Guest Blogs

Dr. Agnes Callamard

The keys to improve the media freedom situation in the OSCE region and beyond the next 15 years | Dr. Agnes Callamard
The information technology revolution of the last two decades has profoundly transformed print and broadcast media, journalism, the production of news... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Johan Hallenborg

Freedom of expression set to turbo mode | Johan Hallenborg
Swedes are a pretty tech savvy bunch. We like cool, new, shiny gadgets, too. And we start early: last year, half of all three-year-olds in Sweden were on the net... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Christian Möller

“From Quill to Cursor”* and 140 Characters | Christian Möller
When I first joined the Office of the OSCE Media Freedom Representative in the summer of 2002, a colleague of mine – a senior U.S. diplomat – asked whether I knew “how to google” ... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Galina Arapova

Freedom of expression: development, trial, protection | Galina Arapova
In recent years we have seen a rapid change in media environment, we were lucky to witness an unprecedented technological and informational progress.. Read full article
Guest Blogs

Begaim Usenova

Kyrgyzstan’s Media Law | Begaim Usenova
In 2010, defamation was decriminalized in Kyrgyzstan. This step was perceived in the world as political will of the country’s leadership to ensure the citizens’ right for freedom of expression and opinion.. Read full article
Guest Blogs

Leonid Kozhara

A unique institution promoting media freedom | Leonid Kozhara
I would like to express my congratulations on the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media ... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Alison Bethel McKenzie

A great threat to media freedom | Alison Bethel McKenzie
The International Press Institute (IPI), the world’s oldest global media freedom organization, is pleased to mark 15 years since the establishment of the Office ... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Marietje Schaake

Saving the open Internet requires protecting the rights of its users | Marietje Schaake
Technological developments and the open Internet have led to revolutionary changes and the potential of emancipating individuals, bottom up... Read full article
Guest Blogs

William Horsley

Media freedom requires that the state must stay out of the ring  | William Horsley
Once, it seemed that things could only get better. But then somehow they got worse again. That is my shorthand summary of the path of media freedom in the past 15 years. Read full article
Guest Blogs

Timothy Karr

The Internet’s Growing Pains | Timothy Karr
At 15, the OSCE’s office for media freedom is now half the age of the modern Internet. In 1983, engineers of what was then known as the ARPANET switched over to a communications ... Read full article

15 Years of the Representative on Freedom of the Media

Free expression and free media are basic human rights. The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media was established in December 1997 to protect them.

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.

The keys to improve the media freedom situation in the OSCE region and beyond the next 15 years

By Dr. Agnes Callamard, Director, Global Freedom of Expression Project, Columbia University and Special Adviser to the President of Columbia University

The information technology revolution of the last two decades has profoundly transformed print and broadcast media, journalism, the production of news, and the flow of information.  The struggle for media freedom has shifted in part from the physical to the virtual world, demanding from media advocates a substantial rethink of ideas about how best to  protect access to information, media independence, pluralism and diversity.  Today’s context is quite simply a world away from the era in which standards for these elements were first developed.  Reinterpretation, review and adaptation to this reality is essential if we are to protect media freedom and in this there are a number of keys and many locks that must be opened.

The 1st key to unlock media freedom in the OSCE region and beyond for the 21st Century is a more relevant legal and policy framework darted to the new realities that will protect the free flow of information both on line and off line.  Strategies to repeal the legal impediments of media censorship, criminal defamation provisions and to combat abuse of national security or incitement laws must be re-focused to fully incorporate on-line media and expression.  Knee jerk reactive policies of governments around the world that enact disproportionate laws and regulations seeking control over the production and dissemination of information on-line must be abandoned, denounced and opposed.  Equally, new laws and policies are needed to protect the media, journalists, bloggers and ICT users against both mass surveillance by state agencies, and organised censorship by private actors, including intermediaries or social media.

The 2nd key by which to unlock press freedom is stronger protection for those that produce information, whether they be journalists, bloggers and other social media users, information providers or opinion makers.  On and off line, the originators and sharers of information are vulnerable to harassment, threat and even physical attacks and killings.   These violations are more often committed in complete impunity.  Over the next 15 years, enhanced security for those exercising their freedom of expression must be prioritised including by insisting on the implementation of governments’ duty to protect.  This should manifest in appropriate security training and protocols and in effective police and judicial institutions that are able to investigate crimes against freedom of information.  Crucially, legal protection to information providers must be strengthened, particularly by inscribing in law access to information, the protection of sources and of whistleblowers and by recognising crimes against freedom of expression in criminal law, either explicitly or as an aggravated circumstance leading to heavier penalties, taking into account their serious nature.

The 3rd key to unlock press freedom consists in experimenting, testing, evaluating and strengthening on and off line media institutions, business models and information products that will enable the media – in the broadest sense of the word – to continue to fulfil it vital social mission: to provide a diversity of information and opinion, investigate and report on public interest stories and more generally contribute to strong and healthy civil society spaces by holding governments and other powerful interests accountable for their actions.

Information is (still) power.  That power is wielded best when it is vested in the hands of the many rather than in those of the few.  The key is to ensure, in both the virtual and physical worlds of the media, that information flows freely for, between and through people without being controlled or diverted into monopolies. In this context, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media and her colleagues at the UN, OAS, and AU will be another key to the protection of press freedom, realized through international solidarity and accountability.