Two years after the September 2019 launch of the International Partnership for Information and Democracy, the French 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, heads of international organizations and representatives of civil society and private stakeholders in the digital technology sector, for the first ministerial Summit for Information and Democracy, organized on the sidelines of the 76th UN General Assembly High-Level Week.
The International Partnership for Information and Democracy currently brings together 43 States. Its purpose is to promote freedom of opinion and expression and access to free, pluralistic and reliable information. In order to implement the Partnership’s principles, a Forum on Information and Democracy was created on 10 November 2019 by 11 independent civil society organizations.
The Chair of the Forum on Information and Democracy and Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Mr Christophe Deloire, highlighted the importance of preserving a “democratic information space”.
All participants noted the worrying deterioration of the public space, everywhere in the world, due to misinformation and growing restrictions on freedom of expression and of the press, which the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated. They also examined the profound transformations caused by the rise of social media.
In this context, in line with the principles defended by the International Partnership for Information and Democracy, the participants recalled the importance of promoting access to reliable information from free, independent and pluralistic media outlets, which ensures calm public debate that enlightens decision-making and restores citizens’ trust in the functioning of democracy.
The work carried out at the Summit focused specifically on three topics:
- democratic requirements in terms of regulating content on social media, to better combat the scourge of infodemics;
- the economic sustainability of journalism, the model of which is undermined by the development of digital platforms;
- the system of accountability to be put in place for social media and their users, in particular concerning high-audience accounts.
The recommendations issued in the first two reports by the Forum on Information and Democracy, dedicated to the fight against infodemics (November 2020) and the challenges of the economic sustainability of journalism (June 2021), were studied on this occasion. The Forum announced it would be producing a third report on accountability and account management on social media.
The creation of a coalition of around forty NGOs to strengthen mobilization in support of access to reliable information from free and independent media outlets, and of an International Observatory on Information and Democracy, which would produce a regular report on developments in the global information space, was announced at the Summit. Mr Angel Gurria, former Secretary-General of the OECD, and Ms Shoshana Zuboff, Professor Emerita at Harvard Business School and author of The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, will chair the Observatory’s initial works. A workshop presenting the Observatory’s objectives will be held at the Paris Peace Forum in November 2021.
Lastly, the participants agreed to meet once a year, in the framework of the ministerial Summit for Information and Democracy, to carry out further work.