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Council of Europe chief says governments must not use Coronavirus crisis to silence journalists

Posted on: May 1, 2020 by Mariella Brown

The Council of Europe Secretary General has issued a statement calling on governments to protect the essential role of journalists in a democracy, especially during the Covid-19 emergency.

The annual report by the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists shows there were 142 serious attacks on journalists in 2019 as it documented a rise in violence and intimidation towards journalists.

Responding to the launch of the Hands Off Press Freedom report, compiled by 14 media freedom NGOs, CoE Secretary General Marija Pejcinovic Buric said: “Journalists must be free to report on all aspects of the crisis and to scrutinise the decisions of authorities in response to the pandemic”.

She added the situation must not be used to silence or hinder journalists.

“Media must be free to report on all aspects of the crisis. Journalists have a key role and a special responsibility for providing timely, accurate and reliable information to the public.

“Unfortunately, the worrying trend of violence and intimidation against journalists observed in recent years continues. Too many journalists are in prison and there are too many cases of impunity for the killing of journalists.”

The report shows that at least 105 journalists were in prison by the end of 2019.

In reference to the current crisis, she added, “I am also aware of the difficult economic situation that many journalists find themselves in today”.

The report saw contributions from the Chair of the British Section of the Association of European Journalists, William Horsley. The full statement and report, issued ahead of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, can be read here.