How Countries Score On Safeguarding Primary Source Journalism And Press Freedom

///How Countries Score On Safeguarding Primary Source Journalism And Press Freedom

How Countries Score On Safeguarding Primary Source Journalism And Press Freedom

Action Plans of National Committee on ‘Safety of Journalists’

National Committees have been established in several countries – particularly those among the 47 member states of the Council Europe (CoE) – as part of campaigns on the safety of journalists. These committees bring together key stakeholders to assess existing risks, public policy needs and to coordinate.

Their establishment and ongoing work arises from positive sentiment towards journalism from European institutions. These include (full list below):

  • the ‘European Commission Recommendations on ensuring the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists (2021)’ which states that a “robust system of safeguards at the national level is required to enable journalists to fulfil their crucial role on the ground especially with regard to access to venues, sources of information, and reporting from events of public interest.”
  • the ‘Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4[1] of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actorswhich stresses the need to create ‘a favourable or enabling environment’ for journalism.

The Council of Europe Campaign for the Safety of Journalists states that each National Committee shall be ‘entrusted the key task of designing a ‘national action plan for the protection of journalists’ safety, as well that of setting related protection mechanisms, and of coordinating and reviewing its implementation.’

Their work is coordinated by the CoE’s secretariat which promotes the committee National Action Plans and liaises with individuals at the national level who have taken on the role of ‘focal points’.

Not all member states have active national committees ‘on the safety of journalists’, a fewer still have national action plans – but the CoE is working hard to bring more cohesion to this network. Their work often focuses on creating a safe environment for journalists, including abuse online, and combating Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs), which are used to silence critical journalism through costly and lengthy legal battles.

The NMC is currently assessing those Action Plans which have been published to see how they compare and measure up to the needs of modern-day news gathering.

In the Context of Everyday Primary Source Journalism

Some national plans take a narrow view of the safety of journalists and only a few explore what is needed by society for the safeguarding of journalism especially in the area of Primary Source Journalism sought by the News Media Coalition (NMC).

The NMC’s news industry efforts recognises that basic fact-seeking news gathering, PSJ, occurs around:

  • Politics, legal proceedings. business affairs
  • Organised cultural, sports, showbusiness, and civic events
  • Conflicts, public protests and natural disasters

PSJ includes interviews with high-profile figures, personalities and members of the public who have participated in or witnessed such events.

Wider of Context on Press Freedom across the globe

In addition to the NMC’s assessment of national action plans it is also useful to view the reality of journalists’ experiences as measured by the Global Press Freedom Index. This is drawn up each year by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and takes into account the ‘alerts’ raised through European Platform for the Safety of Journalists.  The Platform reports on serious threats to the safety of journalists and media freedom in Europe in order to reinforce the Council of Europe’s response to the threats and member states’ accountability. The platforms support organisations are:

A more detailed description of each organisation can be found at the end of this article.


United Kingdom:

The UK has established a National Action Plan under its National Committee for the Safety of Journalists. This plan focuses on ensuring journalists are able to operate free from threats, attacks and violence in the UK through coordinated efforts among government, law enforcement, and media organizations.

Key Initiatives:

Understanding the problem: Research into the extent of threats to journalists through various means including a call for evidence (2021) to better understand the issues faced by journalists as well as an annual survey of journalists to assess the landscape in which they work.

Enhancing the Criminal Justice System: Better responses to crimes against journalists

Tackling Online Abuse:  Introduction of the Online Safety Bill and dialogue with online platforms to ensure that threats to journalists safety are addressed swiftly.

Combatting SLAPPs:  Preventing legal intimidation of journalists.

Public Recognition:  Improving public recognition of the value of journalists

Next Steps: The UK continues to refine its strategies, focusing on monitoring online abuse and collaborating internationally to share best practices. The UK Committee’s next meeting is in summer 2024.


Switzerland’s action plan, coordinated by the Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM), aims to enhance public awareness and implement practical measures to protect journalists.

Key Initiatives:

  • Awareness and Respect: Promoting respect for journalism and increasing public trust in journalists and journalism as a cornerstone of democracy.
  • Protection and Support Against Violence:  Addressing the tendency for women and journalists from minority groups to be targeted
  • Standardization: Developing industry-wide standards for press passes and other safety measures.
  • Online Protection: Creating a dedicated website to address threats and hate speech.
  • SLAPPS: Analysis of abusive lawsuits which have a chilling effect on free speech and journalism as a whole

Next Steps: OFCOM will conduct a survey to better understand the safety needs of media professionals and continuously improve the action plan.

Plan to be reviewed after four years ( 2027) and updated should it be considered necessary.


Currently, France lacks a formalized national action plan. While individual efforts exist, there is a recognized need for a cohesive strategy to protect journalists effectively.

Current Status:

  • Fragmented Efforts: Individual measures and discussions around safety are ongoing, but a unified approach is needed.

Next Steps: Advocacy for a comprehensive national action plan is crucial to address the growing threats to journalist safety in France.

Denmark and the Netherlands:

Both Denmark and the Netherlands have implemented action plans that emphasize the importance of securing a safe working environment for journalists.

Key Initiatives:

  • Access to Information: Ensuring journalists can freely access and report on vital public information.
  • Legal and Physical Safety: Strengthening legal frameworks and providing physical protection against threats.

Next Steps: These countries are focused on refining their legal protections and enhancing measures to prevent violence against journalists.

