‘Journalists matter’: Council of Europe’s new initiative to protect journalists

On 5 October 2023, the Council of Europe launched the ‘Journalists Matter’ campaign in Riga, a five-year initiative aimed at improving the safety of journalists across Europe, upholding media freedom, and emphasising the crucial role of journalism in democracy.

This response is a consequence of the alarming increase in harassment, intimidation, and violence faced by journalists. To effectively support journalists’ safety, the Council will undertake concrete actions from now until 2027. These actions include developing corresponding campaigns at the national level and providing tools to assist states in establishing an appropriate legal and institutional framework at the domestic level for the adoption of a national Action Plan for the safety of journalists.

The campaign was officially launched within the framework of the two-day conference titled ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword? Meeting Today’s Challenges to Freedom of Expression and the Safety of Journalists’ The conference, attended by media experts, journalists, academics, member states representatives, and legal practitioners provided a platform for extensive discussions. These conversations resulted in a document with key messages stressing that when journalists are in danger, it has severe consequences for society. This document is aimed at all stakeholders who have the power to bring about meaningful changes.

Iva Nenadić, Research Fellow at the CMPF, participated as a panelist at the Conference discussing resilience to disinformation and how independent and pluralist journalism plays a pivotal role in informed participation, rights enjoyment, and public accountability.

During her intervention, she delved into the critical challenges journalism is confronting nowadays: “Journalism is at a turning point today. It is fighting in two battlefields at the same time. One the one side, still struggling to achieve and maintain basic standards and safety, as well as independence from undue political influences in many countries across Europe. On the other, facing growing dominance of tech companies and dependency on their services in reaching audiences and securing revenues.”

Iva Nenadić explained that such a vulnerable and economically wounded situation can easily make journalism slip into editorial decisions that are based on the attention economy, platform logic, web analytics, and clickbait headlines rather than on news values and public interest consideration.

“(…) our democracies and societies need stronger, European safeguards to promote and ensure independent, pluralist, responsible journalism as a prerequisite for democratic citizenship.” she added.

More information on the #JournalistsMatter campaign can be found here.