Strasbourg, 5 April 2006

MC-S-IS(2006)008

 

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GROUP OF SPECIALISTS ON HUMAN RIGHTS
IN THE INFORMATION SOCIETY

(MC-S-IS)

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4th meeting
9 and 10 March 2006
Human Rights Building, Strasbourg
Room of the Directorate General

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REPORT

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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 4th meeting in Strasbourg on 9 and 10 March 2006. The meeting was chaired by Ms Alexandra Krick (Belgium).

Item 2 of the agenda: Decisions of the Committee of Ministers of interest to the work of the MC-S-IS

2. The Secretariat informed the Group that the Committee of Ministers had noted with satisfaction the “Message” of the Steering Committee on the Media and New Communication Services (CDMC) inviting the Committee of Ministers to “(…) reaffirm the Council of Europe’s commitment to work in this area and to take an active part in the follow-up and implementation phase of the WSIS process, making the Organisation a fully-fledged partner in the discussions undertaken concerning Internet governance, thereby bringing a strong human rights dimension to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)”1 .

In response to the positive reaction of the Committee of Ministers, the Secretariat informed the Group of its participation in the first consultation meeting on the IGF, held in Geneva on 16 and 17 February 2006, and of its written submission to the UN Secretariat in response to the general invitation of the Chairman of the consultation meeting for further written contributions from stakeholders on the public policy issues to be addressed at the first meeting of the IGF.

In this connection, the Dutch expert underlined the importance of drawing attention to the importance of freedom of expression in the discussions on the IGF.

Item 3 of the agenda: Other information of interest to the work of the MC-S-IS

3. The Group took note of the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Perrin v. United Kingdom, No. 5446/03, of 18 October 2005, concerning obscene material placed by the applicant on a free preview page of a website.

The Secretariat highlighted several elements of this decision, most notably:

    - the Court held that the fact that the dissemination of the images in question may have been legal in other States, including the USA, did not mean that in proscribing such dissemination within its own territory and in prosecuting and convicting the applicant, the UK had exceeded the margin of appreciation afforded to it;

    - the Court considered that the existence of other measures to protect against the harm (such as parental control software packages, making the accessing of the sites illegal and requiring Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”) to block access) had not rendered it disproportionate for the authorities to resort to criminal prosecution, particularly when those other measures had not been shown to be more effective;

    - the Court added that the web page at issue was freely available to anyone surfing the Internet and that it included the very type of material which might be sought out by young persons whom the national authorities were trying to protect;

    - the Court also observed that it would have been possible for the applicant to avoid the harm and, consequently, the conviction, while still carrying on his business, by ensuring that none of the photographs were available on the free preview page.

The Secretariat underlined the importance and relevance of this decision in mapping out the roles and responsibilities of different stakeholders in the Information Society (in accordance with agenda item 6), in particular with regard to the right to freedom of expression and information.

Item 4 of the agenda: Draft Council of Europe instrument on dealing with harmful content2

4. The Group considered the preliminary draft instrument, which had been prepared with the kind assistance of the experts from Belgium, Greece, Finland and the Netherlands. The Group also took into consideration the written comments supplied by the United Kingdom prior to the meeting.

Overall, the Group generally agreed on the direction and structure of the draft instrument and also on it being developed as a draft recommendation rather than a declaration.

In the light of the comments and proposed revisions of the Group, and at the invitation of the Chairperson, the Secretariat agreed to rework the draft and re-send it to the Group by e-mail for further consideration and possible approval. In this connection, the Group took note that, subject to their approval, the reworked draft could be finalised by e-mail in advance of its 5th meeting, in June 2006, so that it might be submitted to the CDMC for examination and approval at its 3rd meeting in late May 2006.

Item 5 of the agenda: Elaborating 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

5. The Group considered the final study of the consultant experts, Ms Rachel O’Connell and Ms Joanne Bryce. They expressed concern inter alia concerning the text’s references to possible illegal websites and their content and requested the Secretariat to investigate this matter prior to its publication.

6. As regards its publication, the Group took note that the study was commissioned and prepared independently of the Group and contained the opinions and views of the authors and not those of the Group nor necessarily those of the Council of Europe.

7. As regards its mandate to “elaborate 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”, the Group agreed on the need to seek public consultation on the findings of the study. In response, the Chairperson invited the Secretariat to organise a public consultation on the findings of the study.

Item 6 of the agenda: Outlining and mapping out human rights issues and guidelines pertaining to the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in the Information Society

8. The experts from Austria and the Netherlands, together with the Secretariat, gave a PowerPoint presentation to the Group on “Outlining and mapping out the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in the Information Society, with regard to human rights”. The Group considered and commented on the key actors and issues which should be addressed in the elaboration of Council of Europe guidelines.

