Media - Freedom of expression and information

 Committee of experts on protection of journalism and safety of journalists (MSI-JO)

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COUNCIL OF EUROPE
COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS

______

RECOMMENDATION No. R (86) 14

OF THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS TO MEMBER STATES
ON THE DRAWING UP OF STRATEGIES TO COMBAT
SMOKING, ALCOHOL AND DRUG DEPENDENCE
IN CO-OPERATION WITH OPINION-MAKERS AND THE MEDIA

(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 16 October 1986,
at the 400th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)

The Committee of Ministers, under the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of
Europe,

Considering that the aim of the Council of Europe is to achieve greater unity among its members and that this aim can be pursued, inter alia, by the adoption of common policies and regulations in the health field;

Considering that dependence on alcohol, tobacco and drugs is a major health problem, involving social, mental and pathological aspects;

Recalling the following recommendations: No. R (82) 4 on the prevention of alcohol-related problems, especially among young people; No. R (82) 5 concerning the prevention of drug dependence and the special role of education for health; and No. R (84) 3 on principles relating to television advertising;

Considering the need for a flexible policy of information and education, together with legislative, regulatory and economic measures, to encourage healthy lifestyles and reduce risk factors, and the key role which the media and other opinion-makers can have in reinforcing public awareness and acceptance of health education policies and other measures,

Recommends governments of member states to take account of the guidelines set out in the appendix to this recommendation, when promoting the development of strategies to combat smoking, excessive consumption of alcohol and drug dependence, in co-operation with opinion-makers and the media and when stressing the responsibility of those bodies in the shaping of public attitudes towards health.

Appendix to Recommendation No. R (86) 14

Guidelines for the development of strategies

Objectives

1. The main objectives of health information and health education strategies should be to encourage healthy lifestyles, to promote a healthy environment and to reduce risk factors.

Policies

2. A policy for health information and education should be carried out within a co-ordinated and integrated health-care system and, together with legislative, economic and other measures, should form part of a broader policy framework giving priority to underprivileged social groups.

3. Such policies should be flexible and capable of implementation at local level in order to increase community and individual responsibility. They should also take into account the differences between social groups and the need to give information which appeals to underprivileged sections of the population.

Co-ordination

4. A co-ordinated strategy should seek to involve various institutions, such as schools, public and private welfare and health institutions, the family, voluntary institutions, sport and recreation associations, as well as the media.

5. Co-ordination should take place:

- horizontally, between institutions, services and individuals at the same level;
- vertically, between institutions, services and individuals operating at local, regional and national level;
- in time, to cover the individual's whole life-span.

Potential role of the media

6. Efforts to collaborate with the media must respect the fundamental principles of independence and freedom of expression common to all member states and take into account the political, commercial and financial environment in which the media operate, which will vary from country to country. The aim should be to involve the media in stimulating the participation of the community and individuals in the promotion of their own health, and in strengthening the impact of educational campaigns aimed at the general public. Collaboration ought to extend to media participation in the definition and development of strategies.

7. As far as possible, it is important to minimise contradictions between information disseminated by the media and the policies of health authorities. In particular, care should be taken to ensure that such information does not have the effect of suggesting that those who consume tobacco, or alcohol, or illicit drugs, are to be admired or copied, rather than those who do not.

8. Public authorities and, in particular, health authorities, ought to provide the media with data needed to fulfil their function as a source of information. The information should be supplied in an appropriate form and reduced to its essentials so that the message is clear and comprehensible to the public.

9. Ways should be considered of ensuring the expertise of individual journalists, for example through seminars or training courses or through the preparation of guidelines and reference material (such as terminology). Encouragement should be given to the setting up of associations of journalists specialising in health.

Specific strategies

Tobacco

10. Strategies for discouraging the consumption of tobacco should essentially seek to:

- dissuade people, particularly young people, from beginning to smoke;
- persuade smokers to stop smoking, or reduce their consumption.

Useful measures include:

- a ban on smoking in public places, schools and hospitals, public transport, etc.;
- discouraging it in firms, offices, etc.;
- warnings on tobacco products.

Alcohol

11. Strategies aimed at reducing the consumption of alcohol should take into account the factors, such as economic and commercial interests, which are likely to constitute an obstacle to achieving the desired objectives. These objectives will include:

- promoting a moderate and responsible attitude, in particular in the working, school, military and sporting environments;

- informing the public at large of the risks linked to alcohol abuse, particularly amongst pregnant women and young people;

- alerting the media to the implications of the way in which they portray the consumption of alcohol.

Drug addiction

12. Strategies for combating drug addiction should take account of the complexity of this phenomenon and the profound social isolation and maladjustment of many addicts who are victims in need of protection and not public curiosity. Information is needed at the local level for young people and their families, teachers and medical staff.

Other measures may include restrictions on the distribution to young people of audiovisual or other material encouraging the use of drugs.

Evaluation

13. Health education campaigns and information programmes undertaken within the above framework should provide for a process of evaluation, with which the media should be associated, to make sure at least that the contents of the campaign have been accepted by the general public. Such evaluations should also take into account the risks relating to the different ways in which educational messages or information regarding health are perceived by different social groups. The results of the evaluation should be used for the planning of further campaigns.

Mediators

14. The health professions, teaching staff and socio-educational workers play a cardinal role in the dissemination of health information and should, as a matter of priority, be trained and kept informed regarding techniques and the most recent progress in child and adult health education.

15. Adequate means should be available to encourage and facilitate co-operation between those imparting information and consumer associations, trade unions, youth movements and other non-governmental organizations interested in health and environmental problems, and to secure the active participation of all concerned. Co-operation might take the form of joint project teams to plan, execute and evaluate different campaigns. Opinion-leaders and representatives from these groups should be offered appropriate training where necessary.

16. The introduction of a national prize should be considered in order to encourage and reward individuals or institutions which have made a major contribution to the development or implementation of strategies to combat dependence on tobacco, alcohol and drugs in line with the principles embodied in this recommendation.

Regulation of marketing and promotion

17. A responsible policy should be implemented concerning the rules and regulations pertaining to the promotion and commercialisation of tobacco, alcohol and pharmaceutical products; where possible, voluntary co-operation with the producers should form part of this policy.

18. Consideration should be given to policies which strictly limit all forms of promotion of tobacco and alcohol, not excluding the possibility of total prohibition in some cases, and to measures which prevent inappropriate promotion of drugs.