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27 November 2020

European Parliament Warns Of Dangers To Media Freedom

The European Parliament has warned of attempts to silence critics and undermine pluralism, stating that media freedom, pluralism and the safety of journalists are crucial to the freedom of expression and information.

In a resolution adopted with 553 votes to 54 and 89 abstentions, the European Parliament stated: “Parliament is deeply concerned about the state of media freedom within the EU and denounces the violence, harassment and pressure faced by journalists.”

“Attempts by governments of some member states to silence critical and independent media and undermine media freedom and pluralism,” it added. 

TheEuropean Parliament warned that “freedom of the media has been deteriorating in recent years” which has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

MEPs highlighted the need to better protect journalists and called on public figures to refrain from demeaning journalists, and insisted on the legal obligation to examine all attacks, as well as a “robust legal framework to prevent and combat increasing online hate speech and call for more collaboration between online platforms and law enforcement authorities”, with MEPs stressing “that platforms’ voluntary actions are “necessary yet still insufficient” in tackling disinformation, illegal content and foreign interference”.

Wout van Wijk, executive-director at News Media Europe, says: “With threats to press freedom and attacks on journalists increasing across Europe, it is crucial that the European Parliament pushes for concrete measures for better protection of journalists against violence or any interference with their work. In a democracy, news professionals are accountable to citizens, and citizens only.

“The recognition of the financial independence of newsrooms in press freedom is absolutely crucial. We will continue to work with EU Institutions to restore fair market conditions and pluralism online, particularly against tech giants, for press publishers to continue fulfilling their mission towards EU citizens.”

Separately, the Adam Smith Institute, published a report stating that freedom of expression is under severe threat in the UK and “there should be no right to not be offended, no right to prevent others from expressing ideas that one finds uncomfortable or dislikes, in positive law.

“Freedom of expression is fundamental to life in a free and democratic society," the report said, adding: "Censorship impedes this process.”

The report called for a Free Speech Act to be introduced in the UK, modelled on the First Amendment of the USA. The report argues that UK Parliament should create an “inviolable liberty that protects political expression of any type that falls short of direct incitement from state interference.”

The report argues both, “existing laws and the new ones under discussion go against the British principles regarding free speech built up in political and legal case law that guard freedom of expression not only to ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb the State or any sector of the population.”

Commenting on the report, Andrew Rosindell MP said: “Throughout history, societies have disagreed about the path forward. Ultimately there are two ways of resolving disagreements: violence, or free and open debate.

“For centuries our great nation has navigated choppy waters because of our commitment to the latter. With the flourishing of a free press, free speech, and a free economy, this nation has gone from strength to strength.

“The battle to preserve free speech is one every generation must fight. I fear that at the moment we are not doing enough to win this battle, as extremists from both ends attempt to stifle open inquiry. I fully endorse the work of organisations such as the Adam Smith Institute to re-examine our laws and norms in this matter of vital importance.”