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Violence in and through the media

Committee Opinion | Doc. 13536 | 18 June 2014

Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development
Rapporteur :
Ms Maryvonne BLONDIN, France, SOC
Reference to committee: Doc. 12858, Reference 3851 of 23 April 2012. Reporting committee: Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media. See Doc. 13509. Opinion approved by the committee on 12 May 2014. 2014 - Third part-session

A Conclusions of the committee

1. The Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development welcomes the very complete way in which the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media has tackled the subject of violence in and through the media, culminating in an appeal to member States’ authorities and other key stakeholders.
2. However, from the Social Affairs Committee’s viewpoint, the draft resolution and recommendation could have placed more emphasis on the fact that children (up to the age of 18) are particularly concerned, being exposed to violence in various contexts without necessarily being able to gauge the consequences or having the means to defend themselves. Furthermore, the draft resolution contains a whole series of “principles”, which, while they are of interest, should be addressed to member States as measures to be taken.
3. In order to add to the texts submitted by the Culture Committee for debate, the Social Affairs Committee would like to propose a few amendments as set out below.

B Proposed amendments

Amendment A (to the draft resolution)

At the end of paragraph 3, replace the last sentence with the following sentence:

“The interactivity of computer games, Internet tools (social networks, chat rooms, search engines, online shopping, and so on) and the accessibility of those media from anywhere (via “smartphones”) create numerous possibilities to exploit the violence found in and conveyed through the media, and to identify with it.”

Amendment B (to the draft resolution)

After paragraph 3, insert the following paragraph:

“Because they are very active in certain new media, children (up to the age of 18) in particular are exposed to the new forms of violence found in and conveyed through the media and to all the risks incurred; their situation therefore deserves particular attention.”

Amendment C (to the draft resolution)

At the end of paragraph 5, add the following sentences:

“Child pornography and child abuse images as serious violations of children’s rights were covered by the Assembly in its work leading to Resolution 1834 (2011) and Recommendation 1980 (2011) on combating “child abuse images” through committed, transversal and internationally co-ordinated action. Violence may also be insidiously conveyed through the media, for example in the depiction of the hyper-sexualisation of children.”

Amendment D (to the draft resolution)

In paragraph 6, at the end of the first sentence, add the following words:

“and be aware of the particular vulnerability of children in this sphere”

Amendment E (to the draft resolution)

Replace the first sentence of paragraph 9 by the following sentence:

“Consequently, convinced that governments, national parliaments and media service providers have a duty to combat media violence, the Assembly asks them to take the following measures:”

Amendment F (to the draft resolution)

Before paragraph 10.1, insert the following paragraph:

“devise and implement national programmes to raise awareness of violence and media skills for people who work with children, for families and for children themselves, inter alia based on greater European co-operation in this field;”

Amendment G (to the draft resolution)

At the end of paragraph 10.2, add the following words:

“, including and in particular where images of aggression against children are concerned;”

Amendment H (to the draft recommendation)

In paragraph 4.1, replace the words “deal with the effects of media violence” with the following words:

“deal with media violence and its effects”

Amendment I (to the draft recommendation)

At the beginning of paragraph 4.2, replace the words “assess the feasibility of ensuring” with the following words:

“encourage, through relevant existing partnerships between intergovernmental bodies and private stakeholders”

