25th Mar 2018

EU should act on press violations, report says

Media freedoms throughout the Union are menaced by political interference, commercial pressures, and advertising interest, a new report published Monday (21 January) has said.

The study on the state of media freedom in Europe by a group of experts set up by the European Commission in 2011, calls upon the EU to take steps to secure media freedom and ensure its diversity.

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  • EU institutions should have greater oversight into press freedom violations in member states, says a new report (Photo: AK Rockefeller)

“For a democracy to function you need a well and informed citizen,” former Latvian president Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who chaired the group, told euro-deputies in Brussels.

The report makes dozens of recommendations and says the EU needs to “act to protect media freedom and pluralism within its own borders” at the state level.

To overcome the threats, the report proposes a number of measures.

Each member state would need to have an independent media council with the power to impose fines on media outlets, order broadcasters to issue apologies, and strip a journalist of his or her status.

The councils would investigate complaints “but also check that media organisations have published a code of conduct and have revealed ownership details, declarations of conflicts of interest”.

The Vienna-based European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights agency should also issue regular reports on any risks to media freedom and pluralism in the EU. The European Parliament would then issue resolutions based on the reports.

The group also recommends setting up an independent monitoring centre, partially funded by the EU, and staffed by academia.

Aside from being a “moral compass”, the EU institutions should also “name and shame” those member states that are in obvious breach of media freedom.

EU institutions have little power when it comes to specific violations of press freedoms in member states.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights, part of the Lisbon treaty, notes freedom and pluralism of the media should be respected in a democratic societies but the charter applies only to EU institutions and the application of EU laws in member states.

But while the report recognises the limitations of the charter, it says member state cross-border interactions in justice and the internal market requires media freedom and pluralism to be guaranteed equally throughout.

“Certain national policies that restrict media pluralism and/or violate media freedom are naturally bound to also hinder the exercise of free movement to that member state by media companies or journalists,” notes the report.

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