In conclusion, the Chairperson invited the members of Austria, the Netherlands and Armenia, together with the Secretariat, to prepare preliminary draft guidelines for consideration by the Group at its 5th meeting in June 2006.

Item 7 of the agenda: Developing 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)

9. The Group took note of the information provided by the Secretariat concerning the on-line (flash format) and printed versions of the Handbook which had been referred to and disseminated widely on the occasion of Safer Internet Day on 7 February 2006 and in certain activities of the European Year of Citizenship through Education.

The Secretariat also informed the Group that, in addition to the English and French versions, Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal and Turkey had also translated the Handbook into their national languages.

Item 8 of the agenda: Analysing the questionnaire on the implementation of the Declaration on freedom of communication on the Internet by the member States

10. The Secretariat informed the Group that only 7 responses had been received prior to the meeting to the questionnaire on the implementation of the Declaration thereby making it difficult to prepare an exhaustive analysis.

As a provisional measure, the Secretariat presented the Group with a brief analysis and overview of the responses so far received and indicated that the Declaration had had little direct impact in the majority of states but that there was general respect for, and conformity with, most of its principles.

The Chairperson concluded that the Secretariat should encourage other member states to respond to the questionnaire in order for it to prepare a comprehensive analysis of the Declaration’s impact so that the Group may, in turn, take stock and consider fully the implementation of the Declaration.

Item 9 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

11. In reviewing the Recommendation, informative presentations were kindly made by members of the Secretariat, namely Mr Michael Remmert, Project Manager, Project on good governance in the Information Society3, with particular regard to the impact of e-campaigning and e-voting (e.g. political blogs, online advertising), and Mr Pierre Garrone, Head of Division, Secretariat of the Venice Commission4, with particular regard to media conduct in the election observation process (e.g. media in public counting process and in the broadcasting of results). In the latter instance, the Group took note of the Venice Commission’s willingness to provide an opinion on any revised version of the Recommendation.

In response, certain Group members considered it important to ensure that there is balanced media coverage of political candidates using the new media, in particular as regards party political advertising and opinion polls. One observer member of the Group also considered that search listings and spam should also be considered as part of the review of the Recommendation.

Following the suggestion of the Chairperson, an informal working group comprising the members of Armenia and Belgium, together with the Secretariat, was established to prepare a text, in time for the next meeting of the Group, proposing revisions and modifications to the Recommendation in the light of the development of digital broadcasting services and other new communication services.

Item 10 of the agenda: 2006 Pan-European Forum on human rights in the Information Society

12. The Secretariat and the member from Armenia provided some brief information concerning the Forum which is likely to take place in Yerevan on 5 and 6 October 2006. After discussions regarding the precise theme of the event, several members of the Group expressed a preference for human rights and information literacy to be the central theme.

Item 11 of the agenda: Examining ways to promote the Council of Europe standards concerning Human Rights in the Information Society, for example through the setting-up of national contact points

13. The Secretariat underlined the importance of promoting the Council of Europe standards and, to this end, in strengthening contacts with the Internet Safety Awareness Network (INSAFE)5 and the non-governmental organisation Online/More Colour in the Media (OL/MCM)6, the latter in response to the CDMC’s discussions during its 2nd meeting (29 November to 2 December 2005) during which it considered that “OL/MCM could become an excellent partner in raising awareness and disseminating standards currently being developed by the MC-S-IS and encouraged the Secretariat to explore ways in which to associate OL/MCM in its activities aimed at raising awareness and at the implementation of relevant standards.”7

Item 12 of the agenda: Other business

14. In consideration of its future work priorities for 2007-2008, the Group took note that the CDMC expects responses to the items in their terms of reference in the form of draft instruments of a standard-setting nature or policy papers that it can examine and, if appropriate, submit for adoption to the Committee of Ministers.

In this connection, the Secretariat recalled the work plan in respect of items of the Kyiv Action Plan not covered by the terms of reference of the Groups of Specialists as well as other key reference documents, namely the adopted texts of the 7th European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy, the outcome documents from the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS), and the Council of Europe Declaration on human rights and the rule of law in the Information Society, adopted by the Committee of Ministers in May 2005.

