Protection of media freedom: European solutions and challenges

On the occasion of the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU and World Press Freedom Day, on May 4th, at the Slovak Public Service Broadcaster (RTVS) building in Bratislava, the Embassy of Sweden and the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted the conference “European solutions to strengthen the protection of media freedom and pluralism: sharing Swedish and Slovak experience”. Peter Burian, Ambassador for Human Rights (MFA Slovakia), and Cecilia Ruthström-Ruin, Ambassador for Human Rights Affairs (MFA Sweden) introduced the discussion by exploring how freedom of the media and freedom of expression have declined more than other civil liberties worldwide. The protection of media freedom and independent media is about defending democracy. State Secretary (MFA Slovakia) Andrej Stančík stressed that World Press Freedom Day is a reminder to governments to respect their commitment to media freedom, especially when many journalists face restraints, intimidation, and violations of their rights.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine raised the bar of challenges for the protection of media freedom in Europe. Slovakia particularly suffers from a pandemic of conspiracies, Stančík stated. The EU’s commitments to respect media freedom and pluralism and to uphold freedom of expression are enshrined in Article 11 of the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights. The European Media Freedom Act (EMFA), proposed by the European Commission in September 2022, puts forward a set of rules aimed at promoting media pluralism and independence across the EU. Tomáš Kozák, DG for EU Affairs (MFA Slovakia), and Peter Hanák, a journalist at “” and researcher at International Press Institute, discussed some concrete measures to safeguard the independent provision of media services in the internal market, enhance regulatory cooperation, ensure a well-functioning market for media services and a transparent allocation of economic resources.

There is no shortage of challenges in this regard today. Cilla Benkö, CEO of the Swedish Public Service Radio, started her intervention with the war in Ukraine: “Not just an assault of democracy, but on truth too,” she affirmed. Russia criminalizes trustworthy and independent media, giving into a hybrid war, whose key target is media indeed. Tampering with the reality of the facts with misinformation and disinformation enables the destruction of democracy. Threats to media increase in times of unrest: populist narratives depict journalists as enemies and try to undermine their force as democratic pillars. As some countries are moving towards an authoritarian trend, the protection of media freedom is more urgent in democracies at risk. Anna Sámelová, news editor-in-chief of RTVS, underlined the financial aspects and challenges for the public service today in her country.

Unlike in Slovakia, in Sweden many politicians support the importance of the protection of media freedom. Currently, in the Swedish Parliament there is a bill on harassment of a journalist as an aggravating circumstance. The situation in Slovakia regarding the protection of media freedom and journalists is only recently gaining momentum. Oľga Davalová and Viktória Knappová from the Media Law and Audio-vision Department (Ministry of Culture), discussed the recent news that the government approved a new funding model for RTVS. The Slovak public broadcaster will receive 0.15 percent of Slovakia’s GDP in 2024. The bill introduces stability to the public broadcaster and ensures its independence from politics and protection of media freedom. This might not be enough, some critics argue, but it is a good start to strengthen media independence and protection.

Amedeo Gasparini

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Pubblicato da Amedeo Gasparini

Amedeo Gasparini, class 1997, freelance journalist, managing “Blackstar”, MA in “International Relations” (Univerzita Karlova, Prague – Czech Republic); BSc in “Science of Communication” (Università della Svizzera Italiana, Lugano – Switzerland)