19 September 2003
Freedom of expression in the media in Europe
Recommendation 1589 (2003)
Reply from the Committee of Ministers
adopted at the 852nd meeting of the Ministers’ Deputies (17 September 2003)
1. The Committee of Ministers has considered the Parliamentary Assembly’s Recommendation 1589 (2003) on freedom of expression and information in the media in Europe and has brought it to the attention of member Governments. It also forwarded the recommendation, for information, to the Steering Committee on the Mass Media (CDMM) and the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights.
2. The Committee of Ministers shares the concerns expressed by the Assembly with respect to the persistence of problems and the occurrence of new violations relating to freedom of expression and information.
3. Freedom of expression and information in the media, as protected by Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights, indeed remains a high priority for the Committee of Ministers, as illustrated by its 1982 Declaration on the freedom of expression and information or, more recently, by the Conference on “The media in a democratic society: reconciling freedom of expression with the protection of human rights” held under the Luxembourg Chairmanship from 30 September to 1 October 2002, to which the President and members of the Parliamentary Assembly actively contributed1.
4. On the basis of close interaction of its intergovernmental programme of activities with assistance and co-operation programmes, as referred to in its reply to the Assembly Recommendation 1506 (2001), the Committee of Ministers has continued to monitor closely the state of freedom of expression and media pluralism in all Council of Europe member states within the framework of all its monitoring functions and procedures so as to bring member states’ legislation and practice closer to European standards, where necessary. Particular emphasis in this context has been made on the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, relevant Committee of Ministers legal and policy instruments and the findings of the Parliamentary Assembly. Here, the Committee of Ministers expresses its satisfaction as to the complementarity of work undertaken by both of the Organisation’s Statutory organs on this subject, thereby facilitating the achievement of better results. It congratulates the Assembly for its sustained monitoring of the situation of the media in Europe and for its first attempt of thematic monitoring.
5. In mid-April 2003, the Committee of Ministers held a special in camera monitoring meeting and examined the results brought before it by the Secretary General further to his contacts and collection of information in all member states, including countries where an in situ visit was carried out in 2002 and 2003, i.e. Albania, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, Romania, the Russian Federation, “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”, Turkey and Ukraine. Three states (Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine) have already agreed to declassify and make public the reports on the media situation in their respective countries which had been undertaken by the Secretary General’s team of independent experts. In the context of their discussion at the special in camera meeting, the Ministers’ Deputies drew particular attention to the measures to be implemented, where appropriate, by member states, as recommended by the Assembly in paragraph 17 of its recommendation. In this connection, the Committee of Ministers carefully examined the request made by the Assembly as concerns the results of its monitoring on freedom of expression.
6. In the light of the above, and in reply to paragraphs 16 and 17 of the Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1589 (2003), the Committee of Ministers:
a. encourages all member states who so wish to make public findings in the context of its monitoring exercise on freedom of expression and information with respect to their respective countries;
b. invites the Secretary General,
- in the light of the conclusions of this monitoring exercise, to ensure proper follow-up in the
co-operation and assistance programmes;
- present, by mid-September 2004, a background paper consisting of information provided by member states, as well as any additional data from different sources such as the Parliamentary Assembly and the OSCE2, on the understanding that emphasis be placed on progress achieved;
- furnish the Deputies with advice in conformity with the requirements set out in the 1994 Declaration on Compliance with Commitments accepted by member States of the Council of Europe, based on best practices in the field of freedom of expression in the member states;
c. in urgent cases, expects the Secretary General to continue to bring to the attention of the Committee of Ministers any serious breaches of freedom of expression in member states;
d. encourages all member states to request Council of Europe assistance when reviewing their relevant legislation and practice and to duly take into account recommendations provided in this context;
e. calls on all member states to incorporate the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights in the field of freedom of expression and information into their domestic legislation and practice and to ensure appropriate training of judges, prosecutors and other public officials in this respect. In this connection, it wishes to inform the Assembly that, in the context of its monitoring exercise, a short overview of the Strasbourg Court’s case-law has recently been issued and translated into several European languages3.
1 More detailed information in this regard can be found on the internet site: http://www.coe.int/MediaLuxembourgE .
2 See paragraph 1, last sentence, of the 1994 Declaration on compliance with commitments accepted by member states of the Council of Europe.
3 See document Monitor/Inf(2003)3.