OSCE Special Report

Published on OSCE.org, 21 June 2007.

Handling of the media during political demonstrations, Observations and Recommendations

Excerpt of 8 pages: … Summary of Recommendations:

1. Law-enforcement officials have a constitutional responsibility not to prevent or obstruct the work of journalists during public demonstrations. Journalists have a right to expect fair and restrained treatment by the police.

2. Senior officials responsible for police conduct have a duty to ensure that officers are adequately trained about the role and function of journalists and particularly their role during a demonstration. In the event of an over-reaction from the police, the issue of police behaviour visŕ-vis journalists should be dealt with separately, regardless of whether the demonstration was sanctioned or not. A swift and adequate response from senior police officials is necessary to ensure that such an over-reaction is not repeated in the future and should send a strong signal that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

3. There is no need for special accreditation to cover demonstrations except under circumstances where resources, such as time and space at certain events, are limited. Journalists who decide to cover ‘unsanctioned demonstrations’ should be afforded the same respect and protection by the police as those afforded to them during other public events.

4. Wilful attempts to confiscate, damage or break journalists’ equipment in an attempt to silence reporting is a criminal offence and those responsible should be held accountable under the law. Confiscation by the authorities of printed material, footage, sound clips or other reportage is an act of direct censorship and as such is a practice prohibited by international standards. The role, function, responsibilities and rights of the media should be integral to the training curriculum for law-enforcers whose duties include crowd management.

5. Journalists should identify themselves clearly as such, should restrain from becoming involved in the action of the demonstration and should report objectively on the unfolding events, particularly during a live broadcast or webcast. Journalists’ unions should agree on an acceptable method of identification with law enforcement agencies and take the necessary steps to communicate this requirement to media workers. Journalists should take adequate steps to inform and educate themselves about police measures that will be taken in case of a riot.

6. Both law enforcement agencies and media workers have the responsibility to act according to a code of conduct, which should be reinforced by police chiefs and chief editors in training. Police chiefs can assist by ensuring that staff officers are informed of the role and function of journalists. They should also take direct action when officers overstep the boundaries of these duties. Media workers can assist by remaining outside the action of the demonstration and clearly identifying themselves as journalists. (full text).

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