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Wednesday, 25 November 2020 - Brussels Revised edition

11. Hungarian interference in the media in Slovenia and North Macedonia (debate)
Video of the speeches
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  Presidente. – Segue-se na ordem do dia o debate sobre as Declarações do Conselho e da Comissão sobre a interferência da Hungria nos meios de comunicação social na Eslovénia e na Macedónia do Norte (2020/2840(RSP)).

Recordo aos Senhores Deputados que, em todos os debates deste período de sessões, não haverá procedimentos “catch the eye” nem perguntas “cartão azul”.

Preveem-se intervenções a partir dos nossos Gabinetes de Ligação nos Estados-Membros.

 
  
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  Věra Jourová, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, honourable Members, thank you for including this topic on the plenary agenda. The Commission attaches great importance to freedom of expression, media pluralism and freedom of the media in the EU Member States as well as in the EU candidate countries and potential candidates. Free and pluralistic media is essential to democracy. It helps citizens hold to account those in power and allow them to make informed electoral choices and fend off disinformation and attempts to manipulate the democratic debate and interfere in elections. It also helps ensure that a plurality of views can be expressed and heard in the democratic debate. This is why the Commission will include measures to strengthen media freedom and pluralism in the upcoming European democracy action plan, alongside measures targeted to fighting disinformation and ensure free and fair elections.

While the measures presented in the action plan will in a large proportion address threats to democracy in the EU, the plan will also have a strong international dimension. The Commission already supports media freedom and pluralism through a variety of initiatives within the scope of its competences. The media pluralism monitor, drawn up by the independent Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom and co-financed by the Commission, examines threats and risks to media pluralism in the EU and selected candidate countries and potential candidates. Media freedom and pluralism is also part of the Commission’s annual rule of law report. The 2020 report adopted in September covers all 27 Member States, including Hungary and Slovenia. The report examines a number of issues relevant for media freedom and pluralism, including transparency of media ownership, state advertising and political control of the media.

Concerning North Macedonia, the Commission and the EU delegation are following the developments in the media sector in the country very closely. The Commission reports on these issues in its regular enlargement packages, including in its latest 2020 report on North Macedonia. This report assessed that greater transparency on media ownership and possible illegal media concentration is required.

In accordance with the division of competences between the European Union and its Member States, matters regarding the application of electoral laws are the responsibility of the Member State authorities and it is for the competent national administrative and judicial authorities to ensure compliance with applicable EU law and relevant standards. As a part of the electoral package issued by the Commission in September 2018, the Commission asked the Member States, in line with their applicable rules, to encourage and facilitate the transparency of paid online political advertisements and communications. National and European political parties, foundations and campaign organisations were asked to provide such transparency. The law in many Member States, including Slovenia and Hungary, regulates transparency in campaigning.

Concerning the online platforms’ role, the major online platforms that are signatories to the self-regulatory code of practice on disinformation have committed to provide transparency and public disclosure around online political advertising.

Democracy is a common value of the European Union. The functioning itself of our Union is founded on the principle of representative democracy. Elections in Europe shall be conducted according to the highest democratic standards. You can count on the Commission’s vigilance on these important matters in line with our competence. The aim will be to counter disinformation and to adapt to evolving threats and manipulations, as well as to support free and independent media.

 
  
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  Romana Tomc, v imenu skupine PPE. – Spoštovani! Govorimo o vprašanju, ki je zastavljeno izključno z namenom vmešavanja v notranje zadeve in diskreditiranja slovenske vlade. Absurdno pri tem je, da temelji na informacijah nekega obskurnega slovenskega spletnega portala s sumljivim in nepreglednim lastništvom, znanega po napadih na desno-sredinsko vlado in po novinarjih, ki so že bili obtoženi na novinarskem častnem razsodišču.

