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Strasbourg, 20 January 2006

MC-S-IS(2005)017

 

PDF

GROUP OF SPECIALISTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS
IN THE INFORMATION SOCIETY

(MC-S-IS)

______

3rd meeting
12 and 13 December 2005
Strasbourg, Human Rights Building

______

REPORT

______

Item 1 of the agenda: Opening of the meeting and adoption of the agenda

1. The Group of Specialists on Human Rights in the Information Society (MC-S-IS) held its 3rd meeting in Strasbourg on 12 and 13 December 2005. The meeting was chaired by Ms Alexandra KRICK (Belgium).

2. The list of participants appears in Appendix I. The agenda, as adopted, is reproduced in Appendix II.

Item 2 of the agenda: Decisions of the Committee of Ministers of interest to the work of the MC-S-IS - Message from the Committee of Ministers to the committees involved in intergovernmental cooperation at the Council of Europe

3. The Secretariat informed the Group of the Committee of Ministers “Message to the committees involved in intergovernmental cooperation at the Council of Europe”1 and of its subsequent review of the decisions taken by the Heads of State and Government at the Warsaw Summit on 16 and 17 May 2005.

The Secretariat informed the Group about the implementation of, and follow-up to, the Summit Action Plan and the importance of the shared responsibility of all committees to this end. In this respect, the Group took note of the need to focus its efforts on “(…) children in the Information Society, in particular as regards developing their media literacy skills and ensuring their protection against harmful content”2. Moreover, the Group took note of the need to “elaborate principles and guidelines to ensure respect for human rights (…) in the Information Society”.3

Item 3 of the agenda: Decisions of the Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services (CDMC) of interest to the work of the MC-S-IS

4. The Secretariat informed the Group of the CDMC’s decision, taken at its 2nd meeting held from 29 November to 2 December 2005, to send a “message” to the Committee of Ministers underlining the importance for the Council of Europe to be actively and directly involved in the follow-up and implementation phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), in particular as regards the new multi-stakeholder Internet Governance Forum (IGF) which will pursue dialogue, especially with national governments, on policy matters.

5. The Secretariat also informed the Group that the CDMC will soon consider the renewal of its terms of reference with regard to the Action Plan of the 7th European Ministerial Conference and the Declaration by the Committee of Ministers on Human Rights and the Rule of Law in the Information Society, adopted in May 2005.

Item 4 of the agenda: Other information of interest to the work of the MC-S-IS – results and follow up to the Council of Europe Parallel Event on harmful content at the WSIS, held in Tunis on 17 November 2005

6. Linked with information provided by the Secretariat under item 5 of the agenda, the Group took note of the oral report by the Secretariat on the Council of Europe’s contribution to the Tunis Phase of the WSIS, namely the intervention by the Deputy Secretary General and the parallel event session on “Empowering children and young people to positively and critically use ICTs - Dealing with ‘harmful content’ and the ‘risk of harm’ from online and related offline activities - Responsible behaviour by key actors” (see Appendix III).

Item 5 of the agenda: Elaboration of the meaning of “harmful content”, as referred to in Council of Europe instruments, in order to promote coherence in the protection of minors in all media in the Information Society – future actions to promote the coherent protection of minors

7. Linked with information provided by the Secretariat under item 4 of the agenda, the Group took note of the written comments submitted by INHOPE and ENPA. The Group also considered the communication of the authors of the study, consultant experts Ms Rachel O’CONNELL and Ms Joanne BRYCE, which explained inter alia that they had taken a decisive shift towards the empowerment, education and wellness of children and young people in online and related offline environments as the means of promoting their protection against harmful content.

The Secretariat informed the Group that the study was near completion and would be sent for proof reading and publication in early 2006.

8. Looking beyond the final study, the Group decided that the Council of Europe could best follow-up this substantial and significant work by developing a standard setting instrument which focuses on the study’s main elements, namely the empowerment, education and “wellness” of children and young people in order to promote their coherent protection. The Group took note of the importance of preparing and equipping children and young people with the critical skills4 and the information necessary to deal with harmful content and the risk of harm from online and related offline activities.

