The Council of Europe, in cooperation with the Ministry of Culture and Information of the Republic of Serbia, organised in Belgrade on 7 - 8 November a Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and Information Society on “Freedom of Expression and Democracy in the Digital Age: Opportunities, rights, responsibilities”.
The ministers adopted at the conference three resolutions mapping out the future work of the Council of Europe in the field of freedom of expression.
In the Resolution on Internet Freedom, the ministers emphasise the social and economic benefits that Internet creates in enhancing democratic processes. Interfering with access to the Internet can undermine participation in this process and affect the dissemination of information and expression in the public interest. Freedom of the Internet includes preserving the Internet’s open architecture, supported and enhanced by open standards. At the same time, the ministers resolve to protect people from the risks encountered on the Internet, in particular by fighting cybercrime, sexual abuse and exploitation of children, gender based discrimination and any form of hate speech. However, all measures, including blocking and filtering, that might interfere with people’s freedom to access to the Internet must be taken in compliance with international human rights law.
In the Resolution on Preserving the essential role of media in the digital age the ministers express their concern that media pluralism and diversity in the digital age can be threatened by excessive media concentration and by State interference. The ministers consider 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. The ministers emphasise that the constant development and convergence of technologies (e.g. with connected television) leads to new forms of distribution and control over content and also raises concerns about the protection of children. The preservation of the essential role of media in the digital age justifies, on one hand further support for a well-funded, independent, high quality and ethical public service media and, on the other hand, non-profit community media capable of addressing the specific needs of various communities.
In the Resolution on Safety of journalists, the ministers strongly condemn physical attacks, intimidation and misuse of power of the State, including unlawful monitoring of communications and other forms of harassment of journalists and other media actors.
The ministers propose, among other actions, to:
The conference website also provide many relevant documents such as speakers presentations, preparatory papers and additional documents related to the media freedom field.