HANDLING OF THE MEDIA DURING POLITICAL DEMONSTRATIONS OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
29 NOVEMBER 2007 / By ORGANIZATION FOR SECURITY AND CO-OPERATION IN EUROPE
This Special Report is the third in a series issued by the Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media that seeks to offer clarification about problematic aspects and best practices of the framework for the media in the OSCE area. The first two reports, issued in October 2006 and March 2007, examined the function of journalists accreditation and the issue of registration of the print media. This Special Report examines the treatment of journalists by law enforcement officials during political demonstrations.
There have been a number of instances recently where journalists have received particularly harsh treatment at the hands of law-enforcers while covering public demonstrations. This has highlighted the need to clarify the modus operandi of both law-enforcement agencies and journalists at all public events, in order that the media is able to provide coverage without h indrance. The OSCE participating States have committed to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and have guaranteed to create the conditions whereby journalists are able to work without legal or administrative obstacles. Particularly, they condemn all attacks on and harassment of journalists and will endeavour to hold those directly responsible for such attacks and harassment accountable. In addition, the ODIHR Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly clarifies the role of the media. Recent conflicts in connection with public demonstrations touch on both freedom of expression issues and those related to freedom of assembly. But safe reporting on demonstrations is demanded not only by freedom of the media and free flow of information principles: uninhibited reporting on demonstrations is as much a part of the right to free assembly as the demonstrations are themselves the exercise of the right to free speech.
Both law-enforcers and journalists have special responsibilities at a public demonstration. Law- enforcers are responsible for ensuring that citizens can exercise their right to peaceful assembly, for protecting the rights of journalists to cover the event regardless of its legal status, and for curbing the spread of violence by peaceful means. Journalists carry the responsibility to be clearly identified as such, to report without taking measures to inflame the situation, and should not become involved in the demonstration itself.
This report examines some of the issues that have become a recurring problem in the OSCE area and proposes recommendations to improve the handling of the press in similar circumstances in the future.