Press release - 607(2006)

Democracy needs freedom, says PACE President at the Forum for the Future of Democracy in Moscow

Moscow, 18.10.2006 - “Journalistic freedom being one of the pillars of democracy, state authorities are responsible not only for the legal framework for journalism, but also for the general climate in which journalists are working. They must create conditions for journalists to work freely and independently,” said René van der Linden, President of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), at the opening of the Forum for the Future of Democracy in Moscow, which is examining the role of political parties in democracy-building.

“We cannot accept a situation where the most courageous individuals make themselves possible targets because of their commitment to the principle of the freedom of media,” he said, praising the work of assassinated journalist Anna Politkovskaya. He called on the Russian authorities carry out a thorough investigation in order to bring those responsible to justice.

“Democracy needs freedom: freedom of thought and conscience, freedom of assembly and association, the freedom to vote in free and fair elections and, above all, freedom of information and expression. We must unconditionally respect our fundamental values and freedoms in all circumstances,” Mr van der Linden said, stressing the crucial importance of the freedom of media as an essential public corrective mechanism of political life.

The PACE President reminded participants that it was the politicians’ role to uphold these common values even against the public will. “The death penalty is unacceptable, even if, in many countries, it still has wide support,” he said, underlining the unique role of the Council of Europe in assisting all its members to respect its core values of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

“As regards the essential human values of integrity, honesty and compassion, we politicians must be an example to our citizens, both in private and public life. Lies and corruption damage the very foundations of our democracies, because they destroy the vital link of trust between the people and those who govern in their name,” he argued. He also called for politicians to fight for their ideas and programmes – not for their jobs. Other key factors with regard to the role of political parties in democracy-building were fair and free elections, respect for the diversity of political opinions and respect of the opposition as well as close contact with civil society.

Mr van der Linden also stressed the need for party-building at a ‘transnational level’. “If political issues go global, political parties cannot afford not to,” he said.

Link to the speech

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