In this respect, the Group agreed to set up an informal working group of members (Belgium, Bulgaria, Greece, Finland and the Netherlands, with assistance from the Secretariat) to prepare a draft instrument that is inter alia positive and constructive in approach which promotes media literacy, especially for teachers and parents, and the general role of formal education.

The Chairperson concluded by inviting the Secretariat to prepare a preliminary draft instrument to be sent late December 2005 to the working group for their comments and further development. Once done, the Secretariat agreed thereafter to prepare a revised draft to be sent to all Group members in mid to late February 2006 for their consideration in preparation for the Group’s 4th meeting.

Item 6 of the agenda: General Report of the 2005 Pan-European Forum on Human Rights in the Information Society: Responsible Behaviour By Key Actors – follow up

9. The Group considered and discussed the General Report and its follow-up with particular reference to the Group’s terms of reference, namely the promotion of ethical conduct and responsibility of Internet actors and the transparency of the work of actors in the Information Society.

10. The Group decided that human rights guidelines on the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders should be mapped out, researched and prepared as an outline draft of issues and guidelines for discussion during the Group’s 4th meeting. In this respect, several members of the Group suggested that such an outline draft should consider the following:

    - acts, omissions and other situations in which stakeholders may adversely affect human rights in the Information Society;

    - the (gaps in the) case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, in particular Articles 8 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, with regard to the abovementioned acts, omissions and other situations;

    - the related case-law of the national courts in member states;

    - best practices and best regulatory models in member states;

    - the utility of using audits to assess human rights in the Information Society.

The Group agreed to set up an informal working group of members (Austria and the Netherlands with assistance from the Secretariat) which would report back to the Group’s at its 4th meeting. To assist the working group, the Chair invited all members of the Group to provide information and ideas to the Secretariat/working group at the latest by 28 February 2006.

Item 7 of the agenda: Regulatory models in the Information Society/Internet governance in the Information Society

11. This item was taken together with item 6 of the agenda on the understanding that human rights considerations of regulatory models can be dealt with as part of the work undertaken to prepare human rights guidelines on the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in the Information Society. The item is also linked with item 3 of the agenda relating to the CDMC “message” to the Committee of Ministers on Internet governance.

The Group took note of the importance of the human rights dimension to Internet governance/regulatory models.

Item 8 of the agenda: 2006 Pan-European Forum

12. The Group took note of the proposal by the member from Armenia (relayed by the Secretariat in the member’s absence) to host the 2006 Pan-European Forum on human rights in the Information Society, to be held in Yerevan in Autumn/Winter 2006, as part of the follow up to the WSIS. One member of the Group proposed that the precise theme of the Forum could be “The role of the state in guaranteeing human rights in the Information Society”.

Item 9 of the agenda: Develop strategies to promote digital inclusion, inter alia by means of media education, including reference to the Council of Europe Handbook on Internet Literacy (revised version)

13. The Secretariat informed the Group that the updated handbook will be published and distributed, as well as made available online (www.coe.int/media), in time for the Safer Internet Day on 7 February 2006.

The Group expressed its full support for the Handbook and agreed to take steps to arrange for its translation and dissemination into their national languages.

Item 10 of the agenda: Draft questionnaire to examine the implementation of the Committee of Ministers Declaration on freedom of communication on the Internet by the member States – finalising the draft text

14. The Group revised and finalised the questionnaire. The Chairperson invited the Secretariat to send the questionnaire to the representatives of the CDMC with copies to the members of the MC-S-IS, requesting that responses be provided by 28 February 2006.

Item 11 of the agenda: Reviewing Recommendation No. R (99) 15 on media coverage of election campaigns in the light of the development of digital broadcasting services and other new communication services – considering the feasibility of a draft questionnaire and extending the scope of the Recommendation

15. The Group decided on the need to revise the Recommendation with reference to new (online) media which uses new communication services and online technologies.

In order to best review and take stock of the Group’s ideas, the Chairperson invited the Group to propose possible revisions and modifications to the Recommendation at the latest by 28 February 2006.

