Ministers’ Deputies

CM Documents

CM(2013)162      19 November 20131



1187 Meeting, 11-12 December 2013

5 Media

5.2 Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and Information Society (Belgrade, 7-8 November 2013) –

Report of the Secretary General

For consideration by the GR-H at its meeting on 10 December 2013



Introduction

The Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and Information Society was held in Belgrade on 7 and 8 November 2013 at the invitation of the Serbian Government. The theme of the Conference was “Freedom of Expression and Democracy in the Digital Age – Opportunities, Rights, Responsibilities”, with three sub-themes: “Access to the Internet and fundamental rights”, “How do we address the current threats to journalism?” and “Pluralism, diversity and quality in the new media ecosystem – opportunities and risks”. The agenda, list of participants and texts adopted are set out in Appendices 1-4 to this report.

Mr Ivan TASOVAC, Minister of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia, was elected Chair of the Conference. Mr Michał BONI, Minister of Administration and Digitisation of the Republic of Poland and Mr Frédéric RIEHL, Director, Federal Office of Communications of Switzerland were elected Vice-Chairs.

Participants

319 participants, including 17 ministers, deputy ministers, secretaries of state, under-secretaries of states, from 38 member States, 1 observer State, the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) took part in the conference.

Conference preparation

On the eve of the conference (6 November), a preparatory meeting of the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI) was held to finalise the draft Political Declaration and the three draft resolutions on “Internet freedom”, “Preserving the essential role of media in the digital age” and on “Safety of journalists”.

Opening session

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Thorbjørn JAGLAND, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia, Mr Ivica DAČIĆ, the Minister of Justice of the Republic of Armenia, Mr Hrair TOVMASYAN, on behalf of the Armenian Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the President of the Chamber of Regions of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, Ms Natalya ROMANOVA, and the Head of the European Union Delegation to the Republic of Serbia, Ambassador Mr Michael DAVENPORT, addressed the opening session.

Ministerial roundtables accompanied by parallel sessions. A multi-stakeholder dialogue was held on each sub-theme in order to reflect the views of the various actors concerned by the theme (representatives of professional organisations and industry, civil society and academics). These discussions were reported to the main ministerial sessions.

In his keynote speech entitled “Freedom of expression and democracy in the digital age – Opportunities, rights, responsibilities”, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Nils MUIŽNIEKS, highlighted restrictions to media freedom on grounds of national security as particularly serious ones, following the recent disclosure of the US and UK mass surveillance programmes. The Commissioner stressed the necessity of strict legal rules and democratic oversight of surveillance measures to prevent adverse effects on freedom of expression and in particular on the work of investigative journalists and activists who might fear exposing their sources. The Commissioner also stressed that media freedom applies to the new, digital environment where bloggers, activists and ordinary citizens have joined journalists in reporting in the public interest. He stated that maintaining an open Internet, without undue restrictions by the authorities or the private industry, is therefore an important dimension of his work on freedom of expression.

Session I of the conference on “Access to the Internet and fundamental rights” was introduced by Mr Ian BROWN, Associate Director of Oxford University’s Cyber Security Centre and Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute.

The ministers renewed their commitment to do no harm to the Internet and to preserve its universality, integrity and openness. Consequently, the ministers invited the Committee of Ministers to further develop the notion of “Internet freedom” on the basis of standards it had already adopted on Internet governance principles, network neutrality and the universality, integrity and openness of the Internet. The need to have access to the Internet as a condition for enjoying fundamental rights online was repeatedly mentioned. Media diversity and pluralism online should be promoted, in particular by ensuring that users can access content of their choice. The elaboration of a Compendium of existing human rights for Internet users ought to be completed rapidly. There was strong consensus about the importance to step up efforts to protect the right to privacy and personal data and the necessity to examine closely, in the light of the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights, the question of gathering electronic communications data on individuals by security agencies. A number of delegations and speakers called for the Committee of Ministers’ attention to be drawn to this matter of great concern, taking into account the dimension of the phenomenon and the risk that certain practices would pose to the security and stability of the Internet.

The need was highlighted to examine the role and human rights implications of the Internet and new technologies as tools for political debate, protest and other expressions of discontent. Promoting media and digital literacy programmes, having due regard to the gender perspective and diversity implications, were further points of discussion, as were ways and means to explore enhancing online participation of vulnerable and disadvantaged people or groups taking into account their specific needs. The importance to engage with the private sector in order to encourage them to respect their obligations and responsibilities in protecting and respecting human rights on the Internet were repeatedly underlined, as was the need for transparency. Guidance on enabling access to culture and encouraging innovation and creation on the Internet should be offered, whilst ensuring that creators, innovators and producers of cultural products are appropriately rewarded and their rights protected. Ministers heard that in addition to the Internet of people, attention should be paid to the “Internet of things”.

Session II of the conference on “How do we address the current threats to journalism?” was introduced by Ms Dunja MIJATOVIĆ, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.

The ministers expressed concern about intimidation, deprivation of liberty and even loss of lives of journalists in the course of their work or as a result of it. Consequently, the ministers invited the Committee of Ministers, in co-operation with other institutions of the Council of Europe, including the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly, to elaborate guidelines for the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists and others who carry out journalistic activity or perform public watchdog functions with a view to harmonising legislative frameworks, practice and law-enforcement processes at national level (including positive obligations as established by the European Court of Human Rights); to intensify actions to implement such standards and best practices through appropriate efforts by States and through the Council of Europe’s

co-operation, technical assistance programmes and activities; to follow the developments in members States, sharing and disseminating information about urgent cases and issues concerning journalists’ safety and other serious threats to freedom of expression, and proposing remedial action when necessary; and to address the specific challenges and threats that women journalists are confronted with in the course of their work. Ministers also discussed the safety of journalists as a possible important indicator in respect of freedom of expression or the state of health of democracy in a society; UNESCO has invited the Council of Europe to co-operate in exploring this matter. There were also words of caution not to assume that the notion of journalist is the same across Europe. Media actors such as individual bloggers should receive the same legal treatment as journalists but a graduated approach should be applied. Further, it was stressed that governments should not forget the necessity to protect individuals, and notably children, against immoral content.

Session III of the conference on “Pluralism, diversity and quality in the new media ecosystem – opportunities and risks” was introduced by Ms Ingrid DELTENRE, Director General of the European Broadcasting Union.

