Recommendation 1589 (2003)
Freedom of expression in the media in
1. The Parliamentary Assembly recalls its Recommendation 1506
(2001) on freedom of expression and information in the media in Europe and
its decision to exert, through the general rapporteur on the media, moral
and political pressure on governments which violate freedom of expression
in the media, pursuing this issue on a country-by-country basis.
2. It regrets that since the adoption of
Recommendation 1506 many problems persist and that further serious
violations of freedom of expression have since taken place in Europe as
well as in the rest of the world.
3. Violence continues to be a way of
intimidating investigative journalists or of settling scores between rival
political and economic groupings, for whom certain media act as
mercenaries. The number of journalists attacked, or even murdered, in the
Russian Federation is alarming. Violence has also recently been recorded
in Armenia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Georgia,
Ukraine and Belarus. In particular, the Assembly strongly condemns the
murder of Tigran Naghdalian, Chairman of the Public Television and Radio
Council of Armenia. It is unacceptable that no substantial progress has
been made in the investigation of crimes committed earlier, such as the
murder of Heorhiy Gongadze in Ukraine and the disappearance of Dmitry
Zavadsky in Belarus.
4. It is also unacceptable in a democracy
that journalists should be sent to prison for their work, as in the cases
of Mikola Markevich, Paval Mazheika and Viktar Ivashkevich in Belarus, and
of Grigory Pasko in Russia. Criminal prosecution against journalists
continues in Turkey.
5. Other forms of legal harassment, such
as defamation suits or disproportionately high fines that bring media
outlets to the brink of extinction, continue to proliferate in several
countries. Such cases were recently recorded in Azerbaijan, Belarus,
Croatia, Russia and Ukraine. A dozen lawsuits have been brought against
Presspublica, the publisher of the major Polish daily, Rzeczpospolita.
Intimidation of the media also takes the form of police raids, tax
inspections and other kinds of economic pressure.
6. In Ukraine, according to numerous
journalists and the conclusions of the parliamentary hearings on freedom
of speech and censorship, the presidential administration provides
instructions to the media on the coverage of the main political events.
7. In most countries of the Commonwealth
of Independent States the national television, the main source of
information for the majority of the population, continues to be state-run
or under tight government control. It is regrettable, for instance, that
despite explicit Council of Europe recommendations to the Moldovan
authorities and despite mass protests at Teleradio-Moldova last spring,
the newly adopted broadcasting law provides for many forms of direct
political interference. The same problem exists with the proposed draft
for a law on public television in Azerbaijan.
8. In certain countries it is still far
too easy to replace heads of public media according to the whims of the
9. Even the most advanced new democracies
still face difficulties in ensuring genuinely independent public service
broadcasting and a proper balance between government and opposition.
10. In certain west European countries,
courts continue to violate the right of journalists to protect their
sources of information, and this despite the case-law of the European
Court of Human Rights.
11. The media legislation in some of
these countries is outdated (for instance the French press law dates back
to 1881) and although restrictive provisions are no longer applied in
practice, they provide a suitable excuse for new democracies not willing
to democratise their own media legislation.
12. In Italy, the potential conflict of
interest between the holding of political office by Mr Berlusconi and his
private economic and media interests is a threat to media pluralism unless
clear safeguards are in place, and sets a poor example for young
13. Media concentration is a serious
problem across the continent. In certain countries of central and eastern
Europe a very small number of companies now predominantly own the printed
press. Access to digital television also tends to be highly concentrated.
14. The recent terrorist attacks can
provide a pretext for introducing new restrictions to freedom of
information, as with the adoption by the Russian Duma of amendments to the
Laws on Mass Media and the Law on the Fight against Terrorism, but which
President Putin had asked to be reformulated using his right of veto.
15. The Assembly therefore stresses the
need for the Council of Europe, through its appropriate bodies, to
continue to monitor closely the state of freedom of expression and media
pluralism across the continent and to put all its weight behind the active
defence of its basic standards and principles, including the duty of
journalists to observe ethical and responsible professional standards.
16. In this context, it asks the
Committee of Ministers to make public the results of its monitoring
procedure in the field of freedom of expression of the media.
17. The Assembly also asks the Committee
of Ministers to urge all European states, where appropriate:
i. to ensure that substantial progress
is made in the investigation of murders of journalists and that the
perpetrators of such crimes are punished;
ii. to set free all journalists
imprisoned for their legitimate professional work and to abolish
legislation that makes journalistic freedom of expression subject to
iii. to stop immediately all forms of
legal and economic harassment of dissenting media;
iv. to revise their media legislation
according to Council of Europe standards and recommendations and to
ensure its proper implementation;
v. to revise in particular their
broadcasting legislation and implement it with a view to the provision
of a genuine public service;
vi. to abolish restrictions on the
establishment and functioning of private media broadcasting in minority
vii. to incorporate the case-law of the
European Court of Human Rights in the field of freedom of expression
into their domestic legislation and ensure the relevant training of
viii. to ensure the plurality of the
media market through appropriate anti-concentration measures, especially
in fairness of access to digital radio and television platforms, and to
press for relevant international mechanisms in that respect to be
ix. to refrain from adopting
unnecessary restrictions to the free flow of information under cover of
the fight against terrorism, while respecting Article 10 paragraph 2 of
the European Convention on Human Rights.
18. The Assembly
should continue to devote special attention to freedom of expression in
the mass media in all European states. It considers active international
co-ordination necessary in order to react immediately to cases of violence
and pressure on journalists.
Assembly debate on 28 January 2003 (3rd Sitting) (see
Doc. 9640 rev.,
report of the Committee on Culture, Science and Education, rapporteur: Mrs
Text adopted by the Assembly
January 2003 (3rd Sitting).