HomeInsightsEuropean Parliament formally adopts Media Freedom Act


The European Parliament has overwhelmingly approved the Media Freedom Act, a landmark piece of legislation that seeks to bolster the protection and independence of journalists, improve transparency on media ownership, and prevent online platforms from arbitrarily deleting or restricting media content.

The law, which now requires adoption by the EU’s 27 member states before it can come into force, contains a number of measures aimed at protecting the work of journalists, including prohibiting authorities from pressuring them to disclose their sources through detention, sanction, and the searching of premises. One subject that proved to be more contentious in discussions was the ability of authorities to use spyware to monitor journalists, with some pushing for stronger safeguards. As drafted, the law will allow the use of spyware on a “case-by-case basis and subject to authorisation by a judicial authority investigating crimes punishable by a custodial sentence”. Journalists will have the right to be informed after the event of such surveillance taking place and be able to challenge it in court.

The law also requires all news and current affairs outlets of any size to publish information about their owners, which will be available in a national database. Furthermore, it requires the reporting of funds received from state advertising and of state financial support, including from non-EU countries. Public media outlets will have to be funded using transparent and objective procedures, and their heads and board members must be selected through transparent and non-discriminatory procedures and allowed to serve sufficiently long terms of office without being dismissed.

The European Parliament also included measures aimed at combating the deletion or restriction of media content on online platforms. Platforms will have to notify when they intend to restrict or remove content, and the relevant media organisation will have 24 hours to respond before any action is taken. Media organisations will be able to bring any disputes to an “out-of-court settlement body” and request an opinion from the European Board for Media Services, a new organisation what will oversee the application of the new laws.

Heralding the passing of the Act, rapporteur from the Culture and Education Committee, Sabine Verheyen, said that “The significance of media plurality for a functioning democracy cannot be stressed enough. Press freedom is threatened worldwide, including in Europe: the murder in Malta, threats to press freedom in Hungary and many other examples clearly prove that. The European Media Freedom Act is our answer to this threat and a milestone in European legislation. It values and protects the double role of media as businesses and as guardians of democracy”.

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