Media pluralism is key to curbing disinformation
LIBE Committee members push for more money for independent journalismEuropost , Brussels
Three years after the atrocious assassination of Daphne Caruana Galizia, lawmakers from the EP Civil Liberties Committee have again raised their voices in defence of journalism and media freedom.
Adopting a resolution by 52 votes to 5 and 7 abstentions, the members of the committee sound the alarm that media freedom within the EU has deteriorated in recent years, even in the most advanced Member States, and there have been cases of journalists faced with violence, harassment and pressure. This situation is even worsening in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.
Lawmakers insisted the legal framework to be strengthened so that it can more effectively combat increasing online hate speech and called for better collaboration between online platforms and law enforcement authorities. In their view, the platforms' voluntary actions are still insufficient in tackling disinformation, illegal content and foreign interference. As things stand with this 'fine line' between freedom of speech and the language of hatred disguised under the freedom of expression brand, they emphasised that in no case should platforms become private censors. Media pluralism is key to tackling disinformation, they urged.
Disinformation, hate speech and the politicisation and capture of public media by ruling parties are the greatest threats to democracy, the rule of law, and the existence of the European Union today, commented Polish EPP MEP Magdalena Adamowicz, rapporteur on the file. We are at a turning point and if we do not stand up to defend free and independent media, fight disinformation and hate speech, and support a resilient and critical civil society, we will lose our right and our ability to make free and democratic choices, she highlighted.
Adamowicz stressed that the solution is to boost plurality and independence of media and support for journalists.
The LIBE committee also sharply denounced attempts by governments of some Member States to silence critical and independent media and to pose financial patronage through furtive methods as to straitjacket media freedom and pluralism.
MEPs put their finger especially on the public service media, which should rely on financial models that assure their editorial independence, and asserted that the Commission should regularly assess government interference and transparency of ownership structures.
MEPs also stressed that public figures should refrain from denigrating journalists, and insist on the obligation to investigate attacks, accenting that female journalists are especially vulnerable and should be given additional protection.
Lawmakers were highly critical of governments' excessive interference in public advertising, and made clear that EU money must not be spent on political propaganda on government-controlled media. The resolution also says that excessive concentration of media ownership puts pluralism at risk, making it more difficult to challenge the spread of disinformation, and called on EU countries to take action to avoid horizontal concentration and guarantee transparency.
The LIBE members also claimed that the Commission has to assess as well private and government interference in all EU27. They push for more funds in the next MFF to be channelled for independent journalism.
The Parliament is set to vote on the resolution during the second November plenary sitting.