The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe believes that terrorism
should not affect the importance of freedom of expression and information
in the media as one of the essential foundations of democratic society.
This freedom carries with it the right of the public to be informed on
matters of public concern, including terrorist acts and threats, as well
as the response by the state and international organisations to these
threats and acts.
Terrorist acts are acts which are intended to create terror, fear or
chaos among the public. The spread of public terror, fear and feelings
of chaos depends largely on the images and messages being carried by
media reports about the terrorist acts and threats. The omnipresence
of the mass media at global level frequently exaggerates these effects
out of proportion.
The Assembly recalls its Resolution
1271 (2002) and Recommendation
1550 (2002) on combating terrorism
and respect for human rights and reaffirms that the fight against terrorism
must not be used as a pretext to restrict the fundamental rights and
freedoms guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights and
related legal texts of the Council of Europe. In this respect, it supports
the Committee of Ministers Guidelines on Human Rights and the Fight
against Terrorism of 11 July 2002.
Referring to the Committee of Ministers Declaration of 2 March
2005 on freedom of expression and information in the media in the context
of the fight against terrorism, the Assembly emphasises that Article
15 of the European Convention on Human Rights cannot be invoked in cases
of terrorism in order to restrict this freedom beyond the existing limitations
of Article 10, paragraph 2 of the Convention, because terrorist action
can neither be regarded as war in a legal sense, nor can it threaten
the life of a democratic nation.
The Assembly considers it necessary for the public and media to be aware
of the fact that terrorists direct their action towards the public and
thus utilise the media in order to have the strongest possible impact.
This is even more important because terrorists have learned how to use
information technologies in order to disseminate their own audiovisual
recordings, electronic messages or web sites on the Internet, which compels
states and the media to react accordingly.
With due regard to the privacy and human dignity of victims of terrorist
acts and their families, the Assembly stresses the importance of fully
informing the public about terrorist acts, particularly the suffering
caused by these acts as well as the socio-cultural and political context
of such acts. Informed public debate about concrete acts of terrorism
can lead to forming adequate political responses to it and to preventing
others from joining terrorist groups.
The Assembly trusts in the ability of the European political system and
culture and in its citizens, politicians and journalists to avoid sensationalist
media reports related to terrorism.
The Assembly invites media professionals:
to develop, through their professional organisations, a code of conduct
for journalists, photographers and editors dealing with terrorist acts
and threats, in order to keep the public informed without contributing
unduly to the impact of terrorism;
to organise training courses for media professionals aimed at increasing
awareness of the sensitive nature of media reports on terrorism;
to co-operate between themselves, for instance through their professional
organisations, in order to avoid a race for sensationalist news and
images which plays into the hands of terrorists;
to avoid acting in the interests of terrorists by adding to the feeling
of public fear which terrorist acts can create or by offering terrorists
a platform for publicity;
to refrain from publishing shocking pictures or disseminating images
of terrorist acts which violate the privacy and human dignity of victims
or contribute to increase the terrorising effect of such acts on the
public as well as on the victims and their families;
to avoid aggravating, through their news and comments, the societal
tensions underlying terrorism, and in particular to refrain from disseminating
any kind of hate speech.
The Assembly asks all its member and observer delegations to take account
of this recommendation in their national work and to hold a debate on
this issue in their respective national parliaments.
The Assembly recommends that the Committee of Ministers ask member and
to inform the public and the media regularly about government strategies
and action towards combating terrorism as well as its causes;
to abstain from prohibiting or even restricting unduly the dissemination
of information and opinions in the media about terrorism as well as
about the reaction by state authorities to terrorist acts and threats
under the pretext of fighting terrorism;
to inform, upon their request, media dealing with terrorism about the
specific security situation in each context, in order to avoid journalists
investigating terrorism being unnecessarily exposed to dangers caused
by terrorists or the anti-terrorist action of state authorities;
to include media literacy in their school curricula, in order to encourage
a critical and informed consumption of media content and raise citizens awareness
of the horror of terrorist acts as early as possible;
to co-operate through their law enforcement authorities and police
in order to prevent the dissemination of illegal messages and images
by terrorists on the Internet;
to apply the Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime concerning
the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed
through computer systems to terrorist content in so far as the latter
advocates, promotes or incites hatred or violence against any individual
or group of individuals based on race, colour, descent or national
or ethnic origin, as well as religion if used as a pretext for any
of these factors.
The Assembly asks the Committee of Ministers to:
to monitor the treatment of terrorism in European media in particular
with regard to its Declaration on freedom of expression and information
in the media in the context of the fight against terrorism;
to prepare, under the guidance and in close co-operation with media
professionals and their professional organisations, and with UNESCO
and other organisations working in the same field, a handbook for journalists
reporting about terrorist acts and violence;
to initiate work towards an additional protocol to the Convention on
Cybercrime setting up a framework for security co-operation between
member and observer states for the prevention of cyber terrorism, in
the form of large-scale attacks on and through computer systems which
threaten a states national security, public safety or economic
debate on 20 June 2005 (17th Sitting) (see Doc.
10557, report of the Committee
on Culture, Science and Education, rapporteur: Mr Jarab).
Text adopted by the Assembly on 20 June 2005 (17th Sitting).