21.11.2016 - UNESCO Office in Brussels

UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information meets with EU First Vice-President Timmermans

On 18 November 2016, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Frank La Rue met with EU First Vice-President Frans Timmermans.

On 18 November 2016, UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Communication and Information Frank La Rue met with EU First Vice-President Frans Timmermans to discuss the current challenges to press freedom in and outside Europe, in particular how to safeguard media pluralism and discuss future cooperation between both organizations. The same day, Mr La Rue also met with Stavros Lambridinis the EU Special Representative on Human Rights.

These meetings took place in the framework of the Second European Colloquium on Fundamental Rights on the topic of "Media Pluralism and Democracy", hosted by the EU First Vice-President Frans Timmermans, Commissioner Günther Oettinger and Commissioner Věra Jourová, in Brussels on 17 and 18 November 2016.

In his keynote address, Mr La Rue highlighted that “citizens must be able to trust the independence of the media and receive plural and diverse information to make democratic choices”. Evoking the current political climate of mounting populism in the world, he pointed out that “we are hence at a fundamental moment to re-launch the battle for more transparency of media ownership and media funding, for instance regarding the distribution of state advertisement. It is also high time to give guarantees to the independence of media regulatory authorities and ensure the right of citizens to seek and receive plural information through social media platforms.”

Ahead of the Colloquium, the European Commission has consulted with the public and conducted a Eurobarometer survey on the topics of media pluralism and democracy. The results of the survey highlight that a majority of respondents (57%) do not believe that their national media are free from political or commercial pressure and just over half of respondents (53%) believe their national media is providing trustworthy information.

During two days, high-level representatives of European institutions and international organisations, media outlets and media organisations, academia, and civil society, discussed ways to address current challenges for press freedom in particular the credibility crisis and financial crisis of traditional media. Finding new viable business models for quality journalism to compete with social media, which have captured the biggest market-share of advertising revenues was seen as key to many of the issues highlighted by media stakeholders.

Recommendations on how to safeguard and promote media freedom and pluralism were summarized in the concluding sessions of the Colloquium. Participants urged the European Union to take the necessary steps to encourage media pluralism, to engage in a dialogue with social media platforms, to study the impact of algorithms on media pluralism, to better guarantee the independence of regulatory authorities, to strengthen media information literacy programs and to better protect the rights of the journalistic profession from all forms of violence and pressure.

« I am extremely aware that being a journalist has become one of the most dangerous profession worldwide » said Timmermans at the Colloquium. The European Commission affirmed its readiness to analyse the recommendations and promised to take action.

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