Key Priorities of Greece, Italy, Germany, and Spain

Other European countries are also making significant strides in protecting journalists:

  • Greece: Implemented an Inter-ministerial Memorandum of Understanding and established a Task Force to address journalist safety.  Greece has also introduced a law criminalising attacks on journalists reporting on sporting events.
  • Italy: Holds biannual meetings to analyse and improve the protection of journalists, with ongoing efforts to develop a national action plan.
  • Germany: Promotes a code of conduct for media companies to provide support services and safety training for journalists.
  • Spain: Currently considering the establishment of a National Committee for the Safety of Journalists to protect the physical safety of journalists


European institutions, supported by members states, NGO’s and advocacy groups positively recognise the need to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists. In addition to the well-being of newsgatherers, the ‘health’ of journalism is at the forefront of much of the work of the Council of Europe in its analysis, recommendations and guidelines in the context of AI, news sustainability and disinformation and now Primary Source Journalism as championed by News Media Coalition and its members from the news publishing and news agency sectors.

Key Governmental Texts

European Commission Recommendations on ensuring the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists (2021)

The European Commission emphasizes that a “robust system of safeguards at the national level is required to enable journalists to fulfil their crucial role ‘on the ground’ especially with regard to access to venues, sources of information, and reporting from events of public interest.”

Member state authorities are encouraged to “minimize risks of arbitrary denial of accreditation or registration or cumbersome registration and accreditation systems or procedures.”

Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on the ‘protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors’, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 30 April 2014

…’decides to facilitate the development of an Internet-based platform drawing on information supplied by interested media freedom organisations to record and publicise possible infringements of the rights guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights;’

Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4

Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4[1] of the Committee of Ministers to member States on the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors:

Enabling environment

  1. A favourable or enabling environment for freedom of expression has a number of essential features which collectively create the conditions in which freedom of expression and information and vigorous public debate can thrive. The right to receive information embraces a right of access to information. The public has a right to receive information and ideas of public interest, which journalists and other media actors have the task of imparting.

The gathering of information is an essential preparatory step in journalism and an inherent, protected part of press freedom. The participation of journalists and other media actors in public debate on matters of legitimate public concern must not be discouraged, for example by measures that make access to information more cumbersome or by arbitrary restrictions, which may become a form of indirect censorship.

Contribution to public debate

  1. Journalists and other media actors make an essential contribution to public debate and opinion-making processes in a democratic society by acting as public or social watchdogs and by creating shared spaces for the exchange of information and ideas and for discussion. Their watchdog role involves, inter alia, informing the public about matters of public interest, commenting on them, holding public authorities and other powerful forces in society to account and exposing corruption and abuse of power.
  2. Given the scale and severity of threats and attacks against journalists and other media actors in Europe and their damaging effects on the functioning of democratic society, far-reaching measures are necessary at the international and national levels in order to strengthen the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists and other media actors, and to eradicate impunity.

CoE Guidelines on Artificial Intelligence in Journalism

…’For news organisations to ‘put into operation new priorities to ensure that traditional journalistic values (fairness, autonomy, accuracy remain relevant’ … ‘and for AI Organisations to be transparent about the models and data (including Primary Source Journalism’) they use

Good practices for increasing media resilience (MSI-RES)

…’The elements of media pluralism are also contingent on the extent, diversity, and excellence of the content generated and consumed by the public’ …. ‘innovation in formats is reported as another driver for sustainability.


Partners of the European Platform for the Safety of Journalists:

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) The EFJ, founded in 1994, represents over 320,000 journalists across 39 countries in Europe, advocating for their social and professional rights.

International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) The IFJ, the largest global journalists’ organization with 600,000 members in over 100 countries since 1926, defends press freedom and social justice through independent unions.

Association of European Journalists (AEJ) Established in 1962, the AEJ supports press freedom and critical journalism in Europe, aiming to enhance the profession’s standards and inform the public on European issues.

Article 19 Founded in 1987, Article 19 is a global human rights organization dedicated to defending freedom of expression and information by monitoring threats, advocating for laws, and drafting legal standards.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) RSF, since 1985, is a global NGO defending press freedom, investigating violations, fighting censorship, and providing support to journalists in perilous conditions.

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) Formed in 1981, CPJ defends press freedom worldwide, advocating for journalists’ rights to report safely and free from reprisals, and highlights global threats to free press.

Index on Censorship Since 1972, Index on Censorship has promoted free expression by reporting on attacks against it, advocating for legal changes, and raising awareness through events and debates.

International Press Institute (IPI) Founded in 1950, IPI is a global network advocating for media freedom and independent journalism, monitoring violations and supporting best practices worldwide.

International News Safety Institute (INSI) INSI is a member-based group dedicated to journalists’ safety, offering networking, research, and safety training to media professionals globally.

Rory Peck Trust (RPT) The RPT, established in 1995 in memory of freelance cameraman Rory Peck, provides support and safety resources to freelance journalists and their families worldwide.

European Broadcasting Union (EBU) The EBU, the leading global public service media alliance, represents 73 members in 56 countries, reaching over one billion people with diverse broadcasts.

PEN International Since 1921, PEN International has championed writers’ rights and free expression, with over 25,000 members in more than 100 countries, holding special consultative status at the UN.

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) Founded in 2015, ECPMF protects press freedom in Europe, supporting journalists through legal aid, monitoring violations, and offering refuge and training.

Free Press Unlimited Based in Amsterdam, Free Press Unlimited works to ensure access to reliable news, especially in countries with limited press freedom, supporting local media and running projects in 31 countries.

Justice for Journalists Foundation (JFJ) JFJ, a London-based NGO, combats impunity for crimes against journalists by monitoring attacks, funding investigations, and providing training on media security.


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