Belgrade hosts ministerial conference on media

Belgrade is hosting a conference of ministers responsible for media and information society, discussing promotion and protection of freedom of expression.

Source: Tanjug

The international conference, "Freedom of Expression and Democracy in the Digital Age: Opportunities, Rights, Responsibilities", was opened on Thursday by Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dačić and CoE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland.

The two-day conference will feature speeches by CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks, the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Frank La Rue, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović and European Broadcasting Union General Director Ingrid Deltenre.

The event is organized by the CoE and the Serbian Ministry of Culture and Information.

No democracy without freedom of expression

Council of Europe (CoE) Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland said in Belgrade on Thursday that there is no democracy without freedom of expression, and the digital age has not changed anything, except that the Internet is offering new possibilities for holding politicians in power to even greater account.

Without freedom of expression, there is no democracy, and the development of every democratic society depends on the respect of that fundamental right, Jagland said, opening the ministerial conference in Belgrade.

He voiced concern about the safety of journalists and bloggers throughout the world, drawing attention to the recent killing of French reporters in Mali.

I have to admit that, in terms of that, we are lagging behind, and we must find a remedy as soon as possible and establish standards in that field urgently, he underscored.

I am also concerned about the surveillance of electronic communication under the pretext of the protection of national security, as that could only lead to a destruction of democracy, the CoE secretary general said, referring to the recent findings that the United States and other major world powers carried out the surveillance of emails and phones of citizens and politicians across the world.

A balance must be struck between the protection of national security, democracy and human rights, he said.

"I am categorically in favor of the argument that concessions must not ever be made when it comes to the protection of human rights," Jagland stressed.

Hate speech affects the security and stability of the society, and the Balkans experienced that, he said.

Technologies and communications are important, but they cannot replace interpersonal relations, Jagland said.

Society

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