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COUNCIL OF EUROPE SAYS MEDIA FREEDOM ESSENTIAL FOR DEMOCRACY

ARTICLE 19, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the International News Safety Institute (INSI) are demanding that European governments comply with a landmark resolution on media freedom adopted by the parliament of the Council of Europe on 3 October.

Resolution 1636, "Indicators for media in a democracy", highlights media freedom as an essential requirement for democracy. The resolution calls on all 47 Council of Europe member states to analyse their own media situation regularly "to be able to identify shortcomings in their national media legislation and practice and take appropriate measures to remedy them."

The resolution also urges national parliaments to draw up periodic reports on media freedom in their countries to be discussed at the European level.

The press freedom groups hailed the resolution. "At a time of great challenge for the media across the world, including in Europe, this resolution is particularly welcome and timely. The repeated attacks against media freedom and freedom of expression for close to a decade now, reversing the positive trend of the previous 10 years, impede the free flow of information to the public, and constitute a major threat to democracies, old and new alike," said ARTICLE 19.

"Especially in these times of financial crisis and lack of trust within society, accurate and reliable reporting is more important than ever," said EFJ, the regional group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The resolution includes 27 basic principles that nations should address, including respect for the confidentiality of journalists' sources, access to information, media self-regulation (such as professional codes of conduct and complaints commissions) and editorial independence.

A key clause says that journalists must be protected against physical threats or attacks. "Police protection must be provided where requested by journalists under threat. Prosecutors and courts must deal adequately and timely with cases where journalists have received threats or have been attacked," the resolution says.

An INSI inquiry into the deaths of journalists and other news professionals around the world between 1996 and 2006 recorded 1,000 fatalities, most of them murdered in peacetime in their own countries. In almost nine out of 10 cases no one was brought to justice.

Resolution 1636 reinforces Resolution 1535 passed by the Assembly last year, which called for an end to threats and violence against journalists and reminded member states of their obligations to investigate murders of journalists.

The full text of Resolution 1636 can be viewed at: http://tinyurl.com/4lu8nv

Also visit these links:
- ARTICLE 19: http://tinyurl.com/4d8eew
- EFJ: http://tinyurl.com/4ezooy
- INSI: http://tinyurl.com/3wcn96
(15 October 2008)

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