Mr Pierre-Henri IMBERT
General of Human Rights of the Council of Europe
the close of your discussions, and following the summary which
we have just heard, I do not think it is necessary to repeat all
the points made during what I consider to be a very rich Conference.
Furthermore, this is the first time that I have had the opportunity
to visit the new Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in my capacity
as Director General of Human Rights of the Council of Europe.
I will restrict myself to some general comments which I consider
to be of particular importance from the point of view of what
has been the focus of this conference, namely the establishment
of a democratic media system.
before doing so, please let me thank ANEM for having taken the
initiative of organising this Conference at a crucial time and
let me also pay tribute to the active commitment which ANEM and
its affiliated stations have constantly demonstrated over the
last years in favour of human rights and democracy, despite repressive
and dangerous conditions.
as you all know, there cannot be a democratic system if the media
are not able to collect and disseminate information, ideas and
opinions without interference by public authorities and regardless
of frontiers. This basic requirement, enshrined in the European
Convention on Human Rights, implies that States commit themselves
to a number of essential principles which have been set out by
the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in its Declaration
on the freedom of expression and information of 1982.
first of these principles, which is the opposite of the totalitarian
media policy witnessed in many countries around the world, including,
until recently, this one, is "the absence of censorship or
any arbitrary controls or constraints on participants in the information
process, on media content or on the transmission and dissemination
the firm commitment by the public authorities to remove such arbitrary
controls, there cannot be a democratic media system, and I sincerely
hope that the authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
will take rapid and resolved action towards this objective, first
and foremost on the legal side, but also, and this is equally
important, on the practical side.
leads me to observe that it is not because censorship has been
abolished that one can affirm that a free and democratic media
system is in place. Nor is stating the importance of freedom of
expression and freedom of the media sufficient to guarantee these
practical requirements need to be fulfilled and will be taken
into account to assess the progress made by the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia towards the common principles accepted by the family
of European democratic States under the Council of Europe banner.
Again, these other requirements are eloquently reflected in the
above-mentioned Declaration and I will quote only three of them.
first such requirement is "the pursuit of an open information
policy in the public sector, including access to information,
in order to enhance the individualís understanding of, and his
ability to discuss freely political, social, economic and cultural
matters." There is no genuine democratic society without
a transparent public policy in terms of access to official information
second requirement is "the existence of a wide variety of
independent and autonomous media, permitting the reflection of
diversity of ideas and opinions". There is no genuine democracy
without policy measures allowing all views in society, and in
particular minority ethnic, religious and other groups, to express
themselves via the media. We should never forget that the basis
of human rights is the recognition of other individuals, respect
for their dignity and - it unfortunately has to be recalled -
the third is "the availability and access on reasonable terms
to adequate facilities for the domestic and international transmission
and dissemination of information and ideas". There cannot
be any genuine democratic media system without the abolition of
State monopolies over the printing and distribution of the press,
or the removal of restrictions concerning access by the electronic
media to transmission facilities.
task ahead might appear to be immense and beyond the capacity
of the public authorities of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
However, they are not left alone. The presence of representatives
of numerous international intergovernmental and non-governmental
organisations during the conference demonstrates that the international
community is willing to assist them. The Council of Europe, with
its long-standing experience and expertise in the area of media
law and policy, will take full part in this joint effort.
might think that now, everything has been said about the question
of how to establish a democratic media system in the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia. But this is not the case. One major player is missing
and has not yet been mentioned, namely the media themselves.
often, including in what sometime people call "the older
democracies", one tends to overlook the fact that the media,
like all the other actors in society, have certain "duties"
and "responsibilities", as expressly mentioned by Article
10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
these responsibilities, which the media in the Federal Republic
of Yugoslavia should constantly bear in mind in their day-to-day
operation, I will mention, in particular, the duty to respect
the dignity and fundamental rights of all individuals, such as
the right to privacy or the right to a fair trial, as well as
the duty not to advocate violence, racism, intolerance or hatred,
notably on grounds of the ethnic origin of people.
believe that it is of utmost importance, for the successful transition
to democracy and stability of both the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
and the region of South-East Europe, that all the media in this
country commit themselves to the highest ethical standards in
order to respect these rights and fundamental democratic values.
this respect, the electronic media will have a crucial role to
play, given their audience and their impact on the formation of
public opinion. This is true of course of the private broadcast
media, and in particular those affiliated to ANEM, that I would
like to encourage in its efforts to build a democratic civil society.
is also true of the new public broadcasting organisation which
the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia is going to establish. Bearing
in mind how the RTS was used until recently as an instrument of
propaganda, war and racial hatred, it is clear that those who
will be in charge of the management of this new organisation will
have the paramount responsibility of paying particular attention
to the definition of a specific programming policy which provides
a reference point for all members of the public and serves as
a factor for social cohesion and integration of all individuals,
groups and communities.
the definition of a new democratic legal framework, and by refraining
themselves from interfering with this programming policy, the
public authorities in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia will
also have to play a crucial role in the transformation of the
also appeal to the other media in this country, and in particular
the printed press, to take an active part in the effort to promote
tolerance and better understanding among people and communities
in the region, notably through joint projects and operations with
other media from neighbouring countries. Without them, no lasting
peace and development will be possible.
like all the other intergovernmental and non-governmental organisations
present today, and to which I would like to pay tribute for their
efforts to promote democratic media systems throughout Europe,
the Council of Europe is willing to provide its assistance in
conclusion, I would like to thank the hosts of the conference
for the excellent organisation of this event and their hospitality.
you for your attention.