The situation of media freedom and pluralism in the European Union is worsening. Some countries, notably Hungary, suffer significant interference of political power aiming to control and direct the media. Some, notably the UK, suffer from problems of excessive concentration leading to undue influence of certain economic groups, notably Murdoch’s media empire, over political processes. Others, as the case particularly in Italy, Bulgaria, and to some extent Romania, experience a dangerous overlap of economical, media, and political interests in the hands of the same persons.
But without free, independent, and pluralistic media citizens are deprived of the possibility to keep power accountable. Corruption and maladimistration prosper, personal business and political interest replace the common good of all, minorities face increasing marginalisation. The deterioration of media pluralism and media freedom in Europe is above all a threat to democracy.
European institutions have, so far, refrained from taking a strong stance against individual Member States for such deterioration. This hands-off approach seems to have contributed to a negative domino effect, with worsening of legislation in one country indirectly leading to more restrictive moves in another. A Europe-wide civil society initiative to push for a stronger role for European institutions in safeguarding and protecting the independence and pluralism of the media is long overdue.
The European Initiative for Media Pluralism, bringing together nearly one hundred organisations, media, and professional bodies from throughout the continent, comes to fill this gap.
More then a network or a coalition of interests, the Initiative is a transnational subject with the ambition to initiate concrete changes in European legislation and media practice. To mark this ambition, the Initiative has just launched a European Citizens Initiative, a new tool of transnational participatory democracy allowing at least one million citizens in at least 7 EU member states to present directly to the European Commission a legislative proposal.
We demand of the European Commision to draft a Directive for the protection of media pluralism. In particular, we demand: a) effective legislation to avoid concretration 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) clearer European monitoring systems to check up regularly the health and independence of the media in member states.
The Initiative has received broad support from the cultural, academic, and political world. But most important of all, we aim to mobilise citizens from throughout Europe to stand up and demand that the European institutions show their commitment to fundamental rights and civil liberties, even when member states increasingly fail to do so.
For this we need to reach the crucial figure of one million signatures, a number which will allow the Initiative and all citizens participating in the campaign to open a legislative process at EU level.
Signing up is easy and can be done online. Join us, and stand up for your rights!