Secretary General meets Bill Clinton and George Soros

23 September 2010 New York

On the last day of his visit in New York, Thorbjørn Jagland met with the former US President Bill Clinton, the founder of the Open Society Institute George Soros, President of Bosnia and Herzegovina Haris Silajdzic and the Czech Minister of Foreign Affairs Karel Schwarzenberg. President Clinton...

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Council of Europe regrets confirmation of death penalty by Supreme Court in Belarus

24 September 2010 Strasbourg

Jagland announced on 24 September that he is “deeply saddened” by news that the appeals of two prisoners on death row in the city of Grodno were rejected by the Supreme Court. Jagland recalled that “the Council of Europe has repeatedly condemned executions in Belarus and called for abolition of...

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Council of Europe calls for constructive and concrete high level meeting for Roma

29 September 2010 Strasbourg

The Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland, and the Chairman of the Committee of Ministers, Antonio Miloshoski, invited on 29 September governments of 47 countries, the EU and international organisations to a meeting in Strasbourg on 20 October, to agree measures improving the situation of Roma...

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Council of Europe Group of Eminent Persons: Thorbjørn Jagland and Joschka Fischer launch expert group on '"Multicultural Europe'"

30 September 2010 Brussels

Joschka Fischer, former German Foreign Minister, will chair a Group of «Eminent Persons» including, among others, Javier Solana and Emma Bonino with the mandate to find answers to the current threats from intolerance and discrimination in Europe. Launching the initiative in Brussels today,...

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Council of Europe meeting on Roma

20 October 2010 Strasbourg

European governments act to help Roma Representatives of the 47 Council of Europe countries, the EU and the Roma community who gathered in Strasbourg on 20 October unanimously condemned widespread discrimination against Roma and their social and economic marginalisation. Thorbjorn Jagland who...

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Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities

27 October 2010 Strasbourg

Secretary General stresses need to ''bridge the gap between Roma and rest of society'' One week after the Council of Europe hosted a conference on Roma rights, Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland elaborated on practical steps the Council of Europe will take to help Roma...

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Thorbjørn Jagland met with representatives of Fundamental Rights Agency

2 November 2010 Strasbourg

Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland met with the Chairperson, Ilze Brands Kehris, and Morten Kjaerum, the Director, of the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, on 2 November in Strasbourg. They discussed the existing close working relationship which could serve as a model for...

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Thorbjørn Jagland met the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon

15 November 2010 New York

Human rights must be pursued with determination everywhere On 15 November in New York, at their third meeting this autumn, Council of Europe Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland and United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon recognised the ongoing and pressing need for close cooperation...

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Interview - European Council on Refugees and Exiles

2 December 2010 Strasbourg

Member states should respect ECHR decision on forced expulsions of Iraqis The European Court of Human Rights has recently confirmed its decision to suspend forced returns to Iraq in a number of individual cases against the Netherlands, the UK and Sweden, until further notice. In many cases an...

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Secretary General meets European Commissioner Füle

15 December 2010 Strasbourg

Secretary General Jagland and European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), Stefan Fule have signed today a € 4 million “Facility” in the framework of the Eastern Partnership initiative (EaP): a multilateral tool to facilitate activities in the fields of electoral...

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Conference ''Prevention of terrorism: prevention tools, legal instruments and their implementation'', 16-17 December 2010

16 December 2010 Istanbul

Thorbjørn Jagland: ''Speed up international efforts to fight terrorism'' During the conference, Secretary General has called on member states to intensify their co-operation in fighting terrorism. ''The threat of terrorism remains acute. The Council of Europe has developed a unique approach in...

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Thorbjørn Jagland in Moscow, 9 May 2010

9 May 2010 Moscow

Thorbjørn Jagland attended the celebration ceremonies in Moscow on 9 May, on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. On this occasion, the Secretary General published an Opinion article in the 11th May edition of the Russian daily...

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Secretary General participates in EU-Western Balkans meeting in Sarajevo

2 June 2010 Sarajevo

At the invitation of the EU Presidency, Thorbjørn Jagland will attend the European Union Western Balkans High Level Meeting in Sarajevo. The 2 June meeting will take stock of integration of the Western Balkans into the European family of nations. The Council of Europe – which counts all Balkan...

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Council of Europe mediates solution to end constitutional crisis in Moldova

3 June 2010 Chisinau

The governing ''Alliance for European Integration'' (AEI) announced on 3 June that the government will hold a referendum to amend Article 78 of the Constitution (to allow for direct election of the President), dissolve Parliament and call for new elections. This solution was reached as the result...

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Secretary General on official visit to Helsinki, 8-9 June 2010

10 June 2010 Helsinki

Finland supports Roma rights and reform for the Council of Europe As the Council of Europe prepares an international debate on the situation of Roma in Europe for its Parliamentary Assembly session later this month, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland praised Finland for the priority it has given...

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Thorbjørn Jagland discusses advance of LGBT rights with ILGA-Europe

15 June 2010 Strasbourg

Secretary General held a constructive exchange with Nigel Warner and Evelyne Paradis from ILGA-Europe - a non-governmental umbrella organisation which represents organisations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, at the European level. Thorbjorn Jagland and ILGA discussed the...

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Thorbjørn Jagland meets Dosta! campaign ambassador Fanny Ardant

22 June 2010 Strasbourg

The Secretary General met on 22 June in Strasbourg with Fanny Ardant, French actress and director, and thanked her on behalf of the Organisation for lending her voice to the cause of defending Roma rights across Europe. Fanny Ardant is serving the Council of Europe to support the Dosta! Campaign...

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Meeting with OSCE Permanent Council

1 July 2010 Vienna

Complementarity not competition, Secretary General told OSCE Permanent Council In his address to the OSCE Permanent Council on 1 July in Vienna, Thorbjørn Jagland stressed that the Council of Europe's institutions and tools which are indispensable to promote democratic stability in Europe in the...

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Commemoration of Srebrenica genocide

11 July 2010 Srebrenica

Thorbjørn Jagland in Srebrenica - ''never again'' is not enough! The Secretary General together with Mevlüt Çavusoglu, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, attended on 11 July the commemoration of the 1995 Srebrenica genocide. In his speech to those gathered for the ceremony, Thorbjørn...

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Meeting with the President of Slovenia, Danilo Türk

19 September 2010 New York

The Secretary General met with the President of Slovenia, who is an old friend of the Council of Europe and a renowned expert on the rights of national minorities. They discussed the current priorities for the Organisation, the work of the Group of Eminent persons as well as the Secretary...

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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.