The ministers stressed the importance to maintain the essential role media has in a democratic society also in the digital age. Reference was made to the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on a new notion of media as an instrument offering valuable guidance, in line with Council of Europe standards. Scepticism with regard to self-regulation as an all-encompassing solution was expressed and ministers heard of situations which call for regulation designed to prevent or deal with excessive concentration or control of media by interest groups which could entail dangers for democracy. They noted in particular the importance of transparency of media ownership and the desirability to promote the implementation of existing Council of Europe standards. Consequently, the ministers expressed concern about the state of media concentration, transparency of media ownership and regulation and their impact on media pluralism and diversity. They invited the Committee of Ministers to consider the need for updating European standards in this respect in the digital age. The need to promote truly independent media in Europe based on effective self-regulation as well as measures to preserve and strengthen media’s watchdog function by creating a favourable legal environment for vigorous investigative journalism and critical scrutiny of all matters of public interest were vividly discussed. Consideration should be given as a matter of priority to explore means of promoting professional and ethical journalism effectively, taking due account of the expanded range and number of actors in the digital age. In the light of Council of Europe standards on media pluralism and diversity of content, questions relating to digital convergence, connected television and other new arrangements for the delivery of essential media content or information were discussed and, in this context, the necessity to examine the role of public service media and community media services was raised.

A Ministerial dialogue including all stakeholders was held on “Hate speech on-line” and introduced by Mr Frank LA RUE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression of the United Nations. Mr Michał BONI, Minister of Administration and Digitisation of the Republic of Poland, reported on the conference co-organised by the Polish authorities and the Council of Europe in September 2013 in Warsaw on the hate speech factor in political and public speech. Key questions addressed were how to identify hate speech and how to adequately respond, notably in the digital national and international environment. Ministers discussed the necessity to have high thresholds when identifying hate speech and to limit liability on the internet to authors, avoiding prior censorship. There was consensus as to the necessity to continue to combat hate speech and incitement to violence whether involving individuals, public or political persons or groups, including by offering guidance on ways to mitigate its escalation, due to the speed and scope of its online dissemination. The Council of Europe’s current campaign known as the “No hate speech movement” was welcomed in this regard.

Mr Andris MELLAKAULS, Chairperson of the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI), took stock of the achievements and informed the conference on expected future activities of the Council of Europe in the field of media and information society. He joined other speakers at the conference who called for more concrete and adequately resourced follow-up action to implement standards and to observe performance of member States in respect of their commitment to freedom of expression.

Closing session

Mr Ivan TASOVAC, Minister of Culture of the Republic of Serbia, and Mr Philippe BOILLAT, Director General of Human Rights and Rule of Law at the Council of Europe, delivered the closing remarks. Both speakers welcomed the commitment by the member States to protect freedom of expression as an essential prerequisite for any democratic society. Ministers were reminded that the need to effectively protect freedom of expression emerged as a cross-cutting issue during the conference, starting from the opening address of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Outcome

Following vivid discussions and exchanges of views, the ministers responsible for Media and Information Society adopted the following texts:

    - a Political Declaration;
    - a Resolution on “Internet freedom”;
    - a Resolution on “Preserving the essential role of media in the digital age”;
    - a Resolution on “Safety of journalists”.

The delegation of the Russian Federation made an interpretative statement upon the adoption of the final documents as set out in Appendix 4.

The delegation of the United Kingdom expressed its disassociation from paragraph 13 (v) of the Internet Freedom Resolution No.1 as follows:

    “The United Kingdom needs to place formally on record that while it has not blocked consensus on this text, the UK needs to disassociate itself from paragraph 13 (v). The United Kingdom strongly supports the overall approach of the Resolution including supporting a free and open internet that promotes freedom of expression. However, as we stated during the plenary session, we are unable to accept the text of paragraph 13 (v). The United Kingdom considers that paragraph 13 (v) may have the effect of unduly constraining the scope of the work that the Council of Europe is invited to carry out. The United Kingdom proposed alternative language in line with the equivalent provision in the Political Declaration (cf. paragraph 7 of the Political Declaration on Freedom of Expression and Democracy in the Digital Age) which we consider provides a more neutral and objective basis for the Council of Europe’s work in this area. The United Kingdom does not consider the language of paragraph 13 (v) to have any influence on positions that the United Kingdom may take on this issue, both in the Council of Europe and in other fora.”

The United Kingdom asked that the above statement be included in this report.

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The Secretary General of the Council of Europe thanked the Serbian authorities for the excellent organisation of the conference and the warm welcome extended to all participants.

Appendix 1 – Political declaration and resolutions

Political Declaration
Freedom of Expression and Democracy in the Digital Age – Opportunities, rights, responsibilities

The ministers of States participating in the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for media and information society, held in Belgrade, Serbia, on 7 and 8 November 2013, adopt the following political declaration:

1. We affirm that the right to freedom of expression, to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas as enshrined in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and its corollary media freedom are fundamental prerequisites for pluralist democracy. Freedom of expression is not absolute; its exercise must respect the rights of others in particular the right to private life, in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights and in light of the case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

2. Freedom of expression and media freedom are threatened in various parts of Europe, online as well as offline. This calls for political commitment and additional efforts by member States. In this respect, we acknowledge the longstanding work carried out by the Council of Europe and its potential to further promote freedom of expression and media freedom in Europe.

3. In 2011, the Council of Europe embraced a new notion of media, acknowledging that media-related policy must take full account of traditional and new forms of media. The new notion provides criteria for identifying various forms of media and offers guidance for differentiated responses, in particular in respect of media freedom and its protection, media independence, pluralism and diversity, as well as a reference for the duties and responsibilities of the various actors, in line with Council of Europe standards. This however does not apply automatically and may require implementation through appropriate national law.

4. We agree that the independence of the media and media freedom – whether print, broadcast or online – require effective self-regulation. Undue State regulation, control and supervision of the media have negative effects in this respect, including individuals’ perception of media freedom.

5. Access to the Internet is inextricably linked to human rights, in particular to the exercise of the right to freedom of expression. We acknowledge the fundamental importance for people to be able to express themselves and access information on the Internet without undue restrictions, thus enabling them to effectively exercise their rights under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

6. The right to private life is protected under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the protection of personal data, one of its corollaries, has been expounded among others in Convention 108, European Union legislation and other relevant international and national laws or principles. The protection of personal data is both itself a right and an enabler for the exercise of other rights.

