2017

18 July 2017
Letter to the Speaker of the Sejm, Marek Kuchciński

20 June 2017
Letter to the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

20 June 2017
Letter to the Federal Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel

16 June 2017
Letter to the United Kingdom Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May

6 June 2017
Letter to the United Kingdom Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May

23 May 2017
Letter to the United Kingdom Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Theresa May

4 April 2017
Letter to the High Commissionner for Human Rights of the Russian Federation, Tatiana Moskalkova

4 April 2017
Letter to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin

24 March 2017
Letter to the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly President, Pedro Agramunt

14 February 2017
Letter to the President-elect of the Federal Republic of Germany, Frank-Walter Steinmeier

26 January 2017
Letter to the Managing Director of Transparency International, Cobus de Swardt

16 January 2017
Letter to the Chairperson of the Federation Council of the Russia Federation Valentina Matviyenko and the Chairperson of the State Duma Vyacheslav Volodin

12 January 2017
Letter to the President of Portugal, Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa

11 January 2017
Letter to the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Miro Cerar
 

2016

30 August 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Ukraine, Volodymyr Groysman

24 August 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Italia, Matteo Renzi

25 July 2016
Letter to the Permanent Representative of Turkey to the Council of Europe, Ambassador Erdoğan Işcan

26 May 2016
Letter to the Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Yuriy Lutsenko

13 May 2016
Letter to the President of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko

29 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Romania, Dacian Cioloș
Copy of the alert

29 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Croatia, Tihomir Orešković

15 April 2016 
Letter to the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama

15 April 2016
Letter to the Chancellor of Austria, Werner Faymann

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Croatia, Tihomir Orešković

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Czech Republic, Bohuslav Sobotka

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Denmark, Lars Løkke Rasmussen

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Finland, Juha Sipilä

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Greece, Alexis Tsipras

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Italy, Matteo Renzi

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Poland, Beata Szydło

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Serbia, Aleksandar Vučić

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Slovak Republic, Robert Fico

15 April 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Miro Cerar

15 April 2016
Letter to the Federal Chancellor of Switzerland, Didier Burkhalter

15 April 2016
Letter to the President of the Government of "The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", Emil Dimitriev

21 March 2016
Letter to the Acting President of the Government of Spain, Mariano Rajoy

21 March 2016
Letter to the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin

2 March 2016
Letter to heads of government of the 47 member States on protection of migrant and asylym-seeking children
Protecting children affected by the refugee crisis: A shared responsibility - Secretary General's proposals for priority actions

24 February 2016
Letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov

25 January 2016
Letter to the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg

22 January 2016
Letter to the President of the French Republic, François Hollande

5 January 2016
Letter to the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda
 

2015

15 November 2015
Letter to the President of the French Republic, François Hollande

17 September 2015
Letter to the Organisers and Participants of the Belgrade Pride Parade 2015

9 September 2015
Letter to the Member States
Guidance on the treatment of migrants and asylum seekers

3 August 2015
Letter to the Minister of Justice of Azerbaijan, Fikrat Mammadov

15 June 2015
Letter to the Minister of the Interior of the Czeh Republic, Milan Chovanec

15 June 2015
Letter to the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov

15 June 2015
Letter to the Minister of the Interior of Turkey, Sebahattin Öztürk

15 June 2015
Letter to the State Minister of Monaco, Michel Roger

15 June 2015
Letter to the Deputy Prime Minister of Liechtenstein, Thomas Zwiefelohofer

28 May 2015
Letter to His Eminence Professor Shawki Abdel-Karim Allam, Grand Mufti of Egypt
 

2014

19 August 2014
Letter addressed to the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of 45 member States of the Council of Europe

12 August 2014
Letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

19 May 2014
Letter to the President of the Republic of Serbia, Tomislav Nikolić

19 May 2014
Letter to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Vjekoslav Bevanda

14 May 2014
Letter to the Prime Minister of the Republic of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

 

