Strasbourg, 6 January 2012





Comments by the Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services (CDMC) on Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1981 (2011) on violent pornography

    1. The CDMC takes note of the Recommendation 1981 (2011) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on violent and extreme pornography, a notion that may be difficult to define in legal terms.
    2. It shares the Parliamentary Assembly’s concerns about the negative impact of violent and extreme pornography on human dignity. In particular, children and young people need to be protected against exposure to violent and extreme pornography.
    3. Legislation and regulations relating to violent and extreme pornography should be in line with Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights and the relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights. Although the Strasbourg Court acknowledges a margin of appreciation for each member state, it should also be borne in mind that freedom of expression can also extend to the right to offend, shock and disturb. The CDMC would emphasise that any temptation to engage in censorship contrary to Article 10 should be resisted.
    4. As provided for by Article 10 paragraph 2 of the Convention “The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary”.
    5. The CDMC also recalls the CM/Rec (2009)5 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on measures to protect children against harmful content and behaviour and promote their active participation in the new information and communication environment according to which “states have the right, and even an obligation, to protect children from content which is unsuitable or inappropriate”. The CDMC further recalls the Human Rights Guidelines for online game providers developed by the Council of Europe in co-operation with the Interactive Software Federation of Europe, as well as Committee of Ministers Recommendations Nos R(97)19 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on the portrayal of violence in electronic media and R 89)7 concerning principles on the distribution of videograms having a violent, brutal or pornographic content. The CDMC is firmly convinced that relevant standards and laws concerning illegal or harmful content and the protection of children and adolescents as well as human dignity should be applied in a consistent manner.
    6. The CDMC is of the opinion that a comprehensive approach based on human rights in a democratic society is the most effective strategy against the proliferation of gratuitous violence and harmful and illegal content. Among other measures classification of content is a useful tool to inform parents and young people about the content of various products available. In an ideal world, the best sustainable method to respond to this would be through effective self-regulation. However, recent events have shown that self-regulation has not always risen to the challenge and the CDMC therefore considers that currently, co-regulation of the media and various providers and platforms to be the best method to respond to the risks of the new information and communication environment. Active international co-operation encompassing the exchange of information among the competent authorities relating to content classification and handling of complaints as well as good practice examples are of particular relevance in this respect.
    7. The Parliamentary Assembly recommends that a comparative study on the law and regulations applying to forms of violent and extreme pornography in member states be carried out and, on this basis, consider whether there is scope for a more harmonised approach, in particular as regards responses to the distribution of violent and extreme pornographic material on the Internet. Should the Committee of Ministers decide in favour, such a study could indeed provide valuable information that might suggest the way forward, while bearing in mind freedom of expression requirements.