7. Data can be collected and processed for a legitimate aim including the objectives set out in the Council of Europe’s Statute. Any data collection or surveillance for the purpose of protection of national security must be done in compliance with existing human rights and rule of law requirements, including Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Given the growing technological capabilities for electronic mass surveillance and the resulting concerns, we emphasise that there must be adequate and effective guarantees against abuse which may undermine or even destroy democracy.

8. The widespread and growing phenomenon of hate speech and intolerant discourse online calls for concerted action at national and transnational levels. The promotion of respect for human rights, dignity and ethics online are important and we welcome the Council of Europe campaign against hate speech. We believe that media professionals have an important role to foster ethical journalism offline and online.

9. We are appalled that journalists and other media actors who carry out journalistic activity or perform public watchdog functions are increasingly subject to physical attacks and other forms of harassment and are even being killed because of their media related activities.

10. In view of the above, we:

    a) invite the Council of Europe to pursue as a matter of priority its efforts to uphold and promote the respect of Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and as regards the latter article we invite the Council of Europe to promote media freedom – whether print, broadcast or online – and the implementation of existing European standards at national level as well as additional standard setting as appropriate;

    b) encourage member States to reinforce their work on freedom of expression and media freedom on the basis of the new notion of media with a view to preserving the core values of the Council of Europe and to guarantee the same human rights protection in all forms of media, whether offline or online;

    c) declare our firm commitment to Internet freedom which must be fully compatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights, and to this end, fully support the implementation of the Council of Europe’s Internet Governance Strategy 2012-2015;

    d) declare our support for the complementary efforts made by the United Nations, the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe and other organisations to address the urgent need to establish a safe and enabling environment for journalists and the media;

    e) consequently, we adopt the resolutions “Internet freedom”, “Preserving the essential role of the media in the digital age” and “Safety of journalists” which are appended to this political declaration and invite the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to take appropriate steps to implement the actions proposed in those documents.


Resolution No. 1

Internet Freedom

The ministers of States participating in the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for media and information society, held in Belgrade, Serbia, on 7 and 8 November 2013, adopt the following resolution:2

1. The Internet, which was designed to exchange information and knowledge, plays a unique role in assisting individuals to work, to be politically and culturally engaged, to assemble, associate and, above all, to communicate and express diverse views and varied opinions, including those of discontent and protest.

2. We recognise the social and economic benefits that Internet access creates in addition to enhancing democratic processes.

3. Internet freedom is a shared responsibility; the full and meaningful involvement of governments, the private sector, civil society and other communities in their respective roles is critical to encourage respect for and uphold freedom of expression and other fundamental rights, such as the right to assemble and associate, and to enjoy private and family life, which includes the protection of personal data.

4. We reaffirm our commitment to multi-stakeholder dialogue on Internet governance to build confidence and trust. This should include attention to the shared commitment of State and non-State actors to fundamental rights on the Internet.

5. Freedom of the Internet includes preserving the Internet’s open architecture, supported and enhanced by open standards, development processes, and promoting innovation in the bottom up, decentralised multi-stakeholder manner which has proved so successful for the rapid evolution and spread of access to the Internet and its associated technologies and applications.

6. Access to the Internet is a key tool enabling people to effectively seek, receive and impart ideas and opinions. Interfering with access can undermine participation in democratic processes and affect the dissemination of information and expression in the public interest. Any interference must meet the requirements of Article 10, paragraph 2, of the European Convention on Human Rights.

7. We renew our commitment to do no harm to the Internet and to preserve its universality, integrity and openness. Any measure, including blocking and filtering, that might interfere with people’s freedom to access and communication via the Internet must be taken in compliance with international human rights law.

8. We resolve to protect people from the risks encountered on the Internet, in particular by fighting cybercrime, sexual abuse and exploitation of children, cyber bullying, gender based discrimination, incitement to violence, hatred and any form of hate speech. This may require concerted efforts with other non-state stakeholders. At the same time, we reaffirm that any restrictive measure taken must be in compliance with international human rights law, in particular as regards the protection of personal data.

9. Measures taken in the interest of national security which interfere with the right to freedom of expression or to the protection of private life, should meet the requirements set out in the European Convention of Human Rights. These requirements constitute effective guarantees against abuse.

10. Unjustified interference threatens the universality and integrity of the Internet and will adversely affect people’s trust in the Internet and undermine its public service value. Council of Europe member states should respect their commitment to do no harm to the Internet.

11. We acknowledge the paramount importance of improving media and digital literacy and skills of individuals, in particular those belonging to vulnerable groups, to use the Internet safely and in an informed way, in particular by knowing how to distinguish between public and private spaces on the Internet. Users should be properly informed of existing human rights and should be empowered to exercise their rights and fundamental freedoms online.

12. We encourage the Council of Europe to continue developing, within the framework of its Internet Governance Strategy, adequate safeguards to protect fundamental rights on the Internet, especially when action is taken that might interfere with access and free flow of information and expression online.

13. In view of the above, we invite the Council of Europe to:

    (i) further develop, in a multi-stakeholder approach, the notion of “Internet freedom” on the basis of standards adopted by the Committee of Ministers on Internet governance principles, network neutrality and the universality, integrity and openness of the Internet;

    (ii) promote media diversity and pluralism online, in particular by ensuring that users can access content of their choice;

    (iii) complete as soon as possible the elaboration of a Compendium of existing human rights for Internet users;

    (iv) step up efforts to protect the right to privacy and personal data, in particular in respect of young people;

    (v) examine closely, in the light of the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights, the question of gathering vast amounts of electronic communications data on individuals by security agencies, the deliberate building of flaws and ‘backdoors’ in the security system of the Internet or otherwise deliberately weakening encryption systems;

    (vi) examine the role and human rights implications of the Internet and new technologies as tools for political debate, protest and other expressions of discontent;

    (vii) continue to combat hate speech and incitement to violence and terrorism, whether involving individuals, public or political persons or groups, including offering guidance on ways to mitigate its escalation, due to the speed and scope of its online dissemination;

    (viii) promote media and digital literacy programmes having due regard to the gender perspective and diversity implications;

    (ix) explore ways of enhancing online participation of vulnerable and disadvantaged people or groups taking into account their specific needs;

    (x) engage with the private sector and the business sector in order to encourage them to respect their obligations and responsibilities in protecting and respecting human rights on the Internet;

    (xi) offer guidance on enabling access to culture and encouraging innovation and creation on the Internet while ensuring that creators, innovators and producers of cultural products are appropriately rewarded and their rights protected.

