Brussels, April, 25th, 2017 (COE). A survey published by the Council of Europe, based on a sample of 940 journalists reporting from the 47 Council of Europe member states and Belarus, shows that journalists in Europe are often exposed to serious unwarranted interference in their work, including intimidation and violence. As a consequence, many also suffer from fear, which frequently leads to self-censorship.

Almost one third of the journalists who participated in the survey had experienced physical assault over a period of three years. The most common interference, reported by 69% of the journalists, was psychological violence, including intimidation, threats, slandering and humiliation.

The second most common interference was cyber bullying. Reports of intimidation from interest groups were the third most frequent interference mentioned, followed by being threatened with force, intimidation by political groups, targeted surveillance and intimidation by the police.

The study “Journalists under pressure: Unwarranted interference, fear and self-censorship in Europe” aims to contribute evidence-based data to the debate on how to address threats to media freedom, which have shown a significant increase in Europe in recent years. The survey was carried out via an anonymous online questionnaire in five languages among journalists mainly recruited from members of five major journalists´ and freedom of expression organisations.

Over one third of the journalists (35%) participating in the study reported that they did not have access to mechanisms to protect them against the interference with their work.

The results highlight the significant impact of the fear of interference experienced by journalists in their work. Fear of becoming victims of future unwarranted interference was high, especially with regard to psychological violence (60%), cyberbullying (57%), intimidation by individuals (51%) and by interest groups (45%), and physical violence (41%). One third of the journalists were concerned about the safety of their families and friends.

Link to the foreword, executive summary, introduction and methodology.

The full study has been published as an ISBN publication and is available here.