Emerging digital trends on media and elections discussed at the 2019 World Forum for Democracy


UNESCO presented the key findings of a new “In-Focus” edition of the World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, at the 2019 World Forum for Democracy last week.

The event was organized by the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France, from 6 to 8 November, under the theme “Is Democracy in danger in the information age?”.

On the Forum’s “LAB 5”, entitled “Voting Under the Influence”, Andrea Cairola, specialist from the Freedom of Expression and Media Development Division of UNESCO Headquarters, gave an overview of the major media trends related to elections that the report identifies.

These include the interrelation between the growing impact of disinformation, attacks on the safety of journalists and media actors, and the character of elections facing digital disruption.

To tackle such challenges, the report – which will be launched on 18 November on the occasion of the 40th UNESCO General Conference - outlines a set of recommendations. These range from the importance of including media and information literacy in voters’ education, to the need of developing forward-looking standards for transparency in political advertising online.

The report also contains, in its Appendix, the full set of recommendations reflected in the Addis Ababa Declaration on “Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation”, which emerged from the 2019 World Press Freedom Day Conference.  The research was been coordinated by Professor Tarlach Mc Gonagle, who co-authored it with Maciek Bednarski, Mariana Francese Coutinho and Arthur Zimin, with peer reviewers from around the world.

Sponsored by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the 2019 World Forum for Democracy’s “LAB 5”was moderated by Greek Member of Parliament  Georgios Katrougkalos, and attended by over 150 participants. Other panelists included Olga Yurkova, Media expert and Co-founder of NGO “StopFake”.

Rasťo Kužel, Executive Director of MEMO 98, an NGO specialized on media monitoring during elections, presented an ongoing initiative, supported by UNESCO and UNDP, to develop a Guide for Electoral Practitioners on “Elections & Internet, Social Messaging and AI”.

During the Forum, UNESCO also announced the release of the summary of another In-Focus report within the World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development series, titled “Intensified Attacks, New Defences - Developments in the Fight to Protect Journalists and End Impunity”.

The executive summaries of the newly released In-Focus reports – including both abovementioned ones and a third one on “Access to Information: A New Promise for Sustainable Development”––are available at https://en.unesco.org/world-media-trends.

The World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development is produced on the mandate of General Conference resolution in 2011, and is supported by the UNESCO's Multi-Donor Programme for Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists.