Democracies worldwide are struggling in an era where digital transformation is shaping how we access and process information.
Club de Madrid (CdM) is determined to support all efforts by EU Member States and European institutions to ensure the full respect and implementation of all European values, including democracy and the rule of law in all European Member States.
We recognize that EU legislators are taking the right steps to strengthen regulation in the digital field; however, there are still some concerns in the new proposals towards this end.
CdM Members are joining efforts through the following advocacy letter to call the attention of MEPs to the need to rethink Article 17 of the EMFA. Read the letter below:
To the attention of the Members of the European Parliament
Distinguished Members of the European Parliament,
Democracies worldwide, including those of our European Union, are struggling in an era where digital transformation shapes how we access and process information.
As the European Parliament sets out to consider the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA), we, the undersigned Members of Club de Madrid, all democratic former Heads of State or Government from European Union Member States, write to you today with a profound sense of responsibility and concern for the democratic values that underpin our shared European project.
It is with this commitment to democracy in mind that we bring to your attention the pressing matter of Article 17, often referred to as the “media privilege” within the EMFA.
While we acknowledge the EMFA proposal is a step in the direction of strengthening democracy in the EU by promoting a free and pluralistic media system in Europe, we are deeply concerned about the potential consequences of Article 17.
Article 17, as it stands, poses a risk to the principles of democratic discourse. We are particularly concerned with the identification of media service providers (MSP) based on self-declaration and the risk of exploiting this provision as a means to spread disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda with greater ease and less oversight. The issue of media designation is deeply flawed, arbitrary and open to abuse. In practice, this could open the flood gates to bad actors.
This risk cannot be overstated. The proliferation of self-proclaimed media organisations, often operating with ulterior motives and outside the boundaries of journalistic ethics threatens the very foundations of an informed and engaged citizenry. Here are some reasons why we urge you to reconsider Article 17 and its implications on self-proclaimed media entities:
Disinformation threat: Article 17’s self-proclamation mechanism may inadvertently empower actors who seek to manipulate public opinion by disguising disinformation and propaganda as legitimate media content.
Freedom of speech: The fragmentation of legislation, not aligning with existing legislation like the Digital Services Act (DSA) runs the risk of establishing two categories of freedom of speech (free speech of everyone and “freer” speech of media).
Erosion of trust: By allowing self-proclaimed media entities to operate without sufficient oversight, Article 17 risks eroding public trust in the media as a whole, thereby undermining our collective ability to make informed decisions in a democratic society.
Impact on democratic processes: The unregulated spread of misinformation and propaganda can have severe consequences for our democratic processes, potentially influencing elections and public policy decisions.
Legal uncertainty: Article 17’s lack of clear criteria for determining the authenticity and credibility of self-proclaimed media raises concerns about how compliance will be assessed and enforced, especially considering the overlap with the rules laid forth by the DSA.
In light of these concerns and the coming round of voting by the European Parliament, we respectfully propose that Article 17 be revisited with a critical eye toward safeguarding the integrity of media and democracy. We believe it is crucial to uphold the values of media freedom, transparency, and accountability, and not allow Article 17 to become a source of preferential treatment for a select few.
As democratic former leaders with a strong commitment to the future of democracy and multilateralism, we call on your efforts as representatives of European citizens to propose legislation that protects democracy.
Thank you for your unwavering dedication to the well-being of Europe and our continent, and for your attention to this critical matter.
Danilo Türk, President of Slovenia (2007-2012) and President of Club de Madrid
Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of Lithuania (2009-2019)
Alfred Gusenbauer, Chancellor of Austria (2007-2008)
Ivo Josipović, President of Croatia (2010-2015)
Aleksander Kwaśniewski, President of Poland (1995-2005)
Iveta Radičová, Prime Minister of Slovakia (2010-2012)
Petre Roman, Prime Minister of Romania (1989-1991)
Valdis Zatlers, President of Latvia (2007-2011)