Resolution No. 2

Preserving the essential role of media in the digital age

The ministers of States participating in the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for media and information society, held in Belgrade, Serbia, on 7 and 8 November 2013, adopt the following resolution:

1. Media are constantly evolving; society witnesses new forms of media and self-expression, bringing new possibilities for creation, innovation and dissemination. Whilst media in the digital age provide opportunities never known before, the development of new forms of media is inevitably disruptive to traditional media.

2. We are committed to creating the necessary conditions to maintain the essential role that media play in a democratic society also in the digital environment; the provision of information, the nurturing of public debate, the enhancement of the transparency and accountability in respect of public affairs and other matters of public interest or concern – the “public watchdog” function – justify media’s special status and protection in societies based on pluralism and democracy.

3. The Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers on a new notion of media provides criteria for identifying media and offers guidance for a graduated and differentiated regulatory response, in line with Council of Europe standards. This instrument offers assistance in understanding the functioning of the media, both online and offline, with a view to preserving and developing their traditional role in the digital age.

4. We are concerned that media pluralism and diversity can be threatened by excessive media concentration at national and international level and by State interference. The risks associated with media concentration have grown more acute in the digital age both in Europe and beyond. Access to diverse information and content is also threatened by the emergence of new online players and “gatekeepers” benefiting from dominant positions at national and global level.

5. We consider it important to further consolidate effective media self-regulation as a prerequisite for media freedom and independence of the media. Regulation, including its milder form of co-regulation, or “regulated” self-regulation, should comply with the requirements set out in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the standards that stem from the relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights.

6. We have entered into a new phase in digital convergence. Connected television and other connected devices lead to new forms of distribution and control over content. This may bear on the diversity of content and users’ choice or lead to fragmentation as a result of different platforms that are not interoperable. It also raises concerns about the protection of children. The constant development and convergence of technologies also poses new challenges as regards the collection and processing of personal data and the profiling of users irrespective of their gender.

7. We consider that, alongside editorial independence, professional journalism is crucial for accomplishing media objectives. The situation of journalists increasingly working in precarious situations and in freelance positions, together with the emergence of new forms of online journalism and what is sometimes referred to as “citizen journalism”, require innovative ways of promoting ethical standards while protecting freedom of expression and information, and reconciling it with the right to privacy.

8. We recognise that the protection of journalistic sources as a condition for investigative journalism remains of critical importance in the digital age, considering the necessity for media to ascertain the authenticity of content received from multiple sources without exposing them to tracking and reprisal.

9. The preservation of the essential role of media in the digital age justifies, alongside commercial media, further support for, on the one hand, a well-funded, sustainable, independent, high quality and ethical public service media providing distinctive content on all services and platforms and, on the other hand, non-profit community media capable of addressing the specific needs of various communities and committed to inclusive and intercultural practices.

10. In view of the above, we invite the Council of Europe to:

    (i) closely examine the state of media concentration, transparency of media ownership and regulation and their impact on media pluralism and diversity, and consider the need for updating European standards in this respect in the digital age;

    (ii) promote truly independent media in Europe based on effective self-regulation;

    (iii) propose measures to preserve and strengthen media’s watchdog function by creating a favourable legal environment for vigorous investigative journalism and critical scrutiny of all matters of public interest;

    (iv) explore means of promoting professional and ethical journalism effectively, taking due account of the expanded range and number of actors in the digital age;

    (v) carefully consider, in the light of Council of Europe standards on media pluralism and diversity of content, questions relating to digital convergence, connected television and other new arrangements for the delivery of essential media content or information and, in this context, examine the role of public service media and community media services.

Resolution No. 3

Safety of journalists

The ministers of States participating in the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for media and information society, held in Belgrade, Serbia, on 7 and 8 November 2013, adopt the following resolution:

1. We are appalled that journalists in parts of Europe are increasingly being intimidated, physically or through other forms of harassment, deprived of their liberty and even killed because of their investigative work, opinion or reporting, often with insufficient efforts by relevant State authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice.

2. Similarly, on 20 September 2013, the Human Rights Council declared itself “Deeply concerned at the frequent violations and abuses of the human rights of journalists, including through killing, torture, enforced disappearance, arbitrary detention, expulsion, intimidation, harassment, threats and acts of other forms of violence, as well as through measures, such as surveillance, search and seizure, when aimed at hampering the work of journalists”.

3. This situation is unacceptable and clearly violates Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression and information

4. States are obliged to protect every person’s fundamental human rights; the right to life and the absolute prohibition of torture, which cannot be justified in any situation, as well as the right of liberty and security, the right to respect for private and family life, home and correspondence, freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and the freedom of assembly and association, as provided for by the European Convention on Human Rights.

5. The European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly ruled that States are required to create a favourable environment for participation in public debate by all persons, enabling them to express their opinions and ideas without fear. Furthermore, the Court has established that States must not only refrain from interference with the individual’s freedom of expression, but are also under a positive obligation to protect their right to freedom of expression against the threat of attack, including from private individuals through an effective system of protection.

6. Failures by law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities to investigate effectively and prosecute those responsible in cases of attacks on journalists, whether committed by public officials or by non-State actors, fuel a climate of impunity, which is liable to lead to further attacks and undermines the rule of law.

7. Freedom of expression cannot be upheld without free, pluralistic and independent media and the free exercise of journalistic freedoms as an instrument for the formation of opinions, ideas and decision making. Journalists serve society as a whole and democracy at large; they have a role to impart information and ideas of public interest and therefore require special protection. Freedom of expression is also essential for the protection of other human rights.

8. A definition of journalist can change from country to country depending on national legislation or case law on the subject. While Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights applies to everyone, the Court has afforded even stronger protection under it to journalists and others who communicate in the public interest. Related good practice in some member states includes special legal protection for journalists, for example in respect of the confidentiality of sources and their material or investigations. In some cases, violence against journalists is treated as an aggravated offence and carries higher penalties.

9. Moreover, in 2011, the Committee of Ministers recommended a new, broad notion of media to encompass all actors involved in the production and dissemination to potentially large numbers of people of content, including information, analysis, comment and opinion. The Committee of Ministers also acknowledged that, for certain purposes, some privileges which are normally recognised for journalists may extend to other actors who may not fully qualify as media (for example individual bloggers) taking account of the extent to which such actors can be considered part of the media ecosystem and contribute to the functions and role of media in a democratic society. The Committee of Ministers recommended a graduated response that should be taken into account as regards the safety and protection of various media actors.

