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The right to freedom of expression and freedom of the media as protected by Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights are pillars of democratic security in Europe. The Council of Europe promotes an enabling environment for freedom of expression, underpinned by legal guarantees for independence and diversity of media and safety of journalists and other media actors.

The Media and Internet division of the Council of Europe is a reference point within the broad area of the work accomplished by different Council of Europe bodies on freedom of expression and media. The division also ensures the work of the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI).

The Media and Internet division issues publications on relevant topics and organises activities, such as conferences, seminars and other events to foster discussions on how to best preserve freedom of expression and information in Europe. It also ensures co-operation activities by offering expertise and assistance on Council of Europe standards to media and new-media actors, as well as guidance to governments and regulatory authorities in target countries. The aim is to foster an enabling environment for freedom of expression by taking into account the challenges of a changing media landscape.

The division works with various subjects under freedom of expression, such as protection of journalism and safety of journalists, decriminalisation of defamation, gender equality in the media, countering hate speech.

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Back Tackling disinformation in the global media environment – new Council of Europe report

Tackling disinformation in the global media environment – new Council of Europe report

A report published today by the Council of Europe examines the way in which dis-information campaigns have become widespread and, heavily relying on social media, contribute to a global media environment of information disorder.

Whilst acknowledging that the direct and indirect impacts of “information pollution” are difficult to quantify, the report provides a conceptual framework and a structure for dialogue about information disorder by policymakers, legislators and researchers. It contains 35 recommendations to relevant stakeholders such as technology companies, national governments, media, civil society, and education ministries to help them identify suitable strategies to address the phenomenon.

The report “Information Disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policy making” was commissioned by the Council of Europe in response to the growing concerns in member states about the long-term implications of dis-information campaigns that are designed specifically to sow mistrust and confusion, and to sharpen existing sociocultural divisions by exploiting nationalistic, ethnic, racial and religious tensions.

The report was written by Claire Wardle, Executive Director of First Draft and Research Fellow at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, and writer and researcher Hossein Derakhshan.

The authors identify three different types of “information disorder”: mis-information, when false information is shared, but no harm is meant; dis-information, when false information is knowingly shared to cause harm; and mal-information, when genuine information is shared to cause harm, often by making public information designed to stay private. They actively refrain from using the term “fake news”, arguing that it fails to describe the complexity of the “information pollution” phenomenon, and that it is being used by politicians around the world to describe news that they find disagreeable.

Widespread “information pollution”, the report argues, has been triggered by a complex web of motivations for creating, disseminating and consuming these polluted messages, an enormous variety of formats and techniques for amplifying them, the existence of innumerable platforms for hosting and reproducing this content, and by the speed in which this information is shared by individuals in their social circles.

Claire Wardle said: “What we are witnessing is something completely new: disinformation campaigns, often playing with people´s emotions, spreading at great speed with a potential to have an enormous impact on society. To fight misinformation, simply pushing out more factual information, without understanding the emotional and ritualistic elements of communication, could be a complete waste of time.”

Hossein Derakhshan underlined that “whilst fact-checking and debunking initiatives are indispensable, rumors and conspiracy need to be fought with engaging and powerful narratives that leverage the same techniques as dis-information. Effective strategies should include provoking an emotional response, repetition, a strong visual aspect and a powerful narrative”.

The report provides a round-up of related research and practical initiatives, and stresses the need for additional research, including about the way humans make sense of and use information in their lives. It also stresses the risk that in the near future audiences may have little trust in the information they find online.

 Information Disorder: Toward an interdisciplinary framework for research and policy making


Strasbourg 31 October 2017
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The Council of Europe Campaign for the Safety of Journalists is an initiative aiming to promote press freedom and protect journalists from violence, threats, and harassment while performing their duties. As part of this Campaign, the Council of Europe is inviting everyone to support their cause, take action for their enhanced protection, while raising awareness about the importance of safeguarding journalists and their right to report the news freely and without fear. The Campaign is a 5-year project meant to cover all Council of Europe member States. It is now open for voluntary contributions. 

© ShutterstockFreedom of expression in times of conflict

The right to freedom of expression and information constitutes one of the essential foundations of democratic society. In conflict situations and wars, the role of the media is critical in providing the public with accurate and timely information. Trustworthy news and images can contribute to the protection of civilians and conflict prevention, bring to the attention of the international community the horrors and reality of conflict and expose violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

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The Information Society Department of the Council of Europe has unveiled its report on the state of freedom of expression in Council of Europe member States in 2021.

This annual review, based on the findings of Council of Europe bodies and monitoring mechanisms, is focussed on legal guarantees for freedom of expression, safeguards for the safety of journalists and others who speak up, independent and pluralistic media environment and reliability and trust of information.

Article 10 European Convention on Human Rights

Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (“ECHR”) is at the core of the Council of Europe’s system for the protection of the right to freedom of expression. Principles regarding freedom of expression are further established by the European Court of Human Rights’ case law, which is steadily growing.

Freedom of Expression, the Media and Journalists: Case-law of the European Court of Human Rights (updated July 2015) contains summaries of over 240 judgments or decisions by the Court and provides hyperlinks to the full text of each of the summarised judgments or decisions (via HUDOC, the Court’s online case-law database.)

Other relevant work of the Council of Europe

A number of studies and reports have been commissioned by the Council of Europe on particular aspects related to media freedom. 

Enhancing Standards

The Council of Europe has developed a consistent body of standards supporting media freedom, including topics such as hate speech, culture of tolerance, gender equality, public service media governance, safety of journalists etc. 

Areas of action
Building capacities in member states

During this decade, the Council of Europe Information Society Programme has implemented over 20 projects in member states and partner countries promoting media freedom.

Fostering Partnerships

 The conference "Public Service Media and Democracy" (2016) in Prague, co-organised with the European Broadcasting Association and the Czech Parliament, discussed the role of parliaments in protecting the media, as well as the present and future of the public-service media in the region.

 A conference focussed on “Promoting dialogue between the ECtHR and the media freedom community” (2017) was organised in Strasbourg in partnership with the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.

Developing new policies

Further policy reflections are geared towards promoting the essential role of quality journalism for providing timely, accurate and relevant information, as well as solutions for its sustainability.

Furthermore, media coverage of elections has an important impact on the public’s understanding of electoral stakes and influences the result of electoral competitions. However, as an important part of political campaigning is moving online, electoral spending and questionable advertising techniques based on micro-targeting of voters cause a number of concerns for the fairness and legitimacy of elections. Likewise, unbalanced and unfair media coverage of gender during elections requires a detailed analysis and policy solutions.

"Everyone has the right to freedom of expression"

Art. 10 European Convention on Human Rights

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