Donnerstag, 28.01.2021 15:19 Uhr

Transparency of media ownership is crucial

Verantwortlicher Autor: Carlo Marino Rome, 19.11.2020, 19:03 Uhr
Nachricht/Bericht: +++ Politik +++ Bericht 5446x gelesen

Rome [ENA] The transparency of media ownership is an absolute precondition for ensuring media pluralism and independent journalism. Media freedom, pluralism, independence and the safety of journalists are vital components of the right of freedom of expression and information, and are essential to the democratic functioning of a democracy. Key democratic tasks of the media include

strengthening transparency and democratic accountability. The media play an essential role in democratic society by acting as public watchdogs, while helping to inform and empower citizens by widening their understanding of the current political and social landscape and fostering their conscious participation in democratic life. The global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic is a game changer in the international environment and a catalyst of change in the global order and has highlighted the essential role played by journalists in providing citizens with reliable and verified information. Anyway, more effort must be made to ensure safe and suitable working conditions for journalists.

Investigative journalism should be given particular consideration in the perspective of fighting corruption and maladministration. Some EU Member States limit the freedom of the media through economic means, such as distorted public advertising among media outlets that alters competition, and directly control public media in order to influence editorial decisions and thus ensure pro-government loyalty. Public authorities should adopt a legal and regulatory framework which fosters the development of free, independent and pluralistic media. In fact all Member States must adhere to the values enshrined in Article 2 of the TEU.

Media capture, the lack of institutional transparency, hate speech and disinformation are increasingly being exploited for political purposes as tools to exaggerate social polarisation. Fighting these phenomena is not only relevant to the domain of human rights, but is also a fundamental factor in terms of the defence of the rule of law and democracy. According to the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted and amplified many other crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information. The index has revealed significant differences between the individual EU Member States, some scoring among the top in the world ranking,

while others towards the bottom, which has resulted in a gap of more than 100 places between the best- and worst-performing Member States. Several Member States have fallen in international press freedom rankings. The freedom of the media has been deteriorating in recent years, and while the COVID-19 outbreak has exacerbated this deterioration, it has also brought to the forefront the importance of the media and the right of access to reliable information. According to the 2019 Reuters Institute Digital News Report the average level of trust in the news in general (worldwide) was down 2 percentage points to 42 % compared with 2018 and less than half those surveyed (49 %) said that they trusted the news media they themselves used;

whereas trust in the news found via search (33 %) and social media (23 %) remains stable but extremely low. In this scenario journalists and other media actors continue to face violence, threats, harassment, pressure, (self-)censorship, public shaming and even assassination in the EU as a result of doing their job to protect the public interest. Recent years have shown a growing pattern of intimidation aimed at silencing journalists that requires urgent action to uphold the essential role of the independent media in ensuring the principles of the rule of law. The murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia and Ján Kuciak are two tragically profound examples of the extent to which investigative journalists are being targeted for exposing corruption

and protecting democracy and the rule of law. In several Member States, strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) are a continued practice used to scare journalists into halting investigations into corruption and other matters of public interest. The right of journalists to report and investigate needs to be further enhanced and effectively protected. The global COVID-19 crisis is having a devastating social and economic impact on the media sector. Media outlets have been reporting considerable losses in their advertising revenue, thousands of media workers have already lost or are at risk of losing their jobs, either temporarily or permanently.

This has had a particularly strong impact on freelance journalists and media workers, whose number is increasing throughout the EU and who already constitute a significant proportion of all journalists and media workers in Europe.The phenomenon of cyber violence (including online hate speech, cyberstalking and online harassment) is becoming more widespread. In certain EU Member States the politically motivated restriction of information exists in practice, for example denying access to data of public interest, using delay tactics, the unjustified narrowing of the scope of information requested, banning journalists from public venues including parliaments, restricting

journalists’ opportunities for interviews with politicians and members of the government, and avoiding giving interviews to media outlets not in the government-friendly conglomerate, even those with significant national outreach. Democratic public authorities must ensure transparency with regard to their activities, thereby helping to bolster public confidence, given that the free flow of information helps to protect life and health and facilitates and promotes social, economic and political debate and decision-making.

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