One of the things I have found most frustrating in my 10 years as an MEP is the seeming impossibility of getting information on the EU and what we do as MEPs out to a wider audience. Indeed, one of the reasons I started this blog was to put forward my, and the Labour Party’s, perspective on the European Parliament.
However, we now have a potentially much bigger fish in the form of a report about European Parliament and EU communication. Currently before the Culture and Education Committee, this report written by Danish MEP and former journalist Morten Lokkegaard, tells us unequivocally that “access to information for citizens and communication between policy-makers and voters are central elements” to our democracy and that we need clearer explanations of the local, national and European implications of laws and policies being considered in Brussels.
Mr. Lokkegaard goes on to say “politics and communication are two sides of the same coin. Consequently a problem arises if politics fails to be communicated properly. It is in this context that the EU faces its greatest challenge.”
These are very much my own views which the majority of my colleagues would also agree with. I would even go so far as to say many of us are desperate for our, i.e. EU and Euro Parl, news to become mainstream and raised out of its current Euro ghetto.
Lokkegaard has some serious thoughts. In an imaginative proposal, the report puts forward the idea of setting up a group of correspondents from among the specialised, accredited journalists in Brussels, whose role would be to cover European news in a more instructive manner while guaranteeing editorial independence. It also calls for public broadcasting to include European news to tell people more about the decision making process in the European Union.
No report of this kind would be complete without mentioning the “new” media. Lokkegaard seeks to expand the role of interactive media – Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, etc. While agreeing these forms of communication have their place, the report warns the EU and European Parliament to tread delicately in this area. It stresses “although social networks are a relatively good way of disseminating information rapidly, their reliability as sources cannot always be sufficiently guaranteed and they cannot be considered to be professional media”. It also “underlines that the way in which data is handled on social network platforms can in many cases be dangerous and give rise to serious breaches of journalistic ethics and that caution is therefore required when taking up these new tools.”
The report therefore calls for a code of ethics for this new type of media to be drawn up, something I would definitely support. The internet has now reached the stage in its development when we have to consider regulation, both self regulation and, where needed, binding legislation.
Morten Lokkegaard has produced a thought provoking report with plans for concrete action. I hope it will encourage us all to think about how we communicate both what we are doing and why we are doing it. If this were to improve, some MEPs such as myself may feel less frustrated at the seeming lack of interest and knowledge about what actually goes on in the European institutions.