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Ownership concentration a threat to independent EU media

Concentration of media ownership in the European Union is a threat to independent media and pluralism. “Media ownership remains opaque and rules to enforce transparency of beneficial media owners are inadequate. The European Media Freedom Act addresses this issue, though it appears unable to ensure full transparency over entire ownership chains”, Berlin-based NGO-organisation Civil Liberties Union for Europe says in an annual report on media in the EU.

The report says that while the number of serious threats against journalists declined, it is still higher than pre-pandemic years.

“Women journalists continue to face a disproportionate amount of attacks, especially online. The initiative Mapping Media Freedom tracked 281 recorded instances of threats against women journalists and media workers in European Union Member States and candidate countries.” 

“Most commonly, they face verbal attacks. Online they often find themselves victims of graphic, intimate and highly sexualized attacks like rape threats. The advances in artificial intelligence now also make it easier to create and spread deep fakes – manipulated pieces of content like pictures or videos.”

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The organisation says that media outlets and journalists continue to face threats to their ability to perform their work and to access necessary information. 

  • Hate speech against journalists, activists and others continues to proliferate on social media, sometimes initiated by politicians. Efforts to combat it at national level have been insufficient so far, but there is hope EU-level legislation will have some impact. 
  • Efforts to tackle disinformation are often either insufficient or possibly counterproductive, and there were instances of their application against journalists in 2023. 
  • Many EU countries have made it more difficult to access information, and journalists’ requests for information are often ignored or dragged out by authorities. 

“Media, particularly public media, continue to struggle financially. Several Member States have abolished the licence fee, a critical source of income for public media outlets, without sustainably replacing the lost revenue.”

“Political influence – and, in some cases, outright government control – continues to contaminate public service media in multiple Member States.” 

“Some governments continue to exercise influence over national media regulatory bodies, in particular with regard to hiring processes.”

The report concludes that public trust in the media remains low across the EU. 

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