Standards and principles for political communication

As a basis for determining the harmful narratives propagated by the political actors, ICS was guided by a series of documents, guidelines and regulations of international and domestic institutions, internal acts of political parties and ethical codes of conduct for appointed or elected persons, which determine the standards and the principles of non-discriminatory and transparent political communication. These are the following documents:

Standards to be followed in political communication:

  • Obligation to be transparent and accessible to the media.
  • Obligation to represent the public interest in the communication.
  • Obligation not to be a source and not to spread disinformation and unverified information.
  • Prohibition of using hate speech, prohibition of discriminatory speech and preservation of freedom of speech.

For the purposes of the research, five principles have been proposed, the practice of which will be followed in the public communication of the political actors: political parties, as well as high party representatives, who are simultaneously appointed or elected persons:

P1. Principle of transparency

Due to the special social responsibility held by the politicians, the candidates for positions, elected and appointed officials, they are obliged to maintain a high level of transparency publicly and to the media on matters of public interest. Transparency is considered one of the important prerequisites in the fight against corruption. The political entities are obliged to practice active transparency in their work and to publish various materials that are of interest to the public. The political parties are also required to make important documents and data such as statute, party structure, decision-making methods, financial reports and other relevant documents for their work available to the public.

P2. Principle of professionalism and impartiality in the communication of government representatives

The politicians who are elected and appointed officials, in addition to having access to their party’s communication channels, also have access to the official communication channels of the institutions they manage. Thus, they should use the government communication channels to inform regarding the government policies, decisions and measures, in order to ensure a clear distinction between the work of the institutions and the political parties, i.e., that there is not abuse of the government communication channels for the promotion of the party goals. In addition, the elected and the appointed officials have access to public officials responsible for communication in those institutions. Thus, officials should be impartial, maintain objectivity and put service obligations before personal interests.

P3. Principle of evidence-based communication

The manipulative speech, which includes disinformation, incorrect information and malicious information, can seriously affect the democratic processes and the elections, by creating and spreading lies, character attacks, which can result in a decrease in trust in the electoral process and the institutions. Hence, it is important that the politicians and the public officials do not use disinformation and share only verified information in their communication.

P4. Principle of ethical communication

The elected and the appointed officials, as well as party officials, have an obligation in their communication with the public and the media to practice ethics in the communication. The political parties are encouraged to adopt codes of conduct which, among other things, oblige their members, officials, candidates and elected and appointed persons to tackle speech that incites intolerance, discrimination or hatred. They are also urged to treat participants with respect during their press conferences, to practice equal treatment when asking questions and to refrain from labelling media workers and human rights activists (2021 Joint Declaration on Politicians and Public Officials and Freedom of Expression).

P5. Principle of non-spreading of hate speech, discriminatory speech

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights clearly states that everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression, whereby this right includes the freedom to represent a particular opinion as well as the freedom to seek, give and receive information and ideas through the media: ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.’ (Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

[1] From the desk analysis of political parties and their founding documents, strategies and various materials carried out in June 2023, only SDSM, of all the political parties of interest for the research, has a code of ethics and therefore it is taken into account in the context of this aspect of the research.