Members of the European Parliament are calling for the Commission to draft a new directive on media freedoms and pluralism. If taken forward, the idea is that the directive would set out the minimum requirements for all EU countries, to guarantee freedom of expression and media pluralism.
---Update - the joint motion has been published - see link below ---
The call has been issued by the Socialist, Liberal and Left groups. It comes in the context of internal European Parliament negotiations regarding a Resolution on the Hungarian Media Law. This is the controversial Hungarian law which threatens to censor all media, including the Internet and websites.
The European Parliament Resolution is effectively a political statement which will send a message from Brussels to the Hungarian government, thus its content must reconcile the views of the different Party groups. As I write this, they are haggling over
the exact wording.
Most of the Party groups (all except UKIP) have proposed texts for the Resolution on the Hungarian Media Law. There are three clearly different positions.
The Socialists , Liberals, Left and Green groups are highlight the criticism of the Hungarian Media Law, from, among others, the OSCE. They call on the Hungarian authorities to review the law in an open and transparent manner, following up the Commission's critique of the law from January.
The ECR group ( British Conservatives) takes a diplomatic middle path, and stresses the requirement for Hungary to ensure that its law protects the right to freedom of expression and democratic values. The ECR position is in keeping with traditional British free speech values (although arguably it could go further on that basis).
The EPP takes an unusually non-diplomatic stance, defensive of the Hungarian government's position. Indeed, it tries to dig the knife into those who have criticised the law:
5. Expresses therefore disappointment as to the manipulative and politically motivated comments often out of content on the Hungarian Media Law and the Hungarian government, and considers that this unfounded criticism aims to weaken the Hungarian Presidency this way do harm to EU as a whole facing its biggest challenges since its creation; (sic)
Much criticism of the Hungarian Media Law has focussed on the obligation for all media, including websites, to be registered with an overseeing authority, which has the power to fine or ban media that fail to comply with rules on balanced coverage. One of it sharpest critics is the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe - an international organisation which monitors security and other issues in the former Eastern bloc.
By Hungarian government's own admission (in its reply to EU Commissioner Neelie Kroes, a copy of which has been seen by iptegrity) the law does indeed apply to websites, and specifically to on-demand, web-based video services. And the Hungarian government says that the registration requirement can be applied in the context of copyright.
However, there is also a lot which is not clear about where the law applies and what its effect could be. This is why the European Commission is analysing it, and in this context, an EU directive which clearly sets out what is required for protection of free speech and democratic values would appear to be a positive idea.
The exact text of the S&D call for a Media Freedoms directive is:
5. Calls the Commission, on the basis of Article 265 TFEU, to issue a proposal for a directive on media freedom and pluralism before the end of the year, hereby overcoming the inadequate EU legislative framework on media, making use of its competences in the fields of the internal market, audiovisual policy, competition, telecommunications, state subsidies, public service obligation and fundamental rights of citizens, in order to define at least the minimum essential conditions that all Member states must respect to ensure, guarantee and promote freedom of information and an adequate level of media pluralism;
The Parliament will vote on the Resolution on Wednesday.
Joint Motion for a Resolution on Media Law in Hungary - S & D, ALDE, Greens, GUE/NGL
This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial-Share Alike 2.5 UK:England and Wales License. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/uk/ It may be used for non-commercial purposes only, and the author's name should be attributed. The correct attribution for this article is: Monica Horten (2011), MEPs call for European media freedoms law http://www.iptegrity.com 14 February 2011