Sarajevo, 03.04.2020. – In order to respond to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, the EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez and the EFJ Director Renate Schroeder held an online meeting with the Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová.
The representatives of EFJ expressed their strong concern regarding the emergency measures against press freedom taken by a number of European states, starting with Hungary.
COVID-19 is spawning a global press-freedom crackdown. In the face of this pandemic, European citizens need professional, economically secure journalists more than ever. The EU should take action and encourage its Member States to take action, said EFJ:
Regarding the issue of disinformation, we repeated that professional journalism, ethical journalism, media literacy and transparency are the best antidotes to disinformation. A credible EU plan to combat disinformation must necessarily integrate these four dimensions:
– Support to Professional journalism
– Self-regulatory bodies (press councils) in each European country
– Engagement in Media and Information Literacy
– Strong policies on Transparency and Access to Information
EFJ also called on the EU to support economically the media sector, as a vital sector for democracy. They told Ms Jourova that the EU must get each of its member states to launch a media recovery plan without delay. Instead of corporate tax cuts or social security cuts and stock buybacks, we need
targeted measures that will put more reporters on the ground.
The EU and national media recovery plans should include:
– Increasing national funding for public media;
– Direct financial support for daily and weekly newsrooms (direct,
emergency subsidies to fund newsroom jobs at commercial outlets committed to local coverage; deferred or no-interest business loans; tax credits on newsrooms staff wages; household tax credits for paid subscriptions to local news outlets; increased EU or government public-service advertising in local outlets…).
Subsidies will be distributed by an independent body, taking into consideration objective criteria (demonstrated loss of advertising revenue, endangered independent local media);
– EU and National News Innovation Funds to support, via an independent
body including journalists’ organisations, new approaches to newsgathering, specifically at local or community level. This body will distribute grants to support independent, community-based, investigative journalism and news start-ups, among other innovations. These funds could be sustained through a small tax (2%) on targeted online ads on online platforms.
– Printed or online media subscription vouchers offered to all EU
citizens aged 18 and 19.
The Vice President of the European Commission promised that she would relay these demands and meet again with the representatives of EFJ in two weeks. In the meantime, she urges all national journalists’ organisations to press their respective governments for specific state aid. She guaranteed that the European Commission would not oppose the granting of such aid under any circumstances.
EFJ knows that some countries have already obtained direct aid for journalists (notably in Italy and Malta).
-We ask you to share this information with the EFJ Secretariat so that we can disseminate it to all affiliates. This would be an act of solidarity – says a message from EFJ.