V Sloveniji imamo resne težave z medijskim prostorom, ki je popolnoma neuravnotežen že trideset let. Monopoli, ki so se na vseh področjih, od gospodarstva do sodstva in medijev, oblikovali v tem času, so v rokah levice. To preprečuje uresničevanje demokratičnih procesov v državi. Poseben problem je nacionalna radio-televizija, za katero bi pričakovali, da je neodvisna, pa žal temu ni tako.

Dominantni mediji v Sloveniji predstavljajo 90 % medijskega prostora. Tisti v slovenski lasti so v rokah leve tajkunske elite, ki preko njih izvaja politično agendo. In njihova moč je izjemna. Razen nekaj svetlih izjem je objektivno novinarstvo v Sloveniji žal mit. O zgodbah, ki jim ne ustrezajo ne pišejo. Veliko je prikrivanja in pristranskega poročanja, zato je tistih nekaj ne-levih in neodvisnih medijev za Slovenijo res izjemnega pomena.

Veliko nepreglednost v lastništvu ugotavlja tudi Evropska komisija. Spremembe so torej potrebne in ne pomenijo uničevanja neodvisnih medijev. Ravno nasprotno, so poskus, kako medijski prostor narediti boljši, bolj neodvisen, pregleden in uravnotežen.

Žal je ravno ta primer očiten dokaz, kako celo v Evropskem parlamentu slovenski socialisti zlorabljajo medije za politični boj. Za mano bosta nastopili dve bivši slovenski novinarki, ki imata bogate izkušnje z neuravnoteženim medijskim prostorom. Bili sta del tega in ne dvomim, da bosta z vsemi silami branili monopole, v katerih sta delovali.

 
  
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  Tanja Fajon, v imenu skupine S&D. – Spoštovana komisarka! To je žal naša realnost.

Kolegica je žal spet blatila mojo državo in vse drugače misleče. Ni bil to namen te razprave. Mi smo vam zastavili pet konkretnih vprašanj, prispevkov preiskovalnih novinarjev. Zakaj so ta izjemno pomembna?

Če drži, da so madžarska podjetja blizu najožjega kroga madžarskega premierja Orbana, govorimo o 4 milijonih evrov, financirala nakupe medijev v Severni Makedoniji v času pred volitvami za podporo nekdanjemu makedonskemu premierju Gruevskemu, ki je pozneje pridobil azil na Madžarskem, je to lahko grobo poseganje v demokratične procese držav.

Poldrugi milijon madžarskega denarja naj bi domnevno prišel tudi na račune dveh slovenskih medijskih hiš blizu te, trenutno vladajoče, SDS. Nakazila je preiskovala parlamentarna komisija, žal pa se je zamenjala vlada in preiskava se je zaustavila.

Moja skrb je – tudi ob nedavni prodaji slovenske medijske hiše madžarski TV hiši – da gre za vpletanje madžarskega političnega vrha v medije in demokratične procese moje države.

Če bo to dokazano, je skrajno nedopustno. Svoboda medijev in suverenost naših držav nista naprodaj. Nikjer in nikoli.

 
  
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  Irena Joveva, v imenu skupine Renew. – Gospod predsednik, vseh 42 minut, kolikor naj bi jih bilo namenjenih tej razpravi, je žal premalo, da bi lahko povedali, kaj vse je narobe na tem področju.

Ravno včeraj smo tu razpravljali, da se je stanje svobode medijev v Uniji poslabšalo. In ravno večino včeraj izpostavljenih problematik v bistvu lahko nazorno vidimo pri madžarskem vmešavanju v medije v Severni Makedoniji in v Sloveniji. Poleg tega niti ni več skrivnost, da poskuša slovenska vlada – brez mandata javnosti – Slovenijo predrugačiti v iliberalno družbo. Po vzoru Orbana, kakopak.

Napadi na javne medije, ogrožanje njihovega financiranja in vodenje paralelne strankarske medijske krajine, ki se za povrh očitno financira iz Orbanovega kroga, so le trije od mnogih poskusov uzurpiranja oblasti z metodami, ki kršijo temeljne vrednote Unije.

