Council of Europe Scraps Journalism Code of Ethics; Press Freedom Groups Welcome Decision to Kill Onerous Regulatory Program

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Press freedom groups welcome decision to kill onerous regulatory program

THE COUNCIL OF Europe's governing committee has rejected a proposed code of journalistic ethics that press freedom groups have condemned as a threat to free expression.

The council's Committee of Ministers said the code "might well encourage and enable policy-makers to interfere with media freedom."

In an informal response to the proposed code, the ministers particularly opposed the idea of a European media ombudsman and said that because of the importance of editorial independence, they "would caution against legislative solutions."

The International Federation of Newspaper Publishers, known by its French acronym FIEJ, which strongly opposed the code, hailed the decision as a victory for press freedom.

"Essentially, it's a rather sound drubbing for the proposed code," said K. Prescott Low, FIEJ president and publisher of the Quincy, Mass., Patriot Ledger.

The ministers "told their own committee that essentially they didn't agree with them," Low said. "By and large it's a major step in the right direction and we're delighted with their position."

FIEJ vigorously lobbied against the code (E&P, Nov. 6, 1993, p. 14), which it labeled "one of the most profound attacks on the freedom and independence of the press in recent years."

Low earlier said the code provides "tremendous scope for justifying governmental interference in media affairs. …