Guest author Eleonora Nestola is an Attorney at Law, specialised in European law and policies.
The new European Commission took over its mandate last November. The New Commissioner for Digital Economy & Society, Gunther Oettinger (DE), speaking at the Global Media Forum in Bonn referred to media pluralism as a ‘crucial value’ for the EU and stressed the Commission’s full commitment to protecting it.
‘Political pressure, economic hardship, physical attacks against journalists, restrictive legislation and a general financial crisis in the sector all influence the media’s ability to operate freely. A lack of media freedom and pluralism affects negatively the European media and creative industries’.
Since 2012, the Commission is involved in backing actions aimed at supporting and protecting media pluralism. Within this framework, Commissioner Oettinger announced two new independent projects to be undertaken in the coming months.
The two initiatives, one coordinated by the Leipzig Media Foundation and the other one by Index on Censorship, will address media freedom violations in the EU and neighbouring countries. They are part of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) and have the support of the European Parliament.
The ECPMF is an independent nonprofit European Cooperative Society. Its missions are to unite Europe’s highly fragmented media freedom community and to address media freedom violations in Europe. The aim of ECPMF is to mobilise support for journalists facing political and economic pressure and to act as a major contact and information point for media freedom in Europe. This is done through a network providing adequate tools (technical and legal) to journalists, in order to deal with threats and violations of editorial liberty and freedom of speech. Moreover, the Center constantly collects information and carries out research to encourage professionals and citizens to report abuses.
The Media Pluralism Monitor tool is another EU-financed pilot project. It is run independently by the European University Institute in Florence (Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom – CMPF) to identify potential risks to media pluralism in member states. It was launched as a pilot project in 2014 by Index on Censorship, the first phase of the project, was based on a sample of nine member states and showed that risks to media pluralism are spread all over the EU. In the last 12 months, more than 750 violations have been reported, including threats of violence, harassment, intimidation and legal penalties. The tool is now to be applied to the remaining member states.
Those projects, part of a large number of actions started in the previous years, are intended to play a crucial role in the future European policy reforms impacting media pluralism and freedom of expression, notably regarding access to online news, contents and information, the reform of the copyright system and the revision of the audiovisual directive. Those reforms will affect a number of sectors with high private interests and therefore the European Commission, holding the power of initiative, along with the other European legislators will be called to preserve freedom of access to contents from the pressure of influential stakeholders (such as publishers), particularly strong in certain member states, willing to preserve their traditional positions at the expense, sometimes, of other legitimate interests.
- Oettinger speech at DW Global Media Forum: The role of traditional and new media in the digital age – the EU view
- European Federation of Journalists: Oettinger: “Lack of media freedom and pluralism affects negatively media and creative industries”
- Digital Agenda for Europe: Commission seeks views on Europe’s audiovisual media rules
- European Alternatives: European Initiative for Media Pluralism