Media Freedom and Pluralism in Europe

By EDRi · June 19, 2013

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Deutsch: [Medienfreiheit und Pluralismus in Europa |]

At the beginning of the year, the European Commission’s High Level Group
on Media Freedom and Pluralism published a report and presented several
recommendations to protect and promote a free and pluralistic media in

In order to collect feedback on the report and recommendations, the
European Commission launched a public consultation to which EDRi
responded on 14 June (see link to full answer below). The consultation
intended to open the discussion on media freedom without, however,
detailing any possible follow-up actions or concrete measures envisaged
by the Commission.

Firstly, we emphasised that, in order to efficiently implement Article
21 of the Treaty on European Union, the EU is only credible on the
global stage when press and media freedoms are safeguarded and respected
within the Union itself. We highlighted the fact that support for
quality journalism can only be achieved with appropriate protections for
whistleblowers and demanded that the Commission propose an instrument to
provide legal protections.

Secondly, we highlighted the importance of safeguarding freedom of
speech in our democratic, open and free societies, especially with
regard to the digital environment. It is true that the Internet in
itself can act as a guarantor of freedom of opinion and expression.
These fundamental rights need to be safeguarded by the rule of law and
legislative frameworks. We therefore especially welcomed the expert
group’s recommendation to enshrine Net Neutrality in EU law. As we have
pointed out in answers to previous consultations by the Commission and
BEREC, there is a growing body of evidence that access providers
restrict and limit access to the Internet in Europe. A regulation of Net
Neutrality would avoid certain industry players becoming gatekeepers on
behalf of media organisations, with power over citizens’ communications
and their rights to freedom of expression and to impart and receive

Expert group’s recommendation 12 proposed that “services that provide
heavily personalised search results or newsfeeds should provide the
possibility for the user to turn off such personalisation, temporarily
for an individual query, or permanently, until further notice”. We
pointed out that any such personalisation or individualisation measures
usually requires the collection and cross-linking of personal data which
could represent a fundamental threat to privacy as well as a danger to
pluralism and access to knowledge.

With regard to recommendation 23, we expressed concerns regarding the
very vague, dangerous and possibly counter-productive wording and
suggested a deletion of the recommendation:
“Member States should ensure that appropriate instruments are put in
place for identifying those responsible for harming others, even in the
online space. Any internet user‐data collection necessary for this
purpose should be kept confidential and made available only by a court

Finally, we pointed out that the expert group’s definition of media or
“journalistic activities” might need further explanation. Actions to
protect freedom of speech and freedom of the media should encompass both
traditional media and the digital world – news is increasingly produced
and consumed not only by the traditional press but also by bloggers,
citizen reporters and social media producers.

EDRi’s response to the consultation (06.2013)


High Level Group, report (01.2013)

(Contribution by Kirsten Fiedler – EDRi)