The Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament today supported a report on strengthening media freedom in Europe and expressed particular concern for the concerted attacks on media freedom from conservative governments in Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland.
In today’s vote, the S&D Group also strongly backed the role of journalists in providing life-saving and credible information during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Elena Yoncheva MEP, S&D rapporteur on strengthening media freedom, said:
“The numbers speak for themselves: in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index Bulgaria ranks 111th and Hungary ranks 89th. In Bulgaria and Hungary, we have seen the capture and concentration of the media by corrupt politicians in conservative, EPP-led governments. In the first annual Rule of Law report, the Commission highlighted the need for transparency of media ownership in Bulgaria and Hungary, and today the S&D Group echoes these calls. As a former journalist I know a free media is the cornerstone of democracy and now as an MEP, representing all EU citizens, I have a duty to protect media freedom and pluralism when they are under attack.
The Covid-19 pandemic has made a bad situation worse in the EU. In many cases, journalists no longer have the freedom to report independent, diverse and reliable information. As watchdogs of democracy and rule of law, now more than ever journalists must have the access they need to scrutinise government.”
Birgit Sippel MEP, S&D spokesperson on civil liberties, justice and home affairs, said:
“A healthy democracy relies on people having open access to objective and honest information. Journalists need to be able to work without fear of intimidation, insult or abuse. People deserve an independent public media that is not under any severe strain as a result of political or economic pressure. But media freedom is not guaranteed in countries such as Bulgaria, Hungary and Poland. The European Commission’s announcement this week to make €3.9 million available for EU-wide action to support media freedom and investigative journalism is welcome, but we must go much further. We owe it to citizens to guarantee that not a single euro cent of EU funding is spent on any government action that results in a restricted media.”