MEPs on Wednesday gave their final green light to new legislation to protect EU journalists and media from political or economic interference. Under the new law, adopted by 464 votes in favour to 92 against and 65 abstentions, member states will be obliged to protect media independence and all forms of interventions in editorial decisions will be banned.

Authorities will be prohibited from pressing journalists and editors to disclose their sources, including by detaining them, sanctions, office searches, or by installing intrusive surveillance software on their electronic devices. Parliament added sizeable safeguards to allow the use of spyware, which will be possible only on a case-by-case basis and subject to authorisation by a judicial authority investigating serious crimes punishable by a custodial sentence. Even in these cases, subjects will have the right to be informed after the surveillance has occurred and will be able to challenge it in court.

To prevent public media outlets from being used for political purposes, their heads and board members should be selected through transparent and non-discriminatory procedures for sufficiently long terms of office. It will not be possible to dismiss them before their contract ends, unless they no longer meet the professional criteria. Public media will have to be financed using transparent and objective procedures, and the funding should be sustainable and predictable.

To enable the public to know who controls the media and what interests may influence reporting, all news and current affairs outlets regardless of their size will have to publish information about their owners in a national database, including if they are directly or indirectly owned by the state. Media will also have to report on funds received from state advertising and on state financial support, including from non-EU countries. Public funds to media or online platforms will have to be allocated via public, proportionate and non-discriminatory criteria. Information on state advertising expenditure will be public, including the total annual amount and the amount per outlet.

MEPs made sure to include a mechanism to prevent very big online platforms, such as Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) or Instagram, from arbitrarily restricting or deleting independent media content. Platforms will first have to distinguish independent media from non-independent sources. Media would be notified when the platform intends to delete or restrict their content and have 24 hours to respond. Only after the reply (or in the absence of it) may the platform delete or restrict the content if it still does not comply with its conditions. Media will have the option to bring the case to an out-of-court dispute settlement body and request an opinion from the European Board for Media Services (a new EU board of national regulators to be set up by the EMFA).

Source: European Parliament

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