The Committee to Protect Journalists has joined the Council of Europe’s platform to protect journalism and promote the safety of journalists. The Strasbourg-based body set up the reporting system earlier this year as a way to hold its 47 member states responsible for responding to attacks against journalists.
At the signing ceremony in Strasbourg on Tuesday, the organization’s Secretary-General Thorbjørn Jagland said, “Visibility for threats against journalists is crucial and cannot be underestimated.” Jagland added: “The fact that we have this platform means that we can also take concrete threats against journalists to [the] governments in question.”
The idea behind the reporting system is that it will allow CPJ and the other partners–Index on Censorship, Article 19, the Association of European Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, and Reporters Without Borders–to alert the Council of Europe to attacks on journalists and press freedom violations in member states.
The alerts are published on the platform’s website and sent to the countries of concern. Any official responses are also posted to the Web page. It is hoped the platform will increase awareness of press freedom violations and help add pressure on governments that veer from Council of Europe principles. It also acts as an early warning system that council action may be needed, which was one of the reasons CPJ decided to participate.
Since its launch in April, 84 alerts covering 21 countries have been published and 26 responses have been received. Illiberal countries have been the focus of the majority of alerts, but member states considered to have a better press freedom record have also prompted them. For instance, an alert went out on France over the introduction of a law denounced as instituting mass surveillance of citizens. The law is due to be debated by the Senate after being passed by the National Assembly earlier this month. And Germany was criticized after two journalists who published a confidential report on surveillance plans by their country’s intelligence agency were accused of treason in August. The charge was later dropped.
Although this is a promising start, it is not sufficient. As members of the Council of Europe, the countries in question are expected to uphold Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees freedom of expression. However, as CPJ found in its report on the EU’s press freedom record, ensuring such commitments are upheld, even in EU countries where member states are expected to adhere to higher standards, can be a challenge.