EMFA – “We have won a major victory for the right to information in Europe”

At this decisive moment for the right to information in Europe, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hails the promising agreement reached between European Parliament and Council of the European Union negotiators on the proposed European Media Freedom Act and, in particular, the withdrawal of a national security exception. RSF calls on Parliament and Council to now approve the bill

After intense negotiations, the Parliament and Council reached a major agreement on 15 December on the proposed EMFA, legislation that is without precedent at the European level. It will reinforce the editorial independence of news media, curb political and economic interference in the media, and limit the dangers resulting from concentration of media ownership.

In a significant development in the final discussions, article 4.4 of the EMFA will no longer contain an explicit reference to a possible exception to the law’s provisions on “national security” grounds. RSF and other organisations had been campaigning for months for the elimination of an explicit “national security exception” opening the way to arbitrary actions by governments.

In the past few days, RSF had appealed to French interior minister Gérald Darmanin to act responsibly and, on the eve of the final round of “trilogue” talks, RSF revealed an internal French army ministry and interior ministry memo defending a national security exception on the grounds that the French intelligence services need to be able to keep journalists under surveillance in order, inter alia, to identify foreign intelligence agents.

“An explicit reference in the EMFA to a national security exception would have opened the door to surveillance of journalists and violations of the confidentiality of their sources, and so its removal, despite the insistence of several member states, above all France, is a victory for journalism. The EMFA also establishes many other essential safeguards for the EU public’s right to information. We thank all those who mobilised to prevent this national security exception from being imposed in European legislation, and we will remain particularly vigilant regarding the EMFA’s implementation.

Christophe Deloire
RSF Secretary-General

In the final version of the EMFA, RSF welcomes the following provisions in particular:

  a requirement for member states to respect the right of access to a diversity of independent media, and to establish a legal framework guaranteeing the right to “free and democratic discourse” (article 3) ;

  safeguards regarding public service media, which must be “editorially and functionally” independent and must have funding that guarantees this independence (article 5);

  the creation of regulations ensuring the transparency of media ownership, safeguarding the editorial independence of news media, and preventing conflicts of interest (article 6);

  the creation of a coordination mechanism between national regulators in order to respond to propaganda from hostile countries outside the EU (article 16);

  better protection for online content produced by news media vis-à the power of the leading platforms (article 17);

  the regulation of media acquisitions: they must be evaluated, not only with regard to their impact on the market, but also with regard to their impact on media pluralism and editorial independence (article 21);

  a requirement for member states to justify any legislative or administrative measure likely to affect editorial pluralism or independence, and to ensure that it is proportionate, foreseeable, and subject to appeal (article 20);

  regulations ensuring that state advertising is allocated among the various media in a transparent, objective, proportionate and non-discriminatory manner (article 24).

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