* * *
Appendix I

List of participants

MEMBER STATES/ETATS MEMBRES

Armenia/Arménie

Mr David SANDUKCHIAND, Head of Legal Department, Internews NGO, YEREVAN

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 Zornitza ANGUELOVA, Chief Expert, State Agency for Information Technology and Communications, SOFIA

Ms Nelly STOYANOVA, Director of Information Society and International Technologies, State Agency for Information Technology and Communications, SOFIA

Finland/Finlande

Ms Kristina HAUTALA-KAJOS, Conseillor for Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Education and Culture, HELSINKI

Greece/Grèce

Ms Maria GIANNAKAKI, Attachée de Presse, Représentation Permanente de la Grèce auprès du Conseil de l'Europe, Bureau de Presse et de Communication, STRASBOURG, France

Malta/Malte
[Apologised/excusé(e)]
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

The Netherlands/Pays-Bas

Ms Heleen JANSSEN, Legal Specialist, Ministry of the Interior, Department of Constitutional Affairs and Legislation, DEN HAAG

Norway/Norvège

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

Slovakia/Slovaquie

Mr Zeljko SAMPOR, Media and Copyright Division, Ministry of Culture, BRATISLAVA

Switzerland/Suisse
[Apologised/excusé(e)]
Mr Pierre SMOLIK , Service des Affaires internationales, Office fédéral de la communication, BIENNE

Turkey/Turquie

Mr Mehmet Bora SÖNMEZ Radio and Television Supreme Council, ANKARA

Ukraine
[Apologised/excusé(e)]
Mr Victor VOYTOVYCH, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, KYIV

United Kingdom/Royaume-Uni
[Apologised/excusé(e)]
Mrs Armelle BAILEY, ICT EU Policy, LONDON

[Apologised/excusé(e)]
Mr Nigel HICKSON, Department for Trade and Industry, LONDON

OTHER PARTICIPANTS / AUTRES PARTICIPANTS

Parliamentary Assembly / Assemblée Parlementaire
[Apologised/excusé(e)]

Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe / Congrès des Pouvoirs Locaux et Régionaux de l'Europe
[Apologised/excusé(e)]

European Audiovisual Observatory/Observatoire européen de l’Audiovisuel
[Apologised/excusé(e)]

European Commission/Commission européenne
[Apologised/excusé(e)]

OBSERVERS /OBSERVATEURS

Holy See/Saint-Siège

Monsieur Louis TER STEEG

Alliance for a Media Literate Europe
[Apologised/excusé(e)]

Association of Commercial Television in Europe (ACT)/Association des Télévisions Commerciales Européennes (ACT)
[Apologised/excusé(e)]

European Digital Rights in Europe (EDRI)

Ms Meryem MARZOUKI, Chercheur CNRS, Membre d'EDRI, PARIS, France

European Federation of Journalists / Fédération européenne des Journalistes

Mr Aidan WHITE, General Secretary, BRUSSELS, Belgium

European Newspaper Publishers’ Association / Association européenne des éditeurs de journaux (ENPA)

Ms Santha RASAIAH, LONDON, United Kingdom

EuroISPA
[Apologised/excusé(e)]

European Schoolnet / INSAFE
[Apologised/excusé(e)]
Ms Janice RICHARDSON, Insafe Project Manager, BRUSSELS, Belgium

Association of Internet Hotline Providers in Europe

Internet Content Rating Association
[Apologised/excusé(e)]

European Internet Coregulation Network / Réseau européen de co-régulation de l’Internet
[Apologised/excusé(e)]

European Broadcasting Union / Union européenne de Radio-Télévision (UER)
[Apologised/excusé(e)]

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

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

INTERPRETERS/INTEPRETES

Mme Katia DI STEFANO
Mme Bettina LUDEWIG

* * *
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

3. Other information of interest to the work of the MC-S-IS

4. Draft Council of Europe instrument on dealing with harmful content

5. Elaborating 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

6. Outlining and mapping out human rights issues and guidelines pertaining to the roles and responsibilities of stakeholders in the Information Society

7. Developing 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)

8. Analysing the questionnaire on the implementation of the Committee of Ministers Declaration on freedom of communication on the Internet by the member States

9. 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

10. 2006 Pan-European Forum on human rights in the Information Society

11. Examining ways to promote the Council of Europe standards concerning Human Rights in the Information Society, for example through the setting-up of national contact points

12. Other business

1 The first meeting of the IGF will be held in Athens from 30 October - 2 November 2006.

2 Since re-entitled draft Recommendation on empowering children in the new media environment.


3 http://www.coe.int/T/E/Integrated_Projects/democracy/

4 http://www.venice.coe.int/site/main/presentation_E.asp?MenuL=E

5 http://www.saferinternet.org.

6 http://www.olmcm.org/

7 CDMC 2nd meeting report, point 14, paragraph 2 (see document CDMC(2005)028).