[IRP] appologies - input - multistakholderism & a telco meeting?

KovenRonald at aol.com KovenRonald
Tue Dec 15 20:02:05 EET 2009

Dear Max/All --

Thanks for your reply and for your openness to discussion.

Jurisdiction for alleged libels committed on the Internet is indeed a 
major, vexed, unsettled issue. we see the problem clearly in connection with the 
current consideration of British libel tourism law and practice. There does 
need to be a global understanding on where one could sue to protect 

I don't know the German siuation in detail. i do know from discussions with 
German press council members at gatherings of European press council 
representatives that there is a basic flaw in the German approach. It isn't 
confined to Germany. 

To be credible instances for non-governmetal settlement of disputes, press 
or media complaint councils should be independent, voluntary and not part of 
an official judicial system. If complainants are not satisfied with the 
outcomes of such complaint procedures, they should be free to go to court.

In Germany, the press council has become the antechamber to official 
courts. It has accepted the assignment of tasks to it by the legislature. That 
makes it a quasi-official body that has accepted what amounts to the 
privatization of governmental disputes settlement procedures. 

That feature of the German system makes it a poor example for others. There 
are worse cases. The Danish Press Council is an official, legislatively 
mandated body. What saves the situation is that Denmark is a small, relatively 
homogenuous society where everybody can know everybody and where there is a 
very strong democratic tradition. But there are very senior Danish 
jiournalists who have warned of the inherent dangers of the structure.

In Lithuania, the press council was not only created by the parliament. 
Members of parliament are mandated by law to sit on it. As an example, it is 
about as cringe-making as one could get.

The press councils in Portugal and Switzerland are also in effect part of 
governmental adjudication systems.

But you should also consider that there are a number of very respectable 
democracies where there are no national press councils and where the 
journalists have actively rejected such structures. These include France, Spain, the 
US. In Canada, there is no national body, altho there are some provincial 

You will undoubtedly argue that the experiences of the press and other 
traditional media have been made obsolete by the sheer volume of communication 
made possible by the Internet. While it is certainly true that quantity 
alters quality, I'm not prepared to give up the libertarian principles that have 
stood us in good stead. In fact, I think the attitude of internauts should 
be that there is no reason why the universal freedom of expression and press 
freedom principles that have served us pre-Internet (embodied notably in 
Art. 19 of the UDHR) can easily, with adjustments to difficulties like 
jurisdiction, be adapted to the online world.

I guess that one should conclude that the variety of answers that have been 
given to the public complaints problem reflects the variety of historical 
and cultural expereinces. That seems to suggest that a search for a 
universal, one-size-fits-all solution should be approached with extreme caution, if 
at all. I think it is a field where less is more. That's where our 
differences seem to be, Max. You seem to feel that more is more. And there, I will 
concede that that's   a not totally unrespectable reflection of the 
expeeriences of recent European history. But others have different experiences and 
traditions that make it very hard to accept the dominant European Continental 
regulatory approach.

Best regards, Rony Koven

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