Encourage balanced reporting about and giving more space to civil society in media during the implementation of the European Democracy Action plan and the Media Plan
Fully implement and use the CoE charter and framework for citizen education; create European best practise and a separate agency devoted to the subject
In times of fake news and disinformation, distorted reporting contributes to the vilification and stigmatisation of CSOs defending democratic values, creating a negative image. This is exacerbated by the lack of access of the very same organisations to media outlets. At the same time, CSOs often create their own media (mainly in the online sphere), and as such are important sources of credible information and fact-checking, however, their voice needs to be amplified. Without the help of balanced and unbiased media (print, electronic and online) environment, CSOs also have difficulties in conveying their message to broader audiences, outside of the ‘opinion bubbles’. When implementing the European Democracy Action Plan and the Media Action Plan, the Commission should give attention to the problems of reporting about and access of civil society to the media, in particular as regards EU cooperation among media regulators and self-regulatory bodies, support to greater media diversity as well as enhancing media literacy. Possible concrete proposals could include e.g. programming and social advertisement space dedicated to CSOs and their causes.
Another important precondition of the free expression of active citizens and civic engagement is the existence and implementation of meaningful citizen education, at all levels, both formal and informal, intra- and extracurricular in all Member States. Civic education is a key tool in efforts to counter antidemocratic trends, promote European values and citizenship and to overcome current divides. Vice versa, CSOs can efficiently contribute to good citizen education and awareness raising through many of their activities and projects – therefore their access to and cooperation with educational institutes should be encouraged and facilitated. As current practice is again very divergent across the Union, the Commissions should develop a comprehensive guidance for Member States to develop educational curricula and programs based on the Council of Europe Charter on Education for Democratic Citizenship and Human Rights Education (CM/Rec(2017)7). Existing initiatives in the field of education that further promote and support this effort should be coordinated on the Union level by establishing a separate agency for citizen education, as proposed by networks active in the field. The priorities and calls of the Erasmus+ program should ensure that citizen education is integrated to the broadest extent possible in the program’s framework, thereby providing support to both CSOs and educational institutions in this field.
Similar to the above, a monitoring mechanism should be put in place to assess the implementation and impact of citizen and media education across the Member States.