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The EMFA must ensure journalist protection and raise the bar with online platforms

21 June 2023
The EMFA must ensure journalist protection and raise the bar with online platforms

On 21 June, deputy permanent representatives to the EU endorsed a negotiating mandate on the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA). Although applauding the Swedish Presidency’s commitment to this file, public service media call for more ambition in the upcoming trilogue discussions. Our aim is to ensure that the EMFA offers high levels of protection for journalists as well as for the independence and integrity of media, both offline and online.

Noel Curran, Director General of the EBU, said: “The EU Institutions intend for the EMFA to elaborate key principles that will shield media and journalists from threats and interference. In this compromise text, we see specific risks for the protection of journalists and their sources. Also, unchecked, this proposal could have no real impact on the unbalanced relationship between online platforms and media.”

Previously we have warned the EU that protections for journalists must be enshrined in the EMFA. However, we see dangerous loopholes that refer to national security, which can put journalists and their sources at risk.

The EMFA is meant to set out strong, high-level principles for independent and well-funded public service media. The EBU therefore calls on EU policymakers to work towards a stronger and clearer Article 5 in trilogue without weakening the core principles.

Further, the Council text fails to raise the bar in relation to online challenges. The agreement does not incentivize Member States to instate appropriate prominence measures for general interest media services, which become more difficult to find in an increasingly intermediated media environment. It also does not introduce any obligations for digital gatekeepers to ensure that audiences can properly identify the media provider responsible for media content and services when offered on digital devices and interfaces.    

The Council text makes some progress with the relationship between media and online platforms when they take down media content. However, without clear obligations and deadlines for platforms, this provision risks having no real impact on the ground. Online platforms should also be obliged to share with media providers reliable and meaningful audience measurement data in relation to the performance of their content and services.

Public service media have supported the aim of the EMFA from the beginning. There is strong belief that it could create a better environment for media online while ensuring pluralism and independence in the media sector. It is our strong hope that the European Parliament will adopt a more ambitious position and make sure that the trilogue negotiations move in a positive direction for Europe’s media.

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