Zagreb, 30 April 2020 (Hina/MIA) — Council of Europe Secretary-General Marija Pejčinović Burić has called on governments to avoid unduly restricting media freedom during the COVID-19 crisis, warning about attempts to silence journalists and attacks against them.
“Governments are facing unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 crisis, but the situation must not be used to silence or hinder journalists,” Pejčinović Burić said in a statement issued ahead of World Press Freedom Day, May 3.
“The 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. They must be able to scrutinize the decisions of authorities in response to the pandemic.”
Through responsible reporting, journalists can also help prevent panic from spreading and highlight positive examples of solidarity in our societies, the Council of Europe secretary-general said.
Intimidation of journalists continues
The 2020 annual report of the Platform for the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists, published by 14 international NGOs, lists 142 serious threats to journalists in the 47 Council of Europe member states.
This includes 33 physical attacks against journalists, 17 new cases of detention and imprisonment, 43 cases of harassment and intimidation, and two new cases of impunity for murder.
The NGOs express concern over a total of 22 pending cases of impunity for the killing of journalists and state that at least 105 journalists were in prison by the end of 2019.
Two journalists were killed in Council of Europe member states during the year: Lyra McKee was shot while covering a demonstration in Northern Ireland (United Kingdom) and Vadym Komarov died of severe injuries following an attack in Ukraine.
At the end of 2019, at least 105 journalists were behind bars in Turkey, Azerbaijan, the Russian Federation, and the Russian-controlled Ukrainian territory of Crimea.
“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. I am also aware of the difficult economic situation that many journalists find themselves in today”, Pejčinović Burić said.