at the core of our efforts to strengthen democracy, human rights and the rule of law. An important step in this direction will be taken in Reykjavik in two weeks’ time.
In addition to the above-mentioned countries, the following Council of Europe member
States align with this statement: Albania, Andorra, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, , Poland, Portugal, Ukraine and Observer States Mexico and the United States.