10. In spite of member States’ commitments to the European Convention on Human Rights and undertakings to intensify efforts in this regard, authoritative reports by UN agencies, the Council of Europe, the OSCE, civil society and professional groups provide compelling evidence that journalists in some parts of Europe are still the targets of persistent physical attacks, intimidation, and other forms of harassment because of their media related activities.

11. In view of this alarming situation:

    (a) we affirm that threats to freedom of expression and the safety of journalists must be dealt with as a matter of priority by all Council of Europe member States;

    (b) we strongly condemn physical attacks and violence, intimidation, misuses of the power of the State, including unlawful monitoring of communications, and other forms of harassment of journalists as well as others who contribute to shaping public debate and public opinion by exercising their right to freedom of expression and information;

    (c) we resolve to take all appropriate steps for ensuring the protection of journalists, in terms of both preventive measures and effective investigations;

    (d) we commit to contribute to the concerted international efforts to enhance the protection of journalists, in particular within the framework of the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, having regard to Resolution 21/12 of the Human Rights Council on the safety of journalists, and the endeavours of regional organisations, such as the OSCE and the Council of Europe, and of professional and non-governmental organisations to increase the safety of journalists;

    (e) we invite the Committee of Ministers to pursue its work, in co-operation with other institutions of the Council of Europe, including the Commissioner for Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly, with a view to:

      (i) elaborating guidelines for the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists and others who carry out journalistic activity or perform public watchdog functions with a view to harmonising legislative frameworks, practice and law-enforcement processes at national level (including positive obligations as established by the European Court of Human Rights);

      (ii) intensifying actions to implement such standards and best practices through appropriate efforts by States and through the Council of Europe’s co-operation, technical assistance programmes and activities;

      (iii) following the developments in members States, sharing and disseminating information about urgent cases and issues concerning journalists’ safety and other serious threats to freedom of expression, and proposing remedial action when necessary;

      (iv) addressing the specific challenges and threats that women journalists are confronted with in the course of their work.

Appendix 2 – List of participants

COUNCIL OF EUROPE MEMBER STATES / ETATS MEMBRES DU CONSEIL DE L’EUROPE

ALBANIA / ALBANIE

ANDORRA / ANDORRE

ARMENIA / ARMÉNIE

- Mr Hrair TOVMASYAN, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Armenia / Ministre de la justice de la République de l’Arménie 

- Mr Aram ORBELYAN, Deputy Minister of Justice of the Republic of Armenia / Vice-ministre de la justice de la République de l’Arménie

AUSTRIA / AUTRICHE

- Mr Gerhard HESSE, Director General of the Federal Chancellery/ Directeur général de la Chancellerie Fédérale

AZERBAIJAN / AZERBAÏDJAN

- Mr Iltima MAMMADOV, Deputy Minister of Communications and IT / Vice-ministre des communications et des technologies de l’information

BELGIUM / BELGIQUE

BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA / BOSNIE-HERZÉGOVINE

- Mr Damir HADŽIĆ, Minister of Communications and Transport / Ministre des transports et de la communication

BULGARIA / BULGARIE

- Mr Danail PAPAZOV, Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communications / Ministre des transports, des technologies de l’information et de la communication

- Mr Georgi TODOROV, Deputy Minister of Communications and IT / Vice-ministre de la communication et des technologies de l’information

CROATIA / CROATIE

- Mr Milan ŽIVKOVIĆ, Head Advisor, Communication Policy at the Ministry of Culture / Conseiller principal sur les politiques de communication, Ministère de la culture

CYPRUS / CHYPRE

- Ms Eleonora GAVRIELIDES, Director, Press and Information Office / Directrice, Bureau de la presse et de l’information

CZECH REPUBLIC / RÉPUBLIQUE TCHÈQUE

- Mr Artus REJENT, Director, Media and Audiovisual Department, Ministry of Culture / Directeur, Service des médias et de l’audiovisuel, Ministère de la culture

DENMARK / DANEMARK

- Mr Jesper HERMANSEN, Head of Department, Ministry of Culture / Chef de service, Ministère de la culture

ESTONIA / ESTONIE

- Ms Gea RENNAL, Permanent Representative of Estonia to the Council of Europe Europe / Représentante permanente de l’Estonie auprès du Conseil de l’Europe

FINLAND / FINLANDE

- Mr Juhapekka RISTOLA, Director general, Communications Policy Department, Ministry of Transports and Communications / Directeur général, service des politiques de communication, Ministère des transports et de la communication

FRANCE

- Mr Roland HUSSON, Deputy Director for Audio-visual – Ministry Culture and Communication / Sous-Directeur de l’audiovisuel, Ministère de la culture et de la communication

GEORGIA / GÉORGIE

- Mr Aleksandre BARAMIDZE, Deputy Minister of Justice / Vice-ministre de la justice

GERMANY / ALLEMAGNE

- Mr Oliver SCHENK, Adviser, Federal Government, Commissioner for Culture and Media / Conseiller, gouvernement fédéral, Commissariat à la culture et aux médias

GREECE / GRÈCE

- Mr Ioannis PANAGIOTOPOULOS, Secretary General for Mass Media / Secrétaire général aux médias de masse

HUNGARY / HONGRIE

- Ms Monika TARAS, President, National Media and Infocommunications Authority / Présidente, Autorité nationale des médias et de l’infocommunication

ICELAND / ISLANDE

- Ms Karitas H. GUNNARSDOTTIR, Deputy Permanent Secretary – Ministry of Education, Science and Culture / Secrétaire permanente adjointe, Ministère de l’éducation, des sciences et de la culture

IRELAND / IRLANDE

- Mr Éanna O’CONGHAILE, Department of Communications, Energy & Natural Resources / Service de la communication, de l’énergie et des ressources naturelles

ITALY / ITALIE

- Mr Antonio AMENDOLA, Senior Advisor - Ministry of Economics and Development / Conseiller principal, Ministère de l’économie et du développement

LATVIA / LETTONIE

- Ms Aija DULEVSKA, Vice-Chairperson at the National Electronic Mass Media Council / Vice-présidente du Conseil national des médias de masse électroniques

LIECHTENSTEIN

LITHUANIA / LITUANIE

- Mr Romas JAROCKIS, Vice-Minister of Culture / Vice-Ministre de la culture

LUXEMBOURG

- Ms Michèle BRAM, Conseiller de direction 1ère classe, Ministère d’Etat, Service des médias et des communications

