The Association of European Journalists and four other journalists’ and freedom of expression organisations are to become partners with the Council of Europe in setting up a new Internet platform which is to act as an alert and Early Warning System for all forms of attacks on the media. The ‘Freedom of Expression Platform’ will be officially announced at a conference on 4 December in the French Senate in Paris . The platform is a core element in the Council of Europe’s strategy to improve the implementation by member states of agreed human rights standards, especially by protecting journalists from the wave of legal abuse, violent attacks and killings which have multiplied in recent years.
Along with the AEJ, the European Federation of Journalists, International Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders and Article 19 are due to sign a formal agreement with the Council of Europe’s Secretary-General, Thorbjorn Jagland to provide verified information to the online platform. The platform (website) will be publicly accessible and is to be launched during the first quarter of 2015. Deputy Secretary-General Gabriella Battaini-Dragoni told a recent Seminar on the protection of journalists that information published on the new website about issues concerning media freedom and the safety of journalists will alert Council of Europe bodies ‘so that when necessary they can take swift and coordinated measures’. The Committee of Ministers, the Council of Europe’s executive decision-making body, says the Platform is to promote ‘the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists’
However, the member states of the Council of Europe have so far not endorsed another proposal put forward earlier by Secretary-General Jagland — that the online platform might also be linked to something called a ‘Rapid Response Mechanism’ – implying a heavyweight and effective mechanism for persuading states to respect media freedom and to take the necessary steps to create an enabling environment for journalism. The creation of such mechanisms was urged on all UN member states in a UN Human Rights Council Resolution adopted on 19 September 2013.
European governments have shown themselves to be sensitive to outside criticism of their record concerning press freedom, including the formal and informal pressures exerted on journalists in many cases by state authorities themselves. That reluctance is also in contrast with a Resolution on the safety of journalists adopted by European ministers responsible for the media at an agenda-setting conference in Belgrade last November, when they described as ‘unacceptable’ the growingintimidation, harassment, threats and acts of other forms of violence against journalists in parts of Europe.
In May 2014, journalists’ and human rights groups from across Europe attended a Council of Europe Roundtable meeting in Strasbourg, to give input to a Council of Europe consultation on establishing arapid response capacity as well as an early warning mechanism, as part of the Internet platform project.
The AEJ’s Media Freedom Representative, William Horsley, wrote a two-part report in June and November 2014 on The Protection of Media Freedom in Europe for the Rapporteur on Media Freedom of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Mr Gvozden Flego.
The AEJ has Observer status on the Council of Europe’s Steering Committee on Media and Information Society.