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December 17, 2004
Do You Think This Means Us?

The Council of Europe has recommended that its 46 member nations enact laws requiring Internet media outlets to allow governments the right to publish responses to articles correcting "false information" on their sites:

The Council of Europe has called on its 46 member-states to introduce legislation on the right of reply to correct false information on online media.

It said the Committee of (Foreign) Ministers, executive of the European human rights watchdog body, had adopted a recommendation on the right to reply for online Internet media.

This recommended that members consider introducing legislation on the "right of reply or any other equivalent remedy, which allows a rapid correction of incorrect information in online or off-line media......"

A statement said the recomendation "urges member-states to extend the right to reply which until now applied to the written press, radio and television, to online communication services providing information edited in a journalistic manner."

Is it just me, or does that description of Internet media seem overly broad? After all, Captain's Quarters is read in Europe, as well as North and South America, Africa, and the Middle East. While I do not pretend to be a journalist, I hope that my writing and presentation are professional enough to fit the description of "information edited in a journalistic manner". Of course, I do not reside within any of the 46 member-states of the CoE, but a number of high-quality bloggers do -- and this appears to give governments the right to hijack their virtual press to publish state-sponsored propaganda.

One could interpret this as highly flattering to the blogosphere at which it obviously aims. After all, most of these governments have their own media outlets, or at least have private media concerns who regularly publish and dissect government pronouncements. It isn't as if the nations have no voice in the world. The notion, though, that their voices are less powerful than online news and commentary sites boggles the mind. Even if it isn't true, their anxiety over a perceived imbalance of power causes me to wonder how much the world really has changed since the advent of the blogosphere.

The CoE recommendation doesn't have any force, and the governments may decide that the effort to enact and enforce the provisions aren't worth the investment. In my opinion, it represents an intolerable incursion on freedom of expression. After all, a privately-owned site should not be forced to publish views that go against the beliefs of its owners, and for patently untrue articles, other legal recourses exist, such as libel torts. The fear and loathing of a free and unfettered electorate with influence and power beyond that of presidents and potentates, however, should delight the citizen journalists of Europe and the entire world.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at December 17, 2004 10:15 AM

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» Who owns your opinion? from Rite of Spring
As reported by Captain's Quarters he Council of Europe has called on its 46 member-states to introduce legislation on the right of reply to correct false information on online media.BTW IMHO in the name of fairness the legislation should be reciproca... [Read More]

Tracked on December 17, 2004 10:53 AM

» A Reply on Replies: No! from Pennywit.Com

The Council of Europe has called on its member nations to require that media outlets give a "right of reply" to government to correct "false information" or "misinf

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Tracked on December 17, 2004 1:09 PM

» Europe Wants Editorial Control of Blogs from Sortapundit
Before I start bitching, I'm surprised this has been proposed at all. After all, Belarus was suspended from the Council in January 1997, partly due to the constraints on its free press brought about by changes in their constitution under the regime o... [Read More]

Tracked on December 17, 2004 1:46 PM

» Those Goofy Europeans from Random Nuclear Strikes
From Captain Ed comes a reminder about the proposal in the EU Council to make internet medias outlets give the EU government the ability to respond to any articles or words that they feel are critical to them. Captain Ed wonders if this will mean Ameri... [Read More]

Tracked on December 20, 2004 3:10 AM

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