AS (2018) CR 14
2018 ORDINARY SESSION
Wednesday 25 April 2018 at 10 a.m.
In this report:
1. Speeches in English are reported in full.
2. Speeches in other languages are reported using the interpretation and are marked with an asterisk.
3. The text of the amendments is available at the document centre and on the Assembly’s website. Only oral amendments or oral sub-amendments are reproduced in the report of debates
4. Speeches in German and Italian are reproduced in full in a separate document.
5. Corrections should be handed in at Room 1059A not later than 24 hours after the report has been circulated.
The contents page for this sitting is given at the end of the report.
(Mr Nicoletti, President of the Assembly, took the Chair at 10.05 a.m.)
The PRESIDENT – The sitting is open.
1. Communication from Mr Anders Samuelsen, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers
The PRESIDENT – We now come to the communication from Mr Anders Samuelsen, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers. After his address, Mr Samuelsen will take questions from the floor.
Minister, this will be the last plenary session where you address us in your capacity as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe. Let me therefore congratulate you on your achievements so far, and thank you and the Danish authorities for the excellent co-operation during these six months. The programme of the Danish chairmanship was extremely rich in activities and outcomes. The Assembly was associated with, and contributed to, a number of those.
Let me highlight just two events. The first was the conference to discuss equal opportunities and rights in private and family life for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people, which was organised in Copenhagen by the Danish chairmanship and the Assembly’s Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination. The second was the high-level conference, “Continued Reform of the European Human Rights Convention System – Better Balance, Improved Protection”, which I personally attended. Both conferences were good examples of intra-institutional co-operation and were serious international platforms where the views of all key stakeholders were heard. The Assembly looks forward to continuing to work with the Danish chairmanship, as well as future chairmanships of the Committee of Ministers, on the follow-ups to those initiatives. You can count on our political support, expertise and constructive co-operation.
On a personal note, allow me to thank Ambassador Arnold de Fine Skibsted, the Chairman of the Ministers’ Deputies, with whom we enjoy excellent co-operation.
Minister, I give you the floor.
Mr SAMUELSEN (Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark and Chairman of the Committee of Ministers) – Mr President, Mr Secretary General and members of the Parliamentary Assembly, I am very happy to be back in Strasbourg to address you, the Assembly, for the second time in my capacity as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers.
In January, when I last spoke to you, I presented the programme and priorities for our chairmanship. Coming back three months later, as we have a few weeks left of the Danish chairmanship, gives me the opportunity to take stock of our work so far. I would also like to brief you on the work done by the Committee of Ministers since your last session.
I will begin with the main priority of the Danish chairmanship: continued reform of the European human rights system. On 13 April, at a high-level conference in Copenhagen, all 47 member States of the Council of Europe adopted a political declaration on continued reform of the European human rights system. With the Copenhagen Declaration we strengthened the commitment of all member States to respect basic human rights. The Copenhagen Declaration makes it clear that the primary responsibility for guaranteeing human rights rests with the governments, parliaments and courts of law of member States. At the same time, we will improve the ability of the European Court of Human Rights to do its work in a more effective and balanced way. The European Court of Human Rights must be in a position to ensure the highest protection of fundamental rights. The Copenhagen Declaration will help secure that vital role of the Court.
Importantly, we have also underlined the need for increased dialogue between all stakeholders on our respective roles and on the development of human rights. We thereby anchor the development of human rights solidly in our European democracy, ensuring stronger support and ownership of human rights. In addition to the work on the main priority, we have also produced important results in relation to our four other priorities. First, on the priority of people with disabilities, we have put a focus on raising awareness of the rights, life conditions and potential of persons with disabilities. That is an important step in the process of breaking down the barriers of bias and changing attitudes towards people with disabilities.
Secondly, on the priority of children and youth in democracy, we have acknowledged the immense challenges that our democracy faces today with regard to misinformation and the rise of anti-democratic forces. Those challenges are best addressed with an educated youth, willing and able to take part in the democratic debate. The initiatives you have taken in the Assembly to engage young people in your work are highly appreciated. On Monday and Tuesday this week, our chairmanship hosted a successful conference on this issue in Copenhagen, which gives hope for a brighter future.
Thirdly, the fight against torture has been and will continue to be a key priority for Denmark. At a seminar in March in Copenhagen, good examples regarding the prevention of torture and ill treatment from all over Europe were identified. These will now be shared with all member States as a source of inspiration for national initiatives. We must constantly work towards a world in which torture is globally considered as unacceptable. Denmark will continue to be actively involved in the ongoing fight against torture.
Lastly, the chairmanship has worked intensively on the priority of equal opportunities. In March, the chairmanship co-hosted a conference on private and family life in LGBTI people together with you in the Parliamentary Assembly. We are very grateful for your co-operation. Tomorrow, we will co-host a barbershop conference here in Strasbourg with our Icelandic colleagues. It will focus on involving men in combating sexism in public. Furthermore, the new gender equality strategy of the Council of Europe will be launched at a conference at the beginning of May in Copenhagen. As her Royal Highness the Crown Princess of Denmark said when she addressed you in January, striving for equality is not only the right thing to do – it is the smart thing to do. The work continues and Denmark continues to be an active supporter for all countries joining the fight for equal opportunities.
Dear members of the Assembly, in my last address, I mentioned the challenging times facing the Council of Europe due to the financial situation of the Organisation and the non-participation of some member States. Regarding the financial situation of the Organisation, the Committee of Ministers shares the deep concern expressed by the Assembly in the recommendation that you adopted in March. This matter is at the top of the committee’s agenda, given its potential impact on what our Organisation can achieve. The committee and the Secretary General follow the situation closely and are determined to use all means available to ensure that the Council of Europe can continue its important mandate effectively. In this regard, the non-payment by the Russian Federation of the balance of its obligatory contributions for 2017 and the first instalment for 2018 has been discussed by the Committee of Ministers on a number of occasions. The legal obligation to pay these contributions has been underlined in this context and no member State can be exempted. The Committee of Ministers strongly hopes that the Russian Federation will rapidly fulfil this obligation so that the situation can return to normal.
In relation to Turkey’s decision to end its status as a major contributor to our Organisation, the committee has adopted a number of decisions to adjust the programme for 2018 and 2019 accordingly. In this context, I note the ongoing work of the ad hoc committee of the Bureau on the role and mission of the Parliamentary Assembly and I hope that it will produce tangible results. The Danish chairmanship thanks the presidency of the Assembly for keeping the committee informed of the progress made.
I should also like to comment briefly on the independent investigation body’s recent report on the allegations of corruption within the Assembly. This is a matter for the Assembly itself, but given the impact of these allegations on the image of the organisation as a whole, the Committee of Ministers will pay particular attention to the follow-up that we will be giving to the reports. Corruption is completely unacceptable. A tough approach towards members of the Assembly who do not respect that point is crucial.
Ladies and gentlemen, when it comes to the work of the Committee of Ministers, I first mention the fight against terrorism. Last March, we experienced another terrorist attack in France. This horrible attack reminds us of the importance of the Council of Europe. The committee recently adopted a recommendation on terrorists acting alone. That timely recommendation addresses the returning terrorist fighters and lone wolf terror attacks in Europe. The chairmanship encourages member States to learn from it, in particular regarding how to detect radicalised individuals who may resort to terrorism and how to strengthen international co-operation. Earlier this month, the Committee of Ministers adopted decisions to promote the draft resolution on suspension of the use of the death penalty, to be adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations through the active involvement of the national delegations of member States in New York. This is a clear demonstration that the global repeal of the death penalty continues to be a priority for the Committee of Ministers. Since your last session, the Committee of Ministers has taken a number of decisions concerning the situation in various member States.
The Committee of Ministers approved in March an ambitious action plan to continue providing assistance to Ukraine for the period 2018 to 2021. In this context, the situation in Crimea and eastern Ukraine cannot be ignored. The Committee of Ministers has repeatedly spoken out in support of the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders. Further, the Committee of Ministers has approved a new neighbourhood partnership with Morocco and Tunisia for 2018 to 2021.
Let me make a few remarks on the conclusion of our chairmanship and the road ahead of us. In a few weeks, on 17 and 18 May, the Danish chairmanship will host the 128th ministerial session in Helsingør at Hamlet’s famous castle, Kronborg. At this session we will have a thematic discussion of the future of the Council of Europe, which is both highly relevant and timely. I hope for a successful meeting with the participation of many of my colleagues from around Europe. This discussion in Helsingør will be the start of the road towards the 70th anniversary of the Council of Europe next year, with a focus on securing a better and more effective Council of Europe. The President of the Assembly has been invited to the session, and the Danish authorities and the chairmanship will be pleased to welcome him in Helsingør.
I thank the Assembly and its members for the excellent co-operation during our chairmanship. In Helsingør, we will hand over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers to Croatia. I assure Croatia of our support throughout its chairmanship and wish it every success and the best of luck.
Denmark is a strong supporter of the Council of Europe’s important work for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. Soon we will no longer be chair, but we will continue to support this important work, doing our part to secure a strong and relevant Council of Europe in the future.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you very much Mr Samuelsen.
We will now proceed to questions. I remind members that questions must be limited to 30 seconds and no more. Colleagues should be asking questions and not making speeches.
The first question is by Mr Omtzigt.
Mr OMTZIGT (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – I thank you, Minister and chairman, for your clear priorities, and I appreciate the work you have been doing. You point out that there is a problem with corruption among the members here and that you follow closely what we do to solve it, but there are on the one hand the people who were corrupted, who are certain members of this Assembly, and on the other hand there is the country that corrupted, Azerbaijan, which is a member of the Council of Ministers. Azerbaijan was mentioned 942 times in the report; what will the Committee of Ministers do to figure out whether Azerbaijan has corrupted members here and whether it will stop, and what actions will it take against that country?
Mr SAMUELSEN – The Committee of Ministers has never permitted, and will never permit, corruption. On the contrary, the committee has constantly underlined the fact that corruption poses a major threat to the core values defended by our organisation, in particular the rule of law. When seized of the allegations of corruption within the Assembly last year, the committee adopted a series of decisions in which it underlined the need for a full and fair investigation into the allegations, as they affected the reputation of the Council of Europe as a whole. The committee welcomed the Assembly’s decision to establish the Independent External Investigation Body to look into the allegations and urged member States to fully co-operate with the investigation in accordance with applicable national law. It is now for your Assembly to decide on how to follow up on the investigation body report published last Sunday, which relates in particular to individual cases and recommended amendments to the Rules of Procedure or the code of conduct. We will closely follow the action that you take in this regard. On the recommendations on institutional matters, we expect to be consulted on and involved in an appropriate follow-up.
Ms ÆVARSDÓTTIR (Iceland, Spokesperson for the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group) – Last year, you described the motivation behind what was to become the Copenhagen Declaration, and it was your perception that the Danish people resented that the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights prevents you from expelling foreign prisoners from Denmark: the first draft of the Copenhagen Declaration was deemed to undermine the independence and impartiality of the courts, and the final version, although better, still runs that risk. How do you justify allowing apparently purely domestic motivations to guide your work while entrusted with the leadership of our precious international organisation?
Mr SAMUELSEN – Two weeks ago, 47 member States adopted the Copenhagen Declaration. The draft declaration went through several phases, which is only natural. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe was represented by your President, Mr Nicoletti, and I thank you for your active participation in the Copenhagen high-level conference. The conference was an important opportunity for member States to reaffirm their commitment to the European Convention on Human Rights. Judging by the high attendance by Ministers, I think it was a real success in that sense. In the Copenhagen Declaration, we have developed a clear vision for a more effective, focused and balanced convention system, and this opens a very positive perspective for the future of the convention system. In the Copenhagen declaration, we also underlined the need for increased dialogue on both a juridical and a political level. This will anchor the development of human rights more solidly in our European democracies and ensure an increased ownership, which was the aim of the Danish chairmanship. We can all be proud of the result achieved. We must now proceed to implement the measures introduced rapidly and effectively.
Mr GONCHARENKO (Ukraine, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – The supply of Russian natural gas to European customers and the monopoly position of Russian company Gazprom in the European gas market are very dangerous instruments in the hybrid war waged by the Russian Federation against the civilised world. Do you agree that the implementation of Nord Stream II will provide the Russian Federation with even more instruments in its fight against the freedoms and human rights on our continent? I pay special thanks to Denmark for your firm position on this issue; please do not give up.
Mr SAMUELSEN – The Novichok attack on Mr Skripal and his daughter has been discussed by the Ministers’ Deputies, including again last week. I also note that a number of member States’ foreign ministers have issued statements on this issue. Many member States have expressed serious concerns in view of the fact that this was the first nerve agent attack in Europe since the Second World War, in clear violation of international law. The circumstances under which the attacks were carried out clearly exposed a number of people to significant danger. A number of member States have taken extremely seriously the United Kingdom Government’s assessment that it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible. The Russian delegation has expressed its position in response. Our thoughts are with the victims of this outrageous attack. We wish them a full and speedy recovery.
As far as the Nord Stream II project is concerned, this matter does not fall within the competence of the Council of Europe or the Committee of Ministers. I therefore have no comments to make on behalf of the committee, and the Danish Government has not yet made up its mind.
Ms de BRUIJN-WEZEMAN (Netherlands, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – Thank you, Mr Samuelsen, for answering our questions at the Assembly today. I have a question on behalf of the ALDE group. Last week, we received notification that the Committee of Ministers was informed about a deputy Secretary General accepting an offer of €600 000 from Qatar, in relation to Qatar’s organisation of the football World Cup in 2022, and spending that money on the Council of Europe. Will you tell me the reaction of the Committee of Ministers to the Qatar offer?
