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New HELP course on Protection and safety of journalists publicly available

Western Balkans 21 July 2020
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New HELP course on Protection and safety of journalists publicly available

The new HELP (Human Rights Education for Legal Professionals) course on Protection and Safety of Journalists is now available on the HELP online platform.

The course was developed jointly with the Council of Europe Information Society Department, under the action “Freedom of expression and freedom of the media in South-East Europe (JUFREX)” implemented under the European Union and Council of Europe Joint Programme “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey II”. Representatives of the Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists and of the Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as a senior lawyer from the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights also contributed to the course development.

Background and aim

Freedom of expression and free flow of information are cornerstones of public debate and democracy.

Yet, freedom of expression and the safety of journalists are facing major challenges in Europe today. In many countries, journalists and other media actors are facing threats such as censorship, political and economic pressure, intimidation, job insecurity, abusive use of defamation laws as well as physical attacks. These offences are often committed in an intolerable context of impunity, which fuels recidivism and has a chilling effect on media freedom.

On the basis of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights’ case law, member States have both negative and positive obligations to protect journalists. Not only must they refrain from intimidating political declarations or judicial practices against media actors, they also have the duty to actively grant them full protection of the law and the judiciary in order to create an enabling environment for their journalistic activities.

This free HELP online course aims at assisting legal professionals, but also journalists and law-enforcement officials, in identifying and tackling the threats towards journalists and other media actors.

Course structure

The overall length of the course is approximately 10 hours.

The course is composed of 5 substantive modules.

Module 1: Key standards and principles

  • introduction to the topic
  • freedom of expression
  • journalists and other media actors

Module 2: Threats against journalism

  • threats against journalists
  • effects of the threats
  • response to the threats

Module 3: Legal frameworks and mechanisms and tools

  • the United Nations, Council of Europe, EU and OSCE legal frameworks
  • mechanisms and tools for protection of journalists, including the CoE Platform for protection of journalism and safety of journalists

Module 4: Physical and psychological integrity

  • positive and negative obligations of the State; substantive and procedural dimension of States’ obligations
  • impunity for crimes against journalists and effects of impunity

Module 5: Journalism in action

  • newsgathering: access to places and events, access to public information, protection of sources and whistleblowers etc.
  • publication: substantive and procedural legal limitations
  • journalism on trial
  • law enforcement and journalists

At the end of each module there is a quiz and a summary of the module.

At the end of the course, the user which has succesfully passed it can generate and print out the so-called HELP ‘statement of accomplishment’.

Access to the course

The updated course is publicly available in English on the HELP online platform. By the end of 2020, it will be available in language versions for Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.