EU media freedom law must be strengthened – EURACTIV.com
The European Commission must take an ambitious approach to the upcoming EU media freedom law and consult with civil society leaders and industry experts, five journalism organizations write in an open letter.
On the occasion of Europe Day 2022celebrating peace and unity in Europe, we wish to reiterate the vital role of a free, independent and pluralist press in safeguarding European values.
As the dramatic developments caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine show, a resilient and diverse information ecosystem is essential in any society, and its absence has a devastating impact on democracy.
The next European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) is a unique opportunity to tackle the threat of media capture and the threat to the financial viability of media in Europe, and to build a strong and resilient media ecosystem in Member States.
We note that the EMFA must have Article 114 TFEU (internal market) as its legal basis. This is a useful entry point as the free flow of information is essential to the functioning of an efficient and prosperous single market.
That said, the free flow of information cannot itself be guaranteed by the strengthening of free market rules alone and, if EMFA is to achieve its objectives, it must also recognize the social and political dimensions of information as a public good.
As a group of human rights organizations and journalists, we urge the European Commission to take an ambitious approach to EMFA contribute to countering the growing threats to the freedom, independence and pluralism of the media, and therefore to one of the foundations of our democratic society.
In particular, we recommend:
- Although fundamental, not to limit the scope of the EMFA to the sole economic dimension of the internal marketbut to also take into account the social and political dimensions, and that information is a public good;
- Establish harmonized measures to ensure media independence and pluralism, including on transparency of ownership, broadcast licensing and other authorization requirements, independence of media regulators and independent public service media, and enhanced media self-regulation. In particular, we call for a harmonized public interest test for “media mergers”, key to ensuring media pluralism and avoiding distortions between Member States;
- Establish EU guidelines for direct and indirect state support to the media sector in order to help end the fragmentation of national rules that undermine the effectiveness of the European internal media market, to prevent conflicts of interests in the allocation of public funds and to end the practice of using public funds to reward complacent coverage and punish critical journalism;
- Develop multiple avenues through which journalism can find support, including an EU Media Pluralism Fund to fund original and independent journalism programs and initiatives, and further contribute to the sustainability of the media sector .
We further call on the European Commission to ensure in-depth consultation with experts from civil society and industry in the coming months before the presentation of the EMFA proposal.
With the EMFA, the European Commission has the opportunity to complete the ambitious legislative reforms initiated with the Digital Services Act, the Digital Markets Act and the SLAPP Directive and lay the foundations for a resilient media environment, pluralist and free throughout the EU. The EMFA is the missing piece to guarantee a dynamic, innovative, independent and sustainable media environment, for the benefit of economic actors, journalists and citizens.
ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Freedom of Expression
European Federation of Journalists;
Unlimited free press;
World Forum for Media Development;
International Press Institute.