Freedom of expression and violence against journalists

Author:Radu Florin Geam?nu
Position:PhD, uni Candidate, Faculty of Law, 'Nicolae Titulescu' University of Bucharest; Legal Adviser, Romanian Ministry of Justice (e-mail:
Radu Florin GEAMĂNU
This study will contain an analysis on the international and regional standards in the field of
freedom of expression, as stipulated in the United Nations conventions and in the European Convention
of Human Rights.
Further we will establish a link between the breach of the freedom of expression when cases of
violence against journalists arise, especially tackling the impunity problem.
The paper will focus on the study of the ECtHR judgements regarding freedom of expression and
cases of violence against journalists. Also, we will address the recent recommendations at the Council
of Europe level.
Concluding, the study will attempt to express some recommendations in solving the problem of
violence against journalists.
Keywords: freedom of expression; journalists; violence; United Nations; Council of Europe;
1. Introduction
Freedom of expression can take many
forms, encompassing verbal, artistic, and
pshycal expression. Freedom of opinion and
expression is the cornerstone of any
democratic society. However, it is a freedom
which, as history attests, has been, and is,
compromised in a number of States
The right to freedom of expression,
guaranteed both at internatio nal level
(Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights) and regional level (Convention for
the Protection of Human Rights), constitutes
one of the essentials in a democratic society,
ensuring, amongst others, the sound
information of the citizens and, if proper
PhD,uni Candidate, Faculty of Law, "Nicolae Titulescu" University of Bucharest; Legal Adviser, Romanian Ministry of
Justice (e-mail:
R. K.M. Smith, Textbook on International Human Rights, 5th edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 301.
implemented, an effective functioning of the
rule of law.
So, from this perspective, safeguarding
freedom of expression has an even more
importance when coupled with the necessity
to safeguard the integrity of the journalists
and to protect them from cases of violence.
Of course, given the expansion of
internet-based information, when referring
to journalists, one should have in mind a
larger interpretation o f the notion, rather
than the stricto sensu one. Thus, the term
‘journalists’ will include media workers and
social media producers who produce
significant amounts of public-interest
At Council of Europe (CoE) level, the
term ‘journalist’ means any natural or legal
person who is regularly or professionally
engaged in the collection and dissemination
Radu Florin GEAMĂNU 119
of information to the public via any means
of mass communication
Also, ongoing technological
developments have transformed the
traditional media environment, as described,
inter alia, in CM/Rec(2011)7 on a ne w
notion of media
, leading to new
conceptions of media and new
understandings of the evolving media
ecosystem. Advances in information and
communication technologies have made it
easier for an i ncreasingly broad and diverse
range of actors to participate in public
debate. Consequently, the European Court
of Human Rights has repeatedly recognised
that individuals, civil society organisations,
whistle-blowers and academics, in addition
to professional journalists and media, can all
make valuable contributions to public
debate, thereby playing a role similar or
equivalent to that traditionally played by the
institutionalised media a nd professional
2. Freedom of expression
2.1. International level
At international level, freedom of
expression is provided for in art. 19 of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
(1948), which states that eve ryone has the
right to freedom of opinion and expression;
this right includes freedo m to hold opinions
without interference and to seek, receive and
impart information and ideas through any
media and regardless of frontiers. Similarly,
the Internatio nal Covenant on Civil and
CoE, Committee of Ministers, Recommendation No R(2000)7 on the right of journalists not to disclose their
sources of information, adopted 8 March 2000, accessed March 20, 2017, http://www.inter-
CoE, Committee of Ministers, Recommendation CM/Rec(2011)7 on a new notion of media, adopted 21
September 2011, accessed March 20, 2017,
CoE, Committee of Ministers, Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)4 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on
the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and other media actors, adopted 13 April 2016, no. 9, accessed March
20, 2017,
Political Rights (19 66) provides, in article
19 para.2 and 3, that everyone shall have the
right to freedom of expression; this right
shall include freedom to seek, receive and
impart information and ideas of all kinds,
regardless of frontiers, either orally, in
writing or in print, in the form of art, or
through any other media of his choice. The
exercise of the rights provided for in
paragraph 2 of this article carries with it
special duties and responsibilities. It ma y
therefore be subject to certain restrictions,
but these shall only be such as are provided
by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of
the rights or reputations of others; (b) For
the protection of national security or of
public order (ordre public), or of public
health or morals.
2.2. Regional level
At regional level, freedom of
expression is regulated in art. 10 from the
Convention for the Protection of Huma n
Rights (ECHR):
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of
expression. This right shall include freedo m
to hold opinions and to receive and impart
information and ideas without interference
by public authority and regardless of
frontiers. This Article shall not prevent
States from requiring the licensing of
broadcasting, television or cinema
2. The exercise of these freedoms,
since it carries with it duties and
responsibilities, may be subject to such
formalities, conditions, restrictions or
penalties as are prescribed b y law and are

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