“Press Freedom is declining”. Human Rights Commissioner raises alarm
Nils Muiznieks interviewed by Ossigeno per l’Informazione on the eve of the event of May 3rd illustrates the international framework and advances suggestions to reverse the trend. Full text
OSSIGENO, April 28th, 2016 – “It is sad to say it, but the freedom of information and the right of expression are declining in many countries. We must absolutely reverse this trend, strengthen the freedom of the press, with a broader and more detailed understanding of the problem and developing coherent initiatives. We must do so, because the freedom of the media is essential for exercise of rights. Without free media there are no free elections, there is no freedom.” In an extended interview given to Ossigeno per l’Informazione on the eve of the event of May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day, which will be celebrated in Rome by Ossigeno through various initiatives, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, Nils Muiznieks, illustrates a bleak landscape without hesitations, one he sees from his observatory in Strasbourg, one that results from his visits to many countries, Turkey, Poland, Croatia, the Balkans and Western Europe, and advances proposals to stop this worrying decline.
First, the Commissioner proposes to monitor more systematically and accurately the cases of violation of press freedom, and in particular the threats and abuses against journalists, which are on the rise both in the individual countries and in the Council of Europe area. Muiznieks calls for the creation in each country of a specialized and competent observatory, independent of the government, and appreciates the Italian experience of Ossigeno per l’Informazione and considers it a useful one, to be develop and made known abroad.
To take the necessary measures and intervene promptly in serious cases, the Latvian political scientist says, “it is important to have the full picture of the real situation. To get it, a solution would be to have a network of specialized, reliable national observatories, independent of government, able to report violations of freedom of expression and on the safety of journalists. It’s not easy. There are few national NGOs operating productively in this field. There are none not even in my country, Latvia. And therefore, for the monitoring we have to rely on organizations that observe the phenomenon on a continental or global scale. But this is not enough. There needs to be someone who knows the local situation, which can verify the information and know how to work a network. This type of monitoring that Ossigeno carries out, is crucial, just as that of international organizations such as the Council of Europe.”
Unfortunately – he says – we are experiencing increasing problems for the freedom of information and the safety of journalists in many countries. The reasons vary from country to country, but the trend is the same in many countries. From my vantage point, considering the violations of all the fundamental rights, I see that democracy in Europe is retrenching. It is falling back even in those countries where it seemed established. Unfortunately, the situation in which many journalists are working is worsening in many countries, not only in the Balkans and in Turkey, but also in Western Europe and in some countries that have joined the European Union, where we assumed that democracy was now consolidated, stable. It is not so.”