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:

Article originally published by Tony Wesolowsky for RFE/RL on 10 October 2020 Observers and government critics say Hungarian media outlets have been muzzled under Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Now, they are warning that the country could lose one of its last independent voices. Media regulators in the Central European nation ...
Read More
Article originally published by Notes From Poland on 24 October 2020 Police detained 278 people at 24 October anti-lockdown protests in Warsaw. Hundreds more were fined on the spot or sent to court for violating coronavirus restrictions. Four officers were injured in clashes, during which police deployed tear gas Police ...
Read More
Article originally published by Notes From Poland on 10 October 2020. A proposed anti-LGBT law has been submitted to parliament. If passed, it would ban pride parades (known as equality marches in Poland), as well as any other public gatherings that “promote” non-heterosexual orientations and gender identities. The bill has ...
Read More
Report on Slovenian civic space produced by the European Civic Forum for CIVICUS monitor. Background On 13th March 2020, only one day after the announcement of the COVID-19 pandemic in Slovenia, a new government was formed. Four political parties, led by the anti-migrant right-wing Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), had already ...
Read More
Following the killing of Samuel Paty and the worrying hatred and stigmatising statements against Muslims and Muslim organisations by certain political forces, civil society organisations and trade unions are collectively stressing that they "can only reinforce deleterious cleavages" in society and "feed the machines of hatred". Statement of 21 October 2020, ...
Read More
Instead of considering the NGO sector as a valuable collaborator, the state, faced with criticism, most often conducts campaigns of appeasement, attacks and pressure on these independent organizations.   At a panel discussion held yesterday in Belgrade, Serbian NGOs and investigative journalists looked at a recent investigation by the State Administration for the Prevention of ...
Read More
Protesters march across France in tribute to Samuel Paty Thousands of demonstrators have rallied across France in tribute to a history teacher beheaded near Paris after discussing caricatures of Islam's Prophet Mohammed with his class. Samuel Paty was beheaded on Friday local time in Conflans-Sainte-Honorine by an 18-year-old Moscow-born Chechen refugee ...
Read More
Civic space report produced by European Civic Forum to CIVICUS monitor. Association Impact of COVID-19 on CSO sector The Mouvement Associatif reported to the CIVICUS Monitor that associations working in solidarity and social action saw a decline in activities of up to 80 per cent, mostly because of the vulnerability of their volunteers ...
Read More
Article originally published on 2 October 2020 in Balkan Insight. Videos of youngsters assaulting young LGBT people in plain sight of police in Plovdiv – a former European Capital of Culture – are a worrying reminder of Bulgaria’s failure to tackle this social ill. Videos and witness reports show that ...
Read More