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European Media Freedom Act: Governments must not use national security as an excuse for pressuring journalists

Date

07 Sep 2023

Sections

Global Europe
The Socialists and Democrats today voted in favour of the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) adopted in the European Parliament’s committee on culture and education. S&D MEPs managed to include a number of improvements in the text. Firstly, provisions aiming at the effective protection of journalists and other media professionals from surveillance and making sure journalists have the highest possible level of protection of their sources and communications. Secondly, the European Board for Media Services, newly created by the EMFA, will remain fully independent from both the European Commission and the Member States in order to guarantee the autonomy of the EU media oversight. Thirdly, additional provisions introduced by S&Ds will ensure editorial independence and maximum transparency of media ownership.
 
Petra Kammerevert, S&D co-coordinator in the EP committee on culture and education and negotiator of the group on EMFA, said:
 
“We have witnessed worrying attempts by some governments in Europe trying to interfere in the work of journalists. What we saw in Greece recently with the spyware scandal Pegasus is a blatant demonstration of how far politicians can go against media using national security as an excuse. This must stop, and for this reason I am happy we convinced the other political groups of the need to include stronger provisions against the use of surveillance technologies, including spyware, and against pressure on journalists to reveal their sources.
 
“A major point in the legislative proposal made by the European Commission is the creation of a new European Board for Media Services. While it is true such a body is needed, our group had to ensure complete legal separation and functional independence from the European Commission as well as from national governing bodies.
 
“Our group is convinced media service providers must be fully transparent about their ownership structures, and we need to strengthen safeguards to shield all media against economic capture by private owners. For this purpose, we asked for the creation of an effective and meaningful media ownership database both on a national and European level. In times of propaganda and disinformation, and situations such as in France where new ownership changes editorial lines, this is crucial.
 
“Setting a secure, pluralistic and free media environment is only possible if we fully apply the European Charter of Fundamental Rights on freedom of expression and information. In order to ensure the right of everyone to receive a plurality of information, we included strengthened safeguards regarding media services on Very Large Online Platforms. The existing set of rules to fight disinformation is not sufficiently effective as a recently published study of the European Commission shows. The Digital Services Act and the EU Code of Practice on Disinformation are not affected by the new safeguards introduced. Instead, they are complemented by the empowerment of trustworthy information online.
 
“The Socialists and Democrats have always stood behind free and vibrant media. Their work is of major importance for the interest of society and democracy. We are ensuring the editorial independence of public service media from Member States and their adequate and sustainable funding on a multiannual basis.
 
“Talking about media freedom in Europe, we must also address the issue of market concentration. Our group is convinced the future of the sector lies in a varied offer of content and services by an economically strong media. We believe that market concentration shall not jeopardise media pluralism and editorial independence. If something of this kind happens in a Member State, we ask the European Commission and the European Board for Media Services to intervene. In addition, we included provisions ensuring audience measurement systems are fair and transparent.”

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