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12.02.2007 / Giving up the fundamental value of FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION in the name of ‘combating terrorism’?
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The Council Framework Decision of 13 June 2002 on combating terrorism sets the legal framework for any kind of information dissemination within the EU that has the potential to incite, aid, abet and attempt a terrorist offence.
This “information dissemination” could cover all kinds of content, including editorial content, published in the press and online. Therefore this framework decision has an impact on freedom of expression.
The European Federation of Magazine Publishers, FAEP, representing more than 15.000 magazine publishers across Europe who publish more than 50.000 magazine titles, opposes any attempt of the European Union to restrict the fundamental right of freedom of expression.
Whilst we support measures designed to combat terrorism, we ask the European Commission and the Council of the European Union to take an approach that does not interfere with the fundamental right of freedom of expression. European magazine publishers defend this vitally important principle, as a key right for European citizens and the cornerstone for any publication in the European Union, print or online.
FAEP would like to highlight why we oppose any kind of legal framework at EU level that affects information dissemination in general and editorial content in particular whether or not it could be considered to have the potential to incite, aid, abet and attempt a terrorist offence.
Freedom of expression: a central pillar of our democracy
Press Freedom is a fundamental element of freedom of expression and therefore a central pillar of our democracy. A diverse and objective press is a vital part of the political culture of the EU, as it gives all citizens the opportunity to inform themselves and shape their opinion on any subject of interest to them.
Therefore FAEP asks the European Commission and the Council of the European Union to take the following issues into consideration:
1. The European Union must not harmonise the legal framework for freedom of expression that is established and efficient at the member state level
The European press has been traditionally regulated at national level as it is an integral part of national and regional culture. European harmonisation of the legal framework for freedom of expression would therefore be a severe restriction of national independence and a restriction on the ability of member states to promote core values. This independence is justified and takes account of legitimate cultural differences, allowing national regimes to function effectively and efficiently.
No media, neither offline nor online, should be subject to a restrictive regime applied at EU level. European magazine publishers are particularly concerned at the possible development of a European regime for online content which would compromise freedom of expression in a medium which is stimulating a huge amount of content and encouraging participation in public debate by individuals as well as media organizations.
Any attempt to review the Council Framework Decision would require the definition of “freedom of expression” to be formulated at EU level, as opposed to national level. We would remind Council members that the issue of press freedoms and their regulation, are purely within the competencies of national governments and that the European Institutions are expressly forbidden from introducing harmonising measures in this field (Article 151 of the EC Treaty).
2. Wording of specific terms, like ‘incitement’ should not be defined at EU level as it is subject to interpretation by judges and national governments
Interpretation of terms should be left to individual Member States, according to their national cultural context. Only then can these words be nationally adjusted in a way that ensures they do not impact fundamental principles.
3. No government control on editorial content: this would undermine the media’s role in a democratic society
In the European Union, the press is free and, rightly, not subject to prior control. A combination of national statutory and self-regulatory mechanisms has been proven as the best way of ensuring the media meets its obligations and maintains its independence. No additional regulation is necessary. Any initiative at EU rather than national level could undermine carefully balanced national regimes and compromise the important role of the media.
The media has a special place in any democratic society as a purveyor of information and public watchdog. For journalists and the media in Europe, a stricter Council Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism, that explicitly aims to fight content that is linked with terrorism, would mean that government authorities could (routinely) monitor press activity, identify sources and keep track of other journalistic research activities. This would have a profound "chilling effect" on free speech and impact particularly seriously on investigative journalists, who are trusted by confidential sources to investigate sensitive documents, sometimes related to the very governments who would be able to limit their activities.
Investigative journalism is essential in an open and democratic society. It acts as a ‘check and balance’ in a world where ‘spin’ is commonplace. This is only possible if sources are protected. Without the certainty of protection, the number of sources will diminish. This represents a serious threat to democracy as it weakens its Fourth Pillar by gravely affecting press freedom.
FAEP therefore asks the European Commission and the Council of the European Union to defend the principle of freedom of expression strongly, by not giving up this fundamental value of European society in the name of ‘combating terrorism’.
For more information, please contact Max von Abendroth: firstname.lastname@example.org
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