Rule of law report: Worrying trends in press freedom, pluralism, and journalist safety in some member states

Rule of law report: Worrying trends in press freedom, pluralism, and journalist safety in some member states

EP Plenary session — Voting session

In their draft assessment of the Commission’s latest rule of law report, MEPs point to remaining areas for methodological improvement and specific concerns across EU countries.

On Monday, the Committee on Civil Liberties adopted its draft resolution on the Commission’s 2022 annual Rule of Law Report with 46 votes for, seven against and no abstentions. MEPs welcome the attention paid by the Commission to public service media and transparency of media ownership, as well as other areas of concern, which include the implementation of the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights; political party financing; equality bodies, national human rights institutions, and ombudspersons; and high-level appointments in the justice system and the legal system as a whole.

The draft resolution points to worrying trends in press freedom, media pluralism, and the safety of journalists in several member states. They highlight that journalists will be at risk as long as institutions do not prosecute corruption cases exposed in the media, regret the absence of country-specific recommendations related to the unlawful use of spyware such as Pegasus and Predator, and deplore the continued politicisation of national councils of judiciary in some countries.

They also point to outstanding demands from Parliament’s previous assessments, for example in expanding the scope of the analysis to the entire range of EU values. They reiterate that findings should be tied to the activation of tools for the protection of the EU’s values and budget – e.g. Article 7, the conditionality mechanism, and infringement procedures (the latter of which should be triggered automatically). Persistent areas of concern include human rights violations against migrants at the EU’s borders, and the deliberate backsliding of EU values in some member states.

Regarding the Commission’s methodology, once again MEPs call for more effective involvement of civil society organisations, while asking to include specific benchmarks with regards to country-specific recommendations in the next report, clearly indicating progress and regression. The draft resolution reiterates that a panel of independent experts should be set up to advise the EU institutions, in close cooperation with the Fundamental Rights Agency, and asks Parliament’s leadership to set up this panel under Parliament’s auspices independently of the other Council and the Commission, who have been reluctant in this regard.

The draft resolution is expected to be tabled in plenary in March.


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