Freedom Of Expression

Freedom of expression is at the core of an open and plural civic space. Indeed, it includes the citizens’ right to access multiple and reliable information on issues of public concerns, freely and critically formulate opinions, and openly and publicly express it. Freedom of expression is ensured when media ownership is various and vast, journalists can collect and spread information of public interest without fear of retorsion, and citizens are able to choose most appropriate means to voice their opinions. Privacy and free internet are also crucial components of freedom of expression.

According to the LogoLink Global Charter on the Right to Participation (2013, p. 5)

“Citizens can exercise their right to participate only when they also have the right and access to information. Quality of participation is directly proportionate to access to quality information.”

In Europe, freedom of information is protected not only by national legislation but also by supranational laws. Article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union states that”

“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. 2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.”

While freedom of expression is considered a fundamental right, there are high-risk factors that are emerging across Europe.

A main obstacle to freedom of expression is the high concentration of media ownership in the hands of few political and economic elites. Not only this can lead to an influence of editorial content by political and financial interests, often the media ownership is complicated and unclear resulting in lack of transparency. The scarcity of independent journalism can negatively affect the plurality of viewpoints shared in the public sphere which is key to plural civic space. Moreover, smaller communities often lack local new outlets discussing and raising local needs and concerns.

Freedom of expressions in Europe is also hindered by attacks and restrictions on investigative journalism. These include police interference, obstruction to interviewing public officers and police, and criminal prosecution of leaks by governing authorities and enterprises.  

Recent electoral campaigns have also lead to political discredit and attacks against media and journalists contributing to legitimising isolation, harassment or even assaults against journalists and whistleblowers.

Finally, mass surveillance, espionage and anti-terror legislation also contribute to obstructing freedom of expression in Europe.

Read Latest Alerts:

(Collective ZIN TV) On Tuesday 5 March, a photographer, a collective of photographers, an association of media and a human rights association will be sued by the police services. For what reason? For organizing a photographic exhibition aimed at debating important issues on subjects of public interest. The programme includes ...
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(Liberties on CIVICUS Monitor) On 17th December 2018, a makeshift explosive device exploded near the headquarters of Greece’s SKAI TV and Kathimerini newspaper. The bomb went off at 2:37 a.m. local time following warning calls to two media companies. The powerful explosion caused extensive damages to the building where the media office was located but ...
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(European Centre for Press and Media Freedom) On Friday, 15. February 2019, the German Parliament will debate motions by the Greens and Die Linke to amend the draft Law to protect trade secrets from illegal acquisition and illegal use and disclosure (GeschGehGe, Federal Law 19/4724). With this law, the government seeks to implement EU ...
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(CivilSociety) The government will look at changing the law so that organisations engaged in “public interest journalism” can register as charities and benefit from tax breaks, following the publication of an independent review. Jeremy Wright, the culture secretary, has now written to the Charity Commission to seek its views. The Commission ...
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(Civicus Monitor) Peaceful Assembly A string of protests with reports of violence and hundreds of arrests took place in Belgium during the months of November and December 2018. Belgian police confirmed to have arrested about 60 protesters during French-inspired “yellow vest” protest in Brussels on 30th November 2018. They were reportedly arrested ...
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(The European Federation of Journalists) On 20 January 2019, German journalist Thomas Jacobi, Greek photojournalist Kostis Ntantamis, as well as a cameraman for the public broadcaster ERT, have been attacked by members of the Greek neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn in Athens. The three journalists were covering a protest held outside the parliament ...
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(The Local) Reporters Without Borders on Sunday called on those who speak for France's "yellow vest" protesters to condemn numerous attacks and threats against journalists across the country during the latest round of anti-government demonstrations. "A turning point has been reached," Christophe Deloire, secretary-general of the Paris-based media rights watchdog, told ...
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(Map Media Freedom) 7 January 2019 - Members of neo-fascist groups assaulted a reporter and a photographer who was covering a rally in Rome marking the 41st anniversary of the killings of three members of the youth section of the far-right Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI). These became known as the ...
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(Society of Editors) New legislation granting authorities sweeping powers to seize information is a threat to freedom of expression the Society of Editors has warned this week. Responding to the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill ahead of scrutiny by a Public Bill Committee next week, the Society warned that the current ...
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