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Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers sends a political message to the World Summit on the Information Society

Strasbourg, 09.07.2003 – The Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers has sent a political message to the UN-organised World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), which takes place in Geneva this December. In the message, the Ministers underline their belief that the WSIS will enable the principles of human rights, democracy, respect for cultural diversity and trust between peoples to be firmly embedded in the new information society.

The Ministers also recall that new information and communication technologies (ICT) offer unprecedented opportunities for the full enjoyment of the freedom of expression and information, and that the quality of information becomes not less but more important as barriers fall.

Concerning democracy and citizenship, the Ministers encourage the establishment of standards on electronic voting, in order to allow e-enabled elections and referenda to be held in full respect of the fundamental principles of democratic elections. They invite the Summit to encourage national action plans in order to improve the quality of public services through the creation of public access points – in libraries, teaching establishments and public administration buildings – giving users affordable access to high-quality online services.

The Ministers also point out that the Council of Europe drew up the first legal instruments for fighting crimes committed via ICT (i.e. the Convention on Cybercrime, with its Additional Protocol concerning the criminalisation of acts of a racist and xenophobic nature, and the Data Protection Convention) and reaffirm the Organisation’s availability to share experiences in this area with other regions of the world, in the context of a global action plan.

By way of contribution to the WSIS discussions, the Ministers put forward a number of proposals such as: training journalists in the use of new technologies and finding ways to uphold content standards which apply to traditional media regarding the separation of editorial content and advertising, the prohibition of certain types of advertising and the protection of minors against illegal and harmful content.

Finally, the Ministers raise the possibility of offering a multidisciplinary platform for studying the feasibility of preparing a Code of use for the Internet, containing the rights and duties of all users.

The full text of the message is available at: www.coe.int

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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 45 member states.