The European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs in Brussels heard on November 6 that "media freedom is not a done deal – even in the European Union."
Cyprus Press and Information office director, Eleonora Gavrielides, who was speaking on behalf of the Cypriot Presidency of the EU, told the hearing on Media Freedom: "More concerted and concentrated effort is needed to safeguard media freedom and pluralism in the Member States.”
The observation was shared by Anthony Whelan, Head of Cabinet of Commission Vice-president Neelie Kroes : "Most EU citizens enjoy a relatively high level of media freedom and pluralism, " he said, "but in a Union of 27, there are constant challenges to a completely open and plural environment."
Mr Whelan added: “Issues such as media concentration and diversity restrictions on the media, both online and offline, controlled pressure and interference by the State, and also in some cases failures of self regulation, constantly appear on the agenda.”
Another speaker at the hearing, Senior Manager of the Mapping Digital Media project Marius Dragomir, identified issues such as increasing the deregulation of ownership rules, and the negative impact of business restructuring on investigative journalism. “The situation is getting worse for media freedom as a result of the economic crisis”, he said.
European Broadcasting Union (EBU) Head of European Affairs Nicola Frank said that public service media (PSM) have a specific commitment to media freedom and pluralism, but require the right conditions to fulfil their mission. Ms Frank said: “The editorial independence of PSM must be scrupulously respected by governments and ensured by regular reviews by independently-operated bodies. There is also a need for adequate, sustainable funding."
University of Leuven Professor Peggy Valcke questioned why EU regulations required the establishment of independent regulatory bodies in the telecom, but not the media sector.
Many participants, including Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), said that the European Parliament should be courageous and make strong demands to counter the negative trends impeding media freedom in Europe and elsewhere.
Opinion expressed at the hearing will be included in the European Parliament’s upcoming report on Media Freedom Standard Setting by Romanian Liberal MEP Renate Weber, as well as the final report of the European Commission’s High Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism, expected this December.