Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić (Photo: Marko Prpic/PIXSELL) Council of Europe Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić (Photo: Marko Prpic/PIXSELL)

Secretary-General Pejčinović Burić said that although governments were facing unprecedented challenges because of the COVID-19 crisis, the situation should not be used to silence or hinder journalists.

“Media must be free to report on all aspects of the crisis. Journalists have a key role and a special responsibility for providing timely, accurate, and reliable information to the public. They must be able to scrutinize the decisions of authorities in response to the pandemic. Through responsible reporting, journalists can also help prevent panic from spreading and highlight positive examples of solidarity in our societies. I have been personally impressed and encouraged by the many media reports I have seen of citizens helping each other and of carers, nurses, and other ‘heroes’ on the frontline of this crisis,” Pejčinović Burić said.

The findings of the annual report of the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists indicated a rising trend of violence and intimidation against journalists over the past year.

“Unfortunately, the worrying trend of violence and intimidation against journalists observed in recent years continues. Too many journalists are in prison and there are too many cases of impunity for the killing of journalists. I am also aware of the difficult economic situation that many journalists find themselves in today", she said.

Member states must protect the role of journalists as watchdogs and a component of the forces that keep democracies in check.

The report, compiled by 14 media freedom NGOs, found 142 serious threats against journalists in 47 countries, including 33 physical attacks and 17 cases of detention and imprisonment.