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11-06-2021 14:45

Statement of the Minister of Interior, Mr Nicos Nouris, at the press conference on the completion of the Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and Information Society of the Council of Europe

Dear media representatives

It is my pleasure to welcome you to the press conference of the Council of Europe Conference of Ministers responsible for Media and Information Society.

On behalf of the Republic of Cyprus, I would like to express my gratitude for hosting this conference which has brought together a large number of participants at the highest level, from the 47 Member States, and six observer and other states.   In this multi-stakeholder conference forty-five (45) Ministers, Vice-Ministers and State Secretaries, as well as approximately three-hundred-seventy (370) representatives from international organisations, business, academia, civil society and the media participated and still participating as we speak.

It is a fact that this conference comes at a crucial moment in the broader European and international context on matters of freedom of expression, new media and digital technologies, Artificial Intelligence and the challenges these pose for democracy and our political discourse.

During the conference, it was agreed that the developments appear to be approaching a climax and that, despite the AI usefulness, political attention at the highest level is required as well as immediate coordinated action from governments, in consultation with all stakeholders.

In the course of the last, one and half days, we were able to hear a broad range of perspectives from experts, researchers, journalists, human rights activists and we, as ministers, were able to consider and deliberate on the key issues that this Council of Europe Ministerial Conference had sought to raise and address. Allow me first and briefly, to highlight some of these elements:

  • Widespread application of digital technologies, including artificial intelligence, impacts on freedom of expression and on other human rights. It enhances opportunities for the exercise of human rights, but also creates new risks and new forms of interference.
  • The way in which individuals and society, seek and receive information, express their opinions and take decisions has radically changed. This is an ultimate outcome of digitalisation and large-scale personal data processing.
  • As regards the new media and information environment, it benefited from new sources of information and wide sharing opportunities. However, along came also, the spread of disinformation and online hate speech. The declining reliability of information and sources, has led to the loss of trust in the media, professional journalism, and ultimately, in democratic institutions.
  • Journalists and other media actors are critical to the healthy functioning of democracy. Because of their public watchdog role, they face increasing risks.
  • These concerns have been further heightened by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dear friends,

Today’s Council of Europe Conference, offered critical input which will contribute to addressing our shared concerns.

The resolutions on:

“freedom of expression and digital technologies”,

“the changing environment in media and information”,

“the safety of journalists” and

“the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on freedom of expression” were adopted as well as a final declaration. 

These four Resolutions and the Nicosia Declaration will be instantly published on the website of the Conference, with an appendix which includes the reservations as expressed by one country during the conference on specific points of the documents.

I believe I speak for all of us, when I say I am particularly encouraged that this Conference turned out to be the important milestone it set out to be. The success of the conference is the result of a common effort of the member states’ ministers and all the involved stakeholders, but we all now need, to take these conclusions and recommendations to the next stage.  

These resolutions and our commitment will serve as a benchmark to create those conditions in which citizens have access to free and pluralistic media, quality news and a safe environment for media actors. It is our hope that all our citizens will feel safe when expressing their views, seeking and sharing information, whether online or offline, thanks to the opportunities offered by digital technologies.

Our adoption and our expressed commitment serve as a foundation and a framework. We are all pragmatic enough to know, that our recommendations and policy guidelines however, strongly felt and expressed, however thoroughly examined, do not always impact the reality ‘on the ground’ and what happens in practice.

It is not only important to develop policies, legislation and regulations. It is equally important to ensure that those policies are successfully implemented and become part of our societies’ DNA. It is only when we turn policy into action that we manage to safeguard the values and principles we defend.

Dear media representatives,

In closing, on behalf of the Government of Cyprus, I would like to assure you that we will lead by example here in our own country, by applying practical and operational measures in order to implement the actions of the resolutions. We are eager to actively engage in shaping a united vision, turning the complexity and uncertainty of political, social and economic processes into human rights-based policies, projects and activities, embodying the values of the Council of Europe.

We look forward to partnering with all the member states on this journey from principles on paper into policies in practice.

With this thought, let me publicly express my sincere thanks:

- to the people and representatives of the media who have attended the conference, online.

-to the distinguished speakers, moderators and panellists for bringing their expertise and experience around the table and engaging in such fruitful, interesting dialogue.

Finally, special thanks to the Council of Europe Secretariat and its staff working in the field of media and information society for their support for co-organising the conference and for the excellent cooperation we had.

I thank you once again.