Mr SAMUELSEN – I understand that representatives of Qatar visited Strasbourg and had meetings with the deputy Secretary General and the Secretariat. As host to the football World Cup in 2022, they want to learn about European standards in football safety, security and services, as well as about the different national experiences of European countries. They also expressed a strong interest in engaging in a more systematic co-operation programme with the Council of Europe, which should ensure that the provisions of the Council of Europe Convention on an Integrated Safety, Security and Service Approach at Football Matches and Other Sports Events, are effectively integrated in the relevant legislation, policy and practice of Qatar.
As a follow-up, Qatar last month signed a bilateral agreement of technical co-operation with the Council of Europe on the framework of the convention. We welcome its readiness to adopt our standards. Hopefully, a successful implementation of the co-operation programme should guarantee that European supporters, football players and those in charge who will travel in 2022 to Qatar for the World Cup will enjoy the same safety, security, service standards and conditions that they have in Europe. Ultimately, this work may also lead to the accession of Qatar to the convention. In addition, this co-operation should provide a platform for us to promote the adoption of other relevant standards and norms in Qatar in the course of its preparation for the FIFA 2022 world cup.
Mr VILLUMSEN (Denmark, Spokesperson for the Unified European Left) – The main priority of the Danish chairmanship has been the adoption of the Copenhagen Declaration. The declaration calls on member States to voluntarily make contributions to the European Court of Human Rights. This will be extremely important in ensuring the necessary resources to bring down the caseload. Will the Danish Government follow the call of the Copenhagen Declaration and give a voluntary contribution to the Court?
Mr SAMUELSEN – The short answer is that we have not decided on that yet.
Ms GAMBARO (Italy, Spokesperson for the Free Democrats Group)* – Thank you for your speech, Mr Samuelsen. You rightly mention the ad hoc committee on the mission and role of our Assembly. To what extent do you think it could be an important tool that will have an impact, improving dialogue and democracy at this difficult time?
Mr SAMUELSEN – The outcome of the discussions will be very interesting. We note there will be another meeting this week in Strasbourg. We will follow the results of that work and look forward to the concrete proposals, and then think how to follow up on them.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. That concludes the questions on behalf of the political groups. We will now take three questions together.
Ms BLONDIN (France)* – The situation in Gaza is of extremely grave concern. 40 Palestinians have been killed and hundreds of others have been wounded by gunshot on the frontier between the Gaza Strip and Israel. On 15 May, the 70th anniversary of the Naqba, we expect that there will be a lot of demonstrations. How will the Committee of Ministers respond to this situation?
Mr KIRAL (Ukraine) – The policy of appeasement and invitation to dialogue with the Russian Federation, led by most of the Presidents and the Secretary General of this Organisation, has failed. On the contrary, we have seen the failure of the Russian Federation to pay its financial contribution, the poisoning in the United Kingdom, the degrading of the ECHR mandate in the Russian Federation by the Russian constitutional court, serial atrocities, and the elections in the illegally annexed Crimea. Do you think it is time for a more radical stance on the Russian Federation?
Mr R HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – In my opinion, the most correct form of relationship with anyone is through dialogue as a discussion of details. However, it is strange that we have for several years been observing an indifferent attitude to this principle in the Council of Europe. Despite Belarus being a European country, we have for several years not permitted it in the Council of Europe. The same approach will draw the Russian Federation out of the Organisation. With the same approach, there is a danger of a slight extension of that list. Such a radical approach cannot be right. It is always easier to correct the one who is nearby. Does the Committee of Ministers realise that such breaks from the Organisation have generated and will generate not only financial problems, but a more serious crisis as a whole?
Mr SAMUELSEN – First, the question of the situation in Gaza does not fall within the remit of the Council of Europe. Although it has not been discussed within the Committee of Ministers, I strongly hope that the situation will improve rapidly. The recent events have unfortunately caused many victims, and one can only express sadness and sorrow at all the suffering endured by people there. The resort to force must take place in accordance with international law and should be proportionate at all times.
On the second question, as I indicated in my speech, we are faced with an unprecedented budgetary situation and the non-payment by the Russian Federation of the balance of its obligatory contribution for 2017 and the first instalment for 2018. This is a very serious matter. The Committee of Ministers is therefore closely following the situation, and the Russian Federation’s obligations have been recalled in this context. I sincerely hope that this situation will be remedied soon. I reiterate the appeal to the Russian Federation to fulfil its obligations. As I said, this is crucial for the Organisation, both for its functioning and for the status of the Russian Federation within the Organisation.
On Azerbaijan, I strongly believe in dialogue, but the Council of Europe is a community of values – values on which member States have agreed to co-operate and values which are to guide their actions. In this context, I refer to the preamble of the Statute of the Organisation, which underlines member States’ “devotion to the spiritual and moral values which are the common heritage of their peoples and the true source of individual freedom, political liberty and the rule of law, principles which form the basis of all genuine democracy”. This is the paradigm of our common action and this must be our common ambition within the Council of Europe.
Of course we cannot expect all States to attain this objective instantly and in a uniform way. Each country has its own history, social fabric, economic environment and traditions. This must be taken into account, and the Council of Europe has a duty to assist its member States in securing high standards regarding human rights, democracy and the rule of law. However, the differences that may exist between States cannot justify their departure from commitments and obligations linked to their membership of the Council of Europe – commitments and obligations that they have voluntarily undertaken.
I will mention a few principles that cannot be subject to any exemptions. The first one is the abolition of the death penalty. Belarus has been mentioned, and that is clearly a requirement that needs to be fulfilled by this country. I will also mention the requirement to secure fundamental rights such as political freedoms – including the right to free and fair elections, freedom of expression and of the media and freedom of assembly – and the fight against torture and modern slavery, and the principle of no punishment without law.
One of the questions implied that we drove the Russian Federation out of the Organisation. That is certainly not the case as the Russian Federation is a member of the Council of Europe, although I acknowledge that it is not taking part in the work of this Assembly for the time being; at the same time, it is most unfortunate that the Russian Federation has not paid its obligatory contribution to the Council of Europe ordinary budget.
Ms McCARTHY (United Kingdom) – It is very welcome that all 47 countries agreed the Copenhagen Declaration earlier this month, especially the reaffirmation of the concept of shared responsibility between the national and European levels so that the conventional standards are protected at the national level, I note the minister’s positive words, but does he really believe that all 47 countries will implement the declaration?
Ms CSÖBÖR (Hungary)* – The Copenhagen Declaration on the reform of the European Convention on Human Rights system has been adopted formally but the path leading to that agreement was quite difficult. The original text was changed substantially in the course of the negotiations. To what extent is the Danish chairmanship satisfied with the definitive text as adopted?
The PRESIDENT – Mr Aktay is not here, so I call Mr Sabella.
Mr SABELLA (Palestine, Partner for Democracy) – I reiterate Ms Blondin’s remarks on Gaza. Despite the non-relevance of the Council of Europe in these political affairs, I nevertheless ask the minister whether European States should not do more to advance and propel the peace process for a two-State solution in Israel and Palestine. Thank you, Mr Minister.
Mr SAMUELSEN – We certainly expect all 47 member States to implement fully the agreement reached in Copenhagen. What else should we believe in? We work together, we compromise, we find solutions and then, of course, we expect that everyone will implement afterwards. As for how satisfied we are with the conclusions, we are in fact very satisfied with the outcome of the Copenhagen process. Negotiating an agreement between 47 countries on reform of the European human rights system is not an easy task. Nevertheless, we succeeded in adopting an ambitious text introducing relevant and necessary reforms. We, as we are all politicians, know that you cannot have everything when you have to make a compromise, but taking into account the fact that 47 member States had to agree on the same text, I think that the outcome of our work in Copenhagen is admirable. We are definitely satisfied.
On Palestine, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict does not fall within the remit of the Council of Europe. I can only refer the honourable parliamentarian to the relevant United Nations resolutions and call on everyone to work towards peace and stability in the region through a negotiated solution. On a different note, I would like to recall that the Council of Europe agreed on priorities for co-operation with Palestine aimed at assisting with the consolidation of democratic institutions. The state of implementation of these activities will be reviewed by the Committee of Ministers before the end of this year.
Ms CHRISTOFFERSEN (Norway) – Your Excellency, in your answer to my question in January, you emphasised that the Danish chairmanship wished to strengthen co-operation between member States on human rights work in the disability field, focusing on changing attitudes. Do you know whether your initiative has led to any kind of response, positive or negative, among and within our member States? Thank you.
The PRESIDENT – Ms Kasimati is not here, so I call Lord Foulkes.
Lord FOULKES (United Kingdom) – Mr Samuelsen, this Assembly produces lots of excellent reports after careful consideration and a lot of work. Perhaps I could mention “Human rights of older persons and their comprehensive care”, rather immodestly. What consideration has the Committee of Ministers given to these reports during his time as chairman?
Mr de BRUYN (Belgium) – Minister, last October our Assembly adopted ground-breaking texts on the rights of intersex people, including their right to physical integrity and self-determination. The Committee of Ministers has said that it will consider providing guidance on this issue, taking account of the different groups involved. Denmark has a strong record of protecting the rights of LGBTI people. Can you give me your assurance that Denmark will work hard to ensure that any future guidance will recognise that the only person whose human rights are at stake when it comes to so-called sex-normalising surgery and treatment is the child itself?
Mr SAMUELSEN – Protecting and promoting the rights of persons with disabilities has indeed been a priority of the Danish chairmanship and the Committee of Ministers. As you are aware, a new Council of Europe disability strategy for 2017 to 2023 was adopted by the Committee of Ministers in November 2016. The overall goal of the new strategy is to achieve equality, dignity and equal opportunities for persons with disabilities. This requires the breaking down of barriers for persons with disabilities to ensure their independence, freedom of choice, and full and effective participation in all areas of life and society, including in labour markets.
As I mentioned in my statement, the aim of the Danish chairmanship was to strengthen co-operation between member States on human rights work in the disability field, focusing on changing attitudes. To this end, we hosted a working seminar in Copenhagen in December last year, the objective of which was to launch initiatives in individual member States, with a view to making progress on development and implementation. I believe that there is a genuine commitment among member States to stepping up efforts in this regard. Even when Denmark is no longer chair of the Committee of Ministers, it will continue its efforts to promote the rights of persons with disabilities.
Lord Foulkes, the Committee of Ministers highly values the recommendations adopted by the Assembly, and it is always keen to provide it with a substantial reply. On 7 February, the committee gave a detailed reply on the recommendations on the human rights of older persons. That reply has been forwarded to the Secretary General of the Assembly, who can provide you with a copy. I hope that that covers your question.
There was a question on intersex persons. That specific point has not been discussed within the Committee of Ministers, so I cannot express a position or opinion on it on behalf of the committee. My country, Denmark, is very committed to equality of rights and opportunities regarding private and family life. As I indicated in my statement, the broader issue of the right to a family and private life for LGBTI persons was the main topic of a conference organised in March in Copenhagen, in co-operation with your Committee on Equality and Non-Discrimination, under the framework of the Danish chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers. This is a challenging issue for all our member States. I am convinced that our response should always be guided by the principles of equality and non-discrimination.
Mr SCHWABE (Germany)* – Minister, I am not sure that you entirely answered the question from Ms Ævarsdóttir. It is important to remember that the Copenhagen declaration was a national-level project. We have to remember that, in many member States, there is a great deal of populism right now. We are also talking about the European Court of Human Rights. Will this marginalise its work? We had a lengthy debate, and a different outcome, but have you really thought about the national level, and how it can be brought into this exercise? What would be your advice for future chairmanships of the Organisation in this regard? Thank you.
Mr Petter EIDE (Norway) – Mr Samuelsen, my question is also about the Copenhagen Declaration. You proposed amendments to the first draft that would move authority away from this institution and towards the national States. You also proposed reducing the European Court’s involvement in national asylum procedures. Why did the Danish find it necessary to propose those changes, which many of us interpreted as weakening this institution?
Ms De SUTTER (Belgium) – Minister, in paragraph 28 of the final Copenhagen Declaration, the principle of subsidiarity is respected as a guiding principle, which is good, but a bit further along, Articles 8 to 11 of the Convention are mentioned, and there is a suggestion that if there are strong reasons to do so, the Court could substitute its own assessment for that of the domestic courts. I believe that is not desirable, especially with regard to Article 10 about freedom of expression. Can you assure me that the Committee of Ministers will not try to weaken the protection of freedom of expression? Thank you.
Mr SAMUELSEN – It is of the utmost importance that we protect the human rights system – the core idea of the Council of Europe – but we all fight for the freedom of expression, which is a core value of democracy. On the other hand, we have to acknowledge that there is growing debate on the subject; this has been raised by members today. Around Europe, we see a rising tendency to criticise the system, and fear less backing for it, and I will fight that with all I have. The core idea behind putting this question on the agenda is to strengthen the system; it is to assure people that it is a balanced system in which we work together with common values, and can listen, rather than having two groups fighting without listening to each other. I think the declaration strengthens the system. That is why it was so important for everybody – all 47 member States – to support the declaration, which will ensure that the system works for the next 10, 20 or 30 years. I am sure that other work will be done in the coming years, but this result is very important. I think that we did a good job and I am very satisfied with the backing of all 47 nations.
