Saturday

29th Apr 2017

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.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • 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.

Feature

How a Swedish love mob fights online hate

A Swedish group helping people to take the fight against online hate and lies had busy days after the recent terrorist attack in Stockholm.

MEPs set out to give posted workers equal pay

A revision of the posted workers directive aims to make the single market fairer, but critics see efforts to root out "social dumping" as disguised protectionism.

Feature

Civil society steps in to fight rising obesity

By 2030, it is estimated that more than 50 percent of Europeans will be obese. With a lack of public policies and coherent strategies, civil society is often the one trying to find a solution.

News in Brief

  1. Vote of no confidence prepared against Spanish PM
  2. Syria to buy Russian anti-missile system
  3. Germany seeks partial burka ban
  4. Libya has no plan to stop migration flows
  5. EU has no evidence of NGO-smuggler collusion in Libya
  6. Poland gets 'final warning' on logging in ancient forest
  7. Commission gives Italy final warning on air pollution
  8. Romania and Slovenia taken to court over environment policies

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  2. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey
  3. Counter BalanceParliament Sends Strong Signal to the EIB: Time to Act on Climate Change
  4. ACCARisks and Opportunities of Blockchain and Shared Ledgers Technologies in Financial Services
  5. UNICEFRace Against Time to Save Millions of Lives in Yemen
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersDeveloping Independent Russian-Language Media in the Baltic Countries
  7. Swedish EnterprisesReform of the European Electricity Market: Lessons from the Nordics, Brussels 2 May
  8. Malta EU 2017Green Light Given for New EU Regulation to Bolster External Border Checks
  9. Counter BalanceCall for EU Commission to Withdraw Support of Trans-Adriatic Pipeline
  10. ACCAEconomic Confidence at Highest Since 2015
  11. European Federation of Allergy and Airways60%-90% of Your Life Is Spent Indoors. How Does Poor Indoor Air Quality Affect You?
  12. European Gaming and Betting AssociationCJEU Confirms Obligation for a Transparent Licensing Process

Latest News

  1. Oxford-Studie besorgt über 'Schrott' News in Frankreich
  2. Alte Freundschaft zwischen Le Pen und Putin
  3. EP chief faces questions after homophobic 'summit'
  4. EU signals Northern Ireland could join if united with Ireland
  5. One year later: EU right to open internet still virtual
  6. Rethinking Europe's relationship with Turkey
  7. Mob storms Macedonian parliament
  8. MEPs retain secrecy on office spending