COUNCIL OF EUROPE
COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS
RECOMMENDATION No. R (99) 15
OF THE COMMITTEE OF MINISTERS TO MEMBER STATES
ON MEASURES CONCERNING
MEDIA COVERAGE OF ELECTION CAMPAIGNS
(Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 9 September 1999
at the 678th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)
The Committee of Ministers, under
the terms of Article 15.b of the Statute of the Council of Europe,
Noting the important role of the
media in modern societies, especially at the time of elections;
Stressing that the fundamental
principle of editorial independence of the media assumes a special importance in
Aware of the need to take account
of the significant differences which exist between the print and the broadcast
Underlining that the coverage of
elections by the broadcast media should be fair, balanced and impartial;
Considering that public service
broadcasters have a particular responsibility in ensuring in their programmes a
fair and thorough coverage of elections which may include the granting of free
airtime to political parties and candidates;
Noting that particular attention
should be paid to certain specific features of the coverage of election
campaigns, such as the dissemination of opinion polls, paid political
advertising, the right of reply, days of reflection and provision for
Stressing the important role of
self-regulatory measures by media professionals themselves - for example, in the
form of codes of conduct - which set out guidelines of good practice for
responsible, accurate and fair coverage of electoral campaigns;
Recognising the complementary
nature of regulatory and self-regulatory measures in this area;
Convinced of the usefulness of
appropriate frameworks for media coverage of elections to contribute to free and
democratic elections, bearing in mind the different legal and practical
approaches of member States in this area and the fact that it can be subject to
different branches of law;
Acknowledging that any regulatory
framework on the coverage of elections should respect the fundamental principle
of freedom of expression protected under Article 10 of the European Convention
on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights;
Recalling the basic principles
contained in Resolution No. 2 adopted at the 4th Ministerial Conference on Mass
Media Policy (Prague, December 1994) and Recommendation No. R (96) 10 of the
Committee of Ministers on the guarantee of the independence of public service
Recommends that the governments of
the member States examine ways of ensuring respect for the principles of
fairness, balance and impartiality in the coverage of election campaigns by the
media, and consider the adoption of measures to implement these principles in
their domestic law or practice where appropriate and in accordance with
Appendix to Recommendation No.
R (99) 15
Scope of the Recommendation
The principles of fairness,
balance and impartiality in the coverage of election campaigns by the media
should apply to all types of political elections taking place in member States,
that is, presidential, legislative, regional and, where practicable, local
elections and political referenda.
These principles should also
apply, where relevant, to media reporting on elections taking place abroad,
especially when these media address citizens of the country where the election
is taking place.
I. Measures concerning the
1. Freedom of the press
Regulatory frameworks on media
coverage of elections should not interfere with the editorial independence of
newspapers or magazines nor with their right to express any political
2. Print media outlets owned by
Member States should adopt
measures 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 party
If such media outlets accept paid
political advertising in their publications, they should ensure that all
political contenders and parties that request the purchase of advertising space
are treated in an equal and non-discriminatory manner.
II. Measures concerning the
1. General framework
During electoral campaigns,
regulatory frameworks should encourage and facilitate the pluralistic expression
of opinions via the broadcast media.
With due respect for the editorial
independence of broadcasters, regulatory frameworks should also provide for the
obligation to cover electoral campaigns in a fair, balanced and impartial manner
in the overall programme services of broadcasters. Such an obligation should
apply to both public service broadcasters as well as private broadcasters in
their relevant transmission areas.
In member States where the notion
of "pre-electoral time" is defined under domestic legislation, the rules on
fair, balanced, and impartial coverage of electoral campaigns by the broadcast
media should also apply to this period.
2. News and current affairs
Where self-regulation does not
provide for this, member States should adopt measures whereby public and private
broadcasters, during the election period, should in particular be fair, balanced
and impartial in their news and current affairs programmes, including discussion
programmes such as interviews or debates.
No privileged treatment should be
given by broadcasters to public authorities during such programmes. This matter
should primarily be addressed via appropriate self-regulatory measures. As
appropriate, member States might examine whether, where practicable, the
relevant authorities monitoring the coverage of elections should be given
the power to intervene in order to remedy possible shortcomings.
3. Other programmes
Special care should be taken with
programmes other than news or current affairs which are not directly linked to
the campaign but which may also have an influence on the attitude of voters.
4. Free airtime for political
parties/candidates on public broadcast media
Member States may examine the
advisability of including in their regulatory frameworks provisions whereby free
airtime is made available to political parties/candidates on public broadcasting
services in electoral time.
Wherever such airtime is granted,
this should be done in a fair and non-discriminatory manner, on the basis of
transparent and objective criteria.
5. Paid political advertising
In member States where political
parties and candidates are permitted to buy advertising space for electoral
purposes, regulatory frameworks should ensure that:
possibility of buying advertising space should be available to all contending
parties, and on equal conditions and rates of payment;
- the public is
aware that the message is a paid political advertisement.
Member States may consider introducing a provision in their
regulatory frameworks to limit the amount of political advertising space which a
given party or candidate can purchase.
III. Measures concerning both the print and broadcast media
1. "Day of reflection"
Member States may consider the merits of including a
provision in their regulatory frameworks to prohibit the dissemination of
partisan electoral messages on the day preceding voting.
2. Opinion polls
Regulatory or self-regulatory frameworks should ensure that the
media, when disseminating the results of opinion polls, provide the public with
sufficient information to make a judgement on the value of the polls. Such
information could, in particular :
- name the
political party or other organisation or person which commissioned and paid for
- identify the
organisation conducting the poll and the methodology employed;
- indicate the
sample and margin of error of the poll;
- indicate the
date and/or period when the poll was conducted.
All other matters concerning the way in which the media present
the results of opinion polls should be decided by the media themselves.
Any restriction by member States forbidding the
publication/broadcasting of opinion polls (on voting intentions) on voting day
or a number of days before the election should comply with Article 10 of the
European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of
Similarly, in respect of exit polls, member States may consider
prohibiting reporting by the media on the results of such polls until all
polling stations in the country have closed.
3. The right of reply
Given the short duration of an election campaign, any candidate
or political party which is entitled to a right of reply under national law or
systems should be able to exercise this right during the campaign period.
IV. Measures to protect the media at election time
1. Non-interference by public authorities
Public authorities should refrain from interfering in the
activities of journalists and other media personnel with a view to influencing
2. Protection against attacks, intimidation or other unlawful
pressures on the media
Public authorities should take appropriate steps for the
effective protection of journalists and other media personnel and their
premises, as this assumes a greater significance during elections. At the same
time, this protection should not obstruct them in carrying out their work.