On Articles 8 to 11, what the questioner said is not the case. The essence of the Copenhagen Declaration is that when member States have conducted a fair and thorough assessment of a case, fully respecting the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights must take that into consideration. However, if member States have not lived up to that obligation, the European Court of Human Rights has nothing to take into consideration, and that case must be handled just as it is today. That could be a case relating to countries that do not respect the right to freedom of speech, as stated in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Mr KLEINWAECHTER (Germany)* – In a recent article, you were cited as saying that there is only one problem with globalisation and that we should look for at least part of it in Islam. I assume that you were not talking about Islam as a religion, but political Islam. What do you think about the spread of those values? Do you think that the combination of political Islam and the European Convention on Human Rights poses a problem?
Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – The Russians have flouted many of the Council of Europe’s principles over many months, including not paying the money that they owe. If they pay the money, is it right that they would be welcomed back into all aspects of the Council of Europe, without any consequences for other actions?
Ms ŞUPAC (Republic of Moldova) – As you know, the Venice Commission strongly advised the authorities of the Republic of Moldova not to implement the mixed electoral system at the moment because of the lack of consensus in our country and the risk of corruption among majoritarian candidates. What is the opinion of the Committee of Ministers about the fact that a member State has ignored a key recommendation of the Council of Europe’s advisory body on electoral matters?
Mr SAMUELSEN – Globalisation leads to the exchange of ideas and trade between nations. That has great benefit for society and citizens, not only in Europe but all over the world. However, when a consequence of globalisation is that extremist propaganda is spread, that must be fought by all means. I see no conflict with the European Convention on Human Rights. We must acknowledge that globalisation is a huge advantage to us all. We must therefore protect the free market and the exchange of ideas across borders. However, we must also recognise that it gives rise to uncertainty or fear, which spreads, including among Europeans, when we see ISIL on the rise. Denmark is of course involved in the coalition against ISIL. Luckily, and of course because of good soldiers, we have been successful in Iraq in more or less abolishing ISIL. We must recognise that extremists, not religion, are the problem. We have to acknowledge that it is part of globalisation and something that we will see in our neighbourhoods.
On the Russian Federation, the priority is for the Russian Federation to pay; then there are several other pending issues to discuss further, particularly questions about Ukraine.
The last question was about the Republic of Moldova. The Committee of Ministers attaches high importance to the Venice Commission and has repeatedly asked countries to follow all its recommendations. The Committee of Ministers has not taken a formal position on electoral reforms in the Republic of Moldova. However, I note that the Venice Commission, in its joint opinion with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe and the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, explicitly stated that, while recognising the sovereign right of each state to choose its electoral system, it is not advisable to change the electoral system in the Republic of Moldova at the moment.
The Venice Commission expressed concerns about the lack of consensus on that reform as well as saying that it could have a negative effect at constituency level, where independent majoritarian candidates may develop links with or be influenced by business people or other actors who promote their own separate interests. Those concerns seem valid, and I note that the European Union has urged the Republic of Moldova to comply with the Venice Commission’s opinion.
The PRESIDENT – That brings to an end the questions to Mr Samuelsen. I thank you most warmly on behalf of the Assembly for your answers this morning and especially for your contribution to our institution during your presidency, and your commitment to defending human rights. Thank you very much again.
(Ms Trisse, Vice-President of the Assembly, took the Chair in place of Mr Nicoletti.)
2. Joint debate: the protection of editorial integrity and the status of journalists in Europe
The PRESIDENT* – In accordance with our agenda, we now come to the joint debate. In the absence of Mr Ariev, the rapporteur, Ms Gambaro will present the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media report entitled “The protection of editorial integrity” in Document 14526. As the second rapporteur, Ms Elvira Drobinski-Weiss, is no longer a member of the Assembly, Ms Gambaro will also present the same Committee’s report titled “The status of journalists in Europe” (Document 14505). The second report has an opinion by Ms Ævarsdóttir in Document 14535, on behalf of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights.
It was decided at Monday morning’s sitting to limit speaking time to three minutes. We must interrupt the list of speakers at 1 p.m., but the joint debate will continue at 3.30 p.m.
Ms Gambaro, you have 13 minutes per report, which you may divide between presentation of the reports and response to the debate. You are welcome to be more concise than that, if you wish.
Ms GAMBARO (Italy)* – The report on the protection of editorial integrity is a logical consequence of the Committee’s work. It gives us a view of the media situation in Europe. On the positive side, journalism in the European continent works in the common interest. It is a space in which all sorts of interactive methods are emerging and the public have great access to information and easy ways to express themselves. At the same time, partisan information, fake news, the manipulation of facts, and extremist views of all sorts have become common currency on the Internet, and are even infiltrating parts of the traditional national media. These aspects of media are linked to the idea of editorial integrity – a term that Mr Ariev uses in his report to mean honesty and accuracy in informing the public.
Editorial integrity implies a moral and ethical stance in the profession of journalism. Whatever the media form – be it broadcast, print or online – professional ethics mean that journalists must ensure that they do their work in an honest and impartial way, because one counterpart to their right to inform is their responsibility to the public. They have to respect editorial and ethical principles such as truth, accuracy, independence, equity, fairness and impartiality. That is particularly important in the current context, in which fake news and biased information proliferates and it is difficult to find out what is reliable news. It is clear that if the media have no ethical guidelines, they might publish information that is not in the public interest, or become instruments of propaganda. That can damage not only the people affected but the credibility and reputation of the media itself.
Our citizens are very concerned about the influence of partisan media. According to a 2017 opinion poll, 44% of people think that national journalists do not provide reliable information; 57% think that news reporting is subject to commercial or political pressure; and 60% feel that public service media is under pressure from politicians. Those figures speak for themselves: trust in the media has been severely affected.
So, what is the solution? One way to gain public trust would be to develop a system of self-regulation within the journalistic profession. The mechanism would have to be credible among the professionals themselves and for the public, which is why the draft resolution encourages journalists to develop solid mechanisms for self-regulation. That is important so that people who feel that they have suffered press intrusion, or who have been hacked or defamed, can easily access a system of redress.
Self-regulation is an internal way to ensure editorial integrity in the profession, but there are conditions that jeopardise editorial integrity. The report stresses two important factors that have transformed journalists’ work, the first of which is the revolution in mobile and online technology. The emergence of new online techniques has meant that far fewer people now read newspapers. There has been a considerable drop in readership and increasing pressure on the way the written press is financed. The second factor is that the working environment is now much more hostile for independent media, which are exposed to pressure from governments and other powerful forces. The aim of that pressure is straightforward: to control information and manipulate public opinion.
Another factor that makes it increasingly hard for the media to play a watchdog role and to report events objectively is that public opinion has become very polarised and inflamed by all sorts of events, including the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, the conflict in eastern Ukraine, terrorist attacks and the influx of migrants into Europe. After the attempted coup d’état in Turkey a year ago, a state of emergency was introduced, and a vast number of journalists were arrested, taken into custody and deprived of their rights.
We must also bear in mind the influence of the legal framework on editorial integrity. There can be a chilling effect on editorial integrity if a decision is taken to criminalise certain journalistic activity. Regrettably, the State is often behind a lot of the threats against or attacks on journalists. Governments and government bodies increasingly intervene in the media through restrictive legislation or controls on property and assets. That can even go as far as the arrest and imprisonment of journalists. Editors and journalists are very much afraid of State reprisals. Intimidation leads to self-censorship and compromises freedom of expression and editorial integrity, which is why the draft resolution strongly affirms that journalists and the media should be free to investigate and to inform and publish without any fear of violence or arbitrary treatment by national authorities.
In the name of public protection and the fight against terrorism, many European countries have introduced extensive new powers of surveillance and so on. Such powers jeopardise the confidentiality of journalists’ sources and might even make investigative journalism impossible. Surveillance activities and interception on the part of State bodies have often exposed the identity of journalistic sources. The confidentiality of sources is the very cornerstone of press freedom, which is why the draft resolution proposes that member States review their national legislation on the reinforcement of surveillance powers and repression that have been justified on the grounds of preventing terrorism. That is important to ensure that the media is still able correctly to inform the public and do its work in investigative journalism.
Along the same lines, member States should look again at their national legislation on defamation and how it works in practice, particularly where defamation is subject to criminal measures and imprisonment. Such measures still exist in many member States, where they often thwart the investigatory powers of journalists.
What is worse is the constant risk of harassment, intimidation, violence or even killing of journalists, which has become a real threat to press freedom. Since April 2015, 22 journalists have been killed in Europe, and 125 are still in prison because of the work they do. I recall that the Committee of Ministers declared in its 2016 recommendation on the protection of journalism and journalists’ safety that it is unacceptable that journalists are the victims of harassment and intimidation. It said that they are subject to surveillance and sometimes deprived of their freedom, attacked or even killed because of the investigative work they do, the opinions they give and what they report, particularly on abuse of power, corruption, human rights violations, terrorism and fundamentalism. The draft resolution calls on member States to implement fully the Committee of Ministers’ recommendation so as to fulfil their obligation to protect journalists and ensure their freedom.
Finally, too often, media organisations that depend on the State have become instruments of propaganda, disseminating fake news and whipping up racism or xenophobia against vulnerable groups. As a consequence, they lack independence and any kind of ethics – hence their lack of credibility among the public. The draft resolution proposes that member States ban propaganda for war, advocacy of hate against ethnic identities or religions and discrimination or incitement to violence. The draft resolution calls on journalists to ensure there is liability for the spreading of fake news. In that context, there should be close co-operation in the profession to combat fake news and propaganda. Practically speaking, there is a proposal to set up observatories to detect propaganda and the spreading of fake news and provide adequate measures to stop that happening.
Our democracies need a free media, and the free media needs our support. I hope that today you will all support the draft resolution that the committee has put before you.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Gambaro. Do you now wish to speak to the second report?
Ms GAMBARO (Italy)* – I will continue with the status of journalists in Europe. Let me start with two questions: what is the role of a journalist in today’s democratic societies? And how does that role evolve in the context of profound change and transformation because of societal change and new technologies? The report on this topical subject covers those two issues, looking at the role and status of journalists from a number of different angles and suggesting some solutions.
Let us start with the status of journalists. Is there a commonly accepted legal definition of “journalist”? The short answer is no. The report notes that the profession of journalism is defined in most cases legally, but such definitions differ substantially from one country to another. Nevertheless, the status of journalist provides the journalist with – apart from their professional responsibilities – at least two guarantees: free access to the profession and reasonable working conditions that make it possible for them to fulfil their crucial mission and inform the public in a precise and honest manner.
Would harmonisation of the definition of journalist across Europe be a major handicap? I do not think so, because the member States of the Council of Europe have ratified a number of conventions, starting with the European Convention on Human Rights. Furthermore, they have adopted a number of recommendations in which the role of journalists in a democratic society is described in clear and convergent terms. The report looks at the situation in member States and observes that the type of media, the nature of activity carried out and the character of the work is often well defined. It is rare for there to be no legal definition of the profession of journalism. That said, the absence of a legal definition should not be a problem, provided there is free and non-discriminatory access to the profession.
It is often the professional associations that define the profession in non-legal terms. They describe professional journalists in general as being individuals whose main activity is the dissemination of information, opinion and entertainment via the media.
Is the status of professional journalism really related to having a media card or press card? No, generally speaking it is not, because such a card is not obligatory in all countries and it does not define or determine the status of journalism. Nevertheless, it can be a useful tool to allow media professionals to be identified and recognised as such, in particular by police or judicial authorities in the exercise of their activities, as well as by the public. In any event, the attribution of a press card should be in the hands of the profession in order to better guarantee the freedom of information of the public with no pressure or outside influence.
Of course, any reflection on the status of a journalist is meaningful only if we consider the issues of freedom and responsibility of their press. To ensure freedom of the press, the best solution is self-regulation within the profession through press councils, ethics boards and journalists’ codes of conduct. The report looks at several media self-regulation systems and identifies good practice that can inspire others. Self-regulation within the profession is a necessary precondition to ensure both press freedom and press responsibility. The Assembly should continue to encourage the development and strengthening of such self-regulation systems within member States.
As you know, the profession of journalism is currently subject to profound changes. The distinction between professionals and other contributors to the media is becoming more and more hazy. New sources of information – so-called alternative sources – are becoming more numerous and having a substantial influence on journalists and how they work. The arrival of digital distribution is resulting in a revolution, with increased competition because of the immediacy of information. For journalists, there is an increase in their number of tasks and a growing workload as well as a lack of specific training, which means that the profession is becoming particularly difficult.
In economic terms, the traditional sources of funding are simply disappearing, which is making the profession much more precarious and resulting in an explosion in the number of freelance journalists. That, of course, is resulting in a decline in the quality of journalism. In that respect, the draft resolution recommends that member States put in place a number of measures to meet those challenges. Before anything else, one should start with a preliminary measure ensuring the safety of journalists so that they can work freely and serenely without any fear of intimidation, harassment or threat, being under surveillance or – even worse – assassinated. In this respect, the draft resolution recommends that national authorities put in place regulations to ensure respect for the standards and rights of the media, particularly in ending impunity for those who attack journalists, as well as the protection of sources and liberty of expression.
Unfortunately, there are still many lacunae when it comes to media rights. For example, prosecutions of individuals who attack journalists are not always accompanied by a search for those who have actually ordered the killings. In the cases of Daphne Caruana Galizia and the Slovak journalist Ján Kuciak, the perpetrators of the crimes have been identified, but not those who commissioned them. Legal lacunae have resulted in insufficient protection for journalistic sources: there is too much electronic surveillance and eavesdropping. The Council of Europe Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists has clearly shown that national legal instruments are still too weak to ensure the protection of media freedom, in accordance with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. In this respect, the draft resolution recommends that member States fully respect their positive obligation to protect media professionals by taking all measures necessary to ensure freedom of expression and the protection of sources, as well as to end impunity for those who attack journalists.
