Resolution: EU Commission to fight harder for press freedom and pluralism 

SAL with the press release by Maja Orel Schwarz, EU Parliament 

Right on World Press Freedom Day MEPs in Brussels urged, that EU member states should “create and maintain, in law and in practice, a safe and secure environment for journalists”. The resolution was approved by an overwhelming majority. 

Hungary demonstration In Hungary, thousands of people protest for human rights and against the Orbán administration (photo: Zsolt Szigetvary/MTI/AP/dpa)

On 3 May, 2018, the European Parliament decided on a resolution on media pluralism and media freedom in the European Union asking the European Commission to play a much bigger role in opposing attempts by member states to limit those. The non-legislative resolution, drafted by Barbara Spinelli (GUE/NGL, IT), was approved by 488 votes to 43, with 114 abstentions.

Inter alia, the MEPs asked the EU Commission, to highlight the necessity of supporting and broadening the scope of activities of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, particularly of its legal support to journalists under threat. As well as regarding the European Charter on Freedom of the Press.

Protect journalists from violence and threats

They called on EU member states to step up financial support to public service providers and investigative journalists, while refraining from involvement in editorial decisions. All public funding provided to media owners should be regularly monitored, adds the text. MEPs reiterate their call for neutral VAT treatment of all media (e.g. not discriminating between paper and online news), as recommended in their resolution of 2011.

To protect journalists from violence and threats, an independent and impartial regulatory body should be set up, in cooperation with journalists’ organisations, to monitor and report on violence. Journalists whose freedom to work has been threatened need effective legal procedures to be able to avoid self-censorship, notes the text. 

The text notes that the use of the term fake news should "never be aimed at undermining public trust in the media and at discrediting and criminalising critical voices".

Protect objective information

To foster and protect objective information, MEPs encourage social media companies and online platforms to develop tools for users to report and flag potential fake news, facilitate rectification and allow for reviews by independent and impartial certified third party fact-checking organisations.

Finally, MEPs call on the EU Commission to propose an Anti-SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) Directive that would protect the independent media against lawsuits intended merely to silence or intimidate them in the EU. 

Rapporteur Barbara Spinelli said: "The crucial point of reference of the report is article 19 ICCPR and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. I tried to stress that concepts like fake news are misleading, and are increasingly applied to the internet sphere alone.

I tried to adhere as much as possible to the Joint Declaration on Freedom of Expression and 'Fake News', Disinformation and Propaganda with which I share the view that the human right to impart and receive information and ideas cannot be limited to supposedly 'correct' statements, but must also 'protect information and ideas that may shock, offend and disturb'.

Protection of whistleblowers

The report stresses the need to protect whistleblowers and encryption-related rights, calls for the chilling effects of defamation laws to be recognised, warns against the arbitrary imposition of states of emergency and insists on the desirability of investing  in digital literacy to empower citizens and online users.

Any restrictions on freedom of expression or the pluralism of the media and internet content must respect the requirements of international law and the three principles of necessity, proportionality and legitimacy."

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