#RFOM15
Dunja Mijatovic

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and promotes full compliance with OSCE press freedom commitments.

Promoting media freedom on the Internet

  • Rising e-governance models
  • Increasing Internet
    penetration
  • More internet forums and civil
    society groups dedicated to
    protecting internet freedom
  • Increasing numbers
    of blocked sites
  • Growing number of internet
    surveillance programs, especially
    in developed democracies
  • Central filtering in a
    select few countries

Throughout the last decade and a half, the advancement of Internet freedom has been a top priority for the RFoM. Following a project launched in 2001 on freedom of the media in the digital age, the Office initiated a series of conferences on Internet freedom in the early 2000s. The Amsterdam Recommendations of 2003 and the Media Freedom Internet Cookbook of 2004 was the work product of these events.  In 2011 a Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and the Internet was presented by the RFOM together with the special rapporteurs on media freedom from United Nations, the Organization of American States and the African Commission on Human and People’s rights.

More recently, the Office organized the Internet 2013 Conference bringing together some 400 participants in Vienna and several hundred on social networking websites. As the Internet is frequently under attack in parts of the OSCE region – and as some participating States continuingly fail to acknowledge that human rights apply to the online world – there is an unrelenting need to continue debating these issues.

2012 Internet Freedom:  Why it Matters

Open Journalism

Open-JournalismA new type of reporting – called open or citizen journalism ­– has emerged with the growing digitalization of our societies and the greater freedom it has created. Small and big world news is published and debated in a seemingly never-ending stream of posts, tweets, and comments on social networking and news websites. The term open journalism reflects the fact that the freedom to seek, share and impart information and ideas is no longer reserved to the few but for the increasingly many. It is more than merely a 21st century version of letters to the editor; open journalism captures the ongoing development in which traditional media outlets not only make readers’ comments available, but also more frequently rely on readers for information, allowing them to set the narrative. “The word is free” has been given a new connotation.

2013 Social Media Guidebook

Ensuring safety of journalists

Equip law enforcement agencies with sufficient resources and expertise to carry out effective investigations in the particular field of the media and to develop practices that respect the legal rights of members of the media.

Vilnius Recommendations
8 June 2011
Treat violence against journalists as a direct attack on freedom of expression, and publicly refute any attempt to silence critical or differing voices in the society

Vilnius Recommendations
8 June 2011
Governments should give their full political support to the strengthening of media freedom by promoting safe and unimpeded conditions for journalists to perform their professional duties
Vilnius Recommendations
8 June 2011

Increase safe working conditions for journalists by creating legislation that fosters media freedoms and decriminalises journalistic activities
Vilnius Recommendations
8 June 2011

Governments should make it their priority to carry out swift and effective investigations, sending a message to society that perpetrators and masterminds of violence against journalists will be efficiently brought to justice;
Vilnius Recommendations
8 June 2011

Equip law enforcement agencies with sufficient resources and expertise to carry out effective investigations in the particular field of the media and to develop practices that respect the legal rights of members of the media
Vilnius Recommendations
8 June 2011

Give due weight to the public interest in judicial procedures initiated against journalists as a result of their professional duties, and to ensure that such cases are handled without delay and in a transparent manner
Vilnius Recommendations
8 June 2011

Call upon law enforcement agencies and media to jointly establish good practices that can increase the safety of members of the media and to engage in joint training activities to promote these practices
Vilnius Recommendations
8 June 2011

Support the work of the OSCE field operations and encourage further projects aimed at capacity building and training for the media, including the promotion of dialogue between the media and law enforcement agencies.
Vilnius Recommendations
8 June 2011

Although fundamental freedoms are the birthright of every human being they continue to be randomly applied in the OSCE region. Journalists are targeted since their work is oftentimes perceived as a thorn in the side by the powerful. Ever since its establishment in 1997, the Office has engaged in numerous activities to safeguard and expand the safety of journalists. Apart from being the main focus of the Office’s daily monitoring activities, safety of journalists is a frequently recurring item on the agenda of annual conferences organized by the Office in Central Asia, the South Caucasus and South East Europe. In 2011, together with the Lithuanian Chairmanship, the RFoM also organized a major event devoted to this pertinent topic that resulted in the Vilnius Recommendations on Safety of Journalists. The same year, the Foreign Ministry of Lithuania and RFoM jointly published the OSCE Safety of Journalists Guidebook.