Furthermore, national authorities should consider the dramatic decline in the revenues of professional journalists. Publishers are looking for new economic and financial models, and they are subcontracting work. This has resulted in a huge increase in the number of freelance journalists, who face many challenges. There is no real professional recognition for them, and they do not work under the same conditions or have the same rights as full-time journalists. In some countries, they cannot be represented by trade unions in negotiating their rates. In this respect, the draft resolution recommends that national authorities look at alternative ways of funding media in the new media ecosystem. This could include the redistribution of advertising revenue collected by search engines, and freelancers could be included in the coverage of various social laws relating to minimum rates.
Another area in which national authorities should be more involved is the inequality between women and men in the media sector. In this context, the draft resolution recommends that member States promote action plans for media companies, with awareness-raising campaigns about gender inequality in the labour market. National authorities should put in place mechanisms to encourage employer organisations to deal seriously with these problems. The draft resolution encourages associations of professional journalists to adapt quickly to the current social and technological changes. Their codes of conduct should be evolving because their tasks are changing.
Trade unions should continue to negotiate collective agreements, including, if possible, for freelancers working in such precarious conditions. Given the huge increase in the number of freelancers, associations of professional journalists should find ways of supporting them and resolving problems relating to the precariousness of their situation. The draft resolution mentions examples of good practice that should be applied in countries where the conditions for freelance journalists are particularly difficult. As well as the liberty of the press, such associations should also try to improve the working conditions of journalists, make sure they are trained in the use of new media and increase their remuneration.
The PRESIDENT* - Thank you, Ms Gambaro. You have three minutes and 17 seconds to respond to the debate this afternoon.
I call Ms Ævarsdóttir to present the opinion of the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights. You have three minutes.
Ms ÆVARSDÓTTIR (Iceland) – I congratulate the Rapporteur of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media, Ms Elvira Drobinski-Weiss, on her comprehensive report, and I voice my support for the proposed draft resolution. Freedom of expression underlies all aspects of a free society, and it is the obligation of us all to do our utmost to protect it. Journalists have an influential role in protecting our democracies through critical reporting and acting as a defence against the corruption of power. This role should not be underestimated as we discuss the role and status of journalists throughout Europe.
I stress that my committee’s proposed amendments aim to strengthen further the draft resolution, particularly in relation to some legal aspects, and to put more emphasis on journalists’ rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association, on the protection of journalistic sources and on their right to life. I also stress that, although the report focuses on the working conditions of journalists, some points about the safety of journalists should be mentioned. This is particularly necessary in view of the recent assassinations of the journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, Ján Kuciak in the Slovak Republic and Maxim Borodin in the Russian Federation. The Assembly should strongly condemn these murders and call for effective investigations. I stress that, according to the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists, 128 journalists are currently in detention and 14 deaths of journalists have not so far been elucidated. I therefore urge all members to give more support to the platform.
I note the restrictive approach to the definition of journalist in the report and the draft resolution. In this respect, I recall the United Nations Human Rights Committee’s “General comment” on Article 19 on freedoms of opinion and expression, which propagates a very broad interpretation of the right to freedom of expression and of the profession of journalists. Given that bloggers enjoy the same basic right to freedom of expression as traditional journalists, and that in most countries where control of the largest mass media outlets is dominated by the State bloggers are an essential source of independent reporting and comment, and their protection is crucial for the preservation of political and cultural pluralism, I propose that we expand the definition of journalist to include certain categories of bloggers.
I thank members for their kind attention, and I urge them to support the reports and my committee’s amendments to demonstrate the Assembly’s solidarity with these irreplaceable actors in a free democratic society.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you, Ms Ævarsdóttir. We now come to those speaking on behalf of the groups. I call Ms Schou.
Ms SCHOU (Norway, Spokesperson for the Group of the European People’s Party) – I am very grateful for the two resolutions we are debating. The issues raised about the situation of journalists in Europe are at the very core of the Council of Europe’s mandate: protecting human rights and democracy is not possible without media freedom. The two reports take different but equally relevant perspectives. Currently, there are several challenges facing journalists and media freedom, ranging from a lack of funding and insecure working conditions to journalists being threatened and even killed.
When calling for a free press, we need to be wise and to seek balanced solutions; as politicians, we should be mindful of the pitfalls. A pertinent example is the issue of fake news and alternative facts. This is an obvious threat to the democratic debate: it has caused people to distrust the media and us as politicians. The problem is faced by all countries, and we need to find some countermeasures. Yet we should be reluctant to adopt measures such as banning fake news, as has recently been proposed in France. Opening up such State sanctions could pose a grave threat to freedom of expression. In my country, Norway, and across Europe there is a rise in independent fact-checking sites working to counter the development of a post-fact society. As politicians, we should be supportive of such initiatives. They could be part of the solution.
Issues regarding funding and working conditions for journalists are also relevant. How can we ensure professional and critical media if journalists do not have proper working conditions? Would the Council of Europe and the Parliamentary Assembly have been able to clean up the corruption in its own house if it had not been for investigative journalists?
Ensuring that the media has sufficient funding is important; but, in doing so, we must be conscious of not rigging an unfair system of competition. In Norway, the government is examining the funding of our own national broadcasting agency to see if it contributes to the freedom and diversity of the media or not.
Colleagues, I fully support the two resolutions that we are about to vote on and congratulate the rapporteurs on their efforts.
Mr TORNARE (Switzerland, Spokesperson for the Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group)* – This debate is crucial. Never before has the freedom of the press in democracies – it obviously has been in dictatorships – been under such threat as it is today. We are not here to lecture journalists; we are here to defend the freedom of the press.
Ms Gambaro recalled Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the freedom of the press. I thank the rapporteur for reminding us of the different avenues we could explore, including revenues: the paper format of newspapers is disappearing as we move onto the Internet, and it is difficult to find additional funding. I do not find some of the tips or hints in the reports convincing, but nevertheless we could explore them. The status of journalists, in particular female journalists, and improving working conditions merit our attention. If possible, we should develop those in our own countries. Recommendations to adapt to the media landscape in many of our countries have also been issued, and I am sure we will talk about those again.
Again, we are not here to point the finger at particular States. I would like to express my agreement with Ms Schou. As you will find in the papers, in particular Le Monde, of all the countries in the world Norway is viewed as the one that guarantees the freedom of the press in the best possible way.
Some countries represented here are not going to like what I am about to say; but, if we are honest, we must say that some countries have been criticised by Reporters Without Borders. For example, there are the Czech Republic and Hungary—we know exactly what treatment Prime Minister Orbán affords to journalists in his country. We have also seen that there have been assassinations of journalists in Slovakia, Turkey and Malta. What happened in Malta was absolutely scandalous and outrageous. There is also Serbia. Even in the United States of America, we know that the president of that country is trying to silence a part of the press that he does not much like. There is also Israel. A couple of months ago Netanyahu closed down the State television and radio because apparently those media were not to his liking.
We need to take stock of that. We need to be aware of what is going on and change the situation. François Mitterrand used to say that the freedom of the press is full of disadvantages – it is inconvenient and perhaps uncomfortable – but it is nevertheless absolutely essential that we defend it.
As has been mentioned, there is political pressure even in some of our democracies. There is another phenomenon in our countries, even in Switzerland, that we need to call out in this Chamber. Reporters Without Borders would see Switzerland a bit like Norway – one of the good countries defending the freedom of the press; nevertheless, there is the “Citizen Kane” phenomenon, as I call it. Financiers – people with money – who know absolutely nothing about journalism buy up press bodies and use those outlets to propagate their political opinions. That is happening in France and in Switzerland. Heads of political parties have acquired swathes of the press to put out their particular messages. That is a real issue and is a way of putting an end to freedom of expression.
Sir Edward LEIGH (United Kingdom, Spokesperson for the European Conservatives Group) – This is a worthy report, but it is the wrong approach. We do not need more regulation of the press in Europe, and nor should we consider journalists to be professionals in the way that we consider lawyers or doctors to be professionals. Journalists are not professionals; they are hacks. They are there to try to write interesting stories. I dislike the stories they write in the United Kingdom as much as anybody. I dislike the way they pursue the private lives of politicians. I dislike the sting operations they mount against various people. Yet this is about the freedom of the press, and I am afraid that if we have more regulation and State control, we will be going along a downward path that ends in less freedom, not more.
If there are abuses – the murder of a journalist in Malta or journalists being locked up in Azerbaijan – we should pursue the relevant countries; however, we cannot go down the route of having more pan-European regulation. The talk in paragraph 8.6 of the editorial integrity report about banning propaganda for war is a ridiculous suggestion. In my own parliament, I have a reputation for voting against the Iraq War and our involvement in war in Libya and Syria, but the thought that we can control the press in that way and tell them what to say is the completely wrong approach.
It is also the wrong approach to try to put some limitation on the right to defamation, as that report suggests. As I have made clear, I believe in a free press. However, if a journalist oversteps the mark, a member of the public must have the unfettered right to sue that paper for defamation of character. Some governments in Europe or over-powerful and wealthy groups may use the powers of defamation; be that as it may, we cannot restrict the right of the ordinary citizen to protect his or her reputation. One size does not fit all. As far as I know, not a single journalist has been locked up in the United Kingdom for attacking the government for 200 years. We cannot have a pan-European approach that says that because there are abuses somewhere, liberty everywhere should be restricted. Like Voltaire, I may disagree passionately with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Mr POLIAČIK (Slovak Republic, Spokesperson for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) – I thank both of the teams and the rapporteurs for their work on these reports. This is a very important topic.
According to the report on editorial integrity, 22 journalists have been killed. I think that Ján Kuciak is the 23rd. For the last two months, my country, Slovakia, has been in social and political turmoil. Ján Kuciak was the only journalist in Slovakia who worked on the infamous Panama Papers. He was killed while working on an article that connected an Italian mafia with the Government of Slovakia.
I do not want to talk about that turmoil; I want to talk about the role of journalists today. We see that Maxim Borodin mysteriously fell from a balcony – some think that it was just a coincidence that on his table was an article about mercenaries in Syria. We see the terrible situation in the Russian Federation and Ukraine. We see that journalists are missing, detained and that some are killed. We are very worried about the detained journalists in Turkey as well. I would like to state very clearly on behalf of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe that it is not the job of journalists to sacrifice their lives to turn the world around or make political or social change. The role of journalists, as was said recently by Wojciech Jagielski, is to make sense of information. We are living in a world of information overload: the role of journalists is no longer to bring information but to make sense of it and show which parts are relevant and how we should orientate ourselves.
The second part is about what the real work of journalists should be. The report discusses the self-regulation of journalists so that they can say what is good journalism. To do that we need transparent ownership structures so we know who owns what and whether certain media outlets might have been bought to further certain political ideas. We need high ethical standards and methodological precision, and we need fact-checkers not on the outside but in the media itself. That is the only way in which high standards can be maintained and the only way for us to be able to describe good journalists in the 21st century.
Ms KAVVADIA (Greece, Spokesperson for the Group of the Unified European Left) – In the main hall of the Journalists’ Union of the Athens Daily Newspapers, the largest trade union in Greece in the press and media sector, there is an inscription: “publication is the soul of justice”. As a journalist myself, these words have always made a deep impression in my mind and I have tried to have them as a guide in my work. Dear colleagues, it is true: publication, openness, bringing to light what the powers-that-be would rather keep hidden – that is indeed the soul of justice, and a key pillar for meaningful democracy.
Being a journalist is not just a profession; it should be a service to the public. Even today, in this age of values in deep crisis, there are shining examples of journalists who do indeed see themselves as servants of truth and openness – and who, in many cases, pay for it with their jobs, their freedom or even their lives.
We need to remember and pay tribute to Daphne Caruana Galizia, the assassinated Maltese journalist, and demand that the perpetrators of her murder be brought to justice. However, we also need to ask ourselves whether the spirit of those few brave journalists who remain loyal to their calling is the one that prevails in the media landscape of our age. The sad truth is that this is not the case.
Most media outlets, at least the mainstream ones, have become instruments of vested economic interests. Misinformation and the spread of fake news, half-truths or in some cases outright propaganda are far from uncommon; I am thinking not just about illiberal regimes, but about Europe – in the democratic West. It seems that in so many cases, the truth is whatever the owner of a media outlet – often a media oligarch – says it is. We have witnessed that in my own country, Greece, where the deep connections between economic interests, political power centres and certain media have been exposed, due to our country’s crisis since 2010. As parliamentarians, we must stand firm in our resolve not to tolerate this. As a journalist, I can assure you that the majority of my colleagues in the profession expect us to do just that.
The PRESIDENT – Thank you. Ms Gambaro, you could respond now to the speakers from the political groups but you have chosen to speak later. We will therefore start the general debate.
Ms DALLOZ (France)* – The film director Miloš Forman, who recently passed away, said that the freedom of the press is the cornerstone of democracy. In countries where editorial freedom is no longer protected, democracy and the rule of law are often in danger. But that freedom presupposes that the information published is reliable and the journalists take their time to verify and compare their sources. The freedom presupposes that media independence is genuine – the freedom is, in fact, a responsibility for the media vis-à-vis their public and democracy.
In the new public communication space, which is based on instantaneity and immediacy, false information circulates more quickly than true information; online networks and social media development has promoted the phenomenon of fake news. Given that, we should welcome the initiative of Reporters Without Borders and Agence France-Presse, among others, to launch on 3 April a self-regulation mechanism for the media called the Journalism Trust Initiative. The idea is to promote those who respect the professional ethics, transparency and media independence of genuine journalistic production.