Item 12 of the agenda: Forum web space – practical demonstration and discussion on themes which could be launched on the web space

16. The Secretariat presented the new Forum web space, a restricted password protected website which is to be made accessible to all Group members and a limited number of other interested persons and experts in order to stimulate open discussions between/with the Group.

The Secretariat informed the Group that it would communicate to them the themes for discussion and their passwords as soon as possible.

Item 13 of the agenda: Proposed dates for meetings of the Group in 2006

17. The Group and the Secretariat agreed that its 4th, 5th and 6th meetings would take place in Strasbourg on 9 and 10 March 2006, 20 and 21 June 2006 and 4 and 5 December 2006 respectively.

Item 14 of the agenda: Election of chairperson and vice-chairperson for 2006

18. The terms of office of the Chairperson, Ms Alexandra KRICK (Belgium), were renewed and Ms Heleen JANSSEN (the Netherlands) was elected Vice-Chairperson, both unanimously.

Item 15 of the agenda: Other business

19. None.

* * *

Appendix I

List of participants

MEMBER STATES/ETATS MEMBRES

Albania/Albanie

Mr. Taulant TOPCIU, Desk Officer in the Press and Information Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Armenia/Arménie
<Apologised/Excusé>
Mr David SANDUKCHIAND, Head of Legal Department, Project Manager, Internews Armenia

Austria/Autriche

Mr Michael TRUPPE, Federal Chancellery, Constitutional Service, VIENNA

Belgium/Belgique

Ms Alexandra KRICK, Ministère de la Communauté française de Belgique, BRUXELLES

Bulgaria/Bulgarie

Ms Nelly STOYANOVA, Ministry of Transport and Communications, SOFIA

<Apologised/Excusée>
Ms Zornitza ANGUELOVA, Ministry of Transport and Communications, SOFIA

Finland/Finlande

Ms Kristina HAUTALA-KAJOS, Senior Adviser, Ministry of Education and Culture, Science and Culture, HELSINKI

Greece/Grèce

Ms Maria GIANNAKAKI, Press Attaché, Permanent Representation of Greece to the Council of Europe, Press Office, STRASBOURG, France

<Apologised/Excusé>
M. Ioannis MANTZOURANIS, Conseiller de Presse, Directeur du Bureau de Presse de la Représentation Permanente de la Grèce auprès du Conseil de l’Europe

Malta/Malte

Mr Hubert THEUMA, Senior Counsel for the Republic, handling Human Rights litigation as well as Intellectual Property issues, Office of the Attorney General of the Republic, VALETTA

Moldova

Mr Aureliu CIOCOI, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, CHISINAU

The Netherlands/Pays-Bas

Ms Heleen JANSSEN, Ministry of the Interior, DEN HAAG

Norway/Norvège

Mr Bengt HERMANSEN, Deputy Director General, Ministry of Cultural and Church Affairs, OSLO

Portugal

<Apologised/Excusé>
Ms Maria de LURDES MONTEIRO, LISBONNE

Russian Federation

Mr Vladislav ERMAKOV, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, MOSCOW, Russian Federation

Slovakia/Slovaquie

Mr Zeljko SAMPOR, Media Department, Ministry of Culture, BRATISLAVA

Turkey/Turquie

Mr Mehmet Bora SÖNMEZ Radio and Television Supreme Council, ANKARA

Ukraine

Mr Victor VOYTOVYCH, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, KYIV

United Kingdom/Royaume-Uni

<Apologised/Excusé>
Mr Nigel HICKSON, Head of the Trade and Industry Department, ICT EU Policy, LONDON

OTHER PARTICIPANTS / AUTRES PARTICIPANTS

Parliamentary Assembly / Assemblée Parlementaire

Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe / Congrès des Pouvoirs Locaux et Régionaux de l'Europe

European Commission/Commission européenne
<Apologised/Excusé>

CDDH

Mr Ignacio BLASCO LOZANO, Government Agent, Abogacia des Estado ante el TEDH, Abogacia General del Estado, Ministry of Justice, MADRID, Spain

