Freedom of expression and media freedom in Europe was a main theme of last year’s European Conference, and this continues to be a major concern in Europe. Indeed, there is evidence that the situation is worsening: the detention of Belarussian dissident Roman Protasevich after hijacking his plane over Belarus in June 2021, and the shooting less than a month later of prominent Dutch crime reporter Peter de Vries, are but two examples of a wider malaise. The main theme of the 3rd European Conference is therefore freedom of expression.
Split into three sessions, the first session of the conference focuses on artificial intelligence and the use of algorithms in digital platforms. We are in a digital age, yet the rules of digital moderation are unclear and lack transparency, so when freedom of expression is curtailed there is limited recourse to challenge this. The second session will focus on the situation with regard to implementation of commitments that states have already made – including, where there are shortcomings, how these gaps can be closed. Given that restrictions on freedom of expression threaten not only the media and opposition voices, but also culture and the arts, the third and final session will address freedom of artistic expression.
The 3rd Conference brings together an impressive range of regional and national leaders from across Europe, as well as officials, thinkers and activists. Among those attending are the President of the National Assembly of Norway, the Deputy Secretary General of the Council of Europe, the Secretary General of Reporters Sans Frontieres, and judges from the European Court of Human Rights.
The Council of Europe, which organises the European Democracy and Human Rights Conference, advocates freedom of expression and of the media, freedom of assembly, equality and the protection of minorities. It has launched campaigns on issues such as child protection and online hate speech. It promotes human rights through international conventions, as well as by helping member countries undertake necessary judicial reforms. The Council also monitors member states’ progress in these areas and makes recommendations for further improvements through independent expert monitoring bodies.