A free and independent press is vital to democracy, ensuring government accountability and a diversity of viewpoints. The Forum on Freedom of Media and Human Rights fostered knowledge and discussion that protect press freedoms, increase public access to knowledge and information, the inclusion of minority voices in media, and use of communication and information to address pressing social issues. The Forum investigated ways to uphold the right to speak and to know—in order to support public involvement in government and accountability, and to challenge corruption and human rights abuses, as well as to safeguard and promote independent media and quality journalism. Further, the international experience was investigated, exchanges and dialogue pursued, and synergies forged on exploring new formats of cooperation at the interface between human rights, media, citizens, and the state, as well as ways of implementing innovative measures for promoting the right to freedom of opinion and access to information.
The topics included the launching of the Council of Europe Platform on freedom of expression in Greece, discussion on the application of the platform in Greece, the issue of public media and the state, media regulation, the issue of freedom of the press and its differences from freedom of expression, surveying particularly following the attacks in Paris, Charlie Hebdo, Copenhagen, Ankara, Beirut, as well as citizens journalism. The questions of how media could be integrated into good governance work and of the imbalance and hostility on diversity and migration issues of media coverage in Greece and in Europe was addressed, particularly as migrants and marginalized groups are largely absent from the debate in the mainstream media.
Session on The right to freedom of expression and information & democratic governance
Questioning the basics in the current conjuncture: Essential to democracy and governance are open debate, the sharing of ideas and the opportunity to take part in decision-making. What is the right to freedom of expression? How is the right to freedom of expression guaranteed internationally (or not)? What are the key aspects of the right to freedom of expression? Who clarifies the scope of the right to freedom of expression? How can the right to freedom of expression be limited? How is the right to freedom of expression enforced? How do censorship and violence interplay with press freedom?
Session on Media and Anti-discrimination
All over Europe increasing racism, xenophobia is fed by and feeds into the public sphere; the media playing a most vital role. Homophobia, Antisemitism, Islamophobia and other intolerances limit communities and people’s ability to express their views and ideas freely. Particularly as the refugee crisis accentuates, many questions arise: what are the mechanics of hate speech and how does it function? Is Europe on a “slippery slope” towards criminalising expression; what are the guidelines of the European Court of Human Rights? How can the foreseeability of laws be improved and legal certainty be achieved on the Internet? What non-legal means exist for dealing with hate speech? Defamation: Individuals need protection from false statements of fact which damage their reputation; how can Europe invest more on citizens’ awareness of freedom of expression issues?
Session on The Public’s Right To Know & Democratic governance
The right to know and the way this is reflected in the principles on Freedom of Information Legislation:
Maximum disclosure; Obligation to publish; Promotion of open government; Limited scope of exceptions; Processes to facilitate access; Costs; Open meetings; Disclosure takes precedence; Protection of whistleblowers
Session on Freedom and security in a mediated environment
Free and pluralist public debate, a precondition for democracy; how to create an enabling environment? Implications and costs of mass surveillance on freedom of expression: Strengthening commitment to freedom of expression in all contexts: Policies – Actions – Tools: a European momentum for an on-going and intensive dialogue amongst all stakeholders, vital to the achievement of freedom of expression at times of crisis? Protecting freedom of expression online: what is the role of intermediaries? Who are these intermediaries and what are the preconditions in terms of legal certainty for their functions? How do these intermediaries react when asked to delete content or when advised to disclose users’ data? Is this done in a transparent way? What are their responsibilities? What acts by intermediaries may potentially constitute a violation of freedom of expression; what is the situation regarding intermediaries’ editorial freedom? What is the situation regarding the confidentiality of journalists’ sources?
Session on Media Regulation
Almost everyone relies on the media (sometimes known as the public watchdog) to learn about news and hear debates. The media therefore has a central role to play in the freedom of information and freedom of expression. Governments often dislike influential alternative or critical voices. Important topics to discuss: Press regulation; Broadcasting regulation; Licensing; Protection of sources; Concentration, financial regulation & advertising
Presentation of the Council of Europe Platform
This platform is designed to facilitate the compilation, processing and dissemination of factual information, verified by the partners, concerning serious physical threats to journalists and other media personnel, threats to the confidentiality of media sources and forms of political or judicial intimidation. How can a decisive step be taken towards reinforcing the Council of Europe’s collective action in co-operation with other international organisations in the context of the promotion of freedom of expression in Europe and Greece?
Session on Media and the refugee crisis
The media coverage yet also the access to information on the refugee crisis witnessed over the recent period have lots to ask for; at best as humanitarian and philanthropic pleas. Mainstream media have been unable to seriously address the underlying assumptions of national threats and cultural dangers. Yet independent voices are heard, mainly through social media and investigative reporting. What needs to be done?
Discussion on the following areas of activity, coordinated by Yannis Sidiropoulos:
- Improvement of the legal and economic framework for promoting freedom of expression and political participation.
- Improvement in the access to information (in particular to information relevant to human rights).
- Improvement of the communication and dialogue related to anti-corruption and transparency of public finances.
- Improvement of the media skills of civil society actors and disadvantaged population groups.
- Creation of dialogue forums between the state, the media and civil society.
Capacity development for media practitioners (particularly with human rights focus).