Right of reply in on-line media

By EDRi · June 19, 2003

The Council of Europe (45 member states) is finalizing a recommendation on
the ‘right of reply’ in on-line media. Through a right of reply persons and
organisations can reply to articles in the media in which they have been
portrayed or criticized. Many countries in Europe already have a limited
right of reply for printed media.

A committee of specialists has finalized the draft recommendation during a
16-18 June meeting. The recommendations are not limited to professional
on-line media but “any natural or legal person or other entity whose [main]
activity is to engage in the collection, editing and dissemination of
information to the public via the Internet”. This definition will not only
cover professional news portals but also personal blogs, moderated
mailinglists and individual websites.

Some parts of the recommendation are very detailed. “The reply should be
made publicly available in a prominent place for a period of time which is
at least equal to the period of time during which the contested information
was publicly available, but in any case no less than for 24 hours.” The
recommendation will pose a greater burden on on-line media then on off-line
media as on-line media are supposed to have more room for lengthy replies:
“There should be flexibility regarding the length of the reply since there
are less capacity limits for content than in off-line media.”

An earlier draft of the recommendation limited itself to professional
on-line media. But after an expert hearing in February 2003 definitions
were broadened. The summary of the hearing mentions: “It could be argued
that there was a particular need to grant a right of reply against
non-professional media where there was an increased risk of compromising

The recommendation might collide with the very recent declaration on
freedom on the internet by the same Council of Europe. That declaration
urged countries to preserve anonymity on the internet. But the
recommendation on the right of reply in on-line media mentions that
“on-line media should make the name and contact details of a person
responsible for handling requests for replies easily available”.

A recommendation from the Council of Europe is not binding for its member

The right of reply in the on-line environment (21.03.2003)