Highlights | Information democracy | Freedom of expression online

The European Parliament’s deplorable lack of impartiality

By EDRi · March 1, 2019

As the political debate around the European copyright reform and its infamous upload filters enters the final round, the EU institutions commit yet another faux pas. On 27 February 2019, the European Parliament’s communications team published a number of tweets celebrating how amazing the copyright Directive proposal is that has been agreed during trilogues.

The catch: the proposal has not yet been approved by the European Parliament Plenary, which is needed for the Directive to be adopted. The decisive vote of all 751 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) is scheduled for the end of March or beginning of April, and the result of the vote might still turn out to be “no”.

That’s why, on 28 February, we sent a letter to the Secretary-General of the European Parliament Klaus Welle, deploring the breach of the Secretariat’s obligation for impartiality, and requesting the removal of the tweets taking a side in the debate from the official Parliament online channels.

Why is this a problem? The communications team managing the Parliament’s Twitter account is part of its Secretariat, not of a political group. According to the Parliament’s internal rules, the Secretariat and its Secretary-General have to be strictly impartial on all political matters, and that makes sense: The Secretariat works for all political groups, not only one majority party.

The copyright Directive proposal, spearheaded by Rapporteur Axel Voss (EPP), is far from being supported by all political groups. To the contrary: It is highly controversial even within political groups, with fierce opposition coming even from prominent conservative politicians.

But controversial or not, the EU Parliament’s Secretariat has to remain politically neutral in the debates among the MEPs. While political groups are free to communicate their respective positions to the world, the Secretariat can only advertise official Parliament positions – and those are only known after the vote.

EDRi continues to follow the negotiations closely, and calls all citizens and civil society to act and defend their freedom of expression and open internet through the #SaveYourInternet campaign.

EDRi letter to Secretary-General of the European Parliament, Klaus Welle (28.02.2019)

Copyright: Compulsory filtering instead of obligatory filtering – a compromise? (04.09.2018)

How the EU copyright proposal will hurt the web and Wikipedia (02.07.2018)

EU Censorship Machine: Legislation as propaganda? (11.06.2018)

“Parliament concludes copyright on the internet”