Harlem Désir, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s former representative on freedom of the media, has been appointed executive director of the Paris-based Forum on Information and Democracy, the Forum’s board of governors announced today.

Tasked with the Forum’s institutional and operational development, Désir will work closely with Christophe Deloire, the Forum’s president, who is also secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). RSF provides the Forum’s permanent secretariat with operational support.

Harlem Désir’s entire NGO, political and international career has demonstrated a profound sense of commitment,” Deloire said. “As OSCE representative on freedom of the media, he displayed a remarkable efficacy that will be very useful to the Forum. Harlem has the necessary legitimacy and international experience for developing the Forum.” 

Désir said: “It’s a huge honour for me to join the Forum on Information and Democracy in order to help introduce democratic guarantees in the global digital space. The Forum is the most innovative initiative in this domain. I thank the board of governors for its confidence and I will be happy to work with all of the Forum’s international partners.”

Désir founded the French NGO SOS Racisme in 1984 to combat all forms of discrimination. Thereafter, he was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014, first secretary of France’s Socialist party from 2012 to 2014, and was appointed secretary of state for European affairs in 2014. He was OSCE representative on freedom of the media from 2017 until earlier this year.

Founded in November 2019 by 11 international civil society and research organizations to, inter alia, recommend a regulatory framework for the global online domain, the Forum published an initial set of 250 recommendations on 12 November 2020 in a report entitled “How to end infodemics.”

The fruit of five months of work supported by a steering committee co-chaired by Maria Ressa and Marietje Schaake, the report was the subject of a presentation by Deloire to Alliance for Multilateralism foreign ministers on 12 November.