The International Press Institute (IPI) today reiterates the call by the partners of the Council of Europe’s Safety of Journalists Platform. The partners demand that the states take urgent action to counter digital security threats, ensure the well-being of the increasing number of exiled media workers, and address the impact of conflicts like Russia’s war on media freedom.

IPI states that the world must not turn a blind eye to the challenges faced by journalists, as the annual report of the Council of Europe’s Safety of Journalists Platform sheds light on the alarming use of spyware, abusive lawsuits, and continuing impunity for killings and attacks against journalists.

The newly published “Press Freedom in Europe: Time to turn the Tide” report highlights the persistent use of spyware technology to surveil media actors, jeopardising both media freedom and the digital security of journalists. Furthermore, the report underscores the alarming increase in the number of media workers forced into exile, particularly from Russia and Belarus. It highlights the concerning trend of abusive legal actions, including Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), initiated by politicians and business actors to harass journalists and media, thus stifling freedom of the press across the continent. 

Media capture continues to pose a threat as governments misuse state powers to assert influence and control over media. The measures taken by the European Media Freedom Act to protect media pluralism and independence will be a crucial test for European journalism. 

The impact of Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine remains a grave safety concern, with journalists losing their lives or being held in captivity in occupied zones. The report calls for immediate attention to the detention of journalists in Council of Europe member states, and heightened crackdowns on independent journalists in Russia and Belarus. 

Welcoming the report, Frane Maroević, Executive Director of the International Press Institute (IPI), said “This report is clear proof of continued threats to the safety and security of journalists, while accountability for these attacks and abuses is still elusive. It also documents the wide array of threats that journalists face today, from their digital security to physical safety. The Council of Europe member states have made commitments to protecting media freedom and they need to deliver on their commitments by acting on the recommendations of this report.”

“The IPI will work together with our partners to demand that states uphold their press freedom commitments and will tirelessly advocate for the rights and safety of journalists worldwide. Although challenges are ongoing, through collective action, we can turn the tide and ensure a future where journalism thrives without fear or restraint”, Maroević added.

In the report, partners also express their support to the Council of Europe Campaign for the Safety of Journalists launched in October 2023, and call on member states to carry out

reforms to fully comply with the 2016 Committee of Ministers Recommendation on the protection and safety of journalists.

The Council of Europe’s Platform was established in 2015, in cooperation with 15 partner international NGOs and journalist associations, including the International Press Institute. IPI and partner organisations stand united in their commitment to providing information that shall foster protective and remedial actions from member states.

The 15 partners are the European Federation of Journalists, the International Federation of Journalists, the Association of European Journalists, Article 19, Reporters without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Index on Censorship, the International Press Institute, the International News Safety Institute, Rory Peck Trust, the European Broadcasting Union, PEN International, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, Free Press Unlimited and the Justice for Journalists Foundation.