C Explanatory memorandum by Ms Blondin, rapporteur for opinion

1. The subject of “violence and the media” is highly complex in our modern society, where development and diversification of the media are constant, while forms of violence against others, whether adults or children, are multiplying. In this respect, I should like to congratulate my colleague, Sir Roger Gale, for such a careful consideration of this problem in all its aspects, making a distinction between the stimulation of violence by the media (violence which subsequently occurs in real life) and the violent depictions and expressions in the media which are already in themselves violations of human rights (such as cyber-bullying).
2. The report by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media also highlights the responsibility of the various stakeholders concerned, including the State, the media industry, the education system, families and children themselves, while specifying their respective roles in this sphere. For example, the explanatory memorandum does refer to children as being particularly vulnerable vis-à-vis the media, while giving particular attention to violence against children committed by adults who have seen violent depictions in the media and in video games. However, some of these problems are not expressed in the draft resolution, which does not emphasise children’s particular vulnerability. On the other hand, the roles of the media industry and the member States, as well as the interaction required between them, are well addressed in the explanatory memorandum and in the texts proposed for debate in the Assembly.
3. As a member of the Committee on Social Affairs, Health and Sustainable Development, which has always given top priority to questions connected with children’s rights, particularly in recent years, I should like first to propose some amendments to the draft resolution and recommendation which would make clearer the role and vulnerability of children in a media context. This highly complex subject, dealt with inter alia during the preparation of Recommendation 1466 (2000) on media education and, very recently, in Resolution 1986 (2014) on improving user protection and security in cyberspace, could in theory be the subject of a new separate report. In the meantime, however, it should at least be given a little more emphasis in the present report, for the following reasons:
.1 With the development of the Internet and other media, children are increasingly exposed to the risks linked with these new technologies, such as child abuse images, often produced based on sexual aggressions against children in disadvantaged countries and for customers of richer countries (see Resolution 1834 (2011) and Recommendation 1980 (2011) on combating “child abuse images” through committed, transversal and internationally co-ordinated action, and the explanatory memorandum thereto).
.2 Children (up to the age of 18, as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child) are to the fore amongst today’s users of new media, with ever earlier access to the Internet and mobile devices, and developing skills for media use at an increasingly early age. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) said, already back in 2009, that children were spending approximately 43.3 hours a month on the Internet.Note We can assume that, given the increasing amount of IT equipment available to households, these figures will now be higher in 2014.
.3 Some very interesting work has been done across Europe on the effects of media use on children and their development, and on ways of preventing children from coming into contact with violent content at too early a stage. By way of example, French research scientist Serge Tisseron, a doctor of psychology at the University of Paris VII Denis Diderot, came up with the “3-6-9-12 rule” in 2007 and has subsequently carried out other relevant activities in close co-operation with the French Government. The rule, now familiar to children’s rights activists in Europe, recommends that the following principles be applied to media use by children: 1) no screens before the age of three; 2) no portable games consoles before the age of six; 3) no Internet before the age of nine; 4) unsupervised Internet use from the age of 12; 5) teaching children how to use the media and supervising their media usage.Note
.4 A large number of European countries have developed fairly exemplary programmes to raise children’s (and their parents’ and other educators’) awareness and teach them about the new media, notably through classification systems. Without quoting examples, which are now too numerous, it seems obvious that good practices could be better spread through exchanges between all European stakeholders.
4. It also seems that it would be useful to propose some amendments to the Culture Committee’s texts to make them more concrete and to strengthen the “operational” part of the draft resolution, which currently appears as a list of “principles”, whereas it already contains some highly concrete and innovative measures.
5. Finally, the amendments proposed to the draft recommendation are intended to alert the Committee of Ministers in this sphere in a more encouraging manner. For many years, the Council of Europe has been conducting activities in the field of human rights and media, for example in the context of its Steering Committee on Media and Information Society (CDMSI). Opportunities for co-operation between governments and private stakeholders have already been explored in depth, and co-operation put into practice under the Internet Governance programme to which the explanatory memorandum refers. It quotes, for instance, the Human Rights Guidelines for Internet Service Providers. That work, which I do not wish to present in too much detail here, affords a good basis for the work to be done at European level.
6. Following on from these general comments, and with the wish to make a constructive contribution to the texts prepared by my colleague, here are the amendments proposed to the draft resolution and recommendation, together with the reasons for proposing them:
  • Amendment A is intended to add detail to the draft resolution about the media concerned;
  • Amendments B, C, D and then G endeavour to consider children more specifically, recalling their particular vulnerability in this context and the subtle way in which they are involved in violent depictions in the media;
  • Amendment E is designed to strengthen the text of the draft resolution by calling on the main stakeholders to take very concrete measures (and not pursue “principles” which seem easier to ignore);
  • Amendment F is intended to complete the list of measures to be taken by member States in order to prevent the violence conveyed through the media and to raise awareness of their consequences amongst all stakeholders;
  • Amendment H very slightly reformulates the existing sentence in order to emphasise the fact that the mere presence of violence in the media represents a problem, without awaiting various potential consequences;
  • Finally, Amendment I attempts to specify the role of the Committee of Ministers and the governmental bodies of the Council of Europe, which do not themselves make in-depth assessments in this sphere, but are more initiators of such discussions amongst other key stakeholders.