Marked setback in media freedom in Council of Europe area, analysis shows

Strasbourg, 26.10.2009 – The Council of Europe area has suffered a “marked setback” in the overall level of media freedom in the past three years, according to a background report by an independent expert presented today to PACE’s Sub-committee on the Media. 

The country-by-country report, by the academic and former BBC senior correspondent William Horsley, was commissioned as a contribution to a PACE report on media freedom being prepared by the sub-committee’s Chair Andrew McIntosh (United Kingdom, SOC), and presented at a PACE hearing today in Luxembourg. It gathers data from several NGOs monitoring journalists’ freedom, who also contributed to the hearing.

“It is apparent from this survey of the last three years that the violations and abuses are more acute and pervasive than has been widely understood,” according to the report.  

At least 20 journalists have been killed on duty apparently because of their work since the start of 2007, the report points out – compared with 13 deaths in the preceding three years – while the scale of  violent assaults remains unacceptably high. The great majority of targeted killings or serious assaults took place in Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Belarus, but cases were also recorded in Turkey, Croatia, Serbia, Greece and Spain. 

The spread of freedom of information laws, as well as the decriminalisation of libel and abolition of blasphemy in some states, are positive developments, but “often the effect has been blunted by contrary trends towards more controls and interference in media independence”, the report concludes.