Thursday

17th Jan 2019

New EU citizens' appeal targets press freedom

  • Press freedom is increasingly an issue in Europe (Photo: DRB62)

Verdi, a German trade union which triggered the only successful European Citizens' Initiative so far, is throwing its weight behind a new project on press freedom.

With 2 million members, it could easily get the 1 million signatures the EU requires to lodge a citizens’ appeal. But the Lisbon Treaty also says the 1 million people must come from at least seven EU countries.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • Graffiti in Berlin against Berlusconi's media empire (Photo: dominique cappronnier)

The purpose-built campaign for the new project, the European initiative for media pluralism, partly funded by two foundations - Open Society and Adessium - calls on the European Commission to consider a legislative proposal to fight media concentration and to protect journalists from attacks.

The campaign is targeting Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, and the UK.

Its spokesman, Giovanni Melogli, told press in Berlin on Tuesday (11 March) he got involved because of his own experience as a media advisor for an Italian MEP between 2004 and 2009.

"Back then, during the worst period of [former Italian PM] Berlusconi, the European Parliament asked the European Commission to intervene, because there was a clear breach of freedom of the press in Italy, with a Prime Minister who was also owner of half of the main media and able to control the public broadcaster,” he said.

He accused the EU commission of “hypocrisy" in claiming it upholds free speech, but saying it has no competence to act in the “internal matters” of EU states, such as Berlusconi’s Italy.

Attila Mong, a Hungarian journalist linked to the campaign, said there is a similar problem on Hungary.

The commission criticised laws passed by the strong-handed government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban but to little avail.

"Hungary is the best example of how a country can go wrong. We have both a Berlusconisation and a Putinisation of media," Mong, who was fired from Hungarian public radio after holding a minute of silence on air in protest at the media laws, noted, referring to Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

He said the only hope for civil activists in Hungary is for the EU commission to get the power to act on violation of civil liberties in member states.

In Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Romania most media are also controlled by moguls with strong political interests.

Verdi, the German trade union, orchestrated an earlier campaign on access to water, which, in February, became the first-ever EU citizens’ project to make the grade.

Cornelia Hass, the leader of the German journalists' trade union in Verdi, said media concentration may not be as "gripping" a topic as water privatisation was for German people, but added: “in Germany there is a sensibility for the relevance of this issue. Media pluralism is also disappearing on local and regional markets in Germany. And everyone has heard about Italy and Hungary, so it is worth trying.”

The campaign has to get 1 million signatures by 18 August.

The commission will evaluate if it has competence over the field and if it says Yes, it will generate a legislative proposal for MEPs and member states, as with the “Right2Water” project.

Hungary's media crackdown slips off EU radar

Eyes this week are on potential EU action against Hungary's constitutional reform, but Brussels seems to have forgotten about Budapest's ongoing crackdown on free press.

EU to propose scrapping summer time change

Based on the preliminary results of an online survey in which mostly Germans took part, the EU executive is proposing that the whole EU stops changing times in March and October.

Investigation

How to get around the EU posted workers directive

Some EU careworkers in Belgium receive around €400 a month - despite their carers paying €2,500 a month and paying for flights and accommodation. The answer lies in how firms can skirt the safeguards in the EU's posted workers directive.

News in Brief

  1. British PM scrapes through no confidence vote
  2. Spanish PM calls for EU gender equality strategy
  3. Farage says bigger Brexit majority if second referendum
  4. Macron starts 'grand debate' tour after yellow vests protests
  5. Barnier: up to London to take Brexit forward
  6. Stimulus still needed, ECB's Draghi says in final report
  7. May's Brexit deal defeated by 230 votes
  8. German economy hit by global economic turbulence

Stakeholder

A touch of football at this year's G20 summit

FIFA president Gianni Infantino addressed the G20 leaders and placed football at their disposal as a powerful tool to help them address the challenges facing the world today.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  2. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  3. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  4. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  5. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  6. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  7. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025
  8. MEPs redouble appeal on sexual harassment

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us