The Information and Democracy Partnership responds to the need to promote an environment conducive to reliable information for citizens, in order to enable them to forge an informed opinion in a context where large-scale online misinformation is sapping trust in institutions and democratic processes, where private stakeholders outside the democratic framework hold increasing sway, where professional journalism is weakened and where political control over the media persists in many countries.
Drawing from the work of the International Commission created by Reporters Without Borders, France launched an initiative calling for States to take action at the first Paris Peace Forum in November 2018 together with 11 partners (Burkina Faso, Canada, Costa Rica, Denmark, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, Norway, Senegal, Switzerland, Tunisia). A text, entitled “Information and Democracy Partnership” was finalized in June 2019 and was formally signed by States on 26 September 2019 in New York.
This text lays down the principles and objectives to promote access to reliable information. The Signatory States commit to promoting national and international legal frameworks encouraging freedom of opinion and expression and access to reliable information. They invite businesses which play key roles in international news and communication to respect principles of transparency, responsibility and neutrality and to ensure that their activities are compatible with human rights in order to promote reliable information.
At the initiative of Reporters Without Borders and a coalition of independent organizations, a Stakeholder Forum was launched during the second Paris Peace Forum in November 2019 to support the implementation of the Partnership by drawing up recommendations. The Forum on Information and Democracy published an initial report on fighting against infodemics (November 2020) and a report on the economic sustainability of journalism (June 2021).
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 on 14 September 2021. The work carried out at the Summit focused 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.
• 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 the press, which the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated. They also examined the profound transformations caused by the rise of social media.
The creation of a coalition of some forty non-governmental organizations was announced at the Summit. The goal is to strengthen mobilization in support of access to reliable news provided by free and independent media outlets, and to set up an International Observatory on Information and Democracy, which would produce a regular report on developments in the global information space. A workshop presenting the objectives of the Observatory was held at the Paris Peace Forum in November 2021.
List of participating countries (as of 3 May 2022):
Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Benin, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Iceland, India, Italy, Latvia, Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia and the United Kingdom.