Information on the access of national minorities to the new media (excerpts), 2009

Question 2. Has a code of ethics/professional code of conduct been adopted by the service providers? Does it address the questions of non-discriminatory access and hate speech or other illegal content?

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Analysis

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Of the ISP codes with specific focuses on “hate speech”, the Latvian example (see below) is of possible wider interest: it involves a professional code of
conduct for ISPs and online media designed specifically to counter online hate (“Internet – free of hate”);12 involving a multi-stakeholder approach (i.e., “major newspapers in on-line versions, NGOs active in human rights field and various web sites”) and a mutual monitoring system. 13

Footnote 13 See further: www.iecietiba.lv.

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In Latvia, the monitoring of hate speech and related offences is conducted jointly by the Secretariat of the Special Assignments Minister for Society Integration Affairs and the Bureau of Ombudsman.

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Question 3 What instruments have been developed to promote the passive and active access of national minorities to the new media?

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Analysis

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The Latvian authorities’ response referred to an initiative providing a State grant for the development of a Roma information portal

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Question 4. What regulatory and other measures have been taken to promote cultural and linguistic diversity in the new media? Are there any specific legal provisions regulating the use of minority languages?

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Analysis

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The responses to this question reveal that market-driven reasoning also informs policy-making. The Latvian authorities consider that there is no need for specific legal provisions regulating the use of minority languages “because the number of channels in cable and satellite TV packages in languages other than Latvian (predominantly in the Russian language) far outstrips the number available in Latvian”; they consider the matter to be one for determination by market forces.

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Question 7 What is the number of households with access to cable TV? Are any channels/programmes in languages spoken by persons belonging to national minorities transmitted via the cable network?

Methodological difficulties

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The following table provides an overview of percentages (where provided by States in their responses).

State% – Households
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Latvia44.5

Analysis

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Although sometimes patchy, the data provided in the States’ responses indicates divergent practices as regards the presence of minority-language channels/programmes in cable networks: some States report the carriage of such channels/programmes by cable networks35

Footnote 35 Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Slovenia, Sweden.

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Question 8 Do the “new media” initiatives on the part of the authorities involve transfrontier access of national minorities to the media, including in respect of “kin-state”? Have new media initiatives (e.g., digital television ) had any negative effects on access of national minorities to the media caused by the disappearance of old media?”

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Analysis

(i) Flowing from the last-mentioned methodological difficulty, States reported that in their new media initiatives:

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  • – a transfrontier dimension was not present,40

Footnote 40 Czech Republic, Denmark, Georgia, Latvia, Poland.

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Question 9 What is the status of possible plans as regards digitalisation of public service media and are there any specific concerns related to minorities and their access to digital media? Are there, for example, gaps in the coverage of the digital television network that particularly affect areas with compact minority population?

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Analysis

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Some concerns were expressed about possible interruptions to reception due to technical or geographical complications. Technical difficulties could include the cost/availability of decoder equipment,45 whereas geographical concerns could include the quality or very possibility of reception in remote46 or border47 areas.

Footnote 47 Latvia

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Question 10 What instruments have been developed to promote the active use of new communication technologies by minorities?

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Possible best practices

In this context, a number of best practices can be identified, including the promotion of access to, and knowledge of, computers and Internet, in the education sector. A concrete example of a project with this aim is repeatedly referred to in the Georgian response to the Questionnaire: the so-called “Deer Leap” project for the development of computer and Internet skills in schools (through provision of equipment, connections and software, as well as training) throughout the country, including in regions with dense populations of minorities. Similarly, the Latvian response mentions a cooperative project involving governmental authorities, a Roma NGO and Microsoft to “support Roma training in the field of new technologies”.

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Question 13 Describe what legal and other measures have been taken (if any) to effectively counter/combat “hate speech” or other illegal content which affects national minorities in ICTs.

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Analysis

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While the existence of constitutional provisions against “hate speech” is symbolically very important, the practical relevance of such provisions is best assured by their effective operationalisation through legislative or other measures. In turn, the effectiveness of the chosen operationalising measures largely depends on the rigour with which they are implemented in practice. Thus, interpretation, application and monitoring can be crucial. States’ responses reveal several interesting examples of multi-stakeholder approaches to the monitoring of relevant standards and measures.60 Such approaches – if designed and conducted appropriately – could conceivably
enhance the democratic legitimacy of the monitoring exercises in question.

Footnote 60 Denmark, Latvia

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Document data: 09.03.2009; DH-MIN(2009)003 Link: https://rm.coe.int/16800974a8

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