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Defending media pluralism in Europe

Laurence Farreng MEP at EDP Council

At a time of worrying pressures on independent media in several Member States, an initiative by more than 80 MEPs (including MEPs from the European Democratic Party Sylvie Brunet, Marie-Pierre Vedrenne, Catherine Chabaud, Christophe Grudler, Izaskun Bilbao Barandica) coordinated by French MEP Laurence Farreng (MoDem), is a reminder of the importance of acting against threats to these pillars of the rule of law.

In Poland, on 10 February, almost all the private and independent media went on strike by displaying only a black page on the screens, front page and websites with the following words: "Here should be your favourite information service. But today, you won't read any content on it. See for yourself what a world without independent media will look like". This unprecedented strike follows the announcement by the PiS (Law and Justice, Conservative) government of a tax on advertising revenues, which would strongly affect the Polish media ecosystem.

In Hungary, on 14 February at midnight, the country's first independent radio station, Klubrádió, unfortunately had to abandon its FM frequency, following a court decision, invoking delays in the transmission of administrative documents to the Media Council (Hungarian equivalent of the French CSA). This radio, often critical of Viktor Orban's illiberal government, is the victim of a severe state campaign targeting the media, in this state ranked 89th out of 180 in the world press freedom index.

It is following these two events that Laurence Farreng, together with her Hungarian parliamentary colleague Anna Donath, also a member of the Renew Europe group, initiated a letter inviting the European Commission, guardian of the Treaties, to show reactivity and tenacity in the face of these multiple attacks on media pluralism. Poland and Hungary are both subject to the so-called "Article 7" procedure, which can sanction countries that violate the values of democracy and the rule of law, at the heart of the construction of the European Union.

In less than 24 hours, this appeal gathered the signatures of more than 80 MEPs from 5 political families from all over Europe and had a significant media impact. It will be followed by a debate in the March plenary session, and the Commission has already expressed its concerns to the Hungarian and Polish governments.