Polish representatives oppose the European Media Freedom Act

Culture - August 23, 2023

By the end of her very long 2021 State of the Union address, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced a regulation proposal establishing a common framework for media services in the internal market.

She claimed that “journalists are being targeted simply for doing their job”; in order to substantiate such a statement, she gave three examples:  Daphné Caruana Galizia, who was murdered after denouncing the corruption of the Maltese socialist government in 2017; Ján Kuciak, who was also killed after making the public aware of socialist government corruption in Slovakia by 2018; and Peter de Vries, who was assassinated in 2021, in order to refrain him from providing details over the Moroccan mafia in the Netherlands.

Information as a public good, the creation of transparency, the preservation of independence and our right to be informed by people like them needs, according to Mrs. Von der Leyen, to stop those who threaten media freedom.  Media companies cannot be treated as just another business because “defending media freedom means defending democracy”.

The proposal allegedly aims to lift barriers to the way the internal media market operates and to promote pluralism and independence in that market.

However, on 3 February 2023 the Sejm of the Republic of Poland has issued an opinion stating that the proposed regulation goes beyond the competences granted to the EU and violates the principle of subsidiarity.

According to the Polish legislative, their national legal order already has specific provisions with respect to (i) appointing the head of management and the members of the governing board of public service media providers, (ii) providing substantive and procedural rules which ensure the assessment of media market concentrations, (iii) awarding public funds to media service providers according to transparent, objective, proportionate and non-discriminatory criteria and procedures, and (iv) reporting by public authorities about their advertising expenditure allocated to media service providers.

The Commission’s explanatory memorandum to the proposal does not demonstrate how those national provisions, or those of other Member States, are insufficient to achieve their goals.  The benefits to be gained by adopting the proposed regulation have also not been sufficiently identified.

The Polish lower house of Parliament further argues that the legal basis indicated for the proposal (Article 114 TFEU) cannot be considered appropriate, since the proposed regulation governs cultural issues such as media content, including news, where the Union is only competent to carry out activities aimed at supporting, coordinating or complementing the actions of the Member States.  In consequence, a directive could have been fit for purpose, but not a regulation.

On the other hand, the Polish executive has indicated possible partial support for the proposed regulation, though it has expressed similar caveats regarding subsidiarity and legal basis, the latter to be clarified by the Council’s legal service.

The Parliament of Poland has not been the only one to oppose the Von der Leyen proposal.  Denmark’s, France’s, Germany’s and Hungary’s have expressed similar reservations.

The European Media Freedom Act proposal is currently pending committee decision with the Culture and Education Committee (CULT) of the European Parliament.

Source of the image:  Gov.pl