EFJ calls for immediate and ambitious implementation of the European Media Freedom Act

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As the final text of the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) was formally adopted today by the European Union, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) calls once again on the Member States to be efficient and ambitious in implementing this crucial legislation.

The final green light given to the EMFA by European governments – except Hungary – could not be more timely as the situation is worsening in several EU countries, where public service media are being used politically and weakened financially, instead of guaranteeing citizens independent, plural and quality information as their mission requires.

 

First tests in Slovakia and Italy

The most recent example is Slovakia, where a draft law in discussion foresees the dissolution of Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) to replace it with the new Slovak Television and Radio (STaR). Drastic changes to the appointment and competence of oversight bodies would set up government control and effectively end the public broadcaster’s independence, contradicting Article 5 of the EU’s Media Freedom Act.

In Italy, recent major politically-influenced internal management changes at Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI) and attempts to shrink even further the financial autonomy of the Italian broadcasting service are another worrying development that the EMFA should prevent.

Article 5(2)) reads: “Member States shall ensure that the procedures for the appointment and the dismissal of the head of management or the members of the management board of public service media providers aim to guarantee the independence of the public service media providers (…) They may be dismissed before the end of their term of office only exceptionally where they no longer fulfil the legally predefined conditions required for the performance of their duties laid down in advance by national law or for specific reasons of illegal conduct or serious misconduct as defined in advance by national law.”

“The acute situations in Slovakia and Italy show the importance of immediate and ambitious application of the EMFA, which is not only aimed at preventing political interference, but also at preventing the weakening of public service media due to a lack of financial sustainability,” said the co-chair of the EFJ Broadcasting Expert Group (BREG), Rolf Johansen.

 

Minimum rules

The EFJ welcomes the introduction of the media pluralism test as a positive step to prevent threats to media plurality and independence from market concentration. It also welcomes better protection of online content produced by news media and journalists from the power of the platforms.

In a nutshell, the EMFA establishes minimum rules for the protection of journalists’ sources, strict guarantees for the independent operation of public service media and their financial viability,  transparency in media ownership and state advertising, as well as editorial independence in newsrooms.

The EFJ and its affiliates will now work to ensure that the EMFA delivers on its promises: to hold governments accountable for ensuring media pluralism and editorial independence across the 27 Member States, and to ensure that journalists are protected from undue political or other influence.

“All these articles could have been stronger but we agree that this is the landmark act at EU level that we have been waiting for about 30 years. Now that the EMFA has been adopted, the real test lies with how this act will be implemented and enforced in the EU Member States. We need both political will at national level, but also from the European Commission and the newly created board to oversee its application,” said EFJ Director Renate Schroeder. “In particular, spying on journalists has no place in our European democracies and must be avoided by all means.”

Source: EFJ