Dear Mr. Alan Rusbridger,
I’m writing as an MEP and long-time supporter of the European Campaign on Media Pluralism in response to your appeal last week at the European Parliament. I know well that The Guardian does its best to preserve freedom of press, even if the situation of media freedom and pluralism in the European Union is worsening.
In Italy, for many years, information has firmly been in the hands of our former prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi. He, with the help of his family was the owner at the same time of public functions, of the Mediaset group, and of several fundamental sectors such as publishing, construction and sports. Moreover, Berlusconi indirectly controlled the Italian public broadcaster RAI as prime minister, and made himself the main character of conflict of interest which legislation has still not been made.
This has unfortunately been a bad example for all Europe, as there is in fact a dangerous overlap of economic, media and political interests in the hands of just a few private individuals. This influences touches particularly on Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria and Romenia, which are so restrictive that they were recently reclassified as only “partially-free” in the statistics of Freedom House.
Freedom and pluralism of the media is under attack in Europe. Today though, every European citizen, can get their right to the freedom of press by signing in support of the Media Pluralism Iniative. Thanks to the European Citizen’s Initiative, a new tool of transnational participatory democracy allowing at least one million citizens in at least 7 EU Member states to present a legislative proposal directly to the European Commission, it is possible to safeguard the right to independent and pluralistic information with common norms and binding rules.
Despite a Stall Vote in 2009 at the European Parliament on this issue, we want to rally all citizens to get a clear stance from the European Institution for civil rights and civil liberties.
The European Initiative for Media Pluralism brings together nearly one hundred organisations, media, and professional bodies from throughout the continent running a European Citizens Initiative. We demand the European Commission to draft a Directive on media pluralism containing: a) effective legislation to avoid concentration of ownership in the media and advertisement sectors; b) guaranteed independence of supervisory bodies from political power; c) definition of conflict of interests to avoid media moguls occupying high political office; d) monitoring systems to regularly check the health and independence of the media in member states.
I would like to conclude by appealing to the Guardian to continue working with strength and energy for freedom of the press. Mr Alan Rusbridger you asked us to protect journalism and I want to ask your help in waging the battle that we having been fighting for years from inside the institutions of the European Union and in civil society.
Niccolò Rinaldi, MEP