Far from restricting freedom, putting in place indicators about how serious a given medium is could make it possible to promote the integrity of public debate and guarantee greater pluralism. That should also result in more pluralism when it comes to the subjects dealt with. The development of TV news channels that broadcast continuously limits the information made available to the public. There must be a selection of subjects, but some online media just repeat information given by content providers without any verification. Beyond the problem of professional ethics, the phenomenon can, in certain sensitive periods, such as just before elections, undermine the democratic system.
Are the subjects offered for public opinion chosen by transparent and independent media? The issue of independence is fundamental. The plurality of the media does not always mean pluralism of ideas. We must question the economic model developed in some states where financial groups control virtually all the media, especially audio-visual media, particularly when those groups have links to those in power.
How can the citizen judge what is information and what is rumour? It is absolutely essential that the freedom to inform and democracy be able to survive attempted assassination: for that, the media must take responsibility.
Ms BLONDIN (France)* – As my colleague has just said, journalism is one of the cornerstones of our democratic systems. As with culture, every time democracy has been limited in history, press freedom has been weakened. In many places in today’s world, freedom of expression, journalism and, by extension, democracy are under threat and opinions are gagged. Some media outlets, such as “Russia Today” have become little more than propaganda tools controlled by governments in power. The recent rise of extreme right and populist parties further jeopardised freedom of expression and the right to information. That is relevant to our Organisation as well; it has not been spared. Some 22 journalists have been killed in Europe since 2015, including eight in Paris at the newspaper Charlie Hebdo.
We should also ask questions about certain European directives, which sometimes endanger the delicate balance between protection and press freedom. In France, for example, legislators have been examining a Bill to transpose the European directive of 2016 concerning the protection of commercial information and know-how; the idea is to defend European companies against their international rivals. When it was first drafted, the directive created considerable concern about public freedom and the work of journalists: the vague definition of information covered by the protection of sources meant that there was a risk of companies taking abusive legal action against journalists, media outlets, whistleblowers or NGOs with information about those companies’ activities. The initial objective of the directive was not to gag journalists but protect companies. However, we have seen how security and commercial arguments can endanger press freedom and create what I view as a dangerous precedent.
The Internet has been mentioned; the web has had a fundamental effect on the working conditions of journalists and the way in which information is spread. Today, readers or viewers can also provide news. These non-professional sources are not always identified as such by the general public, which means they can be subject to fake news and cyber-attacks. The use of digital media is also having a major impact on the printed press, which has seen a drop in its revenue. Journalists increasingly work from home as freelancers, too, which leads to more unstable working conditions for them.
Mr GONÇALVES (Portugal)* – The report on editorial integrity and the status of journalists that we are discussing today reminds us once again of how important it is for a democracy to enjoy freedom of expression and information, and in this context I proudly point out that today is the 44th anniversary of the advent of democracy in Portugal, which has led to the re-establishment of fundamental freedoms in the country, particularly freedom of expression and of the press.
The media is undergoing deep-seated and rapid change. It is increasingly digitally based and mobile, and never before have technological advances affected so greatly the way in which the media is conducted. People increasingly access information through online media and use social media to find the information they are looking for. There is a changed media context, therefore, but there is also a changed model of financing, with new protagonists and new challenges.
Furthermore, journalists are increasingly subject to threats, and in some States their freedoms are challenged on a daily basis. We must safeguard editorial integrity, transparency, independence and particularly the right of journalists to work without being subject to pressure or threats. This is fundamental to effective freedom of expression and information. Our societies and States must create and maintain the necessary conditions to safeguard these fundamental rights. We must protect the professionals working in the media, and for that to happen the various countries, international organisations and the media itself need to take measures to reduce the dangers facing journalists.
In these reports there are various suggestions on the technological and economic changes, and the urgency of a collective realisation in this Parliamentary Assembly is emphasised. The media must be free: it must be free to investigate, to inform and to publish without any restrictions. True democracies respect this fundamental right. It is a right that goes hand in hand with duties, but that also calls for responsibility. This balance is a precious asset to all of us and shapes our democracy.
Mr KIRAL (Ukraine) – Media reports on the objectivity and independence of journalists are a cause for real concern. I am not surprised by the statistics in the report. Examples of recent irresponsible leaders coming to power on a wave of populism, nihilism and immoral cynicism regarding true values and principles are directly linked to the worsening situation for the protection of media rights. In Hungary, for example, the recent street protests calling for media freedom have led to yet another of the numerous concerns expressed by the European Union.
Political corruption is a root cause of media problems, as it strives to control the media, killing its fundamental right to independence and objectivity, and destroying, often physically, those not willing to fall under the control of the corrupt political groups, backed by oligarchs in one country and influential criminal groups in others.
In Ukraine, 90% of the population receives information from TV channels, and 90% of those with the highest ratings are still owned by just four or five families. Everybody knows their names, but very often they are not obvious owners of these channels in legal terms.
Many governments still closely co-operate with oligarchs, using the media to persecute political opponents and support defamation campaigns and projects to destroy any true democratic opposition. Therefore, we must not only call for, but propose, effective mechanisms for member States to enforce the diversity of media sources, the independence of individual journalists and their safety from physical persecution, as well as the right of people to have information on the ownership and motives of those behind media outlets. Where the new independent media emerges, such as in investigative journalism, it immediately gets attacked, protecting those in powerful circles and the vested interests, and protecting, too, the monopoly of information and key messages that people are given, so as to form a certain view of the truth in order for those in power to stay in power.
A recent example of this is the attempt to impose a mandatory obligation on those engaged in certain journalistic activities to declare their assets, as is required of all civil servants and politicians in Ukraine. While it is rather effective and has revealed the enormous wealth of some judges, prosecutors and top government officials, lack of integrity in the public sector is still a common and overwhelming problem, and this puts journalists under the same umbrella, thus degrading their credibility and opening up a space for repression and persecution under money-laundering or anti-corruption laws developed for checks on politicians and civil servants.
More targeted responses are needed at the pan-European level, as national vested interests and circles, and authoritarian regimes such as the Russian Federation, with its nationalisation of the media, put at risk the freedom of the press, which is indispensable for protecting human rights and democratic values in Europe.
Ms Gabriela HEINRICH (Germany)* – I thank my colleagues for the two reports currently before the Assembly on the status of journalists and the protection of editorial integrity. I fully agree with the recommendations, with no reservations.
Reporters Without Borders has produced its 2018 list or ranking, and Europe is the region of the world showing the greatest deterioration in terms of the freedom of the press. Mr Tornare mentioned some of the countries listed, many of which are member States of the Council of Europe: Malta, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Serbia.
The current analysis and the two reports highlight that there are many threats to press freedom. There are governments and politicians who are hostile to the press, there are threats to journalists, and there are also journalists who are put behind bars or are murdered, and difficult working conditions are imposed on journalists; many of them are operating in very precarious situations now.
The recommendations are in line with the facts, and we must ensure that there is no impunity in future for those who attack journalists. There must be prevention and a much better status must be guaranteed for journalists.
The Council of Europe has its own standards on the independence and diversity of the press in Europe, and we must stand by them. We must also promote the work of investigative journalists, making sure they can continue to do their work and not be threatened by the use of propaganda; propaganda must not gain ground in this field. We must also make sure that journalists are better protected, whether freelancers or full-time employees. That is the only way to make sure we deflect any risks to democracy, because this kind of attack is an attack on, and risk for, our free societies, and journalists, men and women, have a big responsibility to bear in this context. Their integrity and professional ethics also need to be safeguarded and protected. This does not have anything to do with regulation per se; we are talking about self-responsibility, or taking responsibility for our own actions. That is the only way we can counter propaganda and conspiracy theories.
We politicians have an urgent responsibility to facilitate all of this, and to protect journalists wherever they are. We must ensure we are up to that task. We must protect the freedom of the press and the rule of law.
Mr HONKONEN (Finland) – The role of the media as a watchdog of politicians, other public actors and those who hold power is crucial for an open and functional democracy. Unfortunately, different interconnected broad trends have led to the point where objective quality journalism is being challenged and journalists face difficulties regarding their status and work.
The media environment has changed radically in the past three years. Forms of producing information and sources have changed, and this has also influenced the traditional media. We are now living in a new era of mass-participatory media where every citizen can publish articles or start a blog. Social media, over several platforms, consists of user-generated content. Bloggers are often not professional journalists, but other kinds of professionals. This is a challenge to the status of journalists, but above all the question is this: what impact does citizen content have on professional journalism and its quality?
The media have started to make citizen content part of the daily functioning of the media economy. This might be problematic in relation to a lowering in quality, the verification of facts and accountability. In the end, journalists and managing editors are responsible for published content. To ensure quality journalism, and to tackle disinformation and fake-news, the Council of Europe should engage in, and contribute to, a broader discussion on a progressive democratic response to populist attempts to redefine European social and political models. The European media ecosystem must be supported, especially the role of public service media, and factual quality journalism should be enhanced. Not all public service organisations follow core principles and we have to find ways to address that.
Furthermore, it is crucial to foster journalists, self-regulatory bodies and independence. We need to rebuild a culture of trust and truth in Europe. The trend of distrust in authorities and expertise needs to be understood more deeply in order to find different solutions. The public service media has to further apply well-tried methods, such as fact-checking initiatives and the education of young people about disinformation and critical thinking. This is an issue for European democracy and our basic European values. We must address populism and disinformation with constructive and inclusive solutions to cherish democracy and foster a freedom of the press that cannot be taken for granted.
The PRESIDENT* – Mr Cepeda is not here, so I call Mr Gavan.
Mr GAVAN (Ireland) – I welcome both reports, as well as the resolutions. I would add, however, that I think there could have been a greater focus on the concentration of media ownership, which is a particularly pertinent issue in many countries, including my own.
In March 2016, the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom published a report on the state of media pluralism across the European Union. Ireland was scored as high risk under the concentration of media ownership category, placing it firmly in the highest level of concern. Particular concern was expressed about INM and its largest shareholder Denis O’Brien. In April 2016, the Irish National Union of Journalists issued a call for all-party agreement on tackling media dominance. In October 2016, Sinn Féin member of the European Parliament, Lynn Boylan, on behalf of her political group in the European Parliament, commissioned a legal opinion into media ownership in Ireland. This report not only supported the findings of the earlier report, it went on to say: “there are very grave concerns about the situation in Ireland, and the threats to diversity, plurality and freedom of expression. It is imperative that safeguards are considered to ensure journalistic and editorial autonomy.” The same report also highlighted the “sustained and regular threats of legal action by Mr O’Brien to media organisations and journalists who are engaged in newsgathering or reporting about his activities.” The report recommended that the government establish a cross-disciplinary commission of inquiry.
It is now over a year since that report and the Irish Government has taken no action whatever to grapple with the issues of concentration of media ownership. This is a very worrying failure. Right now there is a further unfolding story about an alleged data breach from INM relating to 19 journalists, which is being investigated by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement. We need the cross-disciplinary commission to properly get a handle on media in the modern era. It is not just the number of titles owned, but the size of the audience, the multiple platforms and the cross-media element.
It is also useless to just deal with the issue of ownership without addressing Ireland’s out-of-date libel laws, which absolutely have a chilling effect on the reporting of news. I respectfully disagree with my colleague from the British Conservative party, Sir Edward Leigh. I believe that libel laws should protect the reputation of the individual, but not enrich them.
Finally, I call for a publicly accessible database of media ownership in Ireland.
Ms FATALIYEVA (Azerbaijan) – In the era of the Internet and social networks, the notion of journalism is changing. Anyone transmitting information and expressing their opinion on a certain issue on a regular basis can now call themselves a journalist. What we lack today is the absence of professionalism.
Azerbaijan realises that the most important policy direction is multiculturalism – as for domestic policy, so with foreign policy. This policy considers a clear compliance with ethics, norms and rules with regard to the representatives of different nationalities and faiths, as well as rejecting all manifestations of intolerance and propaganda of violence – as with the traditional media, so with the social network. Every day, numerous media sources in my country examine and criticise the activities of State and non-State bodies without any obstacles, but it is unacceptable to insult or blackmail someone under the name of criticism. Being a journalist does not give anyone exceptional rights or superior authority over other citizens. Everyone involved in journalistic activity is obliged to comply with the rules of the country in which they live and work.
Several years ago, corresponding amendments and changes were made to legislation relating to mass media and the fight against terrorism. In the context of the reports we are discussing, we should not forget about the journalistic codex, which includes universal criteria and principles. The moral aspects of journalistic activity attract the attention of society due to the fact that in terms of permissiveness the attempts to use mass media for one’s own purposes are becoming more and more frequent. Many publications of different types and levels are characterised by a low culture of controversy, distraction, disorder and the thoughts of opponents, and they show a great hostility towards other people’s views. Freedom of speech and expression is an inseparable part of journalistic activity. Serving the interests of society is a violation of journalistic ethics. It is essential that journalists respect private lives, but that does not exclude the right to conduct journalistic investigation.
In many countries, the journalistic codex exists. In 1983, at the regular consultative meeting of the international and regional journalistic organisation, the so-called international principles of journalistic ethics were adopted. First of all, they require media workers to disseminate news truthfully and honestly, and to ensure the right of people to express opinions and receive information freely. The professional and ethical standards worked out by the world’s journalistic community help to make objective decisions, and to determine the corridor in which a free, creative space is created.
Lord FOULKES (United Kingdom) – We should thank Ms Gambaro in particular for standing in for the two rapporteurs so brilliantly.