MALTA / MALTE

REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA / REPUBLIQUE DE MOLDOVA

MONACO

MONTENEGRO / MONTÉNÉGRO

- Mr Zeljko RUTOVIC, Director of Directorate of Media in Government of Montenegro / Directeur, Direction des médias du gouvernement

NETHERLANDS / PAYS-BAS

- Ms Hermineke Van BOCKXMEER, Director, Department of Media, Literature and Libraries, Ministry of Education, Culture and Science / Directrice, service des médias, de la littérature et des bibliothèques, Ministère de l’éducation, de la culture et des sciences

NORWAY / NORVÈGE

- Mr Olav GUNTVEDT, Assistant Director General – Ministry of Culture / Assistant directeur général, Ministère de la culture

POLAND / POLOGNE

- Mr Michał BONI, Minister of Administration and Digitisation / Ministre de l’administration et de l’informatisation

PORTUGAL

- Mr Pedro RUIVO, Expert- GMCS – Portuguese Media Policies Office / expert – GMCS, Bureau des politiques des médias

ROMANIA / ROUMANIE

RUSSIAN FEDERATION / FÉDÉRATION DE RUSSIE

- Mr Arseniy NEDYAK, Deputy Director, Mass Media Department, Ministry of Communication / Directeur adjoint, service des médias de masse, Ministère de la communication

SAN MARINO / SAINT-MARIN

SERBIA / SERBIE

- Mr Ivica DAČIĆ, Prime Minister / Premier ministre

- Mr Ivan TASOVAC, Minister of Culture and Information / Ministre de la culture et de l’information

- Ms Gordana PREDIĆ, State Secretary, Ministry of Culture and Information / Secrétaire d’Etat, Ministère de la culture et de l’information

- Mr Saša MIRKOVIĆ, State Secretary, Ministry of Culture and Information / Secrétaire d’Etat, Ministère de la culture et de l’information

- Mr Vladimir BOZOVIĆ, State Secretary, Ministry of Interior / Secrétaire d’Etat, Ministère de l’intérieur

SLOVAK REPUBLIC / RÉPUBLIQUE SLOVAQUE

- Mr Ivan SEČIK, State Secretary Ministry of Culture / Secrétaire d’Etat, Ministère de la culture

SLOVENIA / SLOVÉNIE

- Mr Skender ADEM, Secretary, Ministry of Culture / Secrétaire, Ministère de la culture

SPAIN / ESPAGNE

- Mr Salvador, SORIANO MALDONADO, Area Coordinator – Industry, Energy and Tourism Ministry / Coordinateur – Ministère de l’industrie, de l’énergie et du tourisme

SWEDEN / SUÈDE

- Mr Marcus HARTMANN, Deputy State Secretary – Ministry of Culture / Secrétaire d’Etat adjoint, Ministère de la culture et de l’information

SWITZERLAND / SUISSE

- Mr Frédéric RIEHL, Director, Federal Office of Communications / Directeur, Office fédéral de la communication

"THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA" / "L’EX-RÉPUBLIQUE YOUGOSLAVE DE MACÉDOINE"

TURKEY / TURQUIE

- Mr Bülent ARINÇ, Deputy Prime Minister and Spokesperson of the Government / Vice-premier ministre et porte-parole du gouvernement

UKRAINE

- Ms Larysa MUDRAK, Deputy Head, National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council / Chef adjointe, Conseil national de la télévision et de la radiodiffusion

UNITED KINGDOM / ROYAUME-UNI

- Mr Mark CARVELL, Global Internet Governance Policy, Department for Culture, Media and Sport / Politiques de la gouvernance mondiale de l’internet, Département de la culture, des médias et des sports

OBSERVERS / OBSERVATEURS

HOLY SEE / SAINT-SIÈGE

- Mgr Paul TIGHE, Secrétaire du Conseil Pontifical des Communications Sociales

UNITED STATES / ETATS-UNIS

CANADA

JAPAN / JAPON

MEXICO / Mexique

SESSIONS I, II, III IV

MODERATORS – SPEAKERS / MODERATEURS – ORATEURS

Session I: Introduction par M. Ian BROWN, Directeur associé de l’Oxford University’s Cyber Security Centre et chargé de recherche à l’Oxford Internet Institute

Session II: Introduction par Mme Dunja MIJATOVIC, Représentante pour la liberté des médias de l’OSCE

Session III: Introduction par Mme Ingrid DELTENRE, Directrice générale de l’Union européenne de radio-télévision.

Session IV: Introduction par M. Frank LA RUE, Rapporteur spécial des Nations Unies sur la promotion et la protection du droit à la liberté d’opinion et d’expression

INTERNATIONAL ORGANISATIONS / ORGANISATIONS INTERNATIONALES

UNITED NATIONS / ORGANISATIONS DES NATIONS UNIES

- Mr Frank LA RUE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression / Rapporteur spécial des Nations Unies sur la promotion et la protection du droit à la liberté d’opinion et d’expression

UNITED NATIONS EDUCATIONAL, SCIENTIFIC AND CULTURAL ORGANISATION (UNESCO) / ORGANISATION DES NATIONS UNIES POUR L’EDUCATION, LA SCIENCE ET LA CULTURE (UNESCO)

- Ms Adeline HULIN

ORGANISATION FOR ECONOMIC CO-OPERATION AND DEVELOPMENT (OECD) / ORGANISATION POUR LA COOPERATION ET LE DEVELOPPEMENT ECONOMIQUES (OCDE)

- Mr. Yves LETERME, Deputy Secretary General / Secrétaire général adjoint

ORGANISATION FOR SECURITY AND CO-OPERATION IN EUROPE (OSCE) / ORGANISATION POUR LA SECURITE ET LA CO-OPERATION EN EUROPE (OSCE)

- Ms Dunja MIJATOVIC, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media / Représentante pour la liberté des médias de l’OSCE

EUROPEAN UNION / UNION EUROPEENNE

- Ambassador Michael DAVENPORT, Head of the EU Delegation in Serbia / Chef de la délégation de l’Union européenne en Serbie

EUROPEAN COMMISSION / COMMISSION EUROPEENNE

- Mr Maciej TOMASZEWSKI, Policy Officer, DG Connect / Chargé des politiques, DG Connect

FONDAMENTAL RIGHTS AGENCY (FRA) / AGENCE DES DROITS FONDAMENTAUX (FRA)