2013

8 October 2013
Letter to Mr Shimon Peres, President of Israel

21 August 2013
Letter to Mrs Theresa May, Home Secretary, United Kingdom

13 May 2013
Letter to Mr. Ahmet Davutoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey

24 January 2013
Letter to Mr Sergey Naryshkin, Chairman of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation

 

2012

17 December 2012
Letter to the Prime Minister of Romania, Victor Ponta

17 December 2012
Letter to Ms H. Clinton, Secretary of State, USA

5 October 2012
Letter to Volodymr Lytvyn, Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada

6 July 2012
Letter to the President of the European Commission for Democracy through Law, Gianni Buquicchio

4 May 2012
Letter to the Minister of Foreign Affaires of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov

27 March 2012
Letter to Members of the European Parliament

19 March 2012
Letter to the Prime Minister of France, François Fillon

14 March 2012
Letter to the Prime Minister of Belgium, Elio Di Rupo

11 January 2012
Letter to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, János Martonyi

 

2011

3 October 2011
Letter to the President of the Republic of Serbia, Boris Tadić

14 September 2011
Letter to the Chairman of the State of Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, James E. Donald

26 August 2011
Letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon

24 August 2011
Letter to the President of the Venice Commission, Gianni Buquicchio

10 June 2011
Letter to the Prime Minister of Albania, Sali Berisha

21 March 2011
Letter to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliev

14 March 2011
Letter to the Prime Minister of Japan

Speeches Speeches
Back

European Broadcasting Union’s General Assembly

Dublin , 

Check against delivery

 

 

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure to open the EBU’s General Assembly, in the home country of your new Director General, Noel Curran.

I have no doubt that you will have much to discuss here.

This is after all a time in which generational, technological and political change is altering the environment in which the broadcast media operates.

On this the Council of Europe and the EBU have issues and interests in common.

The threat to freedom of expression and media pluralism.

The rise of fake news and hate speech.

And finding the solutions that uphold truth and democracy, without stifling debate and dissent.

These challenges are fundamental for our organisations and I want to focus on them today.

The onus for the Council of Europe is clear.

Established in 1949 – with Ireland as a founding member – the Council work with our 47 member states to maintain the standard of rights outlined in the European Convention on Human Rights and defined by the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights too.

These are binding obligations that uphold democracy, human rights and the rule of law –

And they have played a pivotal role in delivering unprecedented peace on our continent, after the terrible tragedy of two world wars.

 

The challenges we face are dynamic and fast-evolving, but solutions are to be found in the consistency of our values, and their application by our member states.

Today, the challenges are as plentiful as ever.

Specific problems in individual countries.

The threat of terrorism and the best means to counter it.

And the literally millions of refugees and migrants who go to extraordinary lengths to escape their old lives and seek a better existence in Europe, by any means possible.

These are complex problems.

Mismanaged, they create a context in which populism can take root, as we see in some parts of Europe today.

We should be precise about the definition of populism. It must not be a catch all label for every person or movement that rocks the establishment. Misusing the term will only render it meaningless.

Populism is in fact an emotional appeal that harnesses grievance against the establishment.

Its leaders then claim exclusive moral authority to act on behalf of the people, thereby undermining the legitimacy of any opposition, institution or dissenting voice.

And it is the subject of my 2017 annual report on the state of human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe.

This matters because it is a live threat to freedom of expression and media pluralism, here and now.

A report commissioned by the Council of Europe, Journalists under pressure throws this into stark relief.

With 940 journalists taking part from across every member state, plus Belarus, 46% of respondents reported that they had been threatened with force in the exercise of their professional duties.

Many others had experienced physical assault, robbery, theft, destruction of property, surveillance, judicial intimidation and various and sexual and psychological violence.

Understandably, if regrettably, this leads to cases of self-censorship where journalists tone down, alter, or abandon a story in order to suit the line of those intimidating them.

 

And this in turn leads to diminished debate and loss of dissenting voices.

Whether an authority seeks directly to close down media outlets, or simply to create the environment in which they wither, populism is the enemy of freedom of expression.

This cannot be allowed to stand.

Freedom of expression is protected under Article 10 of the Convention.

