On February 7th, a pan-European coalition of citizens and nearly one hundred media groups, professional bodies, Independent Journalists and Civil Society Organisations from across the continent will launch the online collection of signatures for the first European Citizens’ Initiative targeting media freedom and pluralism. The European Citizens’ Initiative is a new tool of participatory democracy allowing citizens to collect at least one million signatures online or offline to present a legislative proposal directly to the European Commission, thereby changing EU law.

The situation of media freedom and pluralism in the European Union is worsening. Some countries, notably Hungary, suffer from a significant interference of political power seeking to control and direct the media. Some, notably the UK, suffer from problems of excessive concentration leading to undue influence of certain economic groups over political processes, notably Murdoch’s media empire. Others, particularly in the case of Italy, Bulgaria, and Romania, experience a dangerous overlap of economical, media, and political interests in the hands of the same people. European institutions have, so far, refrained from taking a strong stance against individual Member States for such deterioration.

“This hands-off approach has contributed to a negative domino effect, with worsening conditions and more permissive rules in one country leading to even lower standards in others,” says Lorenzo Marsili, Spokesperson of the Initiative, “”the erosion of the democratic structures of the mass media has proceeded with virtual impunity – the European initiative for media pluralism calls on European institutions to stop this trend”.

“It is time for the EU to actively defend and respect the values on which it is built” says Giovanni Melogli, Spokesperson of the Initiative, “European Citizens can’t anymore tolerate hypocrisy and incoherence in EU policies”.

The proposed ECI calls on the Commission to pass a Directive defending Media Pluralism in EU, containing:

effective legislation to avoid concentration of ownership in the media and advertisement sectors;
guaranteed independence of supervisory bodies, with a politically and culturally balanced and socially diverse membership;
definition of conflict of interests with media ownership;
broadcast, print and online media should be required to submit to a national media authority sufficient ownership information to allow identification of the beneficial and ultimate owners of media outlets.
Countries participating in the launch of the ECI are: France, Belgium, Hungary, Italy, United Kingdom, Romania, Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Portugal, and Spain.

For press information, please contact Anna Lodeserto – e-mail: info@mediainitiative.eu

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