- Mr Mario OETHEIMER, Head of Sector / Chef de secteur

EUROPEAN BROADCASTING UNION (EBU) / UNION EUROPEENNE DE RADIO-TELEVISION (UER)

- Ms Ingrid DELTENRE, Director General / Directrice générale

COUNCIL OF EUROPE COMMITTEES AND MECHANISMS /

COMITÉS ET MÉCANISMES DU CONSEIL DE L’EUROPE

EUROPEAN COMMITTEE ON LEGAL CO-OPERATION (CDCJ) / COMITÉ EUROPÉEN DE COOPÉRATION JURIDIQUE (CDCJ)

- Mr Eberhard DESCH, Chair of the European Committee on Legal Co-operation, Head of Division of International Law, Federal Ministry of Justice, Germany / Président du Comité européen de coopération juridique, Chef de division, Ministère fédéral de la justice, Allemagne

STEERING COMMITTEE ON MEDIA AND INFORMATION SOCIETY (CDMSI) / COMITE DIRECTEUR SUR LES MEDIAS ET LA SOCIETE DE L’INFORMATION (CDMSI)

- Mr Andris MELLAKAULS, Chair of the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI), Social Integration Department, Ministry of Culture, Latvia / Président du Comité directeur sur les médias et la société de l’information (CDMSI), Service de l’intégration sociale, Ministère de la culture, Lettonie

EUROPEAN COMMITTEE FOR SOCIAL COHESION (CDCS) / COMITE EUROPEEN POUR LA SOHESION SOCIALE (CDCS)

- Mr Alexis RICKENBACH

EUROPEAN AUDIOVISUAL OBSERVATORY / OBSERVATOIRE EUROPEEN DE L’AUDIOVISUEL

- Ms Deirdre KEVIN

ADVISORY COUNCIL OF YOUTH (ACY) / CONSEIL CONSULTATIF DE LA JEUNESSE (ACJ)

- Ms Maria PACHOU, Chairperson / Présidente

CONSULTATIVE COMMITTEE ON DATA PROTECTION (T-PD) / COMITE CONSULTATIF SUR LA PROTECTION DES DONNEES (T-PD)

- Ms Nevena RUZIĆ, Member of the Bureau of the T-PD / membre du Bureau du T-PD

- COUNCIL OF EUROPE / CONSEIL DE L’EUROPE

COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS / COMMISSAIRE AUX DROITS DE L’HOMME

- Mr Nils MUIŽNIEKS, Commissioner for Human Rights / Commissaire aux droits de l’homme

- Ms Isil GACHET, Director of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights / Directrice du Bureau du Commissaire aux droits de l’homme

- Ms Anne WEBER

PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE (PACE) / ASSEMBLEE PARLEMENTAIRE DU CONSEIL DE L’EUROPE (APCE)

- Mr Robert BIEDRON

CONGRESS OF LOCAL AND REGIONAL AUTHORITIES / CONGRES DES POUVOIRS LOCAUX ET REGIONAUX

- Ms Nataliya ROMANOVA, President of the Chamber of Regions / Présidente de la Chambre des régions

CONFERENCE OF INTERNATIONAL NGOs / CONFERENCE DES ONG INTERNATIONALES

- Mr Gabriel NISSIM

SECRETARIAT GENERAL OF THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE / SECRÉTARIAT GÉNÉRAL DU CONSEIL DE L’EUROPE

- Mr Thorbjorn JAGLAND, Secretary General / Secrétaire général

***

DG I - HUMAN RIGHTS AND RULE OF LAW / DG I – DROITS DE L’HOMME ET ÉTAT DE DROIT

- Mr Philippe BOILLAT, Director General / Directeur général

- Mr Jan KLEIJSSEN, Director Information Society and Action against Crime / Directeur, société de l’information et lutte contre la criminalité

Directorate / Direction de la Société de l’information et de la lutte contre la criminalité

- Mr Jan MALINOWSKI

- Ms Silvia GRUNDMANN

- Ms Onur ANDREOTTI

- Ms Loreta VIOIU

- Ms Anne BOYER-DONNARD

- Ms Julia WHITHAM

- Ms Dominique WULFRAN, Assistant, Action against Crime Department / Assistante, service de lutte contre la criminalité

PRIVATE OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY GENERAL AND OF THE DEPUTY SECRETARY GENERAL / CABINET DU SECRÉTAIRE GÉNÉRAL ET DE LA SECRÉTAIRE GÉNÉRALE ADJOINTE

- Mr Matjas GRUDEN

- Ms Valérie POPPE-MUESS

PROTOCOL / PROTOCOLE

- Mme Isabelle FLECKSTEINER, Protocol Officer / agente chargée du protocole

DIRECTORATE OF COMMUNICATION / DIRECTION DE LA COMMUNICATION

- Mr Daniel HÖLTGEN, Director of Communication and Spokesperson for the Secretary General and the Deputy Secretary General / Directeur de la communication et porte-parole du Secrétaire général et de la Secrétaire générale adjointe

- Mr Jaime RODRIGUEZ MURPHY

DIRECTORATE OF PROGRAMME, FINANCE AND LINGUISTIC SERVICES / DIRECTION DU PROGRAMME, DES FINANCES ET DES SERVICES LINGUISTIQUES

- Ms Sally BAILEY-RAVET, Head of the Interpretation Department and Chief Interpreter / Chef du service de l’interprétation

INTERPRETERS / INTERPRÈTES

Ms Sarah ADLINGTON 

Ms Pascale BALDAUF

Mr. Christian KODERHOLD 

Mr. Dominique LEVEILLÉ 

Mr Alexei MILKO 

Ms Manuela MOLINARI

Mr Pavel PALAZHCHENKO

Mme Noemi PLASTINO 

Ms Julia TANNER 

M. Alexander ZIGO

Appendix 3 – Programme

Freedom of Expression and Democracy in the Digital Age – Opportunities, Rights, Responsibilities

7 and 8 November 2013

Belgrade, Hotel Metropol Palace

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Opening session of the Conference

All plenary meetings will be in the Ivo Andrić ballroom

9.00-9.30

Opening of the conference

Address by Mr Ivica DAČIĆ, Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia

Address by Mr Thorbjørn JAGLAND, Secretary General of the Council of Europe

9.30-10.00

Election of the Chairperson and the Vice-Chairperson of the Conference

Adoption of the Agenda

Address by Mr Hrair TOVMASYAN, Minister of Justice of the Republic of Armenia, on behalf of the Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe

Address by Ms Nataliya ROMANOVA, President of the Chamber of Regions of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

Address by Ambassador Michael DAVENPORT, on behalf of the European Union

10.00-10.30

Keynote speech: Freedom of Expression and Democracy in the Digital Age – Opportunities, Rights, Responsibilities

by Mr Nils MUIŽNIEKS, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

10.30-11.00

Coffee break / Photo

11.00-12.30

Ministerial session I:

Access to the Internet and fundamental rights

Introductory remarks by Mr. Ian BROWN, Associate Director of Oxford University’s Cyber Security Centre and Senior Research Fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute

Parallel Session:

Nikola Tesla Room A

Multi-stakeholder dialogue: How do we address the current threats to journalism? (Sub-theme 2)

Moderator: Mr Matthias TRAIMER, Director of the department of Media Affairs and the Coordination of the Information Society, Austrian Federal Chancellery.

