The Council of Europe - 800 million Europeans

Media and Democracy

Free, independent and pluralistic media, in accordance with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, are essential to democracy.

The work of the Council of Europe in the media sector is geared towards:

  • strengthening freedom of expression and information and the free flow of information and ideas across frontiers;
  • developing pan-European policies and appropriate legal and other instruments for this purpose;
  • formulating appropriate measures to ensure that media law and policy keep pace with technological, economic and regulatory changes in the media sector.

Freedom of expression and information

The European Declaration on the Freedom of Expression and of Information, adopted by the Committee of Ministers in 1982, expresses the commitment of member states’ governments to freedom of expression and information.

Facilitating transfrontier broadcasting

The European Convention on Transfrontier Television, in force since 1993, is intended to facilitate the circulation of television programme services across frontiers by guaranteeing freedom of reception and retransmission on the territories of the contracting parties. The Convention ensures that contracting parties abide by a minimum set of principles dealing with programme content, the right of reply, advertising and sponsorship.

The original Convention’s provisions on jurisdiction access of the public to events of major importance, advertising and teleshopping, were all extensively revised by an amending Protocol, inter alia, which came into force on 1 March 2002. There are currently 34 States party to the Convention (including one non member State).

Other binding instruments

European agreements on:

  • programme exchanges by means of television films (in force since 1961);
  • the protection of television broadcasts (in force since 1961);
  • the prevention of broadcasts transmitted from outside national territories (in force since 1967) and protocols there to.

European conventions relating to:

  • copyright law and neighbouring rights in the framework of transfrontier satellite broadcasting;
  • legal protection of services based on, or consisting of, conditional access.


The Committee of Ministers has adopted a series of legal and policy measures on various aspects of the mass media:

  • protection of journalists’ sources of information;
  • media and elections;
  • independence of public service broadcasting;
  • protection of rights holders;
  • media transparency and pluralism;
  • exclusive rights for the broadcasting of major events;
  • the portrayal of violence in the electronic media;
  • “hate speech”;
  • independence and functions of regulatory authorities for the broadcasting sector;
  • freedom of communication on the Internet;
  • provision of information through the media in relation to criminal proceedings;
  • freedom of political debate in the media.

European Ministerial Conferences on the Media

Ministerial Conferences at regular intervals reaffirm commitment to media freedom, adopt important strategy proposals and provide directions for the Council of Europe’s future work in the media field. The 2005 Ministerial Conference (Kiev, 10-11 March) resulted in the adoption of three Resolutions and an Action Plan to promote freedom of expression, pluralism, and diversity in communication services and their content, as well as on protecting human rights and promoting the widest possible participation of all individuals in the Information Society.

Priority concerns

The Steering Committee on the Mass Media is responsible for current work on five main topics:

  • freedom of expression and information in times of crisis (working conditions of media professionals in crisis situations as well as their responsibilities, including those regarding the right to privacy and respect for human dignity);
  • cultural diversity and media pluralism in the light of the development of media concentrations and new communications technologies and services;
  • public service broadcasting in the Information Society;
  • human rights in the Information Society (protection of minors from harmful content, roles and responsibilities of different actors in the Information Society, promotion of digital inclusion by means of media education);
  • examination of the conformity of member states’ legislation on defamation with the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.

Activities for the development and consolidation of democratic stability

Establishing a media system which satisfies all the requirements of a democratic society – especially in the new member states – is a priority among the Council’s initiatives to foster democratic security. Co-operation programmes in the media field provide support for these countries by means of legislative expertise as well as awareness-raising seminars and training workshops on such issues as the exercise of journalistic freedom, media action and racism, the coverage of elections, access to information, etc.

The European Audiovisual Observatory

The European Audiovisual Observatory gathers and circulates information on the audiovisual industries in Europe. It is a partial and enlarged agreement of the Council of Europe with 37 members. The European Community, represented by the European Commission, is also a member.

The European Audiovisual Observatory’s task is to create greater transparency in the audiovisual sector in Europe both for the professionals and for the political decision-makers of this sector.

The European Audiovisual Observatory manages a unique information network representing over 400 different information sources (partners, professional organisations, correspondents etc.). Thanks to this network, the Observatory is able to provide relevant and up-to-date information on audiovisual markets and financing as well as legal audiovisual questions.

It makes this information available in the form of: publications, on-line products and services, free access databases and conference presentations.


A political organisation set up in 1949, the Council of Europe works to promote democracy and human rights continent-wide. It also develops common responses to social, cultural and legal challenges in its 47 member states.
2002 - The Council of Europe Information Office - Tbilisi.