Komisija bi zato po mojem morala spremljati tudi marsikatere druge poteze naše vlade, ker dejanja največje stranke v bistvu preraščajo v problem celotne Unije.

Jaz sicer mislim, da se tega zavedamo vsi tu, kot se zavedamo tudi, da je Unija v preteklosti predolgo naivno odlašala z ukrepanjem, dokler ni en tak problem ušel izpod nadzora. In tu dejansko uhajajo zadeve izpod nadzora.

Orodja imamo pa na voljo, saj veste. Ampak veste tudi, kaj še potrebujemo, da se zoperstavimo takemu razkroju naših demokracij. Pogum in politično voljo. Zato tokrat res ne želim splošnih odgovorov, ampak konkretno opredelitev do tega problema. In predvsem želim dejanja.

 
  
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  Dominique Bilde, au nom du groupe ID. – Monsieur le Président, c’est avec plaisir que je prends la parole depuis notre beau Parlement de Strasbourg.

Le débat de ce jour illustre le gouffre qui sépare désormais les citoyens des États membres de leurs élites. En effet, son objet se résume à un ramassis d’allégations spécieuses relatives à certains médias nord-macédoniens financés par des personnalités hongroises et à la promotion qui y serait faite de marques d’huile d’olive ou d’aimants pour frigos. Voilà donc à quoi en est réduite l’institution européenne, déterminée à faire feu de tout bois pour acculer le gouvernement de Viktor Orbán. En réalité, ce dernier n’est coupable à leurs yeux que d’avoir opposé une fin de non-recevoir à l’accueil des migrants et posé son veto au budget européen en réponse à l’inique principe de conditionnalité.

Cette discussion sur un sujet dénué d’intérêt pour nos concitoyens détourne habilement l’attention de la véritable bombe à retardement que constitue le projet insensé d’élargissement aux Balkans, notamment à l’Albanie et à la Macédoine du Nord. Car l’ingérence que nous devrions dénoncer en l’espèce, ce n’est pas celle soi-disant pratiquée par la Hongrie au bénéfice d’un parti conservateur nord-macédonien, non, c’est celle de Tirana qui, forte de l’assise de quelque 25 % d’Albanais de Macédoine du Nord, semble tisser patiemment la toile de la Grande Albanie.

C’est également celle mise en œuvre par la Turquie à grand renfort de coopération dans les domaines militaire et politique au travers notamment de son affinité avec le mouvement pro-albanais Besa, mais aussi éducatif et culturel. En témoigne le projet, porté par Ankara, de manuels d’histoire destinés à l’Albanie, la Bosnie-Herzégovine et la Macédoine du Nord, pays fortement ou majoritairement musulmans. Un exemple significatif des réécritures de l’histoire néo-ottomane qui fleurissent dans le sillage du sultan Erdoğan, tandis que l’Europe est, elle, sommée de faire repentance de son passé colonial. Mais c’est aussi et surtout l’ingérence des associations à la façade caritative qui, venant d’Arabie Saoudite, du Qatar, ou encore du Pakistan, sillonnaient le pays dès son indépendance, tandis que le soi-disant Forum islamique de la jeunesse, émanation des Frères musulmans, a toujours pignon sur rue dans sa capitale, Skopje.

L’Islam radical est également porté par la déferlante migratoire. Un rapport publié du Parlement européen dénonçait ainsi, dès 2012, l’infiltration de militants islamistes via la route des Balkans, ainsi que la radicalisation des enfants au sein de la diaspora de ces États, installée au sein de l’Union européenne et notamment, selon ce rapport, en Autriche. Avertissement prémonitoire qui glace le sang, puisqu’il rappelle le profil du terroriste islamiste abattu en novembre à Vienne, un Albanais de Macédoine du Nord. La Commission ne peut prétendre ignorer les risques considérables auxquels elle expose les Européens à l’heure où les pays des Balkans, région d’Europe où la concentration de djihadistes revenus de Syrie ou d’Irak est la plus forte, sont les seuls à rapatrier volontairement et publiquement des hommes affiliés à l’État islamique et détenus par les forces kurdes, selon une source d’information de référence. Et en s’insérant, en dépit du bon sens, dans son projet d’élargissement à des États affidés à la Turquie d’Erdoğan, elle en portera seule la responsabilité.

