Safeguarding peace and democracy in Europe
On the occasion of Europe Day 2022, celebrating peace and unity in Europe, we wish to reiterate the vital role of a free, independent and pluralistic media in safeguarding Europe’s values. As shown by the dramatic developments caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a resilient and diverse information ecosystem is indispensable in any society, and the lack of it has a devastating impact on democracy.
The upcoming European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) is a unique opportunity to tackle the threat of media capture, ensure media financial sustainability in Europe and build a robust and resilient media ecosystem across member states.
We note that the EMFA is to have Article 114 TFEU (internal market) as its legal basis. This is a useful entry point as the free flow of information is essential for the functioning of an effective and prosperous single market.
That said, the free flow of information cannot itself be guaranteed by the enhancement of free market rules alone and, if the EMFA is to achieve its goals, it must also recognize the social and political dimensions of information as a public good.
As a group of human rights’ and journalists’ organisations, we urge the European Commission to take an ambitious approach to the EMFA to help counter the increasing threats to media freedom, independence and pluralism, and thus to one of the foundations of our democratic society.
In particular, we recommend:
- Although fundamental, not limiting the scope of the EMFA to the economic dimension of the internal market only, but to take into account also the social and political dimensions, and that information is a public good;
- Establishing harmonised measures to guarantee media independence and pluralism including on ownership transparency, broadcast licensing and other authorisation requirements, the independence of media regulators and independent public service media, and enhanced media self-regulation. In particular, we call for a harmonised public interest test for ‘media mergers’ as key to guaranteeing media pluralism and avoiding distortion across member states;
- Establishing EU guidance for direct and indirect State support to the media sector to help end the fragmentation of national rules that undermine the efficiency of the European internal media market, prevent conflicts of interest in the allocation of state funds and end the practice of using state funds to reward uncritical coverage and punish critical journalism;
- Developing multiple routes through which journalism can find support, including an EU fund for media pluralism to finance original and independent journalistic programs and initiatives, and further contribute to the sustainability of the media sector.
We further call on the European Commission to ensure a thorough consultation of civil society and industry experts in the coming months before the EMFA proposal is presented.
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 SLAPPs Directive and to set the foundations for a resilient, pluralistic and free media environment across the EU. The EMFA is the missing piece to guarantee a vibrant, innovative, independent and sustainable media environment, for the benefit of economic actors, journalists and citizens alike.
Read the open letter here:
In light of the European Media Freedom Act, Free Press Unlimited did a consultation on the livelihood of the media during the pandemic and amidst of the information war in Ukraine.
The consultation can be read here:
ARTICLE 19: Global Campaign for Free Expression
Association of European Journalists - Belgium
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
Association des Journalistes Européens
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
European Federation of Journalists (EJF)
Free Press Unlimited
Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD)
International Press Institute
Lie Detectors Media Diversity Institute (MDI)
Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP)
Ossigeno per l’informazione
Osservatorio balcani e caucaso Transeuropa (OBC Transeuropa)
Society of Journalists - Warsaw
The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)