Restrictions on media pluralism

pyramids-1Any attempt to restrict media pluralism in print, broadcast or online media must be stifled. Ownership transparency and provisions to weed out unhealthy media concentration are governmental responsibilities, and legislative obligations must be initiated and implemented by each participating State. Many public service broadcasters (PSBs) face both political and financial challenges that make it hard for them to maintain their independence, an independence that is crucial for any democratic society. Restrictions on media pluralism, including the state of PSBs, have been addressed by the RFoM on numerous occasions. The 7th Central Asia Media Conference in 2005 addressed media pluralism, as did the Office’s publication “The Impact of Media Concentration” from 2003. In 2005 the Second South Caucasus Media Conference addressed the state of PSBs, as did the third South East Europe Media Conference in 2013.

Decriminalization of defamation

For journalists to be able to preserve the checks and balances of democracy, they must be allowed to publically question the powerful. The very fact that criminal charges might be imposed for so called defamatory speech is enough to make media workers think twice before engaging in critical journalism. For this reason the RFoM keeps advocating for the decriminalization of defamation throughout the OSCE region. The Office has organized roundtable discussions on this important issue ever since its establishment in the late 1990s. One of the highlights of this work was the 2004 publication entitled “Ending the Chilling Effect – Working to Repeal Criminal Libel and Insult Laws”, which was the result of a major event co-organized with Reporters without Borders in 2003.

Hate Speech & Media self-regulation

Depending on the messenger, free speech can be courageous or gutless, good or hateful. The core issue is how to address hate speech while at the same time safeguarding the universal right of freedom of expression. The Office holds no judiciary powers so it cannot sanction hateful speech and does not monitor media content as such. Instead it promotes high quality journalism, and media literacy projects at large.

Self-regulation and the promotion of quality journalism are factors that strengthen media freedom. But quality should never be a pre-requisite for freedom, only a fully free press can be fully responsible. RFoM has introduced and implemented a number of initiatives to encourage the development of media self-regulation and to boost the quality segment of journalism, all with the purpose to help improve the overall media freedom situation in the OSCE area.

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Media Law & Access to Information

Attempts to curb free speech through imposing legislation hostile to fundamental freedoms are unfortunately not a new phenomenon in the OSCE region. Whether it involves the Internet, public service broadcasters or the media market, legislators keep adopting laws, out of ignorance or futility, which run counter to the OSCE human dimension commitments. Wanting to assist participating States in meeting their OSCE obligations, the RFoM has commissioned more than 50 legal reviews on media legislation since 1997. By giving constructive feedback to legislators the Office has sought to alter the legislative and factual realities for journalists throughout the OSCE region.

media-law

One of the most important legal permissions pertaining to journalist activities is access to information. Without being able to access information journalists cannot hold governments accountable for their actions. Despite its important for democracy, authorities in parts of the OSCE region are hesitant to share information with media workers and with the public in general. This sits ill with the OSCE commitments on access to information. Since the Office was created to assist participating States in fulfilling their OSCE obligations, the RFoM will continue to advocate for more liberal access to information policies. As has been the case in the past, issues related to access to information will be put high on the agenda of events organized by the Office. Legislation on access to information will also continue to be subjected to legal reviews.

 

Digitalization

digitalisation-timelineThe digital switchover is the technological process switching our broadcasting systems from analogue to digital. This switch, currently being carried out around the world, means that we get a digital system with a spectrum capacity that far exceeds that of the analogue system.

If carried out properly the transition to digital broadcasting can give users access to previously unimaginable amounts of information. The switchover can also enhance media pluralism if broadcasters, producers and resellers fully cooperate with each other. The Office will keep advocating for the switchover to be carried out so as to advance freedom of expression and freedom of the media. To this effect the Office issued a publication in 2009 entitled Guide to the Digital Switchover that was well received and republished the following year. The Office has during the last decade also put the topic of the digital switchover high on the agenda of its regional conferences in Central Asia, the South Caucasus and South East Europe.

The graphic shows partner countries in the OSCE region who have started and in most cases have completed the digitalisation process.