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Stefan Schennach: ‘We must end impunity for crimes against journalists’

Freedom of the press is at risk

“Attacks on journalists, in particular on those who investigate corruption and the abuse of power, are continuously on the rise,” said Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), General Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on media freedom and the protection of journalists, in a statement to mark the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists (2 November).

“Those include threats, harassment, physical aggression, arbitrary detention, torture and enforced disappearances. Women journalists are often facing particularly difficult situations, including sexual attacks. The most appalling fact is that in Europe today journalists are killed for doing their duty.”

“Since the beginning of this year, the Council of Europe platform has signalled 165 alerts regarding attacks against journalists in 31 member States. Most of them are not being investigated and the perpetrators have not so far been punished. Since its creation in 2015, 28 journalists have been killed in Europe, and in 22 cases there has been impunity. This situation is totally unacceptable. The perpetrators of attacks against journalists must be duly prosecuted. There should be no impunity for such acts. This is the only right way to discourage any other similar attacks,” Mr Schennach pointed out.

“Under the Council of Europe’s standard-setting instruments, member States must carry out effective, independent and prompt investigations into all crimes against journalists, and bring to justice the authors, instigators, perpetrators and accomplices in accordance with the law. Furthermore, member States must conduct independent and effective investigations into their own shortcomings if they fail to protect journalists,” he underlined.

“I call on our member States to fulfil their obligations and to take all necessary steps to end impunity for crimes against journalists,” concluded Mr Schennach.