PRESS RELEASE: GFMD RESPONSE TO EUROPEAN DEMOCRACY ACTION PLAN (EDAP)

The European Democracy Action Plan (EDAP) – an essential step towards the sustainability of media pluralism and safety of journalists lacking substantial support for media’s visibility and funding

7 December 2020

  • The EDAP was published on 2 December 2020 by European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová. The EDAP aims at straightening the European Union’s democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental freedoms.

  • The Action Plan focuses on the enhancement of election integrity, the participation of the civil society, pluralism of media along with safety for journalists, and better mechanisms to fight disinformation.

GFMD welcomes the EDAP as an important step in recognising the challenges faced by the media and journalism landscape and the deterioration of pluralistic media environments, particularly in light of COVID-19. The EDAP and its supplementary document, the Media and Audiovisual Action Plan, represent a positive indicator that the European Commission emphasises the challenges facing the sustainability of the journalism and news media sector, media pluralism, and access to information posted by, among other factors, online platforms and algorithmic content regulation on communication platforms. Linking the Digital Services Act (DSA) with the EDAP gives these ambitions a significant boost as well.

Strengthening media freedom and protecting journalists against harassment and strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) in EU member states will send an important signal to those using such methods to hinder investigative and critical journalism. The implementation of the Media Freedom Rapid Response pilot project, which also includes legal aid and practical support for journalists – along with a planned initiative against SLAPPs in 2021 – are very positive developments as well, but its potential impact on EU member states must be observed closely in the coming year.

Understanding the landscape of media ownership and distribution of information within EU member states coupled with two new initiatives, the European News Media Forum and the Media Ownership Monitor, are encouraging steps to tackling the financing problems that small media outlets face. Yet, the advantages that tech platforms have as major economic players remains a significant obstacle to ensuring the sustainability and plurality of the sector.

Regrettably, the joint input paper and joint statement – formulated by more than 50 civil society organisations under the supervision of the European Partnership for Democracy (EPD) – and GFMD’s Joint Emergency Appeal for Journalism and Media Support have not convinced the European Commission to formulate concrete actions to guarantee media viability and sustainable funding, leaving its implementation to EU member states. The Media and Audiovisual Action Plan gives more incentive in the direction of the EU’s approach to funding mechanisms, but further monitoring will be required.

For more information and additional analysis of the published EDAP, see the reactions from Access Now and the European Partnership for Democracy.