This could not be a more timely debate, as next Wednesday, 3 May, is World Press Freedom Day. As others have said, Reporters Without Borders has produced a wonderful list of countries. Norway is, of course, at number one and North Korea is down at the bottom. Unfortunately, Britain is at number 40: we have gone down 18 places since 2002. That, I say to Sir Edward Leigh, is not because of the journalists – they are professionals and in some cases good investigative reporters – but the owners. As Mr Gavan said in relation to Ireland, ownership in the United Kingdom is confined to a particularly small number of people, most of whom live in tax havens and do not pay tax to the United Kingdom.
As far as we are concerned here in the Council of Europe, there could not be a better time for looking at this issue. I am given the task, as General Rapporteur on Media Freedom and the Safety of Journalists, to produce a report over the next year, and I look forward to doing that. I think that we should be working with the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, in Leipzig; with Reporters Without Borders, of course; and also with the European Federation of Journalists. If we can bring them together with us, we can discuss how we can take this issue forward in a positive way.
We can consider individual cases, such as the tragedy of the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, but we can also look at the situation in each member country, country by country, frankly but fairly. That is what we need to do, and then we can see what the Council of Europe and this Parliamentary Assembly in particular can do, appropriately but effectively, in each of these countries. That would be an approach, and I hope we can take it forward to follow up these two excellent reports.
Mr R HUSEYNOV (Azerbaijan) – Journalism is an art that has been constantly changing, evolving and adapting to the times. However, regardless of its epoch, two aspects of journalists and journalism remain unchanged. The first fixed quality is the essential nobility of journalism, because journalism performs the benevolent task of opening people’s eyes, informing them and increasing their knowledge. The second invariable quality is that journalism is always a risky and even dangerous profession, regardless of how well established it is.
Fundamental changes have taken place in journalism in Europe and elsewhere around the world over the past 30 years, a direct result of global changes in social and political life. The means of distributing information have perhaps grown too large as the speed and ways of transmitting have developed. There has also been a fundamental change in the notion of freedom of expression. This change was initially manifested in the loss of distinction between freedom of expression and no restriction on expression. If the primary fear of the journalists of yesterday as regards freedom of expression was political pressure, today’s journalists face the even greater force of economic mechanisms. Press policy is frequently determined by big oligarchs, companies, concerns and economic powers that possess huge financial resources and are willing to demonstrate their ability to rule. This changes the very anatomy of journalism as it is gradually transformed into a force that serves purposes rather than the truth. That transformation has already occurred, and it is a painful diagnosis to make.
I have worked in journalism continuously for 40 years and saw the political censorship of the Soviet era. The later conservative editorial system was worse than that censorship. For many years I have served as a correspondent for Radio Liberty and as a special correspondent for the Voice of America. I enjoy the opportunity, based on my experience, to compare the past situation with the present one at both the local and international levels. Compared with the past, journalists today have a very extensive scope. Nevertheless, the danger to journalists’ lives also has increased enormously. The way to protect journalists and journalism and to achieve new success in journalism is to constantly improve professionalism, prevent the penetration of non-professionals into the field, and foster the solidarity of journalists around the world.
Mr GATTOLIN (France)* – I pay tribute to the quality of both reports, particularly that of Volodymyr Ariev. In this very rich document he is trying to identify the main ways that are being used now in Europe and even in the European Union to attack, more or less overtly, the editorial integrity of journalists; in other words, their ability to act freely, independently and honestly. It is a tall order to stop this happening because there are so many multifaceted ways in which it can be done, including the age-old methods of intimidation and violence or, indeed, the passing by some States of increasingly sophisticated legislation to stop investigative journalism happening.
There are also other factors which are to do with the changes disrupting the traditional balance in the world of information and the funding models which are more fragile now for the traditional media, reducing their independence and their journalistic abilities. We have seen the emergence of digital platforms which have become the main method of disseminating all sorts of indiscriminate information and, of course, the flood, in this very confused context, of fake news, which is eroding the credibility of all sorts of journalism in public opinion, whatever form it appears in. We therefore need to safeguard the quality of information and the independence of journalists.
The right to be informed is very important to ensuring a thriving democracy. In this vein, the French Parliament adopted a law two years ago to strengthen the pluralism of the media. It introduced new safeguards for freedom and the independence of all media, such as extending to all journalists more rights to stick to their guns, based on the idea of professional ethics, and the list of beneficiaries for the purpose of protecting sources has been extended to editors and anyone working for the media body, including freelancers. The definition of subversion of confidentiality of sources has also been widened.
I therefore very much support the recommendations of the rapporteur, although I take issue with paragraph 3 of the draft resolution, which says that defamation should be decriminalised. In a recent law in France we chose to toughen up criminal sentences linked to public defamation; in other words, anything that is sexist, racist, homophobic or anti-religious. Why did we resort to criminal law? We did so because, paradoxically, for the journalists themselves, criminal sanctions with known sentences attached are better protection for journalists than civil liability just requiring the payment of damages and interest. I think it is important to specify that.
Mr BLAHA (Slovak Republic) – I am extremely sorry to report that two young people, one of them a journalist, were murdered in Slovakia. All of Slovakian society has been in deep sorrow about this brutal act committed against Mr Ján Kuciak and his fiancée. Murders are generally a very rare occurrence in Slovakia, and the number is decreasing rapidly, so these two murders came as an extreme shock. I am sure that this shock is shared by all the countries in Europe where such brutal acts have been committed against those who exercise their freedom of expression. In Britain, it was the murder of a Labour politician because of her progressive views. In Malta, it was the murder of a journalist; in Denmark, the murder of journalist; in France, it was the wife of an Azerbaijani journalist. All these terrible acts against the freedom of expression must be strongly condemned.
In Slovakia we reacted very robustly. An international investigation team was gathered, which included the FBI, Scotland Yard and Italian special forces. The reaction in politics was equally robust. First, the minister of culture stepped down; then the minister of the interior stepped down; then even the prime minister stepped down; and recently the chief of police resigned. To my knowledge, no other government in Europe has implemented such fundamental change as the Slovakian Social Democratic Government after the death of a journalist or opposition politician.
We have always wanted to do our best to ensure media freedom in Slovakia. According to Reporters Without Borders, Slovakia is currently 17th in the world ranking in press freedom. Only 13 European countries have a higher ranking. The benchmark democracies are far behind us: France is 39th, the United Kingdom is 40th and the United States is 43rd. Again, Slovakia is 17th. Although I know that we can do better, media freedom in Slovakia is not in any danger. If the Italian mafia were involved in the murder, our highest priority is to investigate. In any event, the Italian mafia is not a Slovakian but a European problem, and the same is true of the Panama Papers and the articles of Ján Kuciak about tax evasion.
I am sorry to have talked for so long about Slovakia. Two months ago, I had wanted to prepare a speech about the terrible pressures put on journalists by the owners of private media outlets. Dirty financial groups, pro-business politicians and multinational corporations own the strongest media sources in many countries, including Slovakia, where they usually use their influence to spread their economic and political interests, which are very often connected with neo-liberal ideologies; privatisation; liberalisation; and attacks on trade unions, state welfare systems, social movements and left-wing politicians. I wanted to speak about that, but I needed to say that Slovakia is a free, modern and safe country. Thank you.
Ms ARENT (Poland) – Colleagues, I thank you for taking up the important issue of the status of journalists in Europe. I am sincerely grateful to Ms Elvira Drobinski-Weiss for her good, fact-based and to-the-point report, showing the real problems with which journalists in Europe are confronted. In Poland, Ms Elvira Drobinski-Weiss had several meetings with various institutions, organisations, journalists and politicians who perceive the problems of Polish journalism. I thank her for her hard work.
The freedom and independence of the media are very important. Everyone expects journalists to be free and independent in their work, and to have high professional status. The situation for journalists has changed as a result of the development of online information services and, most of all, of new technology. That is also true in Poland. We are trying to adjust legal regulations to the reality of the modern world. A Polish press law enacted in 1984 – back in the times of the communist Polish People’s Republic – has been fully enforced up to this year; we are now modifying this Act. Our parliament is working to update it, so that it corresponds to present-day reality.
The Polish Government proposes giving financial support to those working in the free professions, such as artists and freelance journalists, who will receive tax concessions in the form of deductible expenses at 50% of their earnings, which means that more money will remain in their pockets. It is worth pointing out that in Poland there are very active journalists’ associations, open to all journalists – both those employed as full-time editorial staff and those who work freelance. As for trade unions, in Poland they are formed by employees, but operate only in the public media sector. Their membership is composed of journalists employed by those media bodies. In private media companies, there are no trade unions. In Poland, 75% of the private media sector is controlled by German companies.
Once again, I would like to express my gratitude for the report, and for the attention drawn to the problems of Polish journalists. Thank you.
Ms MIKKO (Estonia) – Owing to globalisation and the rapid development of technology, the profession of journalism is facing enormous challenges and major changes. With the growing importance of online media, journalists need to adapt to the new media environment and develop new skills. There is definitely a need to improve the social protection of journalists, as often their working conditions are tough and they work long hours. As a former journalist, this is an issue close to my heart. That is why it is especially worrying that there are still countries in the Council of Europe where being a journalist can put you in danger. Freedom of expression and information is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Media freedom is a prerequisite for democracy. I recently returned from a fact-finding mission to Turkey, where the situation caused me great concern. Journalists whom the Government of Turkey considers to be connected with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party or the coup attempt of 2016 are still being arrested and detained. The coup attempt should not be used as justification for the suppression of peaceful opposition, and for forbidding freedom of speech to journalists and the media. Just think: there are 150 journalists in prison there.
Although my country, Estonia, ranked 12th in the 2017 world press freedom index, journalists there also face many challenges. Should the aim be more clicks, or double-checking of facts? Should it be attractive titles, or serious stories of substance? Should it be quickly launched news, or lengthy investigative journalism? There is even the question of whether to do a face-to-face interview, or just make a phone call, in which one could easily tell a white – or black – lie. Do our democratic countries have a watchdog of democracy or not? That is the question.
There are deficiencies in the social protection of journalists, as trade unions and journalist organisations are weak. Journalists often work more than 40 hours weekly, with low salaries, although their job demands an increasing diversity of skills. Stress and burn-out among journalists, especially young journalists, is increasing. There is definitely a need to address these issues at national and European level. I thank the two rapporteurs for their excellent work. Thank you.
Mr KÜRKÇÜ (Turkey) – For a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe from a country where 150 journalists are in prison, where thousands of journalists have been sacked after their media outlets have been seized by the government, and where around 40 000 social media users have been prosecuted for statements that they made on the Internet, guaranteed freedom of expression overwhelms all other concerns. The situation has been well documented in European Union, European Commission and Parliamentary Assembly reports, including Monitoring Committee reports, and Parliamentary Assembly meetings. This is well known by the Turkish Government and Council of Europe member countries. Since 2016, the situation has been worsening every year and every day. This is a big matter for this Organisation to face.
If a country’s press situation is deteriorating daily, does it still deserve its position in a democratically organised international community, or should it somehow be brought to a new level of relations? That is a big question to be answered. In Turkey, there is a big fight by intellectuals, journalists and the general population, to face those pressures. The worst issue is that the problem is not only legal but economic. Independent news outlets are being forcibly sold to favourites of the government, and after the latest events, every one of the 10 biggest media outlets has fallen under the control of government supporters. In such a country, freedom of expression becomes the first concern for democratic change. We ask the Council of Europe’s member countries and all colleagues to support our fight for freedom of expression, and freedom in general. Thank you.
Ms RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ (Spain)* – I congratulate my colleagues on the report. Given the importance of the integrity of news, journalists’ role in the public eye is increasing, and that affects their ability to report news. I want to draw attention particularly to Daphne Caruana and Ján Kuciak, as well as all the other journalists who have been murdered while doing their job providing news and defending our right and freedom to be informed. Journalists cannot work if they are subject to threats, blackmail or pressure. It is unacceptable that they are still subject to such pressures because that also deprives us of our right to access free information.
We have often talked about this subject in the past in the Assembly, but now there is an increasing problem with so-called fake news. The risk is that we are moving into a time of disinformation rather than information. Fake news is disseminated by not only para-State actors, but State actors. In many cases, the purpose of fake news is to intervene in our societies, as we have seen in elections in several countries. However, I question the suggestion that the solution to that problem is greater State intervention. Yesterday, I therefore asked the Macedonian Foreign Minister about government intervention in his country in the media. We cannot rely on governments to play such a role. As we have heard from many non-governmental and other international organisations, governments intervene and limit our right to free news. We must therefore commit to defending the basic rights of journalists, but we must also pull together to fight against the phenomenon of fake news, which severely damages our society.
It is important that we co-operate with the European Federation of Journalists. We must ensure that media outlets guarantee the independence of the different sections – political and economic – of newspapers. I tabled an amendment to paragraph 7.2 because we must fight hard to defend the rights of all journalists, not just those who are members of trade unions. Every journalist must be free to carry out their profession and we should not have different categories of rights for journalists. We should also guarantee that journalists can do their jobs in dignified conditions.
The Council of Europe and national parliaments should guarantee two specific issues. We should guarantee our journalists’ freedom to work and prevent our society from becoming based on disinformation and the manipulation of news.
Ms CHRISTENSEN (Norway) – I very much agree with my Spanish colleague. My speech is on the same topic because our democratic system relies on a free, accountable and independent press. In a world of terror, fake news, weak States and European States that are actively reducing their democracy, this is more important than ever.
It is alarming that politicians in our member States are, as we speak, using trust and the mandates given to them through elections to reduce citizens’ human rights, their ability to organise and their freedom of speech.
