Steering Committee on

Media and Information Society

12 November 2012

Council of Europe Conference of ministers responsible for Media and Information Society (Serbia October 2013)

“Concept paper” prepared by the Secretariat on the basis of contributions by CDMSI members, discussions at the 1st CDMSI meeting and the 1st and 2nd Bureau meetings.

I. Introduction

Over the last two decades the CoE has organised eight conferences of specialised ministers on media which have explored common concerns in the evolving media field. These Conferences have identified policy responses intended to give effect to freedom of expression and the right to impart and receive information and ideas. Promoting and preserving the indispensible role of pluralistic, diverse and independent media in democratic societies have been at the core of the conferences. These Conferences have also set the agenda for the subsequent Council of Europe activities within the field of freedom of expression and media freedom. The most recent Ministerial Conference (Iceland 2009) focused on the proliferation of media and media-like services and the necessity to elaborate a new notion of the media as a key concept for the effective implementation of human rights standards which form the basis for our democracies characterised by greater participation and involvement by various stakeholders.

II. Topics suggested by CDMSI members (summary)

In the early preparatory phase some members submitted to the CDMSI suggestions for topics to be dealt with at the Ministerial Conference. Most of these build on the recommendation on a new notion of media. The following distinct areas can be gathered:

    “Modifications of the public watchdog notion in the new media environment” (This topic would cover discussions on the need to further the traditional concepts of protection of journalists, their sources etc to the new media environment players who take part in public debate: citizen journalists, bloggers…)

    “Access to the Internet – a human right?
    (Access to the Internet is an important pre-requisite for the enjoyment of freedom of expression. The positions of the UN, OSCE and other IGOs appear to follow this direction. In the light of the developing ECHR case law, could the CoE elaborate further on this?)

    “Connected television”
    (This new technique is already well underway in many member states. Internet connectable television sets establish a new bridge between traditional broadcasting and internet services. It creates opportunities but also concerns, for example, fragmentation of the supply of content and cultural diversity. Is there a need for a legal instrument or any other follow-up by the CDMSI?)

    “Regulating freedom of expression and association online – regulating democracy?”
    (This proposal deals with the growing importance of online media and the Internet for political activism and democratic processes. It calls for shared principles of acceptable behaviour online. It also points at future work of the CoE concerning, for example, convergence between traditional broadcasting with online media, protection of social media from interference, rights of internet users, anonymity etc.)

    “Community media”
    (This proposal aims at reflecting on the role of community media in the new media environment; there are synergies between community media and social media however there are differences, for example in respect of media literacy, ownership, organisational structures, networks, accessibility and objectives.

III. Considerations by the Bureau

The Bureau has discussed the various contributions for possible topics submitted by certain members of the CDMSI. It has been agreed that rather than treating all the suggested themes as separate issues it would be necessary to establish a common overarching theme. The Bureau has largely agreed that the main focus of the conference should be on digital media and that a programme based on the various contributions should be put together in such a context. The implementation of Council of Europe standards has also been seen as an important component on which to build. Furthering core values of the media in the modern media and information society landscape, as it has been thoroughly described in the Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec(2011)7 “on a new notion of the media”, appears particularly pertinent as this instrument is the main legacy of the previous Conference for Ministers responsible for media and new communication services. During its first meeting the Bureau discussed a proposal to bring together the various themes suggested under the heading “The power of the screen – enhancing democracy and freedoms while fulfilling responsibilities in the online environment”. The Bureau has also suggested that “safety of journalists/journalism” be included as a particularly topical matter.

Finally, at its second meeting the Bureau agreed on three possible overall themes/titles of the conference and decided to submit these to the CDMSI for consideration:

    “Open and accessible Internet – media’s contribution to democracy”
    “The media is dead – long live media! Serving democracy in the digital age”
    “Freedom of Expression in 2020 – opportunities, rights and responsibilities in the digital age”

III. The way forward – food for thought

In order to facilitate the process of establishing appropriate sub-themes and the more detailed content of the Conference, the Bureau invited the Secretariat to carry out a “SWOT” analysis (table below). The strengths and opportunities justify why the focus should be on the new digital media and how that fits with the values of the Council of Europe. The weaknesses and threats but also the opportunities show areas of concern for future action, which by and large could be linked to the topics proposed by various CDMSI members. Once the themes have been agreed, the “SWOT” can also be used when formulating the political declaration and the resolutions.



Open to all in principle
Citizen participation in debate and democracy
Unprecedented speed & global reach
Promotes freedom of expression
Instant reporting
Broad access to information/knowledge

Technology faster than legislation/regulation
Commitment to CoE not universal
No universally agreed standards of internet governance
Multistakeholder approach not fully developed
Access not universal
Media literacy
Reliability of information
Unclear jurisdiction



Reduction of differences between town & country
Participation of people with disabilities
Enhanced opinion shaping

Weakening traditional watchdog function
Reception of information by algorithm
Trivialisation of issues
Cybercrime incl. hate speech
Misuse by government & business
Office chair democracy
Media concentration
Blocking and censorship
Politics & ideology
Loss of privacy; tracking & surveillance
Weakening public service media
Weakening community media

In view of the foregoing, a tentative structure of the Conference could be the following:

General theme:

    “Open and accessible Internet – media’s contribution to democracy”
    “The media is dead – long live media! Serving democracy in the digital age”

“Freedom of Expression in 2020 – opportunities, rights and responsibilities in the digital age”.

Sub-theme 1: Access to the Internet and fundamental rights

Key note speech: The role of online media and the Internet in

    - promoting freedom of expression
    - promoting access to information
    - promoting interactivity and thus
    - new forms of participation in the democratic process

Ministers’ discussion concerning problems and possible CoE reactions to following tentative issues:

    - Opportunities: see SWOT
    - Access not universal
    - Restrictions, blocking and censorship
    - Risks to the right to privacy
    - Tracking and surveillance of individuals

Sub-theme 2: Challenges to the public watchdog function in the new media landscape

    - Not only traditional journalists (whether offline or online) need protection but also other creators in the new media landscape may need specific protection of their freedom of expression
    - Citizen journalists and bloggers
    - The function of the person and the connection to the public debate is crucial, following the case-law of the ECtHR
    - Protection of investigative journalism
    - Need to codify positive obligations and to extend the scope to on-line media

Subtheme 3: Convergence between traditional media and the Internet – opportunities and risks

    - New forms of media concentration risks to pluralism and diversity
    - How to strengthen public service media in the new media environment
    - The role of community media
    - Connected television

Other topics to be included at the end of the meeting:

Stocktaking of activities carried out 2009-2012/13

Challenges to media freedom in and the role of the Council of Europe
- orientation and priorities

IV. Organisational aspects

i) Programme structure:

Opening of the Conference
- Serbian President /PM/Min
- SG CoE
- CM
- Comm HR?

Plenary sessions

The way forward
- Adoption of resolutions by the ministers

Closing session
- Serbian Minister of Culture
- CoE repr: SG/ DG/ Dir

V. Dates
17 and 18 October 2013 (tbc)

VI. Venue
To be decided (depends on the format: plenary and/or side events?)


1. CDMSI to agree on themes, 27-30 November 2012

2. CDMSI proposed themes to CM, December 2012

3. CDMSI Bureau to agree on draft declaration and resolutions, 6-7 March 2013

4. CDMSI to agree on draft declaration and resolutions, 3rd CDMSI plenary meeting

5. CM to agree on agenda, declaration and resolutions