Public service media should ensure the public receive adequate and politically balanced information during election periods.
- Member states should adopt measure whereby print media outlets which are owned by public authorities, when covering electoral campaigns, should do so in a fair, balanced and impartial manner, without discriminating against or supporting a specific political authority or influence.
- As an important public source of unbiased information and diverse political opinions, public service media must remain independent from political or economic interference and achieve high editorial standards of impartiality, objectivity and fairness.
- Accordingly, the Assembly calls on member States to review, where necessary, their regulatory frameworks governing media coverage of election campaigns, in order to bring them into line with Council of Europe standards, ensuring in particular that they: (...) 8.3. oblige, where this is not already the case, public and private broadcast media to cover election campaigns fairly and impartially, making sure that opposition parties benefit from balanced media coverage in current affairs and information programmes, and introduce, along with this obligation, appropriate penalties by setting up the necessary monitoring and rectification mechanisms to ensure implementation in practice.
- The public service ambit of public broadcasters should be clearly defined and include an obligation to ensure that the public receive adequate, politically balanced information, particularly during election periods.
- The public media, whether print or electronic, always have a responsibility to provide balanced and impartial information to the electorate. This is usually enshrined in law and/or in the charters of public broadcasters or print media. Even if this is not the case, balanced treatment by public media would be required by OSCE commitments (Copenhagen Document, Paragraph 7) stating that candidates should compete on the basis of equal treatment by the authorities and that public policy should work to ensure campaigning is conducted in a fair atmosphere.
- All publicly-owned media, including public service broadcasters, should be under the following obligations during an election period: To ensure that any reporting of opinion polls and election projections is accompanied by sufficient information to allow the electorate to understand properly their significance.
- Contrary to the case of elections, it is not necessary to prohibit completely intervention by the authorities in support of or against the proposal submitted to a referendum. However, the public authorities (national, regional and local) must not influence the outcome of the vote by excessive, one-sided campaigning. The use of public funds by the authorities for campaigning purposes must be prohibited.
- ...the State and its organs should therefore ensure: That the necessary steps are taken to guarantee non-partisan coverage in State and public-service media.
- The standard of equal treatment and access to media is undermined if state owned or controlled media is able to favor a political party or candidate in news coverage, political coverage, forums, or editorials. Biased coverage or treatment in state media should be prohibited and authorities should be required to immediately act upon any violation.
- State-owned media, or public media, have a special responsibility to provide balanced and neutral information on the election and the contestants. All contest points of view should be fairly and equitably communicated.
- In public radio and television broadcasts on the referendum campaign, it is advisable that equality be ensured between the proposal’s supporters and opponents.
- It is generally accepted that [the public media] should not be political partisan in their editorial coverage. This was the view set out by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, in his 1999 report, when he spoke of the obligation of the state-owned media to give voice to a variety of opinions and not to be a propaganda organ for one particular political party. Also, they have particular obligations to provide civic education, as well as to provide a platform for the different political parties.
- The obligation on publicly-owned or government-controlled media to publish or broadcast the views of the opposition derives from the prohibition of discrimination in the enjoyment of rights. This is strongly stated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as in other human rights treaties. It means that if the ruling party has an opportunity to exercise its right to freedom of expression through the government media, then the opposition must be given the same opportunity.
- State-owned media must not be used as a communication or propaganda organ of one political party or as an advocate for the Government to the exclusion of all other parties and groups.
- State-owned/public media usually have a special responsibility for ensuring impartiality.
- In some countries, election legislation provides for the use of state resources by political contestants. This can include…access to government-owned media outlets. … Observers should assess: whether the criteria are objective and clearly defined; whether the criteria are reasonable and fair; whether the criteria are administered similarly for all contestants; and whether the resources are distributed in amounts and at times that do not unfairly disadvantage any contestants. It is the responsibility of governing parties not to abuse state resources… In a democracy, it is a generally accepted rules that government property belongs to all inhabitants of the country on an equal basis.
- The legislative framework for elections should ensure that all political parties and candidates have access to the media and equitable treatment in media owned or controlled by the state, so that the general public can be informed of the political platforms, views and goals of all parties and candidates in a fair and unbiased manner.
- The authorities must provide objective information. This implies that the text submitted to a referendum and an explanatory report or balanced campaign material from the proposal’s supporters and opponents should be made available to electors sufficiently in advance, as follows: i. they must be published in the official gazette sufficiently far in advance of the vote; ii. they must be sent directly to citizens and be received sufficiently far in advance of the vote; iii. the explanatory report must give a balanced presentation not only of the viewpoint of the executive and legislative authorities or persons sharing their viewpoint but also of the opposing one. e. The above information must be available in all the official languages and in the languages of the national minorities."
- The state media should meet its special responsibility for providing sufficient, balanced information to enable the electorate to make a well-informed choice.
- Balanced coverage must be guaranteed to the proposal’s supporters and opponents in other public mass media broadcasts, especially news broadcasts. Account may be taken of the number of political parties supporting each option or their election results.
- Fundamental rules include, in particular, those concerning: - the composition of electoral commissions or any other body responsible for organising the referendum; - the franchise and electoral registers; - the procedural and substantive validity of the text put to a referendum; - the effects of the referendum (with the exception of rules concerning matters of detail) - the participation of the proposal’s supporters and opponents to broadcasts of public media.
- Political parties and candidates should be provided access to media and equal treatment in media owned or controlled by the state so that voters can be informed of political platforms, views, and goals in a fair and unbiased manner. This covers all forms of the media, including radio, television, newspapers, and evolving forms of media such as the Internet.
- All publicly-owned media, including public service broadcasters, should be under the following obligations during an election period: To respect strict rules of impartiality and balance, particularly when reporting on the governing party(ies) and on government decisions and actions during an election period.
- All publicly-owned media should, during election periods, ensure that the public is informed about election matters, respect strict rules of fairness, impartiality and balance, and grant all parties and candidates equitable opportunities to communicate directly with the public, either for free or at subsidised rates.
- The state-owned and publicly funded media have a special responsibility to be balanced and impartial during an election campaign period. Because of their unique role in society, state-owned media should provide equitable access to candidates and parties as part of their responsibilities to the public.
- Equality must be ensured in terms of public subsidies and other forms of backing. It is advisable that equality be ensured between the proposal’s supporters and opponents. Such backing may, however, be restricted to supporters and opponents of the proposal who account for a minimum percentage of the electorate. If equality is ensured between political parties, it may be strict or proportional. If it is strict, political parties are treated on an equal footing irrespective of their current parliamentary strength or support among the electorate. If it is proportional, political parties must be treated according to the results achieved in the elections.
- The very basis of democratic governance require that the electorate be able to make informed choices. This demands that all contesting points of view be fairly and equitably communicated on a non-discriminatory basis, particularly in the media financed from public funds. State sponsored broadcasters carry a special responsibility for providing balanced coverage of the election campaign.