Steering Committee on

Media and Information Society
(CDMSI)

CDMSI(2012)005

CDMSI comments on the

Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation 1998(2012) The protection of freedom of expression and information on the Internet and online media

1. The CDMSI examined with interest Resolution 1877(2012) and Recommendation 1998(2012) on ‘The protection of freedom of expression and information on the Internet and online media’ and stands ready to transmit these texts to national authorities and regulatory authorities responsible for media based on information and communication technologies (ICT’s). It considers that the Assembly’s recommendation positively build on a number of standards adopted by the Committee of Ministers, many of which are referred to in the “End-of-operations stocktaking report” of the Steering Committee on Media and New Communications.

2. The CDMSI wishes to stress the fundamental importance for people to be able to express themselves and access information on the Internet and through online media without undue restrictions1. This means exercising restraint and acting with proportionality to protect users’ freedom online thereby ensuring that only narrowly circumscribed limitations are possible, such as in cases which incite racist and xenophobic discrimination, hatred, violence or terrorism, in accordance with Article 10 para 2 ECHR.

3. There is a need to protect the freedom of privately operated Internet platforms and online service providers that serve the public interest. However, with freedom comes responsibility. The indicators and criteria established in the Recommendation of the Committee of Ministers “on a new notion of media” help to clarify when intermediaries exercise the same functions as traditional media actors, to gauge and align their freedoms and responsibilities. Follow-up activities to this Recommendation is in the terms of reference of the CDMSI.

4. The CDMSI supports the Assembly’s recommendation for intermediaries of ICT-based media to establish self-regulation in respect of codes of conduct, to carry out their functions in a transparent way and to inform users in a clear language of their corporate policies. Users’ awareness and ability to make fully informed decisions on the Internet is a central theme of many recent intergovernmental standards in the field of the media and information society, in particular in Recommendations CM/Rec(2012)3 on search engines and CM/Rec(2012)4 on social networking services.

5. In this connection, the CDMSI is active in responding by overseeing and implementing the CoE Internet Governance Strategy 2012-2015, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 14 March 2012. This includes work on a compendium of rights for Internet users and guidelines to assist governments and Internet intermediaries promote pluralistic quality-based and diverse sources of information. This also includes principles for “network neutrality” which will directly contribute to the Assembly’s proposal to co-operate with the European Commission and the European Union Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC).


1 See, inter alia, Recommendation CM/Rec(2007)11 of the Committee of Ministers to member states on promoting freedom of expression and information in the new information and communications environment.