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European ministers vow to protect reporters, free expression

European ministers vow to protect reporters, free expression

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NICOSIA, Cyprus (AP) — Ministers from 47 Council of Europe member states have agreed to seek new regulations to protect freedom of expression online and in news media amid growing concerns that artificial intelligence may be used to curtail the right, officials said Friday.

The ministers in charge of media and information society have also asked the Council of Europe — the continent's top human rights organization — to help draft national action plans to protect journalists whose safety has recently come under increasing threat.

The pledges were included in documents the ministers adopted at the end of a two-day conference organized by the Council of Europe and the government of Cyprus in the Cypriot capital Nicosia.

The ministers agreed to develop a regulatory framework ensuring that automated tools for creating and distributing news content don’t curtail the right to freedom of expression.

They would also work together with developers of artificial intelligence technology designed to create and distribute online content on drafting rules to safeguard free expression. Journalists would be invited to jointly develop ethical codes promoting “the transparent and responsible” use of artificial intelligence in the newsroom and to protect people online from personal data exploitation.

“It is an important commitment of states to be able to say, this freedom of expression is one of the cornerstones of our societies and we need to protect it,” said Patrick Penninckx, head of the CoE Information Society Department.

“In order to protect democracy, in order to protect the societies as we know, and despite the pandemic, we can ensure that media freedom is not being curtailed.”

The ministers pledged to support independent media outlets as a bulwark against increased disinformation and called on the CoE to toughen up standards for online content.

They also expressed a commitment to remove “all unnecessary obstacles to freedom of expression” in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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