OBSERVERS /OBSERVATEURS

Canada

Holy See/Saint-Siège

Monsieur Louis TER STEEG

Japan/Japon

Mexico/Mexique

United States of America/Etats-Unis d’Amérique

Nordic Council of Ministers/Conseil nordique des Ministres

Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) /
Organisation pour la Sécurité et la Coopération en Europe (OSCE)

Alliance for a Media Literate Europe
<Apologised/Excusée>
Ms Evelyne BEVORT, Paris

<Apologised/Excusé>
Mr Pär LUNDGREN, Project Manager, Alliance for a Media Literate Europe, KARLSTAD, Sweden

European Digital Rights in Europe (EDRI)

Ms Meryem MARZOUKI, European Digital Rights (EDRI), LIP6/PolyTIC-CNRS lab, PARIS, France

European Federation of Journalists / Fédération européenne des Journalistes

<Apologised/Excusé>

European Newspaper Publishers’ Association / Association européenne des éditeurs de journaux

Ms Santha RASAIAH, European Newspaper Publishers Association, LONDON, United Kingdom

EuroISPA

<Apologised/Excusé>
Mr Richard Nash, Secretary General, Brussels

Europol

<Apologised/Excusé>

European Schoolnet / INSAFE

<Apologised/Excusée>
Ms Janice RICHARDSON, European Schoolnet, Insafe Project Manager, BRUSSELS, Belgium

Association of Internet Hotline Providers in Europe
<Apologised/Excusé>

Internet Content Rating Association
<Apologised/Excusé>
Mr Stephen BALKAM, Internet Content Rating Association, BRIGHTON, United Kingdom

European Internet Coregulation Network / Réseau européen de co-régulation de l’Internet
<Apologised/Excusé>

SECRETARIAT

Mr Jan MALINOWSKI, Head of Media Division, Directorate General of Human Rights - DG II/ Chef de la Division Media, Direction Générale des Droits de l’Homme - DG II (Secretary to the Committee/Secrétaire du Comité)

Mr Lee HIBBARD, Administrator, Media Division, Directorate General of Human Rights – DG II/Administrateur, Division Media, Direction Générale des Droits de l’Homme - DG II

INTERPRETERS/INTEPRETES

Mr Olivier OBRECHT
Mme Christine FARCOT
Mr Derrick WORSDALE

* * *

Appendix II

Agenda

1. Opening of the meeting and adoption of the agenda

2. Decisions of the Committee of Ministers of interest to the work of the MC-S-IS - Message from the Committee of Ministers to the committees involved in intergovernmental co-operation at the Council of Europe

3. Decisions of the Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services (CDMC) of interest to the work of the MC-S-IS

4. Other information of interest to the work of the MC-S-IS – results and follow up to the Council of Europe Parallel Event on harmful content, held in Tunis on 17 November 2005, on the occasion of the Second Phase of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS)

5. Elaboration of the meaning of “harmful content”, as referred to in Council of Europe instruments, in order to promote coherence in the protection of minors in all media in the Information Society – future actions to promote the coherent protection of minors

6. General Report of the 2005 Pan-European Forum on Human Rights in the Information Society: Responsible Behaviour By Key Actors – follow up

7. Regulatory models in the Information Society – discussing models and proposals for Council of Europe action

8. 2006 Pan-European Forum

9. Develop strategies to promote digital inclusion, inter alia by means of media education, including reference to the Council of Europe Internet Literacy Handbook (revised version)

10. Draft questionnaire to examine the implementation of the Committee of Ministers Declaration on freedom of communication on the Internet by the member States – finalising the draft text

11. Reviewing Recommendation No. R (99) 15 on media coverage of election campaigns in the light of the development of digital broadcasting services and other new communication services – considering the feasibility of a draft questionnaire and extending the scope of the Recommendation

12. Forum webspace – practical demonstration and discussion on themes which could be launched on the webspace

13. Proposed dates for meetings of the Group in 2006

14. Election of chairperson and vice-chairperson for 2006

15. Other business

* * *

Appendix III

(To be Checked against delivered Speech)

World Summit on the Information Society, Tunis, 16-18 November 2005
Speech by Maud de Boer-Buquicchio, Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe delivered at the Seventh Plenary Session of the WSIS