 
  
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  Tineke Strik, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – Mr President, this morning in this House, many of us made clear that if Hungary can continue to violate the rules and the values of our Treaty and enjoy impunity, breaches of the rule of law will spread throughout the European Union. Hungary is even actively promoting this. There’s evidence that Hungary is buying media outlets in Slovenia and North Macedonia and in this way contributing to the limitation and violation of freedom of expression, freedom of media and even freedom of elections.

I would like to know what the Commission is going to do about this. Does it address this issue with Hungary? What concrete measures does it take towards Slovenia – either more investigation or measures really to ensure that there is no backsliding in Slovenia on this issue? How can we better protect North Macedonia against this harmful interference? This example shows exactly the importance of a swift start to the negotiations and talks with North Macedonia, as has been promised now for a very long time. I call upon Bulgaria to lift its obstruction and let these start, and also on the Council Presidency to increase the pressure on Bulgaria to do so.

 
  
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  Ангел Джамбазки, от името на групата ECR. – Г-н Председател, почитаема колега, това не може и няма да стане, защото натискът върху България идва от антибългарски среди в Скопие, проруски и просръбски, подпомагани от медийната концентрация, свързана, за мое съжаление, с държавното ръководство в Унгария. Какво искате в Европейския съюз да влезе една антибългарска, антиевропейска, проруска и просръбска върхушка? Вие работите срещу идеята за Европейски съюз, съжалявам, ще ви разкажа после много по темата и ще ви запозная, защо това е така.

А сега по темата с медиите в Северна Македония. Да, в Северна Македония се води яростна антибългарска кампания, яростна. Казвам пак, за съжаление тя е подкрепяна от проруски и просръбски кръгове и за съжаление, г-н Орбан дава убежище на г-н Груевски, и по този начин пряко участва в тази антибългарска кампания. Но дори този парламент участваше, когато прие резолюция, в която мои двама колеги, г-н Кънев и г-жа ..., забравих ѝ името, предложиха резолюция, в която настояват за признаването на несъществуваща сепаратистка организация, несъществуващи малцинства. Това не може да стане.

Когато говорим за свобода на словото, уважаеми, това не е само какво казват медиите на г-н Сорос, но за съжаление и г-н Орбан има своя дял в това лошо положение в момента. Но на Вас обещавам да Ви разкажа подробно темата.

 
  
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  Manu Pineda, en nombre del Grupo GUE/NGL. – Señor presidente, me alegro de que debatamos sobre la injerencia de la extrema derecha en los procesos electorales en Europa. Es urgente que lo denunciemos y nos lo tomemos en serio.

El Gobierno de Orbán, el gran protegido de los partidos de Berlusconi y Casado, ha conseguido montar una red clientelar en los Balcanes, desviando más de cinco millones de euros, y las consecuencias ya son visibles.

Eslovenia ejerce ahora de satélite de Orbán cerrando fronteras y aliándose con los Gobiernos liberticidas de Polonia y Hungría en el bloqueo de los fondos de recuperación, un bloqueo que está dejando en la estacada a millones de trabajadores europeos, especialmente a los del sur. Y hacen esto porque se les exige que respeten el Estado de Derecho.

Lanzo una pregunta a los diputados del Partido Popular español: ¿van a seguir protegiendo a la extrema derecha corrupta de Hungría impidiendo que su grupo la expulse?

La de Orbán no es la única injerencia: en España estamos viviendo la financiación ilegal a Vox, que recibió casi un millón de euros de un grupo terrorista iraní.

