On June 23, 2020, P. Penninckx, Head of the Information Society Department, participated in the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Freedom of Expression, Media and Information. In the area of freedom of expression, the OSCE and the Council of Europe pursue, within their distinct mandates, a common goal of promoting and ensuring respect for the right to freedom of expression and information as a foundation of democracy, an individual human right and a vital aspect of the rule of law. During the recent COVID-19 outbreak, both organisations have faced the challenge of assisting their member states in combating the coronavirus through measures that are both effective and comply with human rights standards
Mr Penninckx addressed the panel on “Access to information as an essential condition for accountability and citizen participation in public life”, presenting the Council of Europe’s relevant work and activities, especially the Convention on Access to Official Documents (“the Tromsø Convention”) which is expected to enter into force in the next months. Access to accurate and reliable information is of vital importance in the current COVID-19 sanitary crisis, and in this regard Mr Penninckx evoked the toolkit on human rights, democracy and the rule of law in times of the COVID-19 crisis issued by the Council of Europe Secretary General Maria Pejčinović-Burić to the European Governments. Likewise, he described the Council of Europe resources grouped on a dedicated webpage on COVID-19 and freedom of expression and information und underlined the importance of the government dialogue with the media during pandemics.