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Media coverage of elections – the legal framework in Europe

News 18/07/2017
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The European Audiovisual Observatory publishes its first ever free IRIS Special report on line!

Law in the time of coverage…

In times of elections and referenda, the media zoom in on the candidates, analysing their every word, move and minute gesture. In today’s 24/7 digital universe, the mass media have an unprecedented power to pick apart, comment and scrutinise our future leaders as never before. But who is making sure that coverage is equitable, professional, and complying with some minimum standards of “decent” journalism? Who makes these rules? Following France’s elections and just two months before Germany goes to the polls the European Audiovisual Observatory, part of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, has just released a new free in-depth report: “Media coverage of elections: the legal framework in Europe”.

Produced in collaboration with Amsterdam’s Institute of Information Law (IViR), this new report offers a roadmap to overarching European media law in times of coverage of elections, before zooming in on individual countries as case-studies. A final chapter teases out the trends from these individual examples in order to offer some pertinent conclusions.

The first section identifies the role of the various media (press, broadcasting, online) in election coverage. The authors also explore the self-regulatory mechanisms of the major online media, given the importance of their role in election coverage. The European overview of this chapter takes in the Council of Europe’s legal texts on election coverage, coupled with the European Convention of Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights on media coverage. Reference is also made to the work of other European bodies such as the European Platform of Regulatory Authorities and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The second section offers country profiles of larger Council of Europe member states such as France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Russia, Spain and the UK. Smaller countries such as Ireland and the Netherlands also recently held elections and so offer fresh and relevant examples. For each country examined, the chapter in question analyses the regulation of each of the media, before exploring self-regulatory practices and drawing out country-specific trends. Each country chapter raises the question concerning the regulation of the online environment with regards to rules for “traditional” media.

The final third section zooms back out in order to pinpoint general regulatory strategies concerning the media and explores questions such as political advertising, the use (and abuse?) of opinion and exit polls, “fake news”, privacy and data protection of the candidates and, when the electioneering has to stop, the so-called “silence periods”. The final chapter draws the various strands of this new publication together, concluding that the goal of any law in the time of election coverage must be, quite simply, “free and fair elections”.

Media coverage of elections – the legal framework in Europe – a must read roadmap free on line!

New free in-depth report: “Media coverage of elections: the legal framework in Europe”.


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