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Call for comments on opportunities, challenges and threats to media in the digital age
24 January 2022
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of freedom of opinion and expression
To inform the HRC thematic report on opportunities, challenges and threats to media in the digital age
Free, independent, plural and diverse media are an essential pillar of democracy and a core component of the right to freedom of expression. Journalism has been acknowledged as an essential service to society, playing a vital role in informing the public and holding public institutions to account. Its value to sustainable development has been noted in the UN Agenda on Sustainable Development. Despite the recognition of the importance of press or media freedom, viability and safety of journalists, they are under serious threat in almost every part of the world. The dangers have been heightened in recent years by digital and social media platforms, which, while creating opportunities, have also brought significant new challenges to the media sector.
The report of the Special Rapporteur will highlight the key trends that threaten press/media freedom and viability and the safety of journalists online and offline. It will analyze State practice, including laws, policies and regulatory and other institutions relevant to press or media freedom, in light of international human rights standards. It will also examine the impact of the policies and practices of digital companies on the freedom and viability of the media, as well as responses from civil society and the media sector itself to the threats, challenges and opportunities. The report will make recommendations, drawing attention, where relevant, to good practices and innovative approaches of State and private actors as well as to international human rights obligations and standards.
Key questions and types of input/comments sought
The Special Rapporteur invites Member States, international organisations, national institutions, media organizations, digital technology and social media companies, human rights organizations, civil society, scholars and other interested stakeholders to share their views on the topic of her report.
- What are the key trends, threats or challenges to the freedom, independence, pluralism and diversity of media and the safety of journalists in your country, region, or globally in your view?
- To what extent have these trends, threats and challenges emerged, or have been aggravated, because of the policies and practices of digital and social media platforms?
- Please highlight the gender dimensions of the trends and their consequences for the equality and safety of women journalists as well as media freedom.
- What legislative, administrative, policy, regulatory or other measures have Governments taken to promote press/media freedom, including media independence, pluralism, viability and ownership issues? What has been the impact of these measures? What changes or additional measures would you recommend?
- What measures are Governments taking to support public service media? What has been the impact of such measures? What changes or additional measures would you recommend?
- What measures have a) Governments b) social media companies c) media companies taken to promote the safety of journalists? What has been the impact of these measures? What more can/should be done and by whom? Please also mention any specific laws or measures to address online violence, threats and harassment and what result they have produced.
- What measures have Governments taken to investigate and prosecute attacks against journalists, including online violence and harassment against female journalists? What are the barriers to fighting impunity? What changes would you recommend?
- The UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Immunity will mark its 20th anniversary in 2022. How do you assess its results and what suggestions would you make to improve it? How can it be more relevant to gender concerns and to the threats posed by digital technology?
- What do you believe has been the impact of digital and social platforms on press/media freedom, independence, viability and safety of journalists? What specific recommendations would you make to a) Governments and b) the companies to address or mitigate the detrimental impact ?
- What policies, procedures or other measures have the media (broadcast, print and digital) sector taken to promote press/media freedom, independence, pluralism, diversity and viability? What has been most successful? What additional measures would you suggest? What steps should the media sector take to promote gender equality?
- Do you see any major gaps in the international human rights legal framework? Are there any specific recommendations that you would suggest to address such gaps or to improve implementation of existing standards?
- The Special Rapporteur would welcome examples of good practice by Governments, companies, the media sector, civil society and other stakeholders, and your recommendations on how best to address the challenges and threats to press/media freedom, independence, diversity, pluralism, and safety of journalists. Please share any relevant documents, reports, news or academic articles that you believe should be considered in the preparation of her report.
How and where to submit inputs/comments
Input/comments may be sent by e-mail. They must be received by 24 January 2022 18:00 CEST.
E-mail subject line
Input for the report on media freedom
Concise responses are appreciated
English, French, Spanish
Treatment of inputs/comments received
Submissions may be sent in English, French or Spanish to
firstname.lastname@example.org in Word or PDF format. The deadline for submissions is 24 January 2022. All submissions will be posted on the OHCHR website at the time of the report’s publication, except those containing a clear request not to be made public.