Freedom of the media at the heart of democracy

Venice Commission

Freedom of the media


At the heart of democracy


Enshrined in the 1950 European Convention on Human Rights, freedom of expression is an essential foundation of democracy.

All Council of Europe bodies (the Committee of Ministers, the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Court of Human Rights) have contributed to assuring a free and independent media.

Since February 1981, the Steering Committee on the Mass Media (CDMM), which is attached to the Directorate General of Human Rights, has been guiding and co-ordinating the Council of Europe's media policy.

Through its case law on Article 10 of the Human Rights Convention, the European Court has set the broad boundaries of freedom of expression. The right to information takes precedence over any political or economic interests and states have a duty to protect this fundamental freedom, one of the cornerstones of our democracy.

Drawing on Article 10 of the Convention on Human Rights, the Council of Europe underlines the public value of the Internet with regard to freedom of expression and the free circulation of information.

Conference on "Tackling hate speech: Living together online"

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland was the keynote speaker at a two-day conference on tackling hate speech in Budapest from Tuesday 27 November 2012.

The conference was organised by the Council of Europe and the EEA and Norway Grants (programmes funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway to help reduce disparities in 15 EU member states) together with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The aim of the conference was to look at the nature and extent of hate speech in today’s Europe – especially online – and to discuss different ways of tackling intolerance whilst defending free speech.

The conference heard a number of different viewpoints, including from researchers, online activists against hate speech and relevant NGOs including Amnesty International. Human Rights Watch and the International Network Against Cyber-Hate. Facebook’s head of European policy also spoke at the event, as did representatives of the “traditional” media and international organisations including the United Nations and the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency.

The conference was preceded by a training course on hate speech for influential young bloggers, some of whom took part in the main event. The forthcoming Council of Europe youth campaign on tackling hate speech was also be presented at the conference, as were two new publications from the EU’s Fundamental Rights Agency on hate crime and victimisation of minorities.

Towards the Council of Europe Strategy on Internet Governance 2012 - 2015

The Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of Austria together with the Council of Europe organised a conference "Our Internet - Our Rights, Our Freedoms" on 24 and 25 November 2011 in Vienna.

The aim of the Conference was the elaboration of a new four-year Council of Europe strategy to advance the protection and respect for human rights, rule of law and democracy on the Internet.

The themes of the Conference included Internet and democracy, privacy standards, harm to the Internet’s functioning also harming human rights, fighting cybercrime, protecting and empowering children, what are governments’ responsibilities in protecting human rights on the Internet, and developing a charter of Internet rights to empower and enable citizens online.

European Court of Human Rights