Dora Marossy was joined by Warren Farrugia on behalf of The Yuppie in attending the session of the Mini European Assembly organised by NSTF (National Student Travel Foundation) on Monday 10 April. Here’s the how things went down at the Grandmaster’s Palace in Valletta – which was the old Parliament. But first, what is the MEA?
«The Mini European Assembly is an educational simulation exercise, open to teams of students from post-secondary and tertiary level institutions, where they discuss various issues related to European Affairs through the political perspective of the European country they represent both at Committee and Plenary Sessions.»
2017 marks the 27th anniversary of the Mini European Assembly, thousands of students have taken part through the years and the lucky winners had the chance to visit the major European Institutions in Brussels and Strasbourg, thanks to NSTF. Students are assigned a country that they need to represent during each session, which requires an incredible amount of research and familiarity with the politico-legal literature. Moreover the topic at hand, Freedom of Speech, is a rather demanding one to tackle due to the fact that one should have the liberty to speak his mind but should not categorically offend somebody.
“The truth might be uncomfortable for some people … especially politicians.”
Within a plenary session, two teams are tasked with the presentation of documents that will be discussed throughout the entirety of the debate:
The Cypriot Delegation was tasked with the report, a key document which takes into account all of the countries’ views within the assembly on a particular topic; this assembly being ‘Freedom of Speech’. The respective member state delegation’s views were obtained through the precedent Committee session.
The Cypriot delegation concluded that the majority of the countries are pushing towards a Europe that is open to freedom of speech but also weighing out the negativity that speaking one’s thoughts can incur, such as hate speech and fake news.
Each delegation had the opportunity to voice their countries views and stance on the topic at hand. Countries such as Denmark and Germany flaunted their high immunity of World Press Freedom Index scores claiming that freedom of speech “gives the people an opinion and think critically”. Others, such as Croatia, openly admit to the need to improve their WPF Index score of 66th, as they stated that there is “a long road ahead” for their improvement. All in all, the delegates within the assembly have outlined the need to censor forms of media that can be deceitful or harmful to the public; whilst on the other hand stressing heavily that the people must be given a voice.
The resolution was next to follow. The Cypriot Delegation in charge of drafting the report was also tasked with providing questions on the issue of freedom of speech, which were taken into consideration from previous committee meetings. The Danish delegation, responsible for the resolution, took into consideration the overall view the information that each delegation has provided during Committee, and presented a Resolution as to how these issues may be solved, through EU legislation.
The Resolution was split into five sections: Treaties, Conventions and Laws, State Media and Private Media, Limits in Freedom of Expression, A Pan-European Approach to Promoting Freedom of Expression, and Criminality of Expression. Each delegation was given the option to present an amendment, deletion, or substitution to any of the articles to the delegation responsible (Denmark), in order to engage in a discussion, to improve the proposed legislation in any way they deem necessary.
In section 1, ‘Treaties, Conventions, and Laws’, it is worth noting that the resolution highlights the need to encourage freedom of speech. The resolution recommends guidelines that serve as a bridge for each countries’ different criminal codes, and that creates a pivot that accepts the citizens right to free speech. Action is to be taken against individuals who publish fake news, and for the respective member states to ban content that may be insensitive towards any national symbol, such as the Heads of States, Coats of Arms and so on, so forth.
Section 2 pushes for a more ethical based approach when it comes to journalism, however that being said, it was acknowledge that the need for modernisation in the way one reports news is of great importance. Within the ‘State Media and Private Media‘ section, the major legislation was directed towards pornography. This issue is to be dealt with by monitoring and reinforcing age restrictions on such content, not to mention the banning of certain porn categories, such as child pornography.
‘Limits in Freedom of Expression‘ emphasised on journalistic sensitivity to the content he/she releases. A journalist must not be willing to comprise his or her colleagues, or anyone involved, by publishing potentially harmful content. The point here is made in order to protect citizens and effectively prevent journalists from publishing heavily controversial material or even fake news. This article also reiterates the point that people have the right to free speech and can do so by even hosting peaceful protests.
“Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to freedom of association with others, including the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.” – (European Convention of Human Rights; Article 11)
Section D, ‘A Pan-European Approach’ to promoting Freedom of Expression’, reiterates various points made throughout, on how Governments should be encouraging the importance of social activism. A major point to highlight is the recommendations of promoting freedom of expression in educational systems. This would aid in showcasing the rights of what a democratic society entails.
Lastly, the final section, ‘Criminality of Freedom of Expression’, sums up that no one is above the law. Although people should be entitled to their own freedoms, none shall be encouraged to abuse of their liberties. If so, governments are asked to reinforce any legal action. Penalties, however, must be just, and not enacted upon individuals who have not in any way abused their freedom of expression.
MEA may only be a replica of the actual European Assembly, but the competition serves a greater purpose. This final resolution is given to the ministers of the country. This setting not only gives the youths of tomorrow a voice, but allows them to participate and engage in local and international political scene; a fundamental quality is that of social activism, and to gather as many students to participate is a step in the right direction to make their voice heard.
The final session of the Mini European Assembly will be taking place in the middle of this month – and we will be right there to give you the details from it!