Consolidating media freedom as a pillar of democratic elections

“Media freedom is an essential condition for democratic elections; the media must be free to inform the public without political or economic pressure,” said the Assembly, stressing that “the voters cannot be said to have genuine freedom of choice if that choice is not a well-informed one”.

Following the proposals of the rapporteur, Gülsün Bilgehan (Turkey, SOC), the parliamentarians called on member States to “review their regulatory frameworks governing media coverage of election campaigns”, including the obligation for the broadcast media to cover election campaigns “fairly and impartially”, ensuring that opposition parties have a balanced coverage in programmes.

According to the adopted resolution, the editorial independence of public service media should be guaranteed, putting an end to any attempts to influence them or transform them into governmental media.

Noting a shift in the media landscape with the expansion of internet media and the growing role of social media, the Assembly also believes that States should implement effective strategies to protect the electoral process from the information manipulation and undue propaganda through social media.

With regard to these new media, the parliamentarians proposed measures such as the development of specific regulatory frameworks for internet content at election times, and the establishment of a clear legal liability for the social media companies that publish illegal content harmful to candidates. However, States should limit extreme measures, such as the blocking of entire websites.

Finally, they called on organisations in the media sector to develop self-regulation frameworks with professional and ethical standards for their coverage of election campaigns. They also called on Internet intermediaries to co-operate with civil society and organisations of all political affiliations specialising in the verification of content, to ensure that all information is confirmed by an authoritative third-party source.