Explanatory note

Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists:
from a Chilling to an Enabling Environment

IViR Conference, 5 September 2018
Amsterdam Law School

This conference will be the closing event of the project, Audit of freedom of expression in the Netherlands. The project and conference centrally concern the need to ensure the effective implementation of Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4 of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers to member States on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors, with a particular focus on the Netherlands. A main aim of the project and conference is to stimulate, inform and guide further reflection and public debate about the need to strengthen the existing law and policy framework for freedom of expression on European and national levels.

The conference will examine the prevalence throughout Europe of measures and actions that threaten the freedom and safety of journalists and others who wish to contribute to public debate, resulting in a grave chilling effect on freedom of expression. Safety-related issues will feature centrally in this examination: killings, attacks, threats, harassment, intimidation and other crimes against journalists. The conference will also explore possible lines of action – by a range of actors – aimed at moving towards an enabling environment for freedom of expression and public debate.

The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly warned that chilling effects on freedom of expression hold dangers for democratic society. It has also recognised that States parties to the European Convention on Human Rights have an obligation to ensure the safety of everyone wishing to exercise their right to freedom of expression and to create a favourable environment for freedom of expression.

The first panel will position CM/Rec(2016)4 within the Council of Europe’s framework of legal and political standards and mechanisms governing the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists. The panellists will rigorously examine the Recommendation’s relationship with the evolving case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, and the Council of Europe’s engagement with safety issues, including the development of an Implementation Strategy for the Recommendation. The examination will include academic and civil society perspectives.

The second panel will identify and probe a selection of pressing issues and challenges that threaten the freedom and safety of journalists and others who contribute to public debate, such as: the safety of female journalists online, legal threats facing online/digital journalists and media outlets, and impunity for crimes against journalists.

The project behind this conference has generated an academic study, or ‘audit’, of the laws, policies and practice affecting freedom of expression and participation in public debate in the Netherlands. A policy paper based on the study will be presented and discussed in the third panel session. The policy paper will set out recommendations for improving the protection of journalism and safety of journalists in the Netherlands.

The fourth panel will offer structured, creative reflection on collaborative, multi-stakeholder strategies to enhance the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists, at the international, European and national levels. It will draw on the other panel discussions on the challenges of implementation, specific thematic focuses and lessons (to be) learned from the Netherlands.