Ministerial Summit for Information and Democracy (New York, 24.09.21)

Two years after the launch, in September 2019, of the Partnership for Information and Democracy, the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian, brought together, with the support of Reporters Without Borders ( RSF), the Member States of the Partnership, as well as heads of international organizations, representatives of civil society and private digital actors, for the first Ministerial Summit for Information and Democracy, organized on the sidelines of the week high-level meeting of the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

The Partnership for Information and Democracy today brings together 43 states. It is intended to promote the exercise of freedom of opinion and expression and access to free, plural and reliable information. In order to implement the principles of the Partnership, an Information and Democracy Forum was created on November 10, 2019 by 11 independent civil society organizations.

The President of the Forum on Information and Democracy and Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Mr. Christophe Deloire, underlined during the debates the importance of preserving a “democratic information space”.

All the participants also made the worrying observation of a degradation of public space, everywhere in the world, due to the manipulation of information, growing restrictions on freedom of expression and of the press, which the covid-19 pandemic has intensified. They also examined the profound transformations brought about by the development of social networks.

In this context, in accordance with the principles defended by the Partnership for Information and Democracy, the speakers recalled the importance of promoting access to reliable information, from free, independent and pluralist media, which is the guarantee of ‘a peaceful public debate to inform decision-making and restore citizens’ confidence in democratic functioning.

The work of the Summit focused more specifically on three themes:

  • democratic requirements for the regulation of content on social networks, in particular in order to better fight against the scourge of infodemics;
  • the economic sustainability of journalism, the model of which has been called into question by the development of digital platforms;
  • the liability regime to be put in place for social networks and their users, in particular for accounts with a large audience.

The recommendations of the first two reports of the Forum on Information and Democracy devoted to the fight against infodemics (November 2020) and the sustainability issues of journalism (June 2021) were notably examined on this occasion. The Forum announced the drafting of a third report on the responsibility and management of accounts on social networks.

The creation of a coalition of forty NGOs to strengthen the mobilization in favor of access to reliable information from free and independent media and an International Observatory on Information and Democracy, responsible for producing a regular report on developments in the global information space was also announced at the Summit. Mr. Angel Gurria, former Secretary General of the OECD, and Ms. Shoshana Zuboff, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School, author of Surveillance Capitalism, will chair the launching work of the observatory. A first workshop to present the Observatory’s objectives will be held during the Paris Peace Forum in November 2021.

Finally, the participants agreed to meet once a year, within the framework of the Ministerial Summit for Information and Democracy, to deepen their work.

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