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European Parliament votes in favour of stronger press freedom rules

A protester holds a banner that reads: "Free Media", during a protest outside the Polish state-run radio station Radio Trojka, in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, May 22, 2020.
A protester holds a banner that reads: "Free Media", during a protest outside the Polish state-run radio station Radio Trojka, in Warsaw, Poland, Friday, May 22, 2020. Copyright Markus Schreiber/Copyright 2017 The AP. All rights reserved.
Copyright Markus Schreiber/Copyright 2017 The AP. All rights reserved.
By Sandor Zsiros
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Concerns have been growing in the EU over a backsliding of standards protecting journalists.

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The European Parliament on Tuesday voted in favour of stronger rules protecting press freedom and journalists.

The so-called Media Freedom Act, proposed in September 2022 by the European Commission, aims to enforce greater transparency of media funding, the protection of outlets from political pressure and the defence of journalists from spyware, such as Pegasus.

In an interview with Euronews, Juan Fernando López Aguilar - a Spanish MEP - said that these steps are necessary to protect democracy in the EU, rejecting any attempts by member states to water down the measures.

"Without media freedom, without media pluralism, without independence of public media, and without protecting journalists, there is no democracy worth the name," the socialist lawmaker explained.

"That is precisely why we're making a point here and we also intend to get media freedom and media pluralism on board the rule of law, democracy and fundamental rights framework, so that it makes sense that there would be rule of law conditionality - also for those countries who do not respect media freedom and media pluralism."

The regression of media freedom in member states like Poland and Hungary over recent years has worried journalists and NGOs across the continent. Many blame the EU for not taking action sooner to defend the sector.

Katalin Cseh, Hungarian opposition MEP, told Euronews that the law is coming too late, but that it could potentially correct some of the damages witnessed on the ground.

“I believe that the European Media Freedom Act is very long overdue, but a very essential piece of legislation and it is very necessary to have measures, such as proposed in the concentration of media ownership or limitations on state funding to media," she said on Tuesday. 

"If these processes would have been put in place a decade ago, then it wouldn't have happened that in the European member states such as Hungary, media can run with 90% only state funding."

NGOs and journalistic organisations have previously criticised the measures for not being ambitious enough, warning that some member states would like to water down the parts banning online surveillance and the protection of journalistic sources.

The Parliament will now enter negotiations with member states in order to find a common position on the measures before they can enter into force.

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