With independent media under growing economic and political pressure and many journalists across the EU finding themselves in increasingly captured media markets, over 40 rights groups have written to European parliamentarians calling on them to ensure a strong European Media Freedom Act.
They say independent voices are being increasingly side-lined because of economic pressures and journalists and media outlets struggle for financial viability.
“In a context where politicians often vilify critical media outlets and in which access to financial resources is limited, politically influenced media takeovers create an imbalanced media system,” they said in a statement on Friday morning.
“A strong European Media Freedom Act will help to protect media freedom, pluralism, and independence, and offer scope for further reforms that shore up democracy and the rule of law.”
The Maltese signatories were the aditus foundation, the Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation and Repubblika.
The rights groups insist the upcoming Act can and should address these issues and protect free media by outlining European standards on freedom from editorial interference and illegal surveillance, guaranteeing media pluralism, providing greater transparency on ownership and state financing, ending the abuse of state funds to create clientelist media, protecting the independence of public service media and the independence of national regulatory authorities, and ensuring there is an economic environment in which independent journalism can flourish.
The letter to Members of the European Parliament from more than 40 media freedom, journalist, and rights groups called on the EU’s lawmakers to ensure that the Act becomes a strong, coherent regulation that establishes harmonised legal safeguards across the EU.
They noted in the letter how some journalists are “coerced to report a certain official narrative because of political pressure” and that “politically-influenced media takeovers create an environment where critical reporters are in the minority”.
They listed among the Act’s “crucial issues” requiring MEPs’ specific attention the drawing up of common European standards on freedom from editorial interference and illegal surveillance, guaranteeing media pluralism and providing greater transparency on ownership and financial relations with the state.
They have also called on MEPs to put an end to the abuse of state funds to create clientelist media, to protect the independence of public service media and of national regulatory authorities and to ensure an economic environment in which independent journalism can flourish.
The letter was signed by: Access Now, aditus foundation (Malta), ARTICLE 19, Association of European Journalists (AEJ Belgium), Association of European Journalists (International federation), Association of online publishers, CZ (AOV), Centre for Democracy & Technology, Europe Office, Civil Liberties Union for Europe (Liberties), Civil Rights Defenders, Citizens Network Watchdog Poland, Coalition for Creativity (C4C), Committee to Protect Journalists, Daphne Caruana Galizia Foundation (Malta), DEMAS – Association for Democracy Assistance and Human Rights, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), European Federation of Journalists, European Partnership for Democracy, Free Press Unlimited (Netherlands), Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD), Global Media Registry (GMR), Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (HFHR, Warsaw), Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Human Rights Watch, Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), Institute of Public Affairs, Warsaw, International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR), International Press Institute, Internet Society – Bulgaria (ISOC-Bulgaria), Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), Media Diversity Institute (MDI), Novinářský klub Jindřicha Oppera, z.s. (Henry Opper’s club of journalists), Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT), Ossigeno.info, Poland’s Association of Journalists and Authors of the Public Radio, Peace Institute, Ljubljana, Public Media Alliance (PMA). Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Repubblika (Malta), Society of Journalists, Warsaw, South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), Sindikat novinarjev Slovenije, Transparency International EU, Wikimedia Europe and Wikimédia France.