18.11.2005
Chairman,
Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The technologies which drive the Information Society are not fundamentally good or bad – they are what we make of them. They can help us learn, create and heal, but they can also hurt and destroy our dignity and our freedom. The Internet can be a powerful vehicle of democracy in countries where, regrettably, censorship remains a rule enforced, if necessary by street thugs.
You, the leaders of the world are gathered today to pledge making digital technologies a positive force for the future. On behalf of the Council of Europe, the pan-European human rights and democracy Organisation representing 46 states and 800 million people, I invite you to go beyond the words and establish policies and instruments for an Information Society based on Human Rights, democracy, rule of law, social cohesion, cultural diversity and trust between individuals and between peoples.
Two years ago, the First Phase of this World Summit in Geneva made an important step in recalling the primacy of Human Rights in the Information Society. But Human Rights and freedoms are much more than declaratory statements. In Europe, the state is accountable for its actions and omissions which breach its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. This instrument, enforceable in 46 states, remains fully valid in the information age.
Europe offers a cutting edge instrument to combat crime committed on, through or against computer systems – the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention. The Convention is open to all countries in the world - in fact, many regional meetings preceding this Summit encouraged states join the Convention and adopt laws which follow its standards. I call upon you to confirm this appeal in the Tunis Commitment. The Cybercrime convention is a unique international binding instrument for the security of the Information Society. It is a resource which becomes more valuable the wider it is shared. Let’s not lose precious time - we all need to act under a single treaty to combat borderless cybercrime!
The Information Society is clearly in need of a global governance mechanism. The Council of Europe, with its unchallenged Human Rights expertise, political consultation structures, and solid relationship with civil society, must be party to discussions undertaken at every step of the way concerning Internet Governance and Human Rights.
But amidst important discussions regarding structures, processes and mechanisms, let us not forget that the Information Society is ultimately driven by people. People are the backbone of the Information Society: by empowering and educating them – not only in e-literacy but also in democracy literacy and human rights literacy – we will be making the most crucial investment we can make to the world we live in to be passed on to future generations.

* * *

Appendix IV

Council of Europe Parallel Event session entitled “Empowering children and young people to positively and critically use ICTs - Dealing with ‘harmful content’ and the ‘risk of harm’ from online and related offline activities - Responsible behaviour by key actors”
World Summit on the Information Society, in Tunis on 17 November 2005


Parallel Event / Second Session

EMPOWERING CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE TO POSITIVELY AND CRITICALLY USE ICTS

DEALING WITH ‘HARMFUL CONTENT’ AND THE ‘RISK OF HARM’ FROM ONLINE AND RELATED OFFLINE ACTIVITIES

RESPONSIBLE BEHAVIOUR BY KEY ACTORS

17 November 2005, 17:00 – 19:00
Room Jerba, Exhibitions Park and International Trade Centre,
2015 LE KRAM, TUNIS, TUNISIA

Introduction

On the occasion of the Tunis Phase of the World Summit on Information Society (WSIS), held in Tunis on 16-18 November 2005, the Council of Europe organised a Parallel Event which included a session on ‘harmful content’ and behaviours which carry a ‘risk of harm’ from online and related offline activities – responsible behaviour by key actors.

The event showcased Council of Europe research on harmful content and explored the corresponding the roles and responsibilities of key actors in the Information Society, in particular those of member States, industry, civil society and the media with regard to the positive use of the Internet and new communication services/technologies as a means of exercising and enjoying human rights and freedoms, in particular the right to freedom of expression and information.

Background to the session – Council of Europe research into ‘harmful content’

As part of its developing work in the field of human rights in the Information Society, the Council of Europe is currently finalising work on the elaboration of the meaning of ‘harmful content’ as referred to in Council of Europe instruments, in order to promote coherence in the protection of minors in all media in the Information Society.

From ‘harmful content’ to ‘risk of harm’

The Council of Europe’s research on ‘harmful content’ is pushing the boundaries of current thinking towards a new wider concept of ‘risk of harm’ which includes both the well known risks associated with harmful content, such as the exposure to pornography, misinformation, violent and/or racist material, and the more recent trends in the misuse of new communication services/technologies, such as ‘grooming’ and abusive cybersex.

