Monday, March 14, 2005

Kiev Conference NGO speech : Human rights and regulation

Speech by Ed Klute,President Online/More Colour in the Media, on behalf of the NGO Forum at the Kiev Conference on sub-theme 3: human rights and regulation

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

I speak here on behalf of the NGO-forum and I would like to take the opportunity to make a few observations and suggestions concerning subtheme 3, while I also would like to draw your attention to the important role of the NGO’s in implementing and monitoring the recommendations and resolutions.

First of all the NGO-Forum would like to stress that the text of subtheme 3 is very important, if not crucial to the future of European media. It will define the conditions for development, particularly in the context of the Information Society. However, we believe there are some issues that should be emphasised here.

First: The principle that the human being is at the centre of the information society. What are the challenges facing people in relationship to these new technologies? Citizens need to have access to these new technologies and to their benefits, but if their access is to be meaningful they need to be equipped and empowered to make the best use of the services and content available to them, meaning: to give them tools to use new technologies to their benefit, but …… more importantly, to teach them how to use these media critically and how to give these media a place in their daily life.

There are many positive examples in which new technologies are improving democracy and involvement of citizens. We all heard today about the importance of new media to drive the changes in the Ukraine. Via internet for a people from all over the world could participate in the events. Also on local level new technology can support organisations and activities.
Free access to the internet is also giving ethnic minority communities and other groups a platform to express their opinions and points of view by producing their own media.

Other examples are:
On line education
Free access to governmental information
Cheap telephone services

However, we also see possible negative sides of the Information Society. Pretty soon the internet will enhance all present media: radio, television, newspapers, etc. This is leading on one hand to a huge choice for the users, which is good in itself! Although, research suggests that many users are overwhelmed by multicontent sources and that they find it difficult to evaluate or compare.

This development of a limitless supply of media also tends to lead to a further fragmentation of audiences and even societies. As communities and individuals will chose their own news channels and resources because they provide information they are most comfortable with.

A development which started already after the arrival of satellite television and which increasingly developed after 9/11, when Muslim communities all over the world started to inform themselves via the Arab satellite channels and websites, as did not fully trust the culturally biased information of the western media of the countries they were living in. This caused heated debates in local communities and schools, intercultural misunderstandings and a certain separation between former friends and between local communities.

This is just an example of a future challenge for public service and community media. They will, even more than before, have the task to reach all citizens and will have to cater for all members of the society, especially in the new Information Society.

However, the most important role is for media education. Citizens of all ages, young and old, have to learn how to critically cope with the contents of the media. Children have to learn how to deal with media in all stages of education, and the adults through livelong learning. In this way we will also be able to pay attention to:
Things like how to do with chatroom use of youngsters;
How to cope with free access to pornography
And how to avoid youngsters being influenced by extremist propaganda.

We are glad that the CDMM adapted our suggestion to include media education in the Action Plan. We also call upon all governments present today, to act rapidly on implementing media education in the school curricula.
Lastly I want to ask your attention to the role of the NGO’s in this process.
Since the beginning of the ’90 ‘s hundreds of NGO’s, vocational- and research institutes in countries all over Europe have been making efforts to make the media more intercultural and diverse. Also more and more broadcasters start to recognise that their audiences are changing and that the role of media in the society is becoming increasingly important. However we have the experience that over the years many (inter)national conferences have taken place, codes of conduct and guidelines have been developed and handbooks for journalists have been drafted on how to promote diversity in the media.

Recent examples are the OSCE Guidelines on the use of Minority Languages in the Broadcast Media October 2003 and the Resolutions and Plan of Action we are discussing today. When you compare these recent and proposed texts to texts which were formulated during the Conferences of the Council of Europe in 1988, (Media and Cultural Diversity, Noordwijkerhout), and in 1994 (The Role of the Media in Promoting Integration and Equal Opportunities for Immigrants, Solingen), you will find many resemblance’s.

