World news headlines today | EU targets "press freedom" with new legislation

The rules are intended to prevent political influence on editorial choices.



The European Commission has introduced sweeping new rules that it says will shield independent media from governmental snooping and intervention. The Media Freedom Act, which was released on Friday, forbids the use of spyware and other forms of surveillance against journalists and their families as well as the search and seizure of media offices unless it is "on the grounds of national security," in which case there is a high standard of proof that must be met by law enforcement.


To guarantee "media pluralism" by requiring transparency, the Act will also oblige media businesses to disclose their ownership and any conflicts of interest that may affect their reporting. That clause of the law has already drawn criticism from the European Magazine Media Association and the European Newspaper Publishers' Association, who claim it restricts their "freedom to invest and manage a business."


The law will also establish an "independent" European Board for Media Services, comprised of "national media authorities," with the responsibility of guiding on legal matters, such as the distribution of public advertising and the concentration of power in the hands of a small number of media conglomerates. Additionally, this body is intended to prevent non-EU media from interfering and "presenting a risk to public security" as well as to ensure that international internet platforms abide by purportedly voluntary EU initiatives like the Code of Practice on Disinformation.


The law includes large loopholes allowing for the removal of such content in the case of "systematic risks such as disinformation," a term it avoids defining but has recently been used by Western governments to marginalize and censor dissenting viewpoints. The law claims to protect against the "unjustified removal of media content produced according to professional standards."


In an extraordinary act of censorship earlier this year, the EU outright banned RT and Sputnik, citing "systematic disinformation" over the situation in Ukraine. The EU also changed its Code of Practice on Disinformation to specifically target Russia and Russian media. This "voluntary" agreement was signed by Google, Microsoft, Twitter, TikTok, and Meta. The alliance also collaborated with NewsGuard, a Pentagon contractor, to boost its "disinformation" campaign last year.


Greece, which hacked a finance journalist's phone, and Germany, which seized a journalist's bank account and threatened to put her in prison for three years for her reporting, are two European governments that have come under fire recently for interfering with the lawful practice of journalism.


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