The notion of ‘risk of harm’ is central to understanding the scope for children and young people to be active initiators of, and participants in, deviant online and related offline activities (e.g., activities that adversely affect other user’s privacy and rights, identify theft, hacking, using the works of others without permission and engaging in unauthorised downloading of music, games and software). The more serious end of the spectra of ‘risk of harm’ activities include, cyberbullying, cyberstalking, creating and disseminating pornography (i.e., dangerous, high risk or even criminal activities, which place children and young people in a position where they pose a risk of harm not only to themselves but also to others).

Session objectives

On this basis, the objectives of the second session of this Parallel Event were to:

    - discuss the general levels of awareness and understanding of, and action taken by, key stakeholders with regard to content and behaviours posing a ‘risk of harm’;

    - explore the challenges for, and reactions by, key stakeholders in the Information Society regarding content and behaviours posing a ‘risk of harm’;

    - discuss the human rights responsibilities of key stakeholders in their day-to-day decisions and policy making, as part of the wider aim of developing benchmark levels of human rights protection and promotion in the Information Society.

Session conclusions

Reference was made to both a “responsibility deficit” and a “capacity deficit” in the education/literacy and empowerment of users, especially children and young people, which key actors must fill as responsible stakeholders in the Information Society.

It was suggested that responsible behaviour by key actors should include: more positive reporting by the media on Internet related stories to avoid creating moral panic amongst parents and teachers; more state led Internet literacy (human rights based) initiatives in school curricula; making the best use of the multi-stakeholder platform offered by the Council of Europe to promote education/literacy initiatives and empowerment both in schools and with respect to key actors.

It was generally agreed that it was better to encourage and empower users – parents, teachers, children and young people - to use Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) in a positive and critical manner rather than to be fearful of the dangers and ‘risk of harm’ they may carry, especially in the wake of initiatives such as the ‘100$ laptop per child project’ launched in Tunis at the WSIS, which will no doubt encourage greater and more widespread Internet use especially in developing countries.

It was concluded that the exercise and enjoyment of ICTs and a holistic approach to the ‘wellness’ of users was the crux of the matter which, coupled with responsible behaviour by key actors, was considered to be the most appropriate way of dealing with ‘harmful content’ and on-line and related offline behaviours carrying a ‘risk of harm’.

Session recommendations

The session reinforced the desirability of developing a Council of Europe response that assists key actors in the Information Society to better understand and develop their responsibilities with regard to ‘harmful content’ and behaviours that carry a ‘risk of harm’. In this respect, and taking inspiration from the results of the Council of Europe Pan-European Forum on Human Rights in the Information Society, held in Strasbourg on 12 and 13 September 2005, it is recommended:

    - Human rights benchmarks/guidelines be developed for each key actor/stakeholder group in the Information Society;

    - Human rights ‘proofing’ be carried out of key actions, decisions and technologies influencing the Information Society;

    - Promote and facilitate the provision of media literacy initiatives to minimise the ‘risk of harm’ from online and related offline activities (intimately linked with member State responsibilities to protect and promote human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights), coupled with better use of civil society and the media to develop clear systems of evaluation of the efficacy of educational initiatives.


1 See Doc CM(2005)145 revised.

2 Chapter II, sub-heading 5, paragraph 3, of Council of Europe Warsaw Summit Action Plan.

3 “The Council of Europe shall further elaborate principles and guidelines to ensure respect for human rights and the rule of law in the information society. It will address challenges created by the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) with a view to protecting human rights against violations stemming from the abuse of ICT” (Chapter II, sub-heading 5, paragraph 2, of Council of Europe Warsaw Summit Action Plan).

4 “Member states should facilitate access to ICT devices and promote education to allow all persons, in particular children, to acquire the skills needed to work with a broad range of ICTs and assess critically the quality of information, in particular that which would be harmful to them” (Declaration of the Committee of Ministers on human rights and the rule of law in the Information Society, of 13 May 2005).