Rapporteurs Adopt Joint Declaration on Protection of Free Expression, Diversity in Digital Terrestrial Transition

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Four International Rapporteurs on Freedom of Expression, on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day, May 3, 2013, met in San José, Costa Rica and adopted a Joint Declaration on protection of freedom of expression and diversity in the digital terrestrial transition.

Mr. Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression

The four rapporteurs are Frank La Rue, UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression; Dunja Mijatović, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) representative on Freedom of the Media; Catalina Botero Marino, the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression; and Faith Pansy Tlakula, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.

The joint declaration the rapporteurs adopted addressed four focal areas namely General Principles, Core Policy Processes, Promoting Diversity and Related Goals, and Cost Considerations and Universal Access.

In the area of ‘general principles,’ the declaration made several recommendations among which are those that states should adopt to facilitate freedom of expression and diversity in the digital terrestrial transition.  They recommended that states should ensure that respect for freedom of expression, including diversity in the airwaves, is ensured in the digital terrestrial transition process.

Dunja Mijatović, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) representative on Freedom of the Media

They also urged that states should ensure that decision-making processes relating to the digital terrestrial transition take place in a transparent and fully consultative manner, allowing for all stakeholders and interests to be heard.

They acknowledged that key policy decisions regarding the digital terrestrial transition need to be taken by government but cautioned that implementation of those decisions should be undertaken by an independent regulator protected against political, commercial and other forms of unwarranted interference, in accordance with international human rights standards to make it legitimate.

The rapporteurs also recommended that states should ensure that the process for allocating broadcasting licenses should be strictly regulated by law and be guided by clear, objective, transparent and democratic criteria

On ‘Core Policy Processes,’ the rapporteurs made three recommendations.

They recommended that core policy decisions should ensure respect for freedom of expression and a balance between the various competing interests, taking into account national circumstances; that regulators should have the necessary mandate and resources to implement core policy decisions; and that clear rules should be in place regarding the allocation of capacity on multiplex, including, as appropriate, to ensure that this is done in a fair, transparent and non-discriminatory manner.

Faith Pansy Tlakula, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information

On ‘promoting diversity and related goals’, they recommended that state policies and licensing processes relating to the digital terrestrial transition should promote media diversity.

The rapporteurs also recommended that states should ensure that government or State broadcasters are transformed into public service broadcasters; community and local broadcasting services are able to continue through and after the digital terrestrial transition; and that special measures be put in place to prevent the digital terrestrial transition from promoting greater or undue concentration of media ownership or control, among other things.

Catalina Botero Marino, the Organization of American States (OAS) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression

On ‘cost considerations and universal access’ they suggested that “States should put in place measures to limit the cost to end users of the digital terrestrial transition, specifically with a view to limiting the number of individuals and households which are unable to afford to make the transition and to ensuring that these costs do not lead to a ‘digital divide’ between those who can afford to access new services and those who cannot.”

The rapporteurs had met earlier in Pretoria, South Africa on April 5, 2013 and discussed these issues with the assistance of ARTICLE 19, Global Campaign for Free Expression and the Centre for Law and Democracy.

At the Pretoria meeting, they recalled and reaffirmed their Joint Declarations of November 26,  1999; November 30, 2000; November 20, 2001; December 10, 2002; December 18, 2003; December 6, 2004; December 21, 2005; December 19, 2006; December 12, 2007; December 10, 2008; May 15, 2009; February 3, 2010; June 1, 2011; and  June 25, 2012.

To view the report, kindly click here.