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European Parliament: yes to the Media Freedom Act, the law that protects the media from political interference

15-03-2024 13:46

Europolitiche

Europolitiche, Macro/Scenari,

European Parliament: yes to the Media Freedom Act, the law that protects the media from political interference

The measure will oblige EU states to protect the independence of the media and will prohibit interference in editorial decisions

With 464 votes in favour, 92 against and 65 abstentions, the European Parliament approved the Media Freedom Act on 13 March, the European law which will oblige the states of the European Union to protect the independence of journalists and the media and will prohibit any form of interference in editorial decisions.

The press release states:

" Protect the work of journalists

Authorities will be prohibited from using arrests, sanctions, searches, intrusive surveillance software installed on electronic devices and other coercive methods to pressure journalists and editorial managers into revealing their sources.

During negotiations with the Council, Parliament introduced strong limitations on the use of spy software, which will only be permitted on a case-by-case basis and subject to authorization from a judicial authority in the context of investigations into serious crimes punishable by prison sentences. Even in these circumstances, however, affected individuals will need to be informed after the surveillance has been carried out and will then be able to challenge it in court.

Editorial independence of public media

To prevent public media outlets from being exploited for political purposes, their managers and board members should be selected for a sufficiently long term on the basis of transparent and non-discriminatory procedures. Dismissal before the expiry of the contract will be permitted only if the professional requirements are no longer met.

Funding for public media will need to be sustainable and predictable and follow transparent and objective procedures.

Transparency of ownership

To allow the public to know who controls individual media and what interests may lie behind ownership, all newspapers, from the largest to the smallest, will be required to publish information on their owners in a national database and to indicate whether they are directly or indirectly owned by the state.

Fair distribution of state advertising

The media will also have to report on the funds they receive from state advertising and state financial support, even if these come from third countries.

The criteria for allocating these funds to media or online platforms must be public, proportionate and non-discriminatory. Finally, information on state advertising expenditures must also be published, including the total annual amount and the amount per newspaper.

Protect media freedom from big platforms

MEPs have introduced a mechanism that aims to prevent very large online platforms, such as Facebook, X or Instagram, from arbitrarily restricting or removing independent media content. After distinguishing independent media from non-independent sources, platforms that intend to adopt measures of this type will have to inform interested parties, giving them 24 hours to respond. Only once this period of time has passed will the platforms be able to decide to limit or remove content that does not comply with their conditions.

Media will be able to appeal to an out-of-court dispute resolution body and seek advice from the European Media Services Board, a committee of national regulators under the new law.

Citation

Rapporteur Sabrine Verheven (EPP, DE) said during the debate: The importance of media plurality for a functioning democracy cannot be stressed enough. Press freedom is under threat all over the world, including in Europe: the murder in Malta, the threats to press freedom in Hungary and many other examples clearly demonstrate this. The European Media Freedom Act is our response to this threat and a cornerstone of European legislation. It enhances and protects the dual role of the media as businesses and as guardians of democracy."

Context

By adopting this legislation, Parliament is responding to citizens' expectations of the EU, expressed in the conclusions of the Conference on the Future of Europe: introducing legislation that addresses threats to media independence and implements EU standards on competition in the media sector, in order to prevent large media monopolies, as well as to ensure media pluralism and independence from undue political, corporate and/or foreign interference (proposals 27(1), (2)); counter disinformation through legislation and guidelines for online platforms and social media companies (33(5)); and defend and support free, pluralistic and independent media and ensure the protection of journalists (37(4))."

staff @europolitiche  

Cross-media in Italian on the policies of European institutions and governments of European Union countries

Cross-media in Italian on the policies of European institutions and governments of European Union countries


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