Debate with MEPs on Freedom of the Media in Central Europe

Video Chat with Michal Šimečka (SK), Anna Júlia Donáth (HU) and Sergey Lagodinsky (DE)

16 March 2021

A public debate on the freedom of the media in Central Europe (updated).

The debate addresses issues related to information sovereignty, what the EU can do regarding the right to information and the increase of media vulnerability during the pandemic crisis.

Guest speakers:

  • Michal Šimečka MEP (SK),
  • Anna Júlia Donáth MEP (HU), and
  • Sergey Lagodinsky MEP (DE).

Moderated by Visegrad Insight Editor-in-Chief Wojciech Przybylski.

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Summary:

Without media pluralism, we cannot talk about democracy. The fight for independent media is a basic challenge to sustain democratic security in Central Europe (and everywhere else).

Autocratic politicians support chosen media politically and financially because they want to deploy them as propaganda tubes, forgetting that media are a fundamental element of a free society and access to reliable information is a basic human right.

In Hungary, media freedom exists only on paper and Poland’s government seems to be paving the way to go down a similar path and copy the Budapest scenario.

The EU Parliament has been looking into these issues as part of a rule of law mechanism, not least at the last plenary session with Commissioner Věra Jourová. Resilience is possible but we need to start talking before things like in Hungary happen.

What the EU can do is to support public independent media, and this would bring support to overall media pluralism. It can go on doing the monitoring, investigating into cases, but holding plenary sessions or even seeking options to use Article 2 shows the EU can deploy tools, and above all shows it treats the issue seriously.

The EU can treat media freedom as interrelated with other issues, such as the threat to the independent judiciary in Poland or assaults on minority rights – part of a systemic agenda seeking to limit or destroy democracy.

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Highlighted quotes from the debate:

  • If you want to start talking about resilience, we have to start talking about it before its too late, like in Budapest – Sergey Lagodinsky
  • The state can always reframe the meaning of ‘people’s sovereignty’ to their liking – Sergey Lagodinsky
  • Everyone understands how consequential the shrinking of free media is for Liberal Democracy but unlike with the Rule of Law everyone thinks that the EU cannot do anything
    new – Michal Šimečka
  • The mechanism already in existence do not hit at the heart of the problem which is governments attacking free media in order not to be disturbed and be able to push through their agenda – Michal Šimečka
  • Media funds are misused in Hungary they are used for corruption – Anna Júlia Donáth
  • The oligarchs in Hungary got something back from the government for buying up the media – Anna Júlia Donáth

 

Read also: Interview with Michal Šimečka on media freedom debate in the European Parliament

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