I am very concerned that the report finds that several member States have increased surveillance and law enforcement regarding the press in the name of fighting terrorism. Reducing freedom of speech has never been a successful weapon, unless the goal is to fight democracy.
I thank the rapporteur for such a concrete set of recommendations – that is very important. However, I have one question about paragraph 8.7 of the draft resolution. Although it is a good idea to track fake news so that it can be fought, I hope that the recommendation does not propose a ban, because politicians who put their own journalists in jail, kill or try to silence them may not be the best people to define fake news and act on that.
Mr EVANS (United Kingdom) – Politicians in the United Kingdom have a saying that certain journalists would never allow the truth to get in the way of a good story. Let us be fair: the relationship between journalists and politicians has not always been brilliant. However, it is our responsibility to stand up for journalists because if we allow journalists to be closed down or shut up, we will be next. Politicians will be closed down and shut up. We must therefore encourage journalists to shine a light where wrongdoing occurs.
We have another saying in the United Kingdom, which is that politicians work very hard to get into the newspapers Monday to Saturday and very hard to keep out of them on a Sunday. That is because on Sunday, the scandal sheets appear that try to expose any wrongdoing by politicians. We must ensure that journalists are properly protected. Fortunately in the United Kingdom, we have a variety of news sources so that if someone is pro-Brexit or anti-Brexit, there is a newspaper that leans towards their views. Whether someone is a socialist, a Conservative or middle of the road, there is a multiplicity of news sources.
However, as we heard from our Turkish friend, that is not the case in all countries in Europe. That should give us great cause for concern, particularly where journalists are locked up or killed. That really should worry us.
Fake news has been mentioned, and it is wonderful that Donald Trump has created at least one phrase that we all recognise. However, we must be very careful about what constitutes fake news. If the State becomes the arbiter of what is and is not fake news, all of a sudden, it is unhealthily powerful. In some cases, describing something as fake news simply reflects a difference of opinion. We must be careful if the State starts to intrude on that.
In some cases, the press gets out of hand. There is a court case in the United Kingdom that involves Sir Cliff Richard, where the press clearly took a certain line. I will not say any more because the court case is going on, but the press clearly has a responsibility, too.
We all know how journalists struggle to get paid properly. In the United Kingdom, Lord Hall was in charge of the BBC until 2013. The BBC opposed publishing some of their top journalists’ salaries. Eventually, those salaries were exposed, showing that women were paid remarkably less than men. That is completely wrong. A man and a woman doing the same job should get paid exactly the same. This Organisation should call out not just the BBC but any other news-gathering organisations and say: for goodness sake, give journalists doing the same job the same rate of pay.
Mr KITEV (“The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”) – This is a crucial debate on a significant topic, and I want to take the opportunity to stress again that freedom of expression and information is a fundamental right, which is guaranteed by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That right includes freedom of the media, which is essential for the existence and development of democratic society. Next steps and improvements should include assuming that we have a positive obligation to protect media professionals and take all necessary steps to ensure freedom of expression and the protection of sources. Accordingly, there must be an end to the impunity of attacks on journalists.
Public service media organisations face serious difficulties in reaching audiences in a media environment marked by a rapid evolution of digital technologies, which increasingly dominate the information distribution chain. In polarised societies, there is a lack of trust in institutions, and when the proliferation of one-sided information or disinformation is amplified by social media, the strong and independent journalist is more than important.
According to the European Commission’s 2018 report on my country, the Republic of Macedonia, the media climate there has improved and journalism has been released. Good progress has been made on freedom of expression, especially in respect of improvements in the climate for media work and reduced pressure on journalists. The European Commission noted in its report that, since the middle of last year, media and journalists can more freely criticise officials’ inadequate behaviour without censorship. The law on audio and audio-visual media services has been prepared in consultation with various stakeholders. There must be zero tolerance for physical and verbal attacks and threats against journalists. The public broadcasting service needs to be reformed and its independence strengthened. Some of the remarks in previous reports have been addressed, particularly those on the abolition of government advertising and the pressure on journalists, to allow for more balanced reporting. In addition to the reform of the public broadcasting service, the European Commission recommends measures to support objective reporting and a diversity of views in mainstream media; the strengthening of media professionalism; and the sanctioning of all forms of violence against journalists.
Mr Don DAVIES (Observer from Canada) – It is a fundamental raison d’être of the Council of Europe to foster the advancement of democracy in all nations. Along with the promotion of human rights, democratic development forms one of the key pillars of the work that we do and the objectives that we seek. Democracy is both a simple and complex concept. At its most basic level, it consists of the act of placing a ballot in a box, granting each individual the untrammelled right to express their choice of those who may temporarily govern them. Of course, it is also much more than that.
For true democracy to flourish, it requires the presence of a number of profoundly important conditions, including a peaceful environment, free of violence and oppression. It needs active and politically diverse political parties, an independent judiciary, a non-corrupt police force, a professional civil service and an informed electorate. It also requires a free, independent and diverse media. Indeed, these last two conditions are inextricably linked. For citizens to cast meaningful ballots, they must have access to credible information and a wide variety of perspectives. They must be able to count on their media to accurately convey to them what those who seek their political support have to say on every significant matter of public policy. Journalists must be able to hold those with power to account. In this, media is much more than just a business; it plays a fundamental role in the health, or lack thereof, of our democracies.
From a Canadian and North American perspective, there are many worrying challenges in our media’s ability to fulfil its vital function. The concentration of media ownership now allows small elites the ability to dominate the news with their own synchronised perspective. We have seen the hollowing-out of newsrooms and the corporatisation of news gathering. There is an absence of consistent coverage of voices from all sides of the spectrum. We have lost many small, independent media outlets and the ability to provide coverage of local community concerns. The noble pursuit of investigative journalism, which has proved so valuable in holding politicians to account – think of Watergate – has become seriously eroded. The in-depth, detailed treatment of complex issues has given way to 30-second sound bites that reduce critical topics to over-simplified, superficial headline news.
I believe that the concerns I have outlined apply equally to the state of journalism in Europe and, indeed, most parts of the world. Propaganda flourishes when simple messages are spread by mass means. We are all prey to it when we are subjected to a uniformity of ideas determined by unchallenged special interests. As a result, we lose freedom. Journalism is not just a private concern, but a public one. It plays a cornerstone role in our democratic societies. We must find ways to ensure that every society provides a robust, diverse and free exchange of ideas and information to our citizens, or our democratic health will be seriously impaired.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. Given the time, I shall call three more speakers so as not to leave too many for the afternoon sitting.
Lord TOUHIG (United Kingdom) – I spent 27 years working in newspapers and publishing and passionately believe in a free press, which is essential to the protection and defence of our freedom, democracy and way of life. The growth of social media is welcome, but the challenges that it brings for the viability of traditional media outlets such as newspapers is not to be underestimated. That is all the more true because the new media do not always enhance the traditional, impartial and non-subjective ways in which journalists should work. That is why when we defend a free press, we must demand the highest standards of those who work in it. A free press must be a responsible press.
Journalistic standards have declined and been compromised in pursuit of eye-catching headlines that owe more to gaining the moment on social media than to objective and accurate reporting. The repeated use of the term “unnamed sources”, on which some news reporting depends, is now accepted as the norm, without question. Of course, the use of the term has always existed and is valid in some cases, but in a world of fake news it should be challenged more often. I fear that the use of the term “unnamed source” is deliberate because too many news stories mask the prejudices and agendas of the writer. I am old enough also to recognise that in some cases the use of the term is simply the work of sloppy journalists who have scant regard for the facts and little energy to pursue the truth. All too often I have recited the universal prayer of every newspaper editor: “God save me from the work of sloppy journalists”. Although not new, the term is used more often now on social media.
Fake news covers a multitude of sins. As a young journalist in training, it was always stressed by my editor, Jack Salter, that we should report the news, yes, and comment on the news, yes, but that we should do them separately. We should never put the two together and pretend that it is impartial news reporting. Today, too much news reporting includes comment and opinion and hides the prejudices of the writer or the owner of the media outlet. More than anything, it is this development that has led to more and more calls for press regulation. It means that journalists have to walk a fine line between responsible journalism and heavily regulated journalism, which is a truly awful prospect.
If we are to defend, preserve and strengthen a free press, only one mantra will suffice: “Love of truth”, and more, “A passion for truth.” In a world in which traditional media outlets such as newspapers are in decline and social media platforms are on the rise, and in which governments are less tolerant of a free press, the pursuit of truth is the only secure way to defend press freedom. Journalists must burn with a passion for truth; that is the only way to maintain press freedom and all that that means for free people everywhere.
Ms ANTTILA (Finland) – I thank the rapporteurs for their excellent report on this important matter.
Critical discussion is an essential part of democracy, because the decisions that are made should reflect the majority of the ruled, not the ruler. The only way to integrate the views of citizens into decisions is to have an open dialogue and debate with them. To expose decisions to criticism means only a better and more stable society, because conflict is channelled into politics, and not into armed conflict. That is why democracy cannot function without the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. That principle is self-evident, yet so widely challenged.
Editorial integrity requires the freedom to investigate, report and publish without constraints and without fear of violence by State authorities, as is rightly stated in the report. I also agree that it is not the media’s role to win the approval of any political power but to be the watchdog of that power. However, it is highly important that every media platform has mechanisms and takes actions to prevent false news and propaganda. Without proper, well-founded self-regulatory criticism about media content, alternative sites that claim to provide news can easily be mixed up with trustworthy journalism. High editorial standards and journalists who have adopted codes of conduct that promote essential ethical principles are equally essential.
There is also a wide need for constructive news. The media has a great responsibility in leading public opinion and shaping ideas about the state of the world, and if we only read about catastrophes and corruption, that can lead to apathy and general distrust of democracy and politics. That is not to say that there should not be news about those issues, but I emphasise that the media should reflect the world as truthfully as possible. I agree with the report that member States should strengthen measures to achieve transparency of media ownership and media plurality. Political parties should contribute to the creation of conditions for editorial integrity by standing aside from control or influence over media content.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The final speaker this morning is Ms Rauch.
Ms RAUCH (France)* – I thank Mr Volodymyr Ariev, the author of the report on the protection of editorial integrity. I fully share his conclusions, and I agree with the comments made by Mr Gattolin. I also agree with the five challenges discussed by the rapporteur on the defence of editorial integrity, because we are talking about the defence of democracy and equality between men and women. I also refer to the draft resolution tabled by Sir Roger Gale and several co-signatories that has yet to be seen by the Assembly.
The draft resolution talks about distorted reporting and a series of recent sexual assaults, essentially against women. On that point, I inform the Assembly that in France we are working on a Bill that will help us counter sexual and sexist violence, helping us to find a solution to the problem. I refer you to Article 3 in particular, which extends the concept of the offence of bullying and sexual harassment to offences carried on social networks and the Internet – so-called digital raids.
In looking at the report, how can we not think of Daphne Caruana Galizia, the Maltese investigative journalist and blogger who was assassinated on 16 October last year, and the more recent murder that took place in February? They were the fifth and sixth journalists to be assassinated in a Council of Europe member State since 2017, and the 21st and 22nd since the Council of Europe platform to protect journalists, which we launched in April 2015. We also had the death of Mr Ján Kuciak.
The Daphne Project was launched on the initiative of Forbidden Stories, an international network, created in 2017, of journalists who are bravely carrying on with their investigative work. They are also there to defend the memory of those individuals. There has been a great deal of mobilisation, which has led to political change.
On defending accurate information, I refer the Assembly to a French legislative initiative. A Bill was tabled before the National Assembly on 21 March 2018 and we hope to examine it before the summer. Our purpose is to ensure that the State has sufficient powers to hand to fight against fake news, trying to strike the right balance between information control and freedom of expression. The bill also talks about the involvement of the media, broadcasting platforms and social networks in relation to responsibilities and regulation. We know that this issue is also on the European agenda, with measures for self-regulation about to be discussed as well as a fact-checking network involving independent experts. With that as a backdrop, the report is very timely indeed. It is about our vigilance and mobilisation to help journalists.
The PRESIDENT* – Thank you. The time has come to rise for the lunch break, but we shall resume the debate this afternoon at 3.30 p.m. when we will hear from the remaining speakers on the list before the rapporteur and chair of the committee respond to the debate.
3. Next public business
The PRESIDENT* – The Assembly will hold its next public sitting this afternoon at 3.30 p.m. with the agenda which was approved on Monday.
The sitting is closed.
(The sitting was closed at 1.05 p.m.)
1. Communication from Mr Anders Samuelsen, Chairman of the Committee of Ministers
Questions: Mr Omtzigt, Mr Ævarsdóttir, Mr Goncharenko, Ms de Bruijn-Wezeman, Mr Villumsen, Ms Gambaro, Ms Blondin, Mr Kiral, Mr R Huseynov, Ms McCarthy, Ms Csöbör, Mr Sabella, Ms Christoffersen, Lord Foulkes, Mr de Bruyn, Mr Schwabe, Mr Petter Eide, Ms De Sutter, Mr Kleinwaechter, Mr Evans and Ms Şupac
2. Joint debate: the protection of editorial integrity and the status of journalists in Europe
Presentation by Ms Gambaro of reports of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media in Documents 14526 and 14505
Presentation by Ms Ævarsdóttir of opinion of Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights in Document 14535
Speakers: Ms Schou, Mr Tornare, Sir Edward Leigh, Mr Poliačik, Ms Kavvadia, Ms Dalloz, Ms Blondin, Mr Gonçalves, Mr Kiral, Ms Gabriela Heinrich, Mr Honkonen, Mr Gavan, Mr Fataliyeva, Lord Foulkes, Mr R Huseynov, Mr Gattolin, Mr Blaha, Mr Arent, Ms Mikko, Mr Kürkçü, Ms Rodríguez Hernández, Ms Christensen, Mr Evans, Mr Kitev, Mr Don Davies, Lord Touhig, Ms Anttila and Ms Rauch
3. Next public business
Appendix / Annexe
Representatives or Substitutes who signed the register of attendance in accordance with Rule 12.2 of the Rules of Procedure. The names of members substituted follow (in brackets) the names of participating members.
