European Federation of Journalists

openMedia, investigating press freedom

Title of the project : openMedia, investigating press freedom
Lead Applicant
: openDemocracy

Partner organisations : EFJ, Index on censorship, King’s College London

The recently launched openMedia project aims to investigate and expose commercial interference in editorial decisions. The project is run by openDemocracy with the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) as a partner alongside the Index on Censorship and King’s College London.

The project believes that there has not been enough of a concerted, ongoing spotlight on the extent and effects of commercial influence over the media, despite the dangerous consequences it poses for press freedom. For now, the project focuses on 47 countries across Europe but also has ambitions to expand.

Despite the recent launch, the project is adamant that it is not a response to the “fake news” hype of the past year or so. Rather, the project responds to scandals of commercial sponsors influencing media content; for example the Daily Telegraph’s suppression of investigations into its advertiser HSBC; and allegations that Buzzfeed deleted articles which advertisers found unfavourable.

According to the project, this power dynamic can suppress investigations of banks, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, fossil fuel giants, energy companies and other big businesses.

In addition, the project recognizes how for many readers, “sponsored content” is difficult to distinguish from genuine news content. The project therefore aims to clarify the commercial interests apparent in media to readers, and as part of the project, King’s College London will develop digital tools to help readers be better informed about news sources.

The findings of the project will be used to campaign for greater transparency and press freedom in news organisations and to empower journalists to advocate for transparency.

In order to do this, openMedia is currently conducting a confidential and anonymous survey of journalists across Europe, asking about their own working practices and experiences of commercial pressure inside newsrooms. The survey is available in English here and in many other languages here.


Malta: Government must widen its consultation on media law reform

A number of journalists and civil society groups have urged the Maltese government to launch a public consultation on the media law reform. The International and European Federations of Journalists (IFJ-EFJ) join their affiliate the Institute of Maltese Journalists (IGM) in urging the government to be transparent in the drafting process and openly consult the public before submitting any bill to parliament. A committee of experts, of which IGM is a member, was appointed by the Maltese government and concluded the first part of its remit on 1 June. Its role consisted in providing feedback to a number of laws…

Albania: Media must not face criminal prosecution for public interest reporting

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined the undersigned media freedom and freedom of expression organisations in expressing concerns over the blanket publication ban issued by Albanian prosecutorial authorities regarding a trove of hacked data, and stress that no journalist or media outlet should face criminal sanctions for publishing information in the public interest. While our organisations recognise the sensitive nature of these leaks and urge all media in Albania to handle the material in a strictly ethical and responsible manner, it is vital that Albanian authorities proceed with caution and full consideration for journalistic freedoms protected under both domestic and…

Russia: 18 journalists arrested during anti-war protests

Over 1,300 people, including 18 journalists, were detained across Russia on Wednesday as rallies against a military mobilization declared by President Vladimir Putin for the war in Ukraine took place in 42 cities across the country. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) demands the release of these citizens who were demonstrating peacefully as well as the journalists who were covering the demonstrations. According to the independent OVD-Info police monitor, at least 1,328 people, including 18 journalists identified by the independent Journalists and Media Workers Union (JMWU), have been detained nationwide so far. A majority of those detained were women. Most…

EFJ joins call for Italian political forces to take a stand against SLAPPs

The right of citizens to be informed about matters of public interest and of journalists to write freely about them cannot and must not be hindered by SLAPPs. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined civil society’s appeal to the future parliament to promote measures to contrast strategic lawsuits. SLAPPs (Strategic lawsuits against public participation) aim at silencing journalists, activists, whistleblowers, and anyone who sheds light on matters of public interest. SLAPPs are a true violation of the right of citizens to be informed and freedom of expression. SLAPPs also pose serious restrictions on democratic participation as they deprive the…

Ukraine: we demand justice for Georgy Gongadze

On 16 September 2000, investigative journalist Georgy Gongadze, founder of the online daily Ukrainska Pravda, was kidnapped and murdered. 22 years after the murder, the person who ordered the killing is still at large. The journalist disappeared on 16 September 2000. His beheaded body was found six weeks later, about 100 km from Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. Georgiy Gongadze had been investigating corruption within the Government and in the Presidency of the then President Leonid Kuchma. In the months leading to his death, Gongadze reported that he was under surveillance and had been receiving threats. After years of investigations, four former…

EFJ welcomes European Media Freedom Act but calls for strengthening

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today joins the undersigned journalists’, media freedom, and human rights organisations in welcoming the European Commission’s initiative to strengthen the free and pluralistic media system and the commitment to protect journalists and editorial independence within the European Union. The EFJ and media freedom groups also stress need for improvements. These values directly link to fundamental rights, such as freedom of expression, the right to access to information, the formation of opinion, and making informed choices in elections, as enshrined in the Charter of Fundamental Rights. Matters relating to the media have traditionally been the…