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PACE committee urges a ‘right to know’ to combat disinformation and manipulation

A PACE committee is urging European governments to create a broad “right to know” – consisting of maximum transparency in public life, a vibrant and diverse media, and a rich educational and cultural environment – in order to encourage democratic participation and combat “post-truth” disinformation and the manipulation of public opinion.

Approving a report by Roberto Rampi (Italy, SOC), the Assembly’s Culture Committee said such a “right to know” would enable every citizen to “be actively informed of all aspects regarding all stages of the policy-making and administrative / rule-making processes, in order to allow for full democratic participation”.

It would be created through “an ecology of public policy instruments” which maximise access to official documents and company ownership records, promote free access to scientific and scholarly knowledge, guarantee a pluralistic and independent media with full transparency of ownership, and counter the “culture of secrecy” in certain areas of public life.

It would also encompass wider measures to encourage public understanding and critical thinking in a democratic society, such as easy and life-long access to art, culture, literature, music, theatre and museums.

The committee listed a series of specific measures governments – as well as other private partners – could take to guarantee such a right. These include ratifying the Tromsø Convention on Access to Official Documents, expanding company and financial reporting obligations, improving the regulation of lobbying, making media ownership and financing more transparent, and encouraging “open access” to academic research.

The committee also proposed “an independent national monitoring system of the legality, correctness and completeness of information delivered by all national media”, with monthly public reports, and parliamentary and citizen oversight of the algorithms used by social media companies.

The report is due to be discussed by the plenary Assembly in due course.