The Council of Europe has adopted a Recommendation calling on its 46 member States to create a favourable environment for quality journalism to thrive and to play its essential role in democracy. The recommendation contains a set of legal, administrative and practical guidelines aimed at ensuring sustainable funding for quality media, building trust in journalism, and promoting media literacy.
Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić said: In recent years we have witnessed the growing spread of disinformation in a rapidly changing media environment. To protect our democracies, it is essential that the media perform their role according to professional standards and ethics. States should put in place practical measures to support quality journalism as a way to ensure access to reliable, independent and accurate information.
The media sector has been weakened by the profound impact of the digital transformation, which has created new opportunities for journalism but also disrupted the business model of many quality media. The Covid-19 pandemic, while demonstrating the need for reliable information produced by professional journalists, also accelerated pre-existing structural problems that these guidelines seek to address.
The recommendation encourages states to adopt favourable regulatory and fiscal measures for media, including direct support where appropriate, while establishing strong safeguards to protect media independence. These measures should target different kind of media whether traditional, digital-based or mixed, and include commercial media, public service media, community media and independent journalists.
In addition, states should promote equitable and transparent market conditions allowing the media organisations to compete more fairly with major online platforms for advertising revenues and promote fair working conditions in the media.
With a view to enhancing the public´s engagement with quality media content, the recommendation promotes prioritising quality content in online platforms, notably in search engines and social media, while introducing independent oversight over the platform´s distribution practices. It also calls for support to fact-checking initiatives, good practices in transparency of editorial processes and self-regulatory complaints mechanisms.
Finally, the recommendation encourages states to cooperate with civil society, media and other stakeholders to carry out media and information literacy initiatives and to provide them with funding; as well as to facilitate regular training for journalists.