Comments on Draft Political Texts to be submitted to the 7th European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy

The International Federation of Journalists and its regional body the European Federation of Journalists welcomes the commitments and values expressed by the texts, building as they do on the work done by the Council of Europe in this field over many years.

In the context of recent developments in the Ukraine, the holding of the Conference in Kiev provides an appropriate backdrop for the development of a forward-looking strategy for media and journalism in Europe.

We appreciate, too, the contribution of the CDMM, soon to be changed to the Steering Committee of the Mass Media and New Communications Services (CDMC) and we shall continue to play a role in the Committee’s work.

Even at this late stage the IFJ and EFJ believes that a number of points need to be further highlighted and we wish to draw the attention of the Conference to some points that could strengthen the policy and declarations to be adopted at Kiev.

1. Draft Resolution on Free Expression

This text, which is focused on times of crisis, draws attention to threats to the security of journalists (point 9). However, it makes no mention of the need to encourage measures for safety.

We believe strongly, and this is now being actively promoted by the media industry across Europe through the recently-created International News Safety Institute (INSI) that this policy could be improved by the insertion of two additional paragraphs:

a) Agree to encourage all member states to intervene promptly whenever media professionals encounter and to investigate completely, exhaustively and independently, with full disclosure, all cases of criminality and unjustified violence used against journalists or media.

b) Agree that the safety and security of media professionals is a matter of continuing concern, particularly at times of crisis, that requires each member state to support and encourage co-operation between media professionals to reduce the risks facing media staff.

In the important area of news safety this would ensure that the Council of Europe is playing an active role in promotion of the emerging consensus among media professionals.

2. Draft Resolution on Cultural Diversity and Media Pluralism

This text deals with the critical question of media quality, a matter of growing concern not just to journalists and other media professionals creators, but to a wider European public. We believe that the importance of ethical freedom and professional responsibility can and should be recognised.

This could be done under Point 3, inserting “and editorial independence” after media pluralism on first line and then by adding the following new paragraph:

13. Believing that quality of media requires a commitment to pluralism, public service values, editorial independence, ethical conduct and credible systems of self-regulation and accountability;

Finally, the insertion of “and quality in media” in first line of next paragraph would again reflect the need for a focus on the issue of general standards and quality.

3. Draft Resolution on Human Rights and Regulation of the Media

This text is very important, if not crucial to the future of European media and will define the conditions for development, particularly in the context of the Information Society. We believe that there are two issues that should be emphasised here but which are currently missing from the text: working conditions of media staff in the Information Society and protection of journalists’ sources.

This could be dealt with by inserting two additional paragraphs:

New point 9:

Believing that the Information Society workforce and all creators must enjoy working conditions in line with existing international conventions and core labour standards;

New point 11 (before copyright point):

Insisting that the journalists’ right to protection of confidentiality of sources in line with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights remains a key principle of free expression in all communication services;

Given the practical importance of these matters, they could also to be put into the draft action plan. We suggest that they could be inserted as follows:

After Point 5:

Encourage the training of media professionals in order to raise awareness of threats to their safety and on actions to be taken to reduce the risks they face in co-operation with appropriate media professional groups.

After Point 14:

Support efforts by media professionals to strengthen media quality, editorial independence and ethical standards through appropriate forms of accountability including enhanced self-regulatory methods.

After Point 19:

Promote principles of best practice in the creation of social and professional conditions for the Information Society workforce;

Finally, the IFJ and the EFJ are convinced that the Kiev Conference provides an unprecedented opportunity to reinforce and strengthen the awareness among journalists and media professionals of their important and crucial role in the defence of democracy and the human rights of all citizens.

We hope very much that the suggestions here can be embraced as part of the policy framework for future work. If they are, it will do much to ensure that the Council of Europe and the community of European journalists are able to forge a working partnership that can be of real benefit to all.