THEY SILENCE JOURNALISTS WITHOUT KILLING THEM

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[05:39 pm] 02 May, 2006

"No one can suppress the truth for ever, but some people never stop
trying. It is journalists who pay the price" said Terry Davis on the
occasion of the 2006 World Press Freedom Day.

"Restrictions on freedom of expression are widespread, often violent
and sometimes lethal. In 2005 more than 150 journalists around the
world died carrying out their profession, and more than half of them
were murdered. Hundreds, if not thousands, have been deprived of their
freedom being either kidnapped or put in prison, and there are no
reliable statistics for those who have been threatened or persecuted.

As a rule, journalists in the 46 Council of Europe member states are
no longer tortured or killed, but that does not mean that they are
always free to do their work. The European Convention on Human Rights,
calling on public authorities to refrain from interfering with freedom
of expression, is frequently ignored. Some journalists may be silenced
through intimidation, others may be bought into compliance, but the
end result remains the same because democracy cannot properly function
without media which is genuinely free of governmental interference
and control.

A particularly insidious form of intimidation is the threat of
prosecution for libel. In fact, more than two thirds of the Council
of Europe member states maintain criminal sanctions for defamation,
and these laws are often used to stifle criticism. I call on all
Council of Europe member states to review their legislation, abolish
criminal provisions and prevent disproportionate damages in civil
cases against journalists. Progress in the protection of journalists
is the only credible way to mark the World Press Freedom Day. "