MINELRES: New OSCE HCNM guidelines encourage minority language broadcast media

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Thu Nov 6 17:57:36 2003

Original sender: MRG <minority.rights@mrgmail.org> 

Minority Rights Group International - New guidelines encourage minority
language broadcast media 
Minority Rights Group International 

Press release                05 November 2003           For immediate

New guidelines encourage minority language broadcast media

A new set of guidelines aimed at encouraging the development of minority
language broadcast media across the participating states of the
Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have been
presented by the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM). The
guidelines, developed by a panel of independent experts at the request
of the High Commissioner, describe the standards that states should
meet, based on general principles of freedom of expression, cultural and
linguistic diversity, protection of identity, and equality and
non-discrimination. The guidelines were welcomed by state
representatives, experts and NGOs at a conference in Baden, Austria on
25 October 2003. However some organizations have stressed that progress
towards the implementation of existing standards remains cause for

The OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Ambassador Rolf
Ekeus, opened the Baden conference at which was also launched a
comprehensive survey of current state practice and legislation on
minority language broadcasting, commissioned by the HCNM. The guidelines
highlight the need for development of progressive state policy to
address the use of minority languages in the broadcast media. Among them
is the need for an independently regulated, non-discriminatory
legislative environment, and consideration of public funding initiatives
to enable minorities to effectively develop broadcast media operations.
The guidelines recognise that minorities may lack financial resources
and require opportunities for training and developing media skills
through capacity building initiatives. 

The Council of Europe's (CoE) Framework Convention for the Protection of
National Minorities (FCNM) and the European Charter for Regional or
Minority Languages are among a  number of important European and
international instruments addressing minority rights issues. Article 9
of the FCNM clearly establishes the rights of minorities with regard to
freedom of expression, and that states should ensure 'that persons
belonging to national minorities are granted the possibility of creating
and using their own media'. However, as Minority Rights Group
International (MRG) has highlighted, the FCNM has not been ratified by
all states, including several existing European Union states. The FCNM
and other international standards continue to be weakly implemented by
some who have ratified them.   

The High Commissioner described a number of NGO interventions on the
need for implementation of the guidelines and other international
standards, as providing a necessary 'cold shower', which should focus
attention on the need to encourage state progress. The status of the
guidelines does not impose a legal obligation upon states. However they
are considered to be an authoritative comment and practical elaboration
on this issue and, as such, are considered by Minority Rights Group
International to reflect a valuable statement of minimum standards of
good practice. The High Commissioner stated that the guidelines would be
presented to states and widely translated and disseminated, in order to
encourage their use by representatives of governments, minorities and
other interested persons.  

Director of Minority Rights Group International, Mark Lattimer, who was
one of the expert panel, stated: 'An environment in which we are
informed, entertained, inspired and understood in our own language plays
a vital role in encouraging a sense of belonging to community, society
and state. The assisted development of minority language media should
not be seen as a concession to minorities. It is an important step
towards a healthy and pluralistic media environment, reflecting the rich
diversity of social, cultural and language traditions within Europe.'    

Minority Rights Group International welcomes the new guidelines and the
survey of state practice. MRG believes that these initiatives offer an
important tool and opportunity for states to respond to their
obligations and meet the media needs of minorities. States should be
aware of the mutual benefits which may result from an active and diverse
broadcast media, which may offer valuable opportunities for the
dissemination of information and cross-cultural understanding. 

Notes for editors: 

For interviews or further information please contact Graham Fox at MRG's
Press Office on +44 (0)20 7978 9498 or 07734768223 (mobile). Email
graham.fox@mrgmail.org. The Guidelines on the use of Minority language
in the Broadcast Media and an Annex to the Guidelines are available
online at:   

For further information on this event please also visit the website of
the High Commissioner on National Minorities at: 

Minority Rights Group International (MRG) is a non-governmental
organization working to secure the rights of ethnic, religious and
linguistic minorities and indigenous peoples worldwide, and to promote
cooperation and understanding between communities.