The role that the European Council can play in defending press freedom and, more broadly, democracy in Europe and the world was the key issue discussed at yesterday’s meeting in Brussels between Michel and Deloire.
Michel told RSF he would be “a partner in the defence of freedom the press” and undertook to work with RSF to introduce democratic guarantees in the online domain, which has been undermined by information chaos.
Deloire described the I&D Initiative’s progress to Michel, how an international I&D Commission drafted a Declaration on Information and Democracy in September 2018 with the aim of defining principles for the global online information and communication space and ensuring respect online for article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the article on freedom of opinion and expression.
When the initiative received the formal support of the leaders of 12 democracies in November 2018, a well as from the UN secretary-general, the Council of Europe’s secretary-general and the UNESCO director-general, Belgium’s then prime minister, Michel, told his country’s parliament: “I will also propose to the European Council that it should take account of this appeal, so that our responses are equal to the challenges.”
Thereafter, the I&D Initiative led to the signature of a Partnership on Information and Democracy by 30 countries from all continents on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September 2019. The number of countries that have signed the Partnership now stands at 34, including 14 European Union members.