The CE should react strongly to violations of freedom of expression

The Voice of the Council of Europe should sound louder due to the violation of freedom of expression and the need to consolidate at the global level for the protection of this fundamental freedom. This is the main leitmotif of the two-day conference: "Does freedom of expression remains a prerequisite for democracy?", which opened on October 13 in Strasbourg. Azerbaijan has been called among the countries where the situation of freedom of expression is of particular concern. About three hundred participants - judges, government officials, journalists and civil society activists participate at the conference to solve problems of freedom of expression.

Opening the conference, the Presidency of the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina Prime Almir Sahovic stressed the importance of freedom of expression for democracy. In a democratic society we should be free to discuss all the problems and issues, even shocking. The EC Member States must ensure the protection and safety of journalists, he said.

CE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland stressed the need for strong coordination democratic society for the protection of freedom of expression. He pointed to a tendency to limit freedom of expression on the Internet.  Jagland noted, freedom of expression and the rule of law should be ensured  on-line too.

Chairman of the Constitutional Court of Turkey Zutyu Arslan, in turn, noted that freedom of expression is necessary for society in terms of protection of pluralism and diversity of society and its influence on decision-making in the state, as well as respect for the dignity of people.

At the same time there are limits to freedom of expression, and should not be used to violate the rights of others, insults, hate speech, support for terrorism.

The well-known expert in the field of law and journalist Joshua Rozenberg said that in some countries, journalists are afraid of their governments more than of  terrorists.

Over the past two years in Europe were 15 journalists killed. In some countries, journalists face unjustified criminal prosecution, and physical attack. Very often, crimes against journalists go unpunished. If a country severely limits freedom of expression, it cannot be considered democratic. In his view, the voice of the Council of Europe should be louder in case of violation of freedom of expression and where journalists are harassed.

During the discussions after the opening ceremony turned to  the CE commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muzhchnieks who is in presidium and the OSCE Representative on Media Freedom Dunya Mijatovic, asking what they and the Council of  Europe may take in connection with violations of freedom of expression?

Muzhchnieks replied that as a Commissioner, he publicly raise these issues, but political decisions regarding countries' violators can receive the CE Committee of Ministers.

In addition, the Commissioner may intervene in cases before the European Court of Human Rights. At the same time, he pointed out that recently took advantage of this right in relation to 5-6 cases involving arrests of human rights defenders in Azerbaijan.


According to Muzhchnieks, the problem is not only a violation of freedom of expression, and the independence of the court.

Ombudsman of the German Parliament, former PACE member Christopher Strasser pointed to the presence of the Council of Europe an  opinion that the exclusion of the organization would deprive Strasbourg opportunity to influence the reforms in these countries.

However, Mijatovic recalled that States have voluntarily committed themselves to respect democratic freedoms, including freedom of expression.

In her view, the institutions of the Council of Europe and OSCE have right to talk about the violations. It is inadmissible to remain silent when the journalists for their professional work on trumped-up charges are  thrown into prison.

Rosenberg asked Mijatovic whether she can  call an example? In response, she called Azerbaijan. According to her, the leading partners of the Council of Europe and OSCE, Azerbaijan absent at the conference, because they are in prison.

The conference continues. The participants discussed issues related to how Europe can move closer to the criminalization of freedom of expression when dealing with hate speech. They will discuss how to fight against terrorism, respecting the freedom of speech on the Internet, and then what would be the consequences of mass surveillance for freedom of speech.

The conference will appeal to the results of the online platform aimed at improving the protection of journalism and journalists' safety. This recent initiative of the Council of Europe makes the timely propagation of threats against journalists, and allows you to take effective preventive measures.-0-

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