Closing remarks by Christos Giakoumopoulos
Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and Information Society on "Artificial intelligence – Intelligent politics: Challenges and opportunities for media and democracy"
10-11 June 2021, Nicosia
Chair, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am very pleased and honoured to make some final observations on this Ministerial Conference which has focused on the profound changes in the media and information environment.
Many of those changes, as discussed, have been prompted by the rapid development of technology in the last decade. We have benefitted from new platforms for expression and new devices for communication. This has been an impressive transformation; however, the results have not always lived up to the expectations, also in terms of respect for human rights.
With digital so pervasive in people’s lives, there is a clear demand for delivering tools and services centred around human needs and rights. I consider it one of the major contributions of this Conference that it has actively engaged with this demand.
The ministerial documents – four resolutions and a final declaration – follow the human-centered approach and provide actionable recommendations which can help us pave the way forward.
For our part, the Council of Europe will continue to provide guidance on the use of technologies, including artificial intelligence. The aim is to ensure their integration into our media and communication spaces in full respect of freedom of expression and other rights. In this, we need to be guided by the standards and principles derived from the European Convention on Human Rights.
It has further been emphasised during the Conference that media governance may require updating. This process, too, needs to be undertaken with the human in mind. Any reforms should have as a key objective to enhance the availability and appreciation for independent, quality journalism, and diverse news sources.
Our Organisation is currently modernising the principles that may guide media reforms in the future. It is also exploring governance options for moderation of illegal content by social media platforms. This work will be intensified in the years to come – all with a view to assisting the member states in providing coordinated solutions to common concerns.
Likewise, much is yet to be done to ensure the resilience of our societies to crisis situations, such as the Covid-19 pandemic we are living through. In the past year, the importance of accurate health information has acquired a whole new dimension. In many countries, so has the acknowledgment for the role of the media and journalists.
However, the pandemic has also exacerbated the already worrying situation with regard to media sustainability, the spreading of disinformation and hate speech online, and the safety of journalists.
Further support to member States will be provided by the Council of Europe to slow the spread of disinformation and address hate speech in a comprehensive manner. We will also increase efforts for a more effective implementation of our standards on the safety of journalists, notably the 2016 Recommendation and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights.
Especially with regard to the safety of journalists, the situation is alarming. There is no time to waste in reversing the downward trend. I welcome the initiatives in some states to adopt dedicated national action plans to address their specific situations. I encourage others to follow suit. I encourage all to strongly condemn all state-led attempts to silence journalists and the media.
At the end of my observations, Chair, allow me to take this opportunity to thank you for guiding us so well through the Conference, and to thank all the distinguished guests, moderators and experts, for their invaluable contributions to this Conference.
I would also like to thank your Nicosia team and our Council of Europe secretariat for working tirelessly to ensure the smooth and successful running of the Conference.
Finally, Chair, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I wish to thank all of you for your active participation and insightful observations. I trust that the outcomes of the Conference will be taken up by member states and media stakeholders alike, and bring us closer to a truly favourable environment for freedom of expression, the very pillar of pluralist democracy.