Media responsibility and ethics in a changing media environment
- Parliamentary Assembly
debate on 24 June 2015 (24th Sitting) (see Doc. 13803, report of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education
and Media, rapporteur: Mr Volodymyr Ariev). Text
adopted by the Assembly on 24 June 2015 (24th Sitting).See
also Recommendation 2075
1 The Parliamentary Assembly recalls
that freedom of expression in the media is a necessary precondition for
a democratic society and constitutes an indispensable requirement
for a society’s progress and for the development of every individual.
Freedom of expression is comprehensively applicable, subject only
to the conditions and restrictions foreseen in the European Convention
on Human Rights (ETS No. 5).
2 As the exercise of this freedom carries with it duties and
responsibilities, the Assembly welcomes the Declaration of Principles
on the Conduct of Journalists adopted by the International Federation
of Journalists, as well as codes of ethics adopted by journalists
and the media at national level in all member States. Such codes
are a voluntary expression of professional diligence by quality-conscious
journalists and media outlets to correct their mistakes and to make
themselves accountable to the public.
Welcoming practical initiatives by journalists and their professional
organisations to foster high ethical standards, such as the Ethical
Journalism Initiative by the International Federation of Journalists
adopted by its World Congress in Moscow in 2007 and supported by
the European Union and the Council of Europe, the Assembly recalls
its Resolution 1003 (1993)
the ethics of journalism and notes with concern that the changing
media environment challenges journalistic ethics and that codes
of ethics are not stringently adhered to by all journalists.
4 The Assembly is alarmed by the increase in racist discourse
and hate speech in Europe and reminds member States that domestic
laws must exist against war propaganda and advocacy of national,
racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination,
hostility or violence under Article 20 of the United Nations International
Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as against the dissemination
of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred and the incitement
to racial discrimination under Article 4 of the United Nations International
Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.
5 Journalists work in many parts of Europe under conditions
which are legally insecure and financially weak, often in freelance
positions, thus making them more vulnerable to pressures on their
work by third parties. Many media outlets have financial problems
due to reduced readership, audience or viewers because of the growth
of Internet-based media and often less profitable business models,
thus compromising the editorial independence of such media. In addition,
journalists and media outlets are increasingly threatened by organised
crime, terrorism and armed conflicts, which endangers their work
as a whole.
Recalling its Resolution
“Towards decriminalisation of defamation”,
the Assembly reminds member States that statements or allegations
in the media, even if they prove to be inaccurate, should not be punishable,
provided that they were made without knowledge of their inaccuracy,
without conscious intention to cause harm and that their truthfulness
was checked with proper diligence. Member States should move forward
with decriminalising defamation.
Recalling its Recommendation
on the funding of public service broadcasting,
the Assembly reaffirms that public service broadcasters must be
an important public source of unbiased information and diverse political
opinions; they must function under high editorial standards of objectivity,
fairness and independence from political or economic interference.
Therefore, the Assembly welcomes and supports the Editorial Principles
and Guidelines by the European Broadcasting Union and calls on member
States to ensure that their public service broadcasters fully implement
Recalling its Resolution
on the freedom of the press and the working
conditions of journalists in conflict zones, the Assembly reminds
member States that journalists must be considered civilians under
Article 79 of Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, provided
that they take no action adversely affecting their status as civilians,
and invites all media to indicate clearly to the public which reports
are from war correspondents embedded in military or security forces.
Recalling its Resolution
on violence in and through the media, the
Assembly welcomes self-regulatory mechanisms by broadcasters and
the film and games industry for protecting minors from violence by
voluntarily rating their media content. Media outlets are editorially
responsible for making sure that violent media content does not
prejudice the dignity of the human being or impair the physical,
mental or moral development of children and adolescents.
10 In view of the exponential growth in Internet-based media
and the related changes in the internal structure of media outlets,
the Assembly believes that media outlets should play a predominant
role in defining and upholding the professional standards of their
staff as well as those contributing to their media content. In this
context, corporate codes of ethics and media ombudspersons should
be established by media outlets, as well as mechanisms for complaints
or other reactions by their readers, listeners or viewers with regard
to compliance with such corporate codes.
11 The Assembly recognises self-regulation by the media as a
means of reducing the influence of the State and other sectors of
society over media content. In addition, self-regulatory mechanisms
can facilitate out-of-court settling of disputes over media content.
However, the Assembly reminds member States that limitations by
public authorities to freedom of expression and information through
the media must be prescribed by law, pursue a legitimate objective
and be necessary in a democratic society. Media self-regulation
must be of a voluntary and ethical nature, rather than legally binding.
12 Systems of media self-regulation have developed differently
among member States, depending on political, cultural and legal
traditions. In several countries, systems of co-regulation exist
whereby domestic law sets the legal framework for self-regulatory
media ethics. Where such systems include the possibility to impose fines
and other penalties, the European Convention on Human Rights, in
particular its Article 10, is applicable and must be respected.
13 The Assembly therefore invites media outlets, their staff
and their organisations to increase voluntary adherence to their
codes of ethics and their mechanisms for analysing breaches of such
codes, with a view to providing adequate redress for those affected
by such breaches. For this purpose, the Assembly invites the Alliance
of Independent Press Councils of Europe to strengthen co-ordination
among its members, in order to raise ethical standards across Europe,
facilitate complaints procedures across borders and raise awareness among
European media users.
14 The Assembly invites the European Union to co-operate with
the Council of Europe in promoting media self-regulation, for instance
by extending the standards of the Audiovisual Media Services Directive
beyond the European Union as has been attempted with the European
Convention on Transfrontier Television (ETS No. 132), but also through
practical co-operation activities with national associations of
media and journalists.