The People’s Communication
An International Covenant of Standards
Done at Amsterdam, June 1996
Submitted to TBS by Cees
J. Hamelink, professor of International Communication at the University of Amsterdam
and initiator of the People's Communication Charter.
For reactions: firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on
this charter, its history and development, and the signatories, please see The
People’s Communication Charter: An Introduction, by Cees Hamelink.
We, the Signatories of
this Charter, recognize that:
Communication is basic
to the life of all individuals and their communities.
All people are entitled
to participate in communication, and in making decisions about communication within
and between societies.
The majority of the world's
peoples lack minimal technological resources for survival and communication. Over
half of them have not yet made a single telephone call.
Commercialization of media
and concentration of media ownership erode the public sphere and fail to provide
for cultural and information needs, including the plurality of opinions and the
diversity of cultural expressions and languages necessary for democracy.
Massive and pervasive
media violence polarizes societies, exacerbates conflict, and cultivates fear
and mistrust, making people vulnerable and dependent.
misrepresent all of us and stigmatize those who are the most vulnerable.
Therefore, we ratify this
charter defining communication rights and responsibilities to be observed in democratic
countries and in international law.
Article 1. Respect
All people are entitled to be treated with respect, according to the basic human
rights and standards of dignity, integrity, identity, and non-discrimination.
Article 2. Freedom
All people have the right of access to communication channels independent of governmental
or commercial control.
Article 3. Access
In order to exercise their rights, people should have fair and equitable access
to local and global resources and facilities for conventional and advanced channels
of communication; to receive opinions, information and ideas in a language they
normally use and understand; to receive a range of cultural products designed
for a wide variety of tastes and interests; and to have easy access to facts about
ownership of media and sources of information. Restrictions on access to information
should be permissible only for good and compelling reason, as when prescribed
by international human rights standards or necessary for the protection of a democratic
society or the basic rights of others.
Article 4. Independence
The realization of people's right to participate in, contribute to, and benefit
from the development of self-reliant communication structures requires national
and international assistance. This includes support of development communication
and of independent media; training programs for professional media workers; the
establishment of independent, representative media associations, syndicates or
trade unions; and the international adoption of standards.
Article 5. Literacy
All people have the right to acquire information and skills necessary to participate
fully in public deliberation and communication. This requires facility in reading,
writing, and storytelling; critical media awareness; computer literacy; and education
about the role of communication in society.
Article 6. Protection
Journalists must be accorded full protection of the law, including international
humanitarian law, especially in areas of conflict. They must have safe, unrestricted
access to sources of information, and must be able to seek remedy, when required,
through an international body.
Article 7. Right of
reply and redress
All people have the right of reply and to demand penalties for damage from media
misinformation. Individuals concerned should have an opportunity to correct, without
undue delay, statements relating to them which they deem to be false and which
they have a justified interest in having corrected. Such corrections should be
given the same prominence as the original expression. States should impose penalties
for proven damage, or require corrections, where a court of law has determined
that an information provider has willfully disseminated inaccurate or misleading
and damaging information, or has facilitated the dissemination of such information.
Article 8. Cultural
All people have the right to protect their cultural identity. This includes respect
for people's pursuit of cultural development and the right to free expression
in languages they understand. People's right to the protection of their cultural
space and heritage should not violate other human rights or provisions of this
Article 9. Diversity
All people have the right to a diversity of languages. This includes the right
to express themselves and have access to information in their own language, the
right to use their languages in educational institutions funded by the state,
and the right to have adequate provision created for the use of minority languages
Article 10. Participation
All people have the right to participate in public decision-making about the provision
of information; the development and utilization of knowledge; the preservation,
protection and development of culture; the choice and application of communication
technologies; and the structure and policies of media industries.
Article 11. Children's
Children have the right to mass media products that are designed to meet their
needs and interests and foster their healthy physical, mental and emotional development.
They should be protected from harmful media products and from commercial and other
exploitation at home, in school, and at places of play, work, or business. Nations
should take steps to produce and distribute widely high-quality cultural and entertainment
materials created for children in their own languages.
Article 12. Cyberspace
All people have a right to universal access to and equitable use of cyberspace.
Their rights to free and open communities in cyberspace, their freedom of electronic
expression, and their freedom from electronic surveillance and intrusion should
Article 13. Privacy
All people have the right to be protected from the publication of allegations
irrelevant to the public interest, or of private photographs or other private
communication without authorization, or of personal information given or received
in confidence. Databases derived from personal or workplace communications and
transactions should not be used for unauthorized commercial or general surveillance
purposes. However, nations should take care that the protection of privacy does
not unduly interfere with the freedom of expression or the administration of justice.
Article 14. Harm
People have the right to demand that media actively counter incitement to hate,
prejudice, violence, and war. Violence should not be presented as normal, "manly,"
or entertaining, and true consequences of and alternatives to violence should
be shown. Other violations of human dignity and integrity to be avoided include
stereotypic images that distort the realities and complexities of people's lives.
Media should not ridicule, stigmatize, or demonize people on the basis of gender,
race, class, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, and physical or mental condition.
Article 15. Justice
People have the right to demand that media respect standards of due process in
the coverage of trials. This implies that media should not presume guilt before
a verdict of guilt, invade the privacy of defendants or others, and should not
televise criminal trials in real time while the trial is in progress.
Article 16. Consumption
People have the right to useful and factual consumer information and to be protected
from misleading and distorted advertising. Media should avoid and, if necessary,
expose, promotion disguised as news and entertainment (infomercials, product placement,
children's programs that use franchised characters and toys, etc.), and the creation
of wasteful, unnecessary, harmful or ecologically damaging needs, wants, products,
and activities. Advertising directed at children should receive special scrutiny.
Article 17. Accountability
People have the right to hold media accountable to the general public for their
adherence to the standards established in this charter. For that purpose, media
should establish mechanisms, including self- regulatory bodies, that monitor and
account for measures taken to achieve compliance.
Article 18. Implementation
In consultation with signatories, national and international mechanisms will be
organized to publicize this charter; implement it in as many countries as possible
and in international law; monitor and assess the performance of countries and
media in light of these standards; receive complaints about violations; advise
on adequate remedial measures; and to establish procedures for the periodic review,
development and modification of this charter.