From this we could conclude that the recommendations and resolutions are often well intended and ‘to the point’, but that to little recourses were provided to secure the implementation.

Therefore the European NGO’s are of the opinion that recommendations and resolutions should be accompanied by measures, which encourage and support the implementation and annually monitoring of these recommendations and resolutions.

NGO’s, broadcasters, workers unions, Schools of Journalism, media education institutes, research- and vocational institutes co-operate increasingly, but too often ad hoc, in transnational networks, which are mostly project based. This means that the co-operation is temporary and that there are hardly possibilities for wider dissemination and continuation of their work. Because of this, many initiatives are short lived and many are being reinvented over and over in the same and other countries, resulting in little progress and lots of frustration.
In order to change this and to bring more coherence and continuity in all these priceless transnational efforts, the European network Online/More Colour in the Media took the initiative in 2004 in order to unite as many networks and initiatives concerning media and diversity. Several international roundtables and meetings were organised all over Europe, resulting in the 3-day European conference with the title ‘Tuning in to Diversity 2004. Thinking Forward ‘. This conference was held in the Netherlands as part of the Dutch EU-Presidency and was supported by the Council of Europe. The Conference resulted in a practical ‘Roadmap for change’, including the following initiatives:

An annual European Week for Media and Diversity
A European Platform for Media and Diversity

In order to improve dissemination, the exchange of ‘good practice’ and to highlight their activities, NGO’s from all over Europe will join their efforts in the establishment of an annual European Week of Media and Diversity, with the slogan: ‘Opening up to Diversity!’ During this week Schools of Journalism, Research institutes, Institutes for Media education, Diversity managers, Programme makers, NGO’s, media-watch organisations, vocational institutes, workers unions, Ethnic community media and NGO’s in all European countries, will organise symposia and presentations. These activities will highlight media and diversity and will aim to encourage the dialogue and further co-operation between media professionals, NGO’s and the audiences. This annual European week will provide also a platform to draw attention to the resolutions and recommendations of international bodies and the presentation of monitoring efforts by the NGO’s.

In order to facilitate the activities of the mentioned NGO networks on a continuous base, all European networks agreed that there is real a need for a European Platform for Media and Diversity, which should:
Facilitate and co-ordinate existing and new transnational networks aiming for media and diversity.
Collect examples of ‘good practice’ and research concerning the implementation of diversity policies in media organisations and vocational institutes and make them available for use in other countries
Act as a helpdesk for new national initiatives by providing them with available ‘good practice’ and contacts of similar initiatives in other countries.
Co-ordinate the annual week of Media and Diversity
Organise ‘roundtables’, seminars and European Conferences.
Facilitate the annual monitoring of the implementation of resolutions and recommendations of European bodies.

The European Platform is not meant to be a ‘lobby organisation’ in its own right. The main aim is to support national initiatives by facilitating the transnational networks covering all member states of the Council of Europe and possibly the OSCE.

Noting that the to the European Ministerial Conference on Mass Media Policy Council of Europe in its Action plan proposes
to establish a forum for the regular review, in consultation with media professionals
and other interested parties, of the question of the rights and responsibilities of media and the working conditions of journalists in times of crisis
wishes to encourage the training of media professionals in order to provide professional and independent coverage of crisis situations
and to encourage the media’s contribution to intercultural and inter-religious dialogue, through initiatives such as the setting up of a network to exchange information and co-ordinate initiatives which exist in this field in Europe.

And taking into account the essential role of the NGO’s and their European networks in implementing the resolutions and recommendations of the Ministerial Conference and aware of the plea of the NGO’s for continuity,

The NGO-platform proposes that the Council of Europe takes the initiative to find possibilities, possibly in co-operation with bodies like the OSCE, OSI and EU to financially facilitate a European Platform for Media and Diversity.

Thank you for your attention.

For more information:
Ed Klute
President Online/More Colour in the Media