OSCE urges "end to information war and manipulation"

OSCE representative on freedom of the media has called on all participating states to "stop the information war and the manipulation with media."

Source: B92
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In a statement issued on Thursday, Dunja Mijatović noted that recently politicians, lawmakers and regulators in Ukraine expressed concern about the influence of Russian television on information security or other national interests, and "often followed by actions that effectively suspend or ban all or some programs produced in Russia."

"In a similar development, de facto authorities in Crimea several weeks ago abruptly and brutally switched off almost all Ukrainian television channels and replaced them with channels originating from the Russian Federation," she said.

Summarizing her position "on the issue as a whole," the OSCE official noted that the organization's participating states, via the Helsinki Act, "agreed to be bound by and fulfill their obligations as set forth in the international declarations and agreements in the area of free expression, including international agreements on human rights."

The statement quoted Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) that “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression," which includes "freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

Mijatović noted another provision of the ICCPR - "that this right carries special duties and responsibilities. It, therefore, may be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be ones that are clearly spelled out in national law and applied only when they are necessary to protect other fundamental values and rights."

"If such restrictions are adopted by lawful institutions, such as legislatures, in accordance with the rule of law, and if the restrictions pursue a legitimate aim, and are necessary and proportional in scope, then they can indeed be recognized as appropriate."

"An independent court system presents an appropriate venue to debate the restrictions to the right guaranteed by Article 19. A national court decision about the legality of such restrictions can be appealed and, in the case of many participating States, even challenged in the European Court of Human Rights as a violation of freedom of expression," she said, adding that "these are procedures that should be accepted and respected all across the region."

According to Mijatović, "Arbitrary attempts to restrict media pluralism must be opposed. Media freedom is dependent on a healthy and vibrant and competitive media landscape which includes voices that provide a variety of news and views in different languages coming from different countries. At all times, and especially in difficult times, blocking is not the answer; more debate is."

"At the same time I see a danger to media pluralism in the very existence of state-owned and state-controlled media as they can be easily used to promulgate state propaganda – the evil all international media-freedom agreements aspire against. Therefore, I use these opportunities to call for the transformation of state media into public service broadcasters and private media across the OSCE region," she started, calling "on all participating States to stop the information war and the manipulation with media, and ensure journalists’ safety."

While urging the states to "refrain from blocking media to avoid arbitrary and politically motivated actions which could impede the expression of alternative positions," Mijatović also recalled the need "to strengthen and further develop compliance with relevant OSCE principles and commitments, including alleged serious instances of intolerance by participating states."

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