European Federation of Journalists

Media and journalists request journalists’ exemption in draft terrorist content online regulation

The latest compromise of the German Presidency on the draft regulation on the proposal for a regulation on preventing the dissemination of terrorist content online raises great concerns regarding media freedom and fundamental rights among media and journalists’ organisations. The draft is currently in tripartite discussions between the Council of Ministers under the German Presidency, the European Parliament and the EU Commission with the aim to come to a final adopted text before the end of this year. 

In the view of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and media organisations including the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA), European Magazine Media Association (EMMA) and the European Publishers Council (EPC), the latest leaked draft is detrimental to media freedom and journalists’ protection of sources due to the following reasons:

  1. The proposal will enable any “competent authorities” in the EU – which are designated by Member States and with no obligation to have judicial oversight – to issue content removal orders that will be applicable EU-wide, regardless where the content was posted and of the constitutional safeguards. The definition of what is actually terrorist content is very broad and could be used for politically-motivated censorship. 
  2. Journalistic and artistic expressions are not properly protected or excluded from the scope of the measures.  
  3. The very essence of what journalism is would depend too much on the understanding of a given government and/or platform. 
  4. The concept of free expression is overturned as information is potentially illegal until assessed as legitimate.
  5. This proposal potentially has discriminatory implications for society at large as it could contribute to societal tensions and thwarting the debates on issues that targeted groups are legitimately grasping with.
  6. Companies that host online content may be required to use filtering tools to automatically detect, identify and remove alleged terrorist content.

In this spirit, a letter was sent this week to the German Presidency by the afore-mentioned organisations stressing the importance of a clear exclusion of journalistic and editorial content from the scope of the regulation to guarantee sufficient protection for press and media freedom.

The next trilogue will take place on 29 October.