EU officials acknowledge their weakness in protecting media freedom

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“I will always speak up for media freedom when it is under threat in EU member states and put political pressure on governments”, Neelie Kroes, the EU commissioner told a seminar organized by the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) on May 8 in the European parliament. But Ms Kroes admitted that the European Commission does not have the legal right to intervene when freedom of expression rights are broken. “No, we do not have the legal competence to defend media freedom in the member states” she said. 


Renate Weber, an MEP from the liberal group (ALDE) and another speaker at the seminar disagreed arguing that the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights which guarantees freedom of expression means that the EU institutions could and should do more at the European level to defend freedom of expression. Ms Weber is preparing a report on the subject for the parliament and a preliminary version will be presented in parliamentary committee on 20th June.
Jean-Paul Marthoz, from the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) also pressed for more action form the EU asking why the EU is co concerned about defending competition rights for business but much less about pluralism in the media. He spoke after Ms Anni Podimata, a European Parliament vice president and a former AEJ member, who said that media freedom should always be defended referring to recent neo-nazi death threats to a journalist in Greece.
Doris Pack , the head of the Culture Committee in the parliament from the right of centre EPP pleaded that now while the EU is unpopular it should not be seeking new competences. “I have been in this parliament for 22 years and I have come to understand that” she said. William Horsley, the AEJs media freedom representative, made the case for a more active role by the EU when media freedom is “threatened by bad laws and government actions”. “We should close the gap between the promise of the Charter and Fundamental Rights Agency and what the EU is doing” he argued.
Jaume Duch Guillot, the EP spokesman, closed the seminar, saying that Media Freedom is an ongoing concern for the parliament. He stressed that cooperation with journalist organisations, as today with the AEJ, is of importance on the subject.
The seminar was co-chaired by AEJ president Eileen Dunne and Ioannis Darmis, head of EP’s Media Services and Monitoring Unit, and organised by the EP’s DG Communication in cooperation with the AEJ. It was held as part of the AEJ’s 50th anniversary celebrations.
Full report on the AEJ-EP Seminar on Media Freedom in the EU

AEJ Media Freedom Representative: Proposals for EU Action
Blog of Jean-Paul Marthoz, one of the speakers in the AEJ/EP Seminar:
http://cpj.org/blog/2012/05/greek-far-right-party-casts-shadow-on-europe-press.php
Speech of Commission VP Neelie Kroes:
http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=SPEECH/12/335&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=en
EurActiv report:
http://www.euractiv.com/infosociety/media-freedom-sinks-crisis-bites-news-512573
William Horsley’s article in European Voice:
http://www.europeanvoice.com/article/imported/eu-must-protect-press-freedom/74258.aspx