European Parliament adopts Media Freedom Act

MEPs approved the EMFA to protect EU journalists from political or economic interference. It prohibits coercive measures to reveal sources, mandates judicial authorisation for surveillance, ensures transparent media ownership, and addresses online platform influence.

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With 464 votes in favor, 92 against, and 65 abstentions, MEPs adopted the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) aiming to safeguard the EU journalists and media from political or economic influence.

Provisions include prohibiting authorities from pressuring journalists to reveal sources through coercive measures like detention, sanctions, or intrusive surveillance. Any use of surveillance software requires judicial authorisation, with subjects being informed post-surveillance and granted the right to challenge it in court. To maintain editorial independence in public media, member states should adopt transparent procedures when selecting head and board members, with their dismissal contingent on failing to meet professional standards.

Transparency measures extend to media ownership, with outlets required to disclose ownership information in a national database. Additionally, fair allocation of state advertising funds is stipulated, with criteria for distribution being public and non-discriminatory.

The legislation also addresses the influence of big online platforms on media freedom, requiring platforms like Facebook and X to distinguish independent media from non-independent sources and provide notification and response mechanisms for content removal. Disputes may be settled through an out-of-court body, with the European Board for Media Services oversight.

Why does it matter?

The adoption of the EMFA by the European Parliament signals a new era for the EU journalists. While safeguards are in place, and member states must enforce them, concerns persist regarding the conditions for spyware use. The legislation permits spyware under specific circumstances with judicial authorsation. Yet, granting states discretion may risk misuse, potentially endangering journalists’ work.