Como les decía, está bien que tengamos este debate, ¿pero qué medidas se van a tomar? Señora Jourová, necesitamos más transparencia y garantizar que aquellos que ponen en peligro nuestra democracia no reciban ni un euro de dinero público.

 
  
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  Balázs Hidvéghi (PPE). – Mr President, to my colleagues on the left, let me start with some simple questions. Aren’t you concerned by Swedish or Austrian political interference in Slovenia? Or maybe German political interference in Hungary, Poland or perhaps in Croatia?

I am asking you this because, for instance, a Swedish company owns the biggest economic daily newspaper in Slovenia. Another big Slovenian paper is owned partially by Austrians, and one of its commercial TV channels is now in Czech hands. Or let me tell you that RTL Klub, a popular TV channel in Hungary, is owned entirely by the German RTL Group. Believe it or not, 80% of regional papers in Poland and 60% of the print media in Croatia are also in German hands. Doesn’t this give you a hard time sleeping at night? Well, it should not.

These companies have invested their capital into media products in other Member States for profit, in line with one of the most basic principles of this community: the freedom of movement of capital. The same is true for North Macedonia: investments are private business matters for media companies, and they have nothing to do with politics.

This one-sided criticism which is always directed at countries with conservative governments is hypocritical and absurd, and it really shouldn’t feature on the agenda of the European Parliament. This institution should remain a serious place that acts in the interests of citizens, and it should not become a circus for political clowns.

 
  
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  Kati Piri (S&D). – Mr President, it hardly comes as a surprise that Hungarian leaders, with Slovenian assistance, put together an international interference operation pouring millions of euros into pro-Janša and pro-Gruevski media organisations, because we all know very well that Orbán’s outrageous propaganda efforts in North Macedonia and Slovenia are just the tip of the iceberg. Whether in Brussels, Ljubljana or in Skopje, Orbán has only one goal: undermining the European Union for his own personal gain. That is why he sought to topple the Zaev Government, end the Prespa Agreement, grant political asylum to Gruevski and prevent North Macedonia’s much delayed EU accession. When will the EPP Group finally end this bumpy love affair with Fidesz authoritarians? Orbán has failed for now, but for his efforts will not stop unless you finally take action. And Commissioner, combating foreign interference is rightly one of the Commission’s top priorities. I urge you to show the same resolve in tackling such brazen interference by one of our Member States.

 
  
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  Gwendoline Delbos-Corfield (Verts/ALE). – Mr President, the Commission has not taken any concrete measures to stop the Hungarian Government from pressuring independent media. Yet, at the same time, this Commission officially states – and it’s a good thing – that media pluralism is a fundamental pillar of democracy. Sadly, as this debate shows, the trend we’ve seen in Hungary is now spreading to other countries. And we know the story: the Hungarian Government likes to say that there are no journalists imprisoned in Hungary, but suffocating the media is enough to kill freedom of expression. It also allows oligarchs to cherry pick media sources, which then ultimately get leaders elected who are more complacent.

The European Commission has still not responded to two complaints from 2016 and 2018 on the abuse of State aid and State advertisement by the Hungarian Government, leading to the distortion of the media market. The concentration of media ownership should be taken seriously and urgently addressed by the European Commission if we want to ensure democracy and truly fight corruption.

 
  
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  Milan Zver (PPE). – Gospod predsednik, naj najprej poudarim, da sem razočaran nad intenco, ki jo ima ta točka dnevnega reda. Predlagatelji zagotovo vedo, da je prost pretok kapitala ena izmed temeljnih svoboščin zavezništva, a to zanje očitno ni pomembno.

Kolikor mi je znano, so investicije zasebnih madžarskih družb v skladu s pravom Evropske unije, transparentne, izključno poslovne in ekonomske narave ter ne morejo pomeniti vladnega vmešavanja v notranje zadeve Slovenije ali Severne Makedonije.

