The S&D Group in the European Parliament has regularly called out conservative governments in the EU for their attacks on the media and their attempts to dismantle independent journalism.
This week, the Commission is presenting proposals to strengthen media freedom in the EU by preventing editorial interference from EU governments. With EU countries such as Hungary, Greece and Bulgaria consistently scoring very poorly on the World Press Freedom Index, the Socialists and Democrats believe legislation is long overdue to reverse a worsening trend across Europe. Given the tradition of self-regulated media in the EU, the S&D Group will work with journalists and media organisations and take on board their experiences to improve the proposed act.
S&D vice-present, Gaby Bischoff, said:
“Recently we have had to stand up to a swarm of conservative-led governments in Europe that do not shy away from undermining democratic values to stay in power. Media freedom guarantees people unrestrained access to information and is a prerequisite for them to make a free and informed choice when it comes to electing those in power. Sadly, disinformation campaigns are gaining an increasing momentum in some Member States. If we want to take the fight against disinformation seriously, we must allow journalists to carry out their work without fear or interference. To kill off state-funded propaganda, we need tough rules and therefore the proposal for an EU Media Freedom Act is timely.
“We need to cut the dangerous ties that exist between media regulators and the governments in countries like Poland and Hungary and prevent these practices from spreading to other countries. Rewarding pro-government media with state-funded advertising or punishing critics by holding back funds can seriously damage media pluralism, especially when the procedures are not transparent. We will work with the Commission and national governments on these proposals to guarantee free and independent media in every Member State. The European Parliament elections are just around the corner and we need these rules in place to guarantee free and fair elections in 2024.”
S&D vice-president, Alex Agius Saliba, said:
“The Media Freedom Act is a very important piece of legislation long awaited from our Group in times of raising authoritarianism worldwide and very worrying practices on the freedom of speech, even within the European Union. Editorial independence and ownership transparency in the media sector are crucial in times of hybrid wars that others declare on our union. We need full transparency to know who is really talking from the media outlets.
“Editorial teams and journalists should be better protected compared to what is the current state of play. Unfortunately, we hear all too often about undue political or economic pressure and even outrageous surveillance, including through spyware. The S&D Group must not and will not tolerate such shameful practices in the EU. In addition to this, we call for decent remuneration and working conditions for media workers.”