World Press Freedom Day was introduced by the United Nations General Assembly in December 1993.
The date chosen for this annual celebration was 3 May, which is a day of action in the form of initiatives designed to uphold press freedom, as well as a day for assessing the state of press freedom in the world, a day for warning the public and raising awareness, a day for encouraging debate among media professionals, and a commemoration of all the journalists who have lost their lives while doing their job.
The Council of Europe's action to promote press freedom and freedom of information is based on Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, under which this fundamental right is one of the cornerstones of democracy. The Council carries out co-operation activities helping countries to draft legislation and introduce practices which comply with European standards. One of the things that it has done is set up an international group of specialists on freedom of expression and information in times of crisis. The information society is changing, so the Council of Europe now faces the challenge of upholding and maintaining its fundamental principles in new environments, the main one of which is the Internet.
Press freedom in the digital age: new threats, new challenges
Strasbourg, 03/5/2013 – “As growing portions of journalistic activity take place on the Internet, Europe has not become a safer place for those expressing critical opinions. Clearly, people reporting can reach out faster and to a broader audience than before. But old and new threats await them when they decide to do so: violence, intimidation, prosecution for lawful speech, judicial harassment and surveillance of those reporting continue unabated in the digital era, including in Europe”, says Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, in his latest Human Rights Comment published today.
Every day, the Internet carries free expression in the public interest to people around Europe and elsewhere. This is the way in which, for instance, more and more people become aware of corruption, maladministration, unethical behaviour by public officials and businesses, and serious human rights violations. Bloggers, reporting citizens and others have therefore joined traditional journalists in the ranks of those who are at risk of retaliation by state authorities or interest groups (e.g., organized crime, rival ethnic or religious groups). (more...)
Secretary General Jagland: "European governments must guarantee media freedom as an essential condition for democracy"
Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has urged governments to fully respect the right to freedom of expression and to a free press. He warned that journalists still face oppression and censorship in parts of Europe today.
“True democracy only exists when journalists can work freely, without fear of oppression and censorship. Regrettably, we still witness attempts in some areas to control or silence the media and a trend towards self-censorship.
The Council of Europe together with the European Court of Human Rights continue to be strong defenders of freedom of expression, but governments can and must do more to meet their commitments under the Convention. (more...)
Wars, terrorism, threats to stability and natural disasters are leading to stricter security and surveillance all over the world. What effect does this have on access to information and on journalism? Concerned about the erosion of press freedom in times of crisis, the Council of Europe has adopted three particularly significant documents: a Declaration on freedom of expression and information in the media in the context of the fight against terrorism, Guidelines on protecting freedom of expression and information in times of crisis, and a Declaration on the protection and promotion of investigative journalism.
The Council of Europe gives thought to possible ways of dealing with the human rights protection problems thrown up by social networks and search engines, Net neutrality issues and the safeguarding of access to information.
''Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.''