This obliges member states to take the legal, administrative and practical measures required to ensure the safety of journalists and their freedom of speech.

We have been clear about what this entails: prevention, protection and prosecution.

Journalists’ security must be established through a comprehensive legislative framework in every country.

The authorities must ensure that structures are in place to stop intimidation and interference.

And they must also take all steps required to bring the full force of the law against anyone who perpetrates a crime against a journalist or media actor.

Another weapon in our armoury is the Safety of Journalists Platform.

Launched two years ago, the Platform tracks media freedom violations – and the member state’s response – in any given country.

The Council of Europe can then react on the basis of facts and open dialogue with that member state.

This initiative allows journalists to disseminate information and sound alerts freely and without third party intervention.

Transparency is powerful and I am pleased that the EBU is joining the Platform.

But while the intimidation of journalists is a long-standing issue, populism is also giving rise to new problems.

Chief among them, fake news and hate speech.

Propaganda, misleading and inaccurate news has always existed.

But the mass dissemination of fake news through the internet and social media is a new manifestation of an age-old problem.

And the lack of editorial control, fast and anonymous distribution and limited capacity to sift real news from false heighten the urgency.

Fake news about migrants and refugees can turn innocent citizens into innocent victims.

And fake news about candidates and parties can move votes and effect outcomes on false pretences.

These things matter.

But they cannot be solved by a blanket ban or catch-all law.

It is not illegal to say things that are inaccurate but it is wrong to go down the road of state censorship.

We are, after all, trying to protect freedom of expression.

So while we cannot rule out some kind of limited legal initiative in future, that should not be our primary recourse.

Instead, we must make the practical adjustments that will stem the flow of fake news and to give people the skills to see through it when it reaches them.

Big media organisations should take the steps they can to weed out misinformation.

So I commend the BBC for its new fact-checking unit and welcome the announcement that Facebook is using experts to alert users where information posted is of dubious quality.

Other media and social media companies will surely follow and I urge them to do so.

But we can also empower individual news consumers to tell fact from fiction more effectively.

This is a matter of education.

We need to teach internet literacy, including in the classroom.

Young, open minds must also be street-wise and discerning when it comes to the information they read.

We can help them to understand that what they see at first glance cannot be taken at face value –

And that they must instead look for the signs that differentiate the reliable from the unreliable.

Hate speech on the other hand is another matter.

Where posts on websites or through social media are designed to incite violence, promote racism or deny the Holocaust, this content is already illegal.

 

Fake news can easily spill over into this territory.

We have seen this on multiple occasions when false stories about migrants and minorities are designed to stir public hostility.

Internet providers and social network companies are obliged to remove hate speech and, increasingly, that is what they do.

The authorities are free to prosecute, and here too we are seeing increasing activity.

Earlier this month, for example, 36 people from across 14 German states had their homes raided after accusations that their social media postings amounted to threats, coercion and incitement to racism.

Certainly, it is right that member states should act within the law to curtail the abuse of their citizens.

But where do your members sit in relation to these challenges?

I have no doubt that the EBU is also grappling with the issues that I have outlined.

And I look forward to hearing your thoughts and questions on these matters.

But let me finish by explaining where I see the added value that your members – and your members alone – can contribute in this context.

It is not enough to ask private companies only to sort out the challenges of fake news and hate speech.

Yes, they must play their part, but it is not realistic to expect wholly commercial enterprises to possess all three of the independence, motivation and resources to cure these current ills.

Broadcasters with a public service mission are an important part of the solution.

Not state-controlled media, but broadcasters that operate in an independent manner, with guaranteed administrative autonomy, and editorial freedom.

Given adequate resources, it is these news outlets that have the motive and the means to deliver accurate, reliable and impartial information.

Ladies and gentlemen, we are engaged in a battle against populism and the threat it poses to human rights here in Europe – and you are on the front line.

Freedom of expression must prevail.

That means protecting the integrity of our journalists, and taking democratic measures to combat fake news and hate speech.

But to complete that picture, we need real and impartial news centre-stage.

Now more than ever, we rely on you.