European Media Freedom Act : give the EU the means to effectively safeguard the right to reliable information

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on European Union member states and MEPs to amend the proposed European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) so that it effectively safeguards the right to reliable news and information, especially online, and favour sustainable journalism.

RSF approves of European intervention to safeguard media freedom within the EU, regards the proposed EMFA as potentially beneficial, and supports its goals. But it shares the concerns that have been raised about some of its provisions and calls for changes to make it more ambitious and coherent. 

RSF therefore urges EU culture ministers – who will meet tomorrow (16 May) to discuss the EMFA with a view to reaching an agreement next month –  to incorporate the specific changes proposed by RSF, which would address the EMFA’s shortcomings. RSF’s proposed changes are summarised below and are developed in the position paper attached to this press release.

 RSF proposes that the following points should be added to the EMFA: 

·   Online platforms must be required to promote trustworthy sources of news and information. In view of its importance in a democratic society, news content produced by media that respect professional journalistic standards must be given a competitive advantage over other types of online content. The Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) could be used for this purpose. 

  • The mechanism aimed at protecting the news media against content moderation by platforms must be strengthened so that it cannot benefit propaganda or disinformation outlets. Only news media offering guarantees of reliability should be able to benefit from this mechanism. The criteria for identifying media eligible for such protection should be strengthened. The JTI could be used for this purpose as well.

  • The safeguards for editorial independence within the news media need to be revised. They could require the adoption of internal codes specifying the rights and obligations of publishers, editors and journalists. There should also be provision for independence and ethics committees.

  • To prevent conflicts of interest and content corruption, member states should penalise media owners or managers who abuse their ability to influence journalistic content with the aim of furthering their interests or the interests of third parties. To this end, the EMFA should call on member states to criminalise influence peddling within the news media in the same way as influence peddling by public office holders is already criminalised.

  • A new legal framework should be outlined to address foreign interference, a system for the protection of democratic information spaces.This reciprocity mechanism based on universal principles would protect journalism and democracies.

  • Creating market or tax mechanisms to ensure the sustainability of the media is crucial. Advertisers could be required to direct a portion of their advertising investments toward media offering reliability guarantees, and thereby help to fund them. Platforms and advertisers could be subject to a tax on online advertising, the proceeds of which would be allocated to funding reliable news sources. Or tax incentive mechanisms could be used to get advertisers direct advertising investments toward reliable sources of information– for example, by means of a tax credit reserved for ads placed with media of this kind.

RSF submitted recommendations for the EMFA before the European Commission unveiled its final draft in September, and has complemented its recommendations since then, in a continuing dialogue with the EMFA’s authors, MEPs and member states within the Council.


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