Update: Report from the event “The Promise of the EU”

promise_5502“The Promise of the EU” was a keynote event organised by the Italian Presidency and the European Commission in Rome, 12-13. Sept. 2014. Gabriella Velics, Vice-President of CMFE, took part in the event and her report can be found here. Now, the proceedings to the conference were published: Link to the pdf

During the event three major questions were examined by six working groups:

  • How much unity do citizens want and what are the areas in which integration should take place?
  • What would make the EU more democratic?
  • What is the overall expectation of citizens from the EU?

Gabriella Velics, as a member of the CMFE board, was invited and worked in the “Editorial independence as democratic value” working group.

The group of experts examined and discussed four questions:

  • Can editorial independence be realistically ensured when many mass-media outlets are owned by large, transnational media conglomerates?
  • Is it possible to communicate and provide information in a positive way about the EU on political actions and institutions without compromising editorial independence?
  • How does ownership of mass-media outlets make a difference to the level of editorial freedom? Does it influence the quality of the content?
  • Is editorial independence guaranteed on social networks and blogs?

The discussion mainly focused on public media, but also community media was represented in the debate by CMFE, Gabriella Velics. The conclusions of working group were presented by Asunción Gómez Bueno, Chair of The EBU News Group to the event participants.

Some details word for word from the speech:

  • First of all, editorial independence is not possible without freedom of speech, a universal right that is in danger in several countries, some of them quite close to us.
  • The main principle of journalism is independence. It is a herald of liberty and an essential ingredient of democracy. It is giving every citizen the right to share, express, and hear the views of others. (…) Citizens deserve this independent information and we, journalists, are obliged to give it to them, to ourselves. Free information must be in the citizens’ hands. (…) Since we are witnessing big concentration in the media and telecommunication sectors that might threat pluralism we make one recommendation: When competition law is applied, in particular in merger cases, media and telecom sectors, the aspects of media pluralism should be adequately taken into account.
  • European institutions shouldn’t be afraid to fuel the debate, be criticized – because this is one of the findings of democracy – and the way they can fuel the debate is to support a wide range of media without taking a side, with training, and seminars and partnerships. Always of course respecting editorial independence, because only this way information is credible and public can make up their own minds. Self-censorship is the worst enemy of truth. And media needs the trust of the audience to survive and serve the citizens.
  • We also suggest public schools and institutions promote values, to teach youngsters what media is, to teach what independence is and make them seek it.
  • In one sense social media promotes access to information, but at the same time we find it threatens quality information somehow. Verifying information is crucial, it always is, even more now that web is the main source for immediate information. Pluralism of sources doesn’t per se guarantee pluralism of information and points of view.
  • Finally we would like to stress the need for the balanced media ecology system, in which different types of media can successfully coexist and flourish: public service and private as traditional elements of the dual system, but also community media as an important element of the media system. Editorial independence should not exist only on paper, but it should function in practice. The political majority should not use democratic tools to dominate media.

Developments in certain countries pose the question on EU competences and need for proportional measures that could be applied in defence of fundamental values and rights in the EU, including the freedom of expression and media pluralism.