EU takes aim at ‘press freedom’ with new law — Analysis

These regulations are intended to protect against interference from political parties in editorial decisions

European Commission unveils new, broad regulations that it says will safeguard independent media against surveillance and political interference. The Media Freedom Act, published on Friday, will ban the use of spyware and other surveillance tactics against journalists and their family members, and forbid the search and seizure of media offices – except “National security grounds,” in which case law enforcement must meet a high burden of proof. 

The legislation will also require media companies to disclose their ownership and any conflicts of interest that might influence their reporting in the name of ensuring “media pluralism” by mandating transparency. The European Magazine Media Association and European Newspaper Publishers’ Association have already taken issue with that part of the law, arguing it impinges on their “Freedom to start and manage a business.

The law will also form an “independent” European Board for Media Services, which will be populated by “National media authorities” and tasked with advising on regulatory issues, including the allocation of state advertising and concentration of power in the hands of a few media conglomerates. This body is also meant to guard against the intrusion of non-EU media that “It poses a threat to the public’s security” and ensure global internet platforms comply with supposedly voluntary EU initiatives such as the Code of Practice on Disinformation.

Google to ‘inoculate’ Eastern Europeans against disinformation

While the law purports to protect against the “Unjustified removals of media content that was produced in accordance with professional standards,” it includes broad loopholes allowing for the removal of such content in the case of “Disinformation is a systematic risk,” a term it avoids defining but which has in recent years been used by Western governments to marginalize and censor dissenting viewpoints.

Earlier this year, the EU outright banned RT and Sputnik in an unprecedented censorship move, citing “Systematic disinformation” regarding the conflict in Ukraine and revised its Code of Practice on Disinformation to explicitly target Russia and Russian media. Signatories of this “Volunteer” pact include Google, Microsoft, Twitter, TikTok, and Meta. Last year, the bloc also partnered with Pentagon contractor NewsGuard to advance its fight against “Information.”

In the last few months, several European governments were criticized for interfering the legal practice of journalism. These include Greece, who hacked the telephone of a finance journalist, as well as Germany, that seized the bank account a journalist and threatened her three-year imprisonment due to her reporting.

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