12.30-14.00

• Luncheon hosted by Mr Thorbjørn JAGLAND, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, for Ministers and Heads of Delegations

• Buffet lunch offered by the host country to other participants

14.00-15.30

Ministerial session II:

How do we address the current threats to journalism?

Introductory remarks by Ms Dunja MIJATOVIC, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media

Parallel Session:

Nikola Tesla Room A

Multi-stakeholder dialogue:

Pluralism, diversity and quality in the new media ecosystem – opportunities and risks (Sub-theme 3)

Moderator: Ms Maja RAKOVIC, Vice-Chairperson of the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society of the Council of Europe

15.30-16.00

Coffee break

16.00-17.30

Ministerial session III:

Salle Ivo Andrić

Pluralism, diversity and quality in the new media ecosystem – opportunities and risks

Introductory remarks by Ms Ingrid DELTENRE, Director general of the European Broadcasting Union

Parallel Session:

Nikola Tesla Room B

Multi-stakeholder dialogue: Access to the Internet and fundamental rights (Sub-theme 1)

Moderator Dr. Marianne Franklin, Internet Rights & Principles Coalition –UN IGF / Goldsmiths – University of London

    18:30 - Reception hosted by Mr Ivan Tasovac, Minister of Culture and Information at the Palace of Serbia

    21:30 Ballet “Who Is Singing Out There” (“Ko to tamo peva”) at the National Theatre, Belgrade.

Friday, 8 November 2013

9.00-10.30

Ministerial session IV:

Ministerial dialogue including all stakeholders

“Hate speech on-line”

Conclusions of the Council of Europe Conference on “Hate factor in political speech – Where do responsibilities lie?” by Mr Michał BONI, Minister of Administration and Digitisation (Poland)

Introductory remarks: Mr Frank LA RUE, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, United Nations

10.30-11.00

Coffee break

Closing session of the Conference

11.00-11.30

Report from the multi-stakeholder dialogue: Access to the Internet and fundamental rights

Stocktaking – The Road Ahead (The future activities of the Council of Europe in media and information society fields: orientation and priorities)

By Mr Andris MELLAKAULS, Chairman of the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society of the Council of Europe

11.30-12.00

Adoption by the Ministers of a Political Declaration and Resolutions

12.30-13.00

Closing remarks by Mr Philippe BOILLAT, Director General, Directorate General of Human Rights and Rule of Law, Council of Europe and the Conference Chairperson

13.00

Buffet lunch offered by the host country to participants

Appendix 4

Interpretative Statement of the Russian Federation at the adoption of the final documents of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and Information Society

The delegation of the Russian Federation, driven by the desire to preserve the spirit of cooperation and consensus in the ranks of the Council of Europe Member States, considers it possible to support the amended compromise version of the final documents of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for media and information society.

At the same time, we believe that the documents of the Ministerial Conference do not fully reflect the essential principle of the balance of rights and responsibilities in the information space, extolling the freedom of mass media, cyberspace and all of its actors and downplaying the importance of reasonable restrictions and supervision by the State. In such a position, in our view, lies a great threat to society. One of the main tasks of government is to protect citizens from unlawful and immoral content. We believe that the chaotic and uncontrolled flow of information can cause huge damage to all, especially the most vulnerable categories of citizens, in particular children.

Supporting the sovereign right of States to regulate their national segment of the Internet and media activity in their territories, we believe that, exercised within reasonable limits, it is the key to a well-balanced and safe media landscape and cyberspace.

We believe that the documents of the Conference cannot be considered or interpreted, even in the form of recommendations, as giving any special legal status to bloggers, human rights defenders, whistle-blowers or other "persons performing journalistic activities or public watchdog functions", as well as to the so-called "new media", which is merely a tool for certain individuals to exercise their right to freedom of expression.

This category is not only very arbitrary, but has no basis in binding international legal instruments. Provision of such privileges to a specific group, is not consistent with the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (which recognises all people as equal) and undermines the concept of professional, quality and ethical journalism.

Based on this view, we are convinced that a range of rights of Internet users put forward in the documents of the Conference cannot be considered and addressed in isolation from the obligations of Internet users and the availability of certain legal regulators of their activities. The specificity of cyberspace requires a more detailed approach, rather than wholesale transplantation of the existing international legal regime to cyberspace activities. This approach must be developed on the basis of consensus (which was, unfortunately, lacking during the preparation of documents for the Conference).

While fully acknowledging the right of Internet users to freedom of expression, we do not appreciate attempts of one-sided interpretation of opportunities provided by the Internet, which was originally created for the exchange of information and knowledge. It is puzzling when such crucial goals as combating cybercrime, terrorism and sexual exploitation of children are relegated to the bottom of the list, whereas the exaggerated importance of using the Internet for "discontent and protest" is emphasized at the very top. We stress the inadmissibility of absolutising a principle that is potentially dangerous to social and political stability.

The role of the ECtHR, while substantial, should also not be misinterpreted. The Russian Federation reaffirms its position that the decisions of the Court are only legally binding vis-a-vis the parties of a specific case, and do not automatically create universal "standards".

Finally, it is outside the Council of Europe’s competence to create and codify a terminology in the field of information and communications technologies – this task should be performed by specialised organisations, such as the International Telecommunications Union. On that account we do not consider the Conference’s final documents as legally defining new terms in this sphere.

We declare that these documents are applicable to the Russian Federation only insofar as their compatibility with the Russian Federation’s Constitution, Federal legislation and international treaty obligations.

1 This document has been classified restricted until examination by the Committee of Ministers.

2 The delegation of the United Kingdom made a statement, see p.4.



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