European Federation of Journalists

From the European Media Freedom Act to the right to information: the challenges ahead


On 5 June, the Kofi Annan Foundation (KAF), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and Reporters without Borders (RSF) organised a roundtable discussion at the Brussels Press Club on the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA), which came into force on 7 May.

Opening remarks were provided by Corinne Momal-Vanian, Executive Director of KAF, Renate Schroeder, Director of EFJ, and Antoine Bernard, Director of Advocacy at RSF, followed by a keynote speech from Vice-President of the European Commission, Vera Jourova.

Sébastien Brack, KAF’s representative in Brussels, moderated a panel discussion with Renate Nikolay, Deputy Director-General of DG Connect, Frederic Bokobza, Deputy Director-General of the French media regulator, Arcom, and representative from the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA), Wouter Gekiere, Head of the Brussels office of the European Broadcasting Union, Renate Schroeder, and Julie Majerczak, Director of the Brussels office of RSF.

In her keynote speech, Vice-President Vera Jourova stressed that “the European Media Freedom Act is a response to the very real threats to the media in Europe… There can be no democracy without independent journalists.

Indeed, as Corinne Momal-Vanian pointed out in her opening remarks, although the European Union remains a bulwark of democracy in the world, the 2023 Rule of Law report, the World Press Freedom Index and the Mapping Media Freedom platform show that press freedom is not in good shape across the continent, while the Media Pluralism Monitor reveals troubling trends in terms of pluralism and transparency of ownership. 

Media are the canaries in the coal mine, whose treatment is a key indicator of democratic health,” opined Ms Momal-Vanian. 

Ms Jourova highlighted the role of civil society in advocating and supporting the conception and adoption of the EMFA, and called for their continued engagement. Whilst expressing satisfaction with this landmark legislation, Ms Jourova emphasised the challenges ahead, starting with the EMFA’s implementation, the setting up of the new media regulators’ oversight board, the AI revolution, and the economic sustainability of independent media in Europe.

EMFA is a historic act: it is the first time there is a holistic European regulation dealing with all media,” stressed Renate Schroeder from the EFJ. “People are finally realising that journalism is a public good.” But Ms Schroeder raised concerns that the upcoming elections to the European Parliament could undermine the political will that led to EMFA, and that will be required for its implementation and enforcement.

Renate Nikolay agreed that implementation would be key and noted that based on the experience of the GDPR, the Commission had focused a great deal on building solid enforcement mechanisms into the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the EMFA. 

Antoine Bernard, from RSF, paid tribute to the Commission, but particularly to Vera Jourova, for the unprecedented raft of instruments that have been adopted over the past five years on her watch to protect journalists, media freedom and recognise a right to information: the DSA , the Code of Practice against Disinformation, the Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) Directive and now the EMFA. 

But we need to keep moving: we think it is time to guarantee the citizens’ right to trustworthy information, especially on platforms and with the generative AI revolution coming up”, announced Mr Bernard. He emphasised the need to protect media sustainability on platforms and fight disinformation with an obligation on social network, search engines and generative AI to amplify trustworthy sources of information. 

EMFA is not the end of the journey, but a main milestone on the road ahead,” concluded Mr Bernard.


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