We are happy to begin 2014 with a new phase for our campaign, a new website that makes it easier to sign and new partners all across Europe.

At a first glance, 2013 might have looked like a quiet year, in which media moguls did not make the headlines as often as in previous years. Hungary’s Orban has seen his support dwindle and has adopted an deceptively more moderated stance. Silvio Berlusconi’s party has left Italy’s government and he has been finally condemned for his wrongdoings as the president of Mediaset. However, there is little to celebrate. Both Berlusconi and Orban have managed to change the media landscape in their countries, and nothing has been done to change that yet. They have also set a fatal example for others: in Romania, insulting politicians and libel have been made illegal after a vote by the Parliament. In Bulgaria, Delyan Peevski still holds more power than anyone else thanks to his control over media.

While severe issues of media concentration and political influence continue, new threats to freedom of expression come from the world of online and digital freedom. In 2013 we found out that even Angela Merkel’s phone was tapped, that big data corporations such as Facebook and Google read and store all of our personal information and share them with authorities any time they are asked, often bowing to the requests of totalitarian regimes such as China.

All across Europe pluralism is also threatened by the continued closure of newspapers, radio and TV channels. This includes the pubic sector, as the case of Greece’s or Valencia’s public broadcasting has shown. To make matter worse, those working in the media sector are undergoing increasingly precarious working conditions. Journalists whose jobs are under continuous threat are induced to focus on bottom-line journalism and not to risk their jobs by reporting on controversial or investigative journalism.

The European Initiative for Media Pluralism wants the European institutions to take a strong stance against these threats and to set high standards of media pluralism and freedom of expression to be implemented across the EU. The task we have set ourselves, one million signatures, is challenging. We can only reach this target if everyone in Europe who feels that any of the problems described above are worth spending one minute signing this Initiative does so and asks others to do the same. Great challenges bring great rewards.

2014 will be a critical year for Europe. With xenophobic and extreme right wing forces set to take their biggest share of the European parliament, it will be fundamental to respond with citizens-led demands for greater democracy, transparency and freedom.

It is up to each of you to make this possible.

Sign and make others sign

Alessandro Valera,
European Initiative for Media Pluralism