Nenazadnje je dobršen del levih medijev, ki imajo izrecni monopol pri oglaševanju javnih podjetij, v tuji lasti.

V Sloveniji torej obstajajo problemi z mediji. V veliki večini, zlasti mainstream mediji, so levo usmerjeni. Ni mogoče trditi, da je v Sloveniji medijski prostor uravnotežen in pluralen.

Investicije v nove medije pa lahko povečajo pluralnost medijev in neodvisnost novinarjev, ki danes mnogokrat pišejo po diktatu oglaševalskih klik in levih političnih elit, ki dostikrat niti ne skrivajo simpatij s starimi in preživelimi vzorci komunikacije.

Skratka, medijska sfera je asimetrična. In na levici bodo storili vse, da tako tudi ostane, saj jim omogoča nadzor nad medijskim prostorom. Slovenski demokrati pa želimo, da se razmerje izboljša, da se 10-odstotni delež alternativnih medijev, ki so desno usmerjeni, poviša. Zato so investicije iz tujine v tem smislu nadvse dobrodošle.

 
  
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  Csaba Molnár (S&D). – Elnök úr! Kicsi vagyok, székre állok, onnét egy nagyot kiáltok, hogy mindnyájan meghalljátok. Kedves Kollégák! Ez egy magyar gyermekmondóka legeleje, és pontosan illik egy jobb sorsra érdemes ország politikailag törpe miniszterelnökére, akit a saját személyes meggazdagodása mellett egyetlen egy dolog érdekel, hogy a nemzetközi világban megpróbáljon nagyobbnak tűnni, mint amekkora a valóságban. Épp ezért nem sajnálja a pénzt, a magyar adófizetők pénzét, hogy megpróbáljon befolyást vásárolni más európai országokban. Például médiát vásároltasson magának és köreinek Szlovéniában vagy Észak-Macedóniában. Ugye nincs köztünk félreértés. Az a miniszterelnök, aki úton útfélen reggeltől estig arról hadovál, hogy az EU beavatkozik Magyarország belügyeibe, annak egy pillanatig nem okoz problémát beavatkozni más európai uniós országok belügyeibe.

Arra kérem Önöket, hogy amikor azt hallják majd legközelebb Orbán Viktortól, hogy nemzeti szuverenitás így, meg nemzeti szuverenitás úgy, akkor soha ne felejtsék el, hogy semmiféle visszatartó erő nincsen benne olyankor, amikor az érdekei úgy kívánják, hogy más ország nemzeti szuverenitásába próbáljon beavatkozni. Az Európai Uniónak, Budapestnek és Brüsszelnek pedig pontosan ugyanaz a feladata: megálljt kell parancsolnunk ennek az őrületnek, mert az Európai Unió alapértékeit veszélyezteti.

 
  
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  Радан Кънев (PPE). – Г-н Председател, колеги, този устен въпрос към Комисията е непълен, дори неточен, погрешно адресиран. Измества се разговорът, пропуска се главният въпрос.

Познавам тъй наречените „унгарски медии“ в Северна Македония, близки до бившия премиер Груевски. Познавам ги, защото те са в основата на най-яростната антибългарска кампания в Македония. Те работят за конфликт, те работят за разделени Балкани, те работят против европейската интеграция. Те са сред основните причини за сегашната злощастна ситуация, в която България налага вето на разширението на Европейския съюз с Република Северна Македония.

Но това не е интересът на Унгария, това не е интересът на унгарския народ, още по-малко интересът на гражданите на България или на Северна Македония. Това е интересът на Кремъл, това е интересът на службите в Сърбия. И тук е вярната посока, това е същинският въпрос към Европейската комисия, но това е и същинският въпрос към правителството на г-н Орбан в Будапеща. Какво стои зад тъй наречените „унгарски медии“ в Северна Македония? Ясна ли е собствеността? Защо тези медии, които са обвинени в близост с правителството на Унгария, работят за интереса на Москва и на Белград? На този въпрос трябва да дадем отговор.