Liste des représentants ou suppléants ayant signé le registre de présence, conformément à l’article 12.2 du Règlement. Le nom des personnes remplacées suit celui des Membres remplaçant, entre parenthèses.
ÅBERG, Boriana [Ms]
ÆVARSDÓTTIR, Thorhildur Sunna [Ms]
AGHAYEVA, Ulviyye [Ms]
ALEKSANDROV, Nikolay [Mr] (BOGDANOV, Krasimir [Mr])
AMON, Werner [Mr]
ANDERSON, Donald [Lord] (PRESCOTT, John [Mr])
ANTTILA, Sirkka-Liisa [Ms]
ARENT, Iwona [Ms]
ARNAUT, Damir [Mr]
BADEA, Viorel Riceard [M.] (BRĂILOIU, Tit-Liviu [Mr])
BADIA, José [M.]
BAKUN, Wojciech [Mr] (JAKUBIAK, Marek [Mr])
BALÁŽ, Radovan [Mr] (PAŠKA, Jaroslav [M.])
BARTOS, Mónika [Ms] (VEJKEY, Imre [Mr])
BAYR, Petra [Ms] (ESSL, Franz Leonhard [Mr])
BENEŠIK, Ondřej [Mr]
BENNING, Sybille [Ms] (VOGEL, Volkmar [Mr])
BERNACKI, Włodzimierz [Mr]
BERNHARD, Marc [Mr]
BĒRZINŠ, Andris [M.]
BESELIA, Eka [Ms] (KATSARAVA, Sofio [Ms])
BEUS RICHEMBERGH, Goran [Mr]
BEYER, Peter [Mr]
BILDARRATZ, Jokin [Mr]
BLAHA, Ľuboš [Mr]
BLAZINA, Tamara [Ms] (QUARTAPELLE PROCOPIO, Lia [Ms])
BLONDIN, Maryvonne [Mme]
BRASSEUR, Anne [Mme]
BRUYN, Piet De [Mr]
BÜCHEL, Roland Rino [Mr] (MÜLLER, Thomas [Mr])
BUSHATI, Ervin [Mr]
BUSHKA, Klotilda [Ms]
BUTKEVIČIUS, Algirdas [Mr]
CHITI, Vannino [Mr]
CHRISTENSEN, Jette [Ms] (MEHL, Emilie Enger [Ms])
CHRISTODOULOPOULOU, Anastasia [Ms]
CHRISTOFFERSEN, Lise [Ms]
CORLĂŢEAN, Titus [Mr]
CORREIA, Telmo [M.] (MARQUES, Duarte [Mr])
CORSINI, Paolo [Mr]
COURSON, Yolaine de [Mme] (MAIRE, Jacques [M.])
CRUCHTEN, Yves [M.]
CSENGER-ZALÁN, Zsolt [Mr]
CSÖBÖR, Katalin [Mme]
CZELEJ, Grzegorz [Mr] (WOJTYŁA, Andrzej [Mr])
DALLOZ, Marie-Christine [Mme]
D’AMBROSIO, Vanessa [Ms]
DAMYANOVA, Milena [Mme]
DANESI, René [M.] (GROSDIDIER, François [M.])
DE PIETRO, Cristina [Ms] (CATALFO, Nunzia [Ms])
DE TEMMERMAN, Jennifer [Mme]
DI STEFANO, Manlio [Mr]
DIVINA, Sergio [Mr]
DONCHEV, Andon [Mr] (HRISTOV, Plamen [Mr])
EBERLE-STRUB, Susanne [Ms]
EIDE, Espen Barth [Mr]
EIDE, Petter [Mr] (WOLD, Morten [Mr])
ESTRELA, Edite [Mme]
EVANS, Nigel [Mr]
FATALIYEVA, Sevinj [Ms] (PASHAYEVA, Ganira [Ms])
FILIPOVSKI, Dubravka [Ms] (PANTIĆ PILJA, Biljana [Ms])
FOULKES, George [Lord] (SHARMA, Virendra [Mr])
FRESKO-ROLFO, Béatrice [Mme]
FRIDEZ, Pierre-Alain [M.]
GAFAROVA, Sahiba [Ms]
GALE, Roger [Sir]
GAMBARO, Adele [Ms]
GATTI, Marco [M.]
GATTOLIN, André [M.] (LOUIS, Alexandra [Mme])
GAVAN, Paul [Mr]
GENTVILAS, Simonas [Mr] (TAMAŠUNIENĖ, Rita [Ms])
GERASHCHENKO, Iryna [Mme]
GHILETCHI, Valeriu [Mr]
GILLAN, Cheryl [Dame]
GIRO, Francesco Maria [Mr]
GLASOVAC, Sabina [Ms] (BALIĆ, Marijana [Ms])
GOGA, Pavol [M.] (MAROSZ, Ján [Mr])
GOLUB, Vladyslav [Mr] (BILOVOL, Oleksandr [Mr])
GONÇALVES, Carlos Alberto [M.]
GONCHARENKO, Oleksii [Mr]
GORGHIU, Alina Ștefania [Ms]
GOUTTEFARDE, Fabien [M.]
GROZDANOVA, Dzhema [Ms]
GUNNARSSON, Jonas [Mr]
HAIDER, Roman [Mr]
HAJDUKOVIĆ, Domagoj [Mr]
HASANOV, Elshad [Mr] (HAJIYEV, Sabir [Mr])
HEER, Alfred [Mr]
HEINRICH, Frank [Mr] (MARSCHALL, Matern von [Mr])
HEINRICH, Gabriela [Ms]
HETTO-GAASCH, Françoise [Mme]
HONKONEN, Petri [Mr] (KALMARI, Anne [Ms])
HOPKINS, Maura [Ms]
HUNKO, Andrej [Mr]
HUSEYNOV, Rafael [Mr]
IBRYAMOV, Dzheyhan [Mr] (HAMID, Hamid [Mr])
JABLIANOV, Valeri [Mr]
JENIŠTA, Luděk [Mr]
JOHNSSON FORNARVE, Lotta [Ms] (KARLSSON, Niklas [Mr])
JONES, Susan Elan [Ms]
KANDELAKI, Giorgi [Mr] (BAKRADZE, David [Mr])
KAVVADIA, Ioanneta [Ms]
KELLEHER, Colette [Ms] (COWEN, Barry [Mr])
KERN, Claude [M.] (GOY-CHAVENT, Sylvie [Mme])
KIRAL, Serhii [Mr] (SOTNYK, Olena [Ms])
KITEV, Betian [Mr]
KLEINBERGA, Nellija [Ms] (LAIZĀNE, Inese [Ms])
KLEINWAECHTER, Norbert [Mr]
KOPŘIVA, František [Mr]
KORODI, Attila [Mr]
KOVÁCS, Elvira [Ms]
KOX, Tiny [Mr]
KRONBICHLER, Florian [Mr]
KÜRKÇÜ, Ertuğrul [Mr]
KYRIAKIDES, Stella [Ms]
LACROIX, Christophe [M.]
LEIGH, Edward [Sir]
LEITE RAMOS, Luís [M.]
LEŚNIAK, Józef [M.] (POMASKA, Agnieszka [Ms])
LĪBIŅA-EGNERE, Inese [Ms]
LOMBARDI, Filippo [M.]
LOPUSHANSKYI, Andrii [Mr] (DZHEMILIEV, Mustafa [Mr])
LOUCAIDES, George [Mr]
LOUHELAINEN, Anne [Ms] (PELKONEN, Jaana Maarit [Ms])
LUCIO, Pilar [Ms] (RODRÍGUEZ RAMOS, Soraya [Mme])
LUPU, Marian [Mr]
MARKOVIĆ, Milica [Mme]
MASIULIS, Kęstutis [Mr] (ZINGERIS, Emanuelis [Mr])
MASSEY, Doreen [Baroness]
MAURY PASQUIER, Liliane [Mme]
MAVROTAS, Georgios [Mr] (BAKOYANNIS, Theodora [Ms])
McCARTHY, Kerry [Ms]
MIKKO, Marianne [Ms]
MULARCZYK, Arkadiusz [Mr]
MUNYAMA, Killion [Mr] (HALICKI, Andrzej [Mr])
NAUDI ZAMORA, Víctor [M.]
NÉMETH, Zsolt [Mr]
NICK, Andreas [Mr]
OBRADOVIĆ, Marija [Ms]
OBREMSKI, Jarosław [Mr] (BUDNER, Margareta [Ms])
OHLSSON, Carina [Ms]
OMTZIGT, Pieter [Mr] (MAEIJER, Vicky [Ms])
OOMEN-RUIJTEN, Ria [Ms]
O’REILLY, Joseph [Mr]
OSUCH, Jacek [Mr] (MILEWSKI, Daniel [Mr])
OVERBEEK, Henk [Mr] (MULDER, Anne [Mr])
PISCO, Paulo [M.]
POCIEJ, Aleksander [M.] (KLICH, Bogdan [Mr])
POLETTI, Bérengère [Mme] (DURANTON, Nicole [Mme])
POLIAČIK, Martin [Mr] (KAŠČÁKOVÁ, Renáta [Ms])
POPA, Ion [M.] (PRUNĂ, Cristina-Mădălina [Ms])
PSYCHOGIOS, Georgios [Mr] (ANAGNOSTOPOULOU, Athanasia [Ms])
PUPPATO, Laura [Ms] (BERTUZZI, Maria Teresa [Ms])
RAUCH, Isabelle [Mme] (SORRE, Bertrand [M.])
RIBERAYGUA, Patrícia [Mme]
RIGONI, Andrea [Mr]
ROCA, Jordi [Mr] (MATARÍ, Juan José [M.])
RODRÍGUEZ HERNÁNDEZ, Melisa [Ms]
SANDBÆK, Ulla [Ms] (KRARUP, Marie [Ms])
SANTA ANA, María Concepción de [Ms]
SCHENNACH, Stefan [Mr]
SCHMIDT, Frithjof [Mr]
SCHOU, Ingjerd [Ms]
SCHWABE, Frank [Mr]
SEKULIĆ, Predrag [Mr]
ŠEPIĆ, Senad [Mr]
SILVA, Adão [M.]
SOBOLEV, Serhiy [Mr]
ȘTEFAN, Corneliu [Mr]
STEVANOVIĆ, Aleksandar [Mr]
STIENEN, Petra [Ms]
STIER, Davor Ivo [Mr]
STRIK, Tineke [Ms]
ŞUPAC, Inna [Ms]
SUTTER, Petra De [Ms] (DUMERY, Daphné [Ms])
TARCZYŃSKI, Dominik [Mr]
THIÉRY, Damien [M.]
TOMIĆ, Aleksandra [Ms]
TORNARE, Manuel [M.] (FIALA, Doris [Mme])
TOUHIG, Don [Lord] (BYRNE, Liam [Mr])
TRISSE, Nicole [Mme]
TRUSKOLASKI, Krzysztof [Mr]
USOV, Kostiantyn [Mr] (ARIEV, Volodymyr [Mr])
VALENTA, Jiři [Mr] (NĚMCOVÁ, Miroslava [Ms])
VALLINI, André [M.] (CAZEAU, Bernard [M.])
VAREIKIS, Egidijus [Mr]
VERDIER-JOUCLAS, Marie-Christine [Mme] (GAILLOT, Albane [Mme])
VILLUMSEN, Nikolaj [Mr]
WIECHEL, Markus [Mr] (NISSINEN, Johan [Mr])
XHEMBULLA, Almira [Ms] (SHALSI, Eduard [Mr])
YEMETS, Leonid [Mr]
Also signed the register / Ont également signé le registre
Representatives or Substitutes not authorised to vote / Représentants ou suppléants non autorisés à voter
AST, Marek [Mr]
BALFE, Richard [Lord]
BILOVOL, Oleksandr [Mr]
BRUIJN-WEZEMAN, Reina de [Ms]
EFSTATHIOU, Constantinos [Mr]
EROTOKRITOU, Christiana [Ms]
HAMOUSOVÁ, Zdeňka [Ms]
JANIK, Grzegorz [Mr]
LUNDGREN, Kerstin [Ms]
NICOLINI, Marco [Mr]
RUSSELL, Simon [Lord]
SCHNEIDER-SCHNEITER, Elisabeth [Mme]
SOTNYK, Olena [Ms]
WHITFIELD, Martin [Mr]
ZAVOLI, Roger [Mr]
Observers / Observateurs
DAVIES, Don [Mr]
DOWNE, Percy [Mr]
O’CONNELL, Jennifer [Ms]
RAMÍREZ NÚÑEZ, Ulises [Mr]
TILSON, David [Mr]
Partners for democracy / Partenaires pour la démocratie
ALAZZAM, Riad [Mr]
AMRAOUI, Allal [M.]
BOUANOU, Abdellah [M.]
CHAGAF, Aziza [Mme]
Representatives of the Turkish Cypriot Community (In accordance to Resolution 1376 (2004) of
the Parliamentary Assembly)/ Représentants de la communauté chypriote turque
(Conformément à la Résolution 1376 (2004) de l’Assemblée parlementaire)
SANER Hamza Ersa