Declaration of the Committee of Ministers
on measures to promote the respect of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 13 January 2010
at the 1074th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)
Freedom of expression and information, including freedom of the media, are indispensable for genuine democracy and democratic processes. When those freedoms are not upheld, accountability is likely to be undermined and the rule of law can also be compromised. All Council of Europe member states have undertaken to secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information, in accordance with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom 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 enterprises.
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 by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”
The enforcement mechanism provided for in the European Convention on Human Rights, namely the European Court of Human Rights, operates in relation to alleged violations of Article 10 brought before the Court after exhaustion of domestic remedies. This mechanism, together with the execution procedure, has achieved considerable results and continues to contribute to improving respect for the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information.
In addition to redress for violations, other means for the protection and promotion of freedom of expression and information and of freedom of the media are essential components of any strategy to strengthen democracy. The Council of Europe has adopted a significant body of standards in this area which give guidance to member states. It is important to strengthen the implementation of those standards in the law and practice of member states. The promotion of the respect of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights is therefore a priority area for Council of Europe action. It requires the active support, engagement and co-operation of all member states.
Various Council of Europe bodies and institutions are able, within their respective mandates, to contribute to the protection and promotion of freedom of expression and information and of freedom of the media. The Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Secretary General, the Commissioner for Human Rights and other bodies are all active in this area. The action taken by other institutions, such as the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, as well as civil society organisations, must also be acknowledged and welcomed.
The Committee of Ministers welcomes the proposals made by the Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services (CDMC) to increase the potential for Council of Europe bodies and institutions to promote, within their respective mandates, respect of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In line with those proposals, the Committee of Ministers invites the Secretary General to make arrangements for improved collection and sharing of information and enhanced co-ordination between the secretariats of the different Council of Europe bodies and institutions, without prejudice to their respective mandates and to the independence of those bodies and institutions.
The Committee of Ministers calls on all member states to co-operate with the relevant bodies and institutions of the Council of Europe in ensuring compliance of national law and practice with the relevant standards of the Council of Europe, guided by a spirit of dialogue and co-operation.
The Secretary General is further invited to report to the Committee of Ministers and to the Parliamentary Assembly on the implementation of these arrangements and to conduct within three years an evaluation on their functioning and effectiveness.