 
  
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  Věra Jourová, Vice-President of the Commission. – Mr President, I would like to thank honourable Members very much for their interventions and for this interesting debate.

I will first reply on the comments addressed to the Commission. This Commission does everything to support an independent, professional and trustworthy media because, more than ever before, we need objective news which will inform citizens about the situation. We have to do it and we are doing everything with the competences we have.

Concrete steps on the concrete situation is always a matter of a thorough analysis as to whether this is against EU rules and whether we have the instruments to take concrete steps which will address an individual case. You know the system very well. We work on individual cases, which can be addressed by enquiry into infringements – which is not this case – and we can work by adopting new legislation, or proposing new legislation, to address systemic issues. This is what we are doing.

We now have the Audiovisual Media Services Directive already being transposed into national laws. We are scrutinising whether it is done in full because, if not, we have to launch an infringement against the Member State and ask for an improvement in the implementation or application of the European Directive in national law. This is now ongoing because this Directive came into force this year.

We are preparing very thoroughly for the application date of the Copyright Directive, which will come next year in June. It will be a very important moment in history for strengthening the position of professional journalism because, behind this heavily lobbied piece of legislation – I think you will remember the time when this was in the final stage of adoption – there was a very simple idea, namely that professional journalists have to get paid for their work.

This is going to come into force next year in June and the Commission is prepared to help with proper implementation in the Member States, which will not be possible to circumvent. We have already seen in France that an effort was made by Google to find some middle way solution, and we said no. It has to be implemented and applied in full.

We are going to adopt the European Democracy Action Plan and the Media Action Plan next week, on 2 December. I will not go into details because of the time limit here, but you will see that in everything we are doing – by the current legislation which is already in application or the rules we are going to adopt – we are trying to strengthen the position of independent media because we need the independent and professional media to be strong and do their job.

The character of their job is twofold. One is that they are economic actors. What we see now, in the time of COVID, is the more we need professional and objective media, the less money they get. They are in horrible financial distress now in the time of COVID. That’s why we recommended to the Member States to use the state aid schemes also to help the media as economic players and employers.

The second task of the media, and an indispensable role, is that they must remain strong watchdogs of democracy. They must hold us, who are in power, under control. We are also working in this direction. You will see in the European Democracy Action Plan that we will propose several actions to strengthen their position as the watchdogs of democracy. I will always emphasise professional independent trustworthy media. This is what we are speaking about.

And why? Why are we trying to strengthen the position of the media? Because we see clearly that when the media are weak, they are easy targets for political and economic pressure. This is what we see in Europe. The trend is worsening. In the summer this year, we published the Media Pluralism Monitor, where we saw this very clearly. A worsening trend of political pressure on the media has increased everywhere in Europe. Economic pressure, now made more dramatic by the impact of COVID, has made the situation of the media very difficult. Advertisers have moved to the online sphere and 50% of all advertising money goes to Facebook and Google in Europe. This is the reality. When the media are hungry, then they have no other choice than to take the money from those who want to impose the political agenda. This is what we are witnessing in many cases.

So we need to do everything we can – this is for me a systemic measure – to make the media stronger and not to be driven into this financial trap because they of course need to make money doing their job. We have a very vivid dialogue with media organisations because we also want the EU money to help, but of course we cannot pay individual media because we have to respect the independence of the media.

I will finish by asking all of us to try to look at things objectively. The EU is, of course, supporting the media, which is also financed by foreign actors when they operate as business players. But when we see that there is a political agenda behind that, then there is something wrong.

Thank you very much for this debate. I do not believe that this was the last debate about the media. This was a geographically—specific one, but it also revealed the systemic issues we are facing and that we are trying to solve at European Union level because we have a limit to systemic functioning solutions, including the increase in transparency of ownership. This is one of the things which we now want to scrutinise in more depth because this is one of the conditions which are already in the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, which is now in force.

 
  
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  Presidente. – O debate está encerrado.

 
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