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ARTICLE 19 raises concerns about retreat of freedom of expression in 2009

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 21 December 2009 - According to an ARTICLE 19 statement, media freedom has been "retreating" in the countries of Western Europe throughout 2009. Research into incidents across the region has highlighted a number of problem areas where states have failed to abide by their obligations under international law to uphold the right to freedom of expression. ARTICLE 19 calls on the governments to fulfil their obligation to uphold the right to freedom of expression contained in international and European standards.

All countries within the region have committed themselves through key international and European treaties to safeguard freedom of expression as a fundamental human right. 2009 has witnessed violent assaults on journalists, limitations on their rights to report protests as well as violations of their right to protect the confidentiality of their sources. The statement also raises over-intrusive and far-reaching anti-terrorism legislation, internet surveillance and limitations of the right to information framework as key concerns. Further, the statement criticises the continuing existence of criminal defamation on the statute books of Western Europe and the considerable chilling effect this has on free speech. Several concerns are raised in relation to the increasing usage of civil defamation law, especially in relation to disproportionate awards for damages and the targeting of speech in the public interest. Worrying trends have also been reported in relation to media ownership and media plurality.

"The countries of Western Europe must be seen as leaders in the fight for freedom of expression," says Dr Agnès Callamard, ARTICLE 19 Executive Director. "ARTICLE 19's research demonstrates incidents where states have actively inhibited the right to freedom of expression - in direct contravention of their international obligations."

The statement makes a series of recommendations to Western European states to address specific problem areas and abide by their obligations under international law.

Click here to view the full text of the statement

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