The fourth estate is tempting to many, perhaps to too many, and in several European countries there are multiple cases of editorial independence and information pluralism being threatened.
Take note of Hungary who recently passed “a gag order” to regulate all information content by creating a Media Authority and a Media Council, two government-run organisations. The United Kingdom has long struggled with the political effects of the dominant positions of information tycoons, someting clearly brough home last summer in the Murdoch affair. In France, President Sarkozy was recently given the authority to nominate the director of France Television. Romania is considering to calssify certain media information a potential threat to national security. Due to the close ties between politics, organised crime and the media, Bulgaria took last place on the Freedom House list.
The anomaly that Italy has represented since 1994, with a prime minifestr directly controlling three private news channels and indirectly controlling three other public channels, should have led to the end of these kind of actions, however the European Union, reneging on its obligations to its citizens, has washed its hands of it and claims no responsibility. In the case of Italy, alarm bells should have sounded and resulted in Italy becoming an example for other European countries.
This development has reawakened a debate, more usually originating beyond EU borders.
In order to address this situation, starting in 2010 we have been working towards the establishment of a European Initiative for Media Pluralism, a coalition promoting the idea that European institutions should safeguard the right to independent and pluralistic information as sanctioned by the new European Charter on Fundamental Rights. The Initiative ran several conferences throughout Europe and in the European Parliament, amongst which:
? Three regional consultations in Rome (Italy), Iasi (Romania) and Stara Zagora (Bulgaria). These had the aim of bringing together local organisations with an interest in media pluralism, assessing local concerns and methods, and working with local organisations to prepare a common platform in view of the two European conferences in Brussels and Bologna.
? A large, civil-society working conference at the European Parliament co-organised with five and co-financed by four European Parliamentary Groups.
? A public European conference in Bologna, bringing together participants from the previous Brussels conference to fne-tune strategy and gather commitments for next steps of the initiative
We are currently working for the construction of a Europe-wide coalition to launch a European Citizen's Initiative* (ECI) on May 31st 2012 demanding a EU directive for the improvement of anti-concentration regulation at EU level for the media and publicity sectors.
* Starting from April 2011, the new tool of the “European Citizens’ Initiative” will become available. The Citizens’ Initiative allows civil society coalitions to collect online or offline one million signatures in at least 7 EU member states to present directly to the European Commission a legislative proposal forming the base of a potential EU Directive.
How you can take part:
– An an individual, show your support and sign up to the Initiative
– As an organisation, consider joining the Initiative and become part of Europe's first transnational coalition for the defense of media pluralism!
More information available on the Initiative's webpage: www.mediainitiative.eu