Press release - 317(2008)

World Press Freedom Day on 3 May

Statement by Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis

Strasbourg, 02.05.2008 - There can be no genuine democracy without freedom of expression.

Abraham Lincoln was right when he said that you cannot fool all the people all the time, but a lot of politicians seem to think that it is good enough to fool the people for as much time as it takes to get elected.

There have been several recent elections in Council of Europe member states which have fallen short of Council of Europe democratic standards. Freedom of the media, or rather the lack of it, is the main problem. How can people make an informed choice – and elect a government of the people, by the people and for the people - without independent and objective information?

Some governments may believe that they are protecting the public interest when they try to silence media which they consider to be irresponsible or giving too much space to a political force which they consider to be unfit to govern, but such arbitrary actions are undemocratic. They are also contrary to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which makes it clear that the right to freedom of expression includes freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference from public authorities and regardless of frontiers. It is true that this freedom can be restricted under the Convention, but only if it is prescribed by law. There is no room and there should be no tolerance for disproportionate and arbitrary interpretations aimed at silencing the voices of dissent and criticism.


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