A Loss for Media Freedom at Home plus a Victory in the European Parliament

As Rupert Murdoch seems almost certain to gain control of the 61 percent of BSkyB he doesn’t already own, the vitally important though very thorny issue of media control and media plurality is very much on the UK agenda.

To the shame of the Tory-led government’s Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt and the detriment of the British people, Mr Hunt intends to permit this £8 billion deal impeded only by a 10 year agreement to hive off the loss making Sky News.

However, we are not the only EU member state to feel the cold winds of such control and repression of freedom.  I have in the past blogged about Hungary where the right-wing parliament is seeking more powers over the media.  The European Commission has attempted to rectify the situation, but with little success.

Accordingly the European Parliament passed a resolution today asking the Hungarian authorities to suspend the implementation of the new media laws and for the European Commission to set a deadline for this.

The text of the main points of the resolution is set our below.

This is a major step forward and demonstrates that MEPs will not sit idly by while media freedom is compromised.

  • Calls on the Hungarian authorities to suspend the implementation of the new media laws, as the government’s 2/3 legislative majority does not give it a right to decide alone in matters of media freedom; and instead start the legislation anew in parity-based discussion forums that include opposition and civil society, with a view of improving the laws also on the basis of the remarks and proposals made by the European Parliament, the Commission, Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights, recommendations of the Committee of Ministers and Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and jurisprudence of the European Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights;
  • Calls on the Hungarian authorities to restore independence of media governance, with a parity based political composure and participation of journalists associations, while restricting media governance to the audiovisual field, removing its control over press and the internet; restore constitutional safeguards for media pluralism and true judicial overview by appeals to ordinary courts; limit the state interference with freedom of expression concerning balanced coverage to television only; protect investigative journalism by protection of confidential sources, removing news prescriptions and registration as a pre-requisite for operation; respect the country of origin principle enshrined in the Audio-Visual Media Services Directive;
  • Calls on the Hungarian authorities to involve all stakeholders in relation to the revision of the Constitution, which is the basis of a democratic society based on the rule of law, with appropriate checks and balances to ensure the fundamental rights of the minority against the risk of the tyranny of the majority;
  • Calls on the Commission to set a close deadline for the Hungarian authorities to change the law on the points raised by OSCE, the Council of Europe, the Commission and the European Parliament, and shall the deadline not be met, proceed with infringement proceedings;
  • Requests the Commission to submit a proposal for EU legislation on media freedom, pluralism and independent governance before the end of the year, hereby overcoming the inadequacies of the EU’s legislative framework on media, making use of its competences in the fields of the internal market, audiovisual policy, competition, telecommunications, State subsidies, public service obligation and fundamental rights of everyone on EU territory, in order to define at least the minimum essential standards that all Member states must meet and respect in national legislation to ensure, guarantee and promote freedom of information, an adequate level of media pluralism and independent media governance;
  • Calls on the Commission and the Council to ensure that democratic values including media freedom are respected within the EU and remain central to its foreign policy, while continuing to show support to media freedom campaigners inside and out of the EU;

 

1 Comment

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One response to “A Loss for Media Freedom at Home plus a Victory in the European Parliament

  1. Daniel Oxley

    ‘Calls on the Commission’, ‘Request the Commission’, ‘Calls on the Hungarian Authorities’, ‘Asks the Hungarian Authorities’?

    Does the EU Parliament have a Plan B if their requests go unheeded? Will they re-word their document to read, ‘Pretty please, O wise and wonderful Commission’, ‘If its not too much trouble could you consider at some moment convenient to yourselves, this our humble petition from your most loyal and obedient servants’.

    Parliaments are supposed to be the voice of the people, they are supposed to be sovereign, they are supposed to make laws and to hold governments to account. The EU Parliament’s relationship with the Commission seems to be similar to that of a particularly obsequious courtier at the Court of Louis XIV with his royal master. Commission President Barroso is not a French Monarch, he is a Maoist from Portugal.