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Laws protecting media freedom in the EU have entered into force

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So far, European Union as a whole it had no common laws protecting the media. Adoption European Law on Freedom of the Media (European Media Freedom Act, EMFA), which aims to protect media freedom and pluralism, changes this situation.

Media freedom. The EU has adopted new regulations

New regulations prohibit the use of spyware against journalists, including freelancers. Exceptions are strictly defined cases, e.g. authorities investigating serious crimes such as terrorism or murder, subject to prior court approval. Even then, journalists affected by such a procedure will have to be informed after the fact and will be able to challenge the surveillance in court.

The authorities will also not be able to force journalists and editors to reveal their sources. For refusing to disclose informants, they will not be able to be detained, punished, searched in their offices or installed on their electronic devices, including computers or phones, with invasive monitoring software.

EMFA also provides transparency of financing and ownership structure of the media. These obligated entities will publish information in the national database about who owns them and whether and to what extent they are owned by the state. As EU lawmakers explain, “the public should know who controls the media and what interests can influence the editorial line”.

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The media will also have to report their revenues from state advertising and the state financial support they receive, also from outside the EU. This is intended to help avoid a situation in which funds are granted for loyalty to the authorities. Too State Treasury companies and public bodies will have to provide detailed information on advertising spending, including the total annual amount and the amount allocated to each publisher.

Viera Jourova: Journalists should be protected

As far as public media are concerned, requirements have been introduced according to which: presidents and board members are to be elected on the basis of transparent procedures and for appropriately long terms of office, which is to ensure their independence from changing state authorities. They will not be able to be dismissed before the end of the contract, except, of course, when they fail to fulfill their obligations.

It was also established within EMFA European Media Services Council (replaced the EU Council of National Regulatory Authorities), which is to issue opinions, e.g. on planned takeovers or media concentration.

They have regulations too protect media freedom from large online platforms such as Facebook and X (formerly Twitter). They will no longer be able to arbitrarily limit or remove content published by independent media. If the website decides to delete or block media materials because, for example, a given article seems “suspicious”, it will first have to inform its publisher about this. The latter will have 24 hours to respond and possibly negotiate with the platform.

“The EU recognizes that journalists play a key role in democracy and should be protected“- commented the Vice-President of the European Commission on Tuesday Viera Jourovawhich has been one of the biggest advocates of regulation from the very beginning.

The draft regulations were presented by European Commission in September 2022, after being agreed by Parliament and the Council in December last year. The incentive to introduce regulations was media situation in Hungary and Poland. It's mainly about politicization of Polish public television during the PiS government and the Hungarian Central European Press and Media Foundation (KESMA), which controls several hundred titles in that country.

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“Events”: A government meeting with eavesdropping in the background/Polsat News/Polsat News

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