Press release - DC 054(2012)

Governments and journalists share responsibility for a free press

Strasbourg, 02.05.2012 – Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland has warned that close and non-transparent relationships between media and governments are a risk to pluralistic societies. In a statement to mark World Press Freedom Day he said:

"Freedom of expression is a fundamental right, enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights. A free press is vital for any democracy. Elected politicians have a duty to ensure that journalists can work freely and without fear of state repression. The Council of Europe promotes press freedom by advising governments on media legislation and, where necessary, by helping member states to meet their obligations under the Convention through specific co-operation programmes.

“But the onus is not on governments alone. Pluralistic societies are at risk when media try to exert influence on governments to gain economic advantage and business ties between journalists and politicians remain undisclosed.

“The invasion of people's right to privacy (also protected by the Convention) through illegal practices, such as phone hacking, is equally damaging to democracies. The evidence emerging from the Leveson inquiry into media ethics in the UK is a stark reminder to journalists and governments of their shared responsibility to safeguard a free press. Europe's citizens have a right to it."

Council of Europe Directorate of Communications
Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 25 60
Fax:+33 (0)3 88 41 39 11