At least 12 media professionals were killed in the course of their work last year as part of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Council of Europe said in a report released today.
According to the document, entitled “War in Europe and the struggle for the right to inform”, 21 journalists were also injured while working during the same period.
The analysis, carried out by partner organisations of the Council of Europe’s Platform for the promotion, protection of journalism and safety of journalists, states that the war in Ukraine has taken place “in a context of continuing degradation” of press freedom across Europe and warns of a “significant increase in the number of journalists in detention”.
During 2022, the platform published 289 alerts on serious threats or attacks on press freedom in 37 states, reporting cases of journalists murdered, imprisoned, assaulted, threatened and subjected to defamation campaigns.
This number includes alerts concerning Russia, as the partner organisations decided to continue monitoring the state of press freedom and attacks against journalists in that country even after its expulsion from the Council of Europe in March last year, the report known today added.
“We have seen a worrying increase in attacks and threats against journalists over the past year,” Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić admitted, quoted in the report.
According to Marija Pejčinović Burić, throughout 2022 “many journalists have shown courage” and others have “paid with their lives for the right to report the news following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine” that began on 24 February last year.
“The fact that many of these attacks go unpunished is a threat to the foundations of our societies,” she warned, calling on Council of Europe member states to “take this issue seriously” and “fully respect journalists’ rights, ensure their safety, protect their sources and avoid censorship and other forms of interference in their work.”
Regarding the situation outside the scene of the war in Ukraine, the platform concluded that arbitrary arrests and detentions of journalists have become commonplace in Europe.
Despite recording fewer alerts about threats and attacks at demonstrations against the restrictions linked to the covid-19 pandemic (compared to the previous year), the Council of Europe regrets the number of journalists detained for doing their work.
“As of 31 December 2022, 127 journalists and media professionals were detained, including 95 with active alerts on the platform (representing a 60% increase compared to 31 December 2021) and 32 professionals in Belarus whose alerts had not yet been published,” the organisation pointed out.
During the past year, the platform recorded 74 alerts relating to attacks on the physical integrity of journalists, which represents more than a quarter of the total number of alerts, said the report released today.
In addition, the partners monitoring the situation in Europe recorded 41 alerts of arrests and detentions of journalists (14% of all alerts), 94 of harassment and intimidation (32%) and 80 of other acts threatening press freedom (28%).
The platform was created by the Council of Europe in 2015, in cooperation with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) linked to freedom of expression and journalists’ associations.
The Council of Europe was established in 1949 to defend human rights, democracy and the rule of law and currently comprises 46 member states, including all the countries that make up the European Union (EU).