Fight against disinformation – EU launches public consultation on EU media freedom law | Hogan Lovells
According to the European Commission, freedom of expression (one of the pillars of democracy in Europe) is under threat as governments and private groups increase pressure on the media.
The Commission is expected to adopt a bill aimed at combating disinformation and supporting media freedom and pluralism. Before launching the legislative process, the Commission wishes to gather the views and ideas of citizens, competent authorities and bodies in the Member States, academics, media actors (private and public service media) and umbrella organizations representing all interested stakeholders.
The EU is particularly aware of the risks that the control of media freedom of expression could pose to European democracies. This was reflected in the Communication on the European Democracy Action Planwhere one of the priorities of the EU is to fight against all kinds of pressure against free journalism, be it physical attacks or violence (for example Recommendation to ensure the protection, safety and empowerment of journalists) or economic pressures.
The forthcoming European law on freedom of the media will target non-violent pressure, in particular with regard to “cases of public and private interference in the ownership, management or operation of the media”, “the absence of guarantees of media pluralism, including online” and “interference in editorial and management decisions of the media, which may lead to biased media coverage, among other issues, may affect investment or market entry decisions. Marlet “.
The European Commission’s impact assessment on the European Freedom of the Media Act sets out the following main objectives of the initiative:
- Ensure that media companies can operate in the internal market subject to consistent regulatory standards, in particular with regard to media freedom and pluralism;
- Ensure that EU citizens have access to a wide and varied media offer, both offline and online;
- Ensure editorial independence and independent media management, a prerequisite for media freedom and the integrity of the internal market; and
- Foster undistorted competition among media companies by ensuring a transparent and fair distribution of state resources.
Main obligations envisaged
Some of the actions envisaged to achieve these objectives are quite ambitious, such as:
- Review of transactions in the media market;
- Transparency of media ownership;
- Transparency of audience measurement; and
- Independence of public service media, transparency and fair distribution of state advertising.
Besides these actions, there could be other obligations for online environments. One of the problems to be solved is that “online dissemination and amplification techniques can accentuate the problems, ultimately to the detriment of the diversity of the media offer”.
Participation in the public consultation
The European Commission launched a public consultation. The deadline for the feedback period is March 21, 2022.
- Relevant stakeholders should be made aware of this initiative and consider participating in the public consultation to provide feedback.
- Media companies under this initiative should keep an eye on their internal procedures/policies to check how this initiative might affect them.
- Other interesting media initiatives should be watched, such as the upcoming initiative to protect journalists and rights defenders from abusive litigation.