Against a Free Press

by Andrew Stuttaford

Oligarchs don’t like criticism.

The Sunday Telegraph reports:

Angered by the British media’s coverage of Brussels, the European Commission says it wants to be a “moral compass” against press misconduct, seeking new national and Europe-wide regulatory powers over journalists.

The EU has spent £2.3 million on the previously unpublicised “Mediadem” project to “reclaim a free and independent media”. In a “policy brief” co-authored by its lead British researcher, Rachael Craufurd Smith, Mediadem says it is “simplistic” to “see state influence [over the press] as inherently stifling”.

… Mediadem recently produced “recommendations for the UK” demanding the “imposition of sanctions beyond an apology or correction” on errant media outlets and the “co-ordination of the journalistic profession at the European level”. The recommendations call for the press to be controlled by the same body and on the same basis as broadcasters, who are currently tightly regulated with statutory “balance” obligations that do not apply to newspapers.

And this “unpublicized” (how appropriate) effort is not alone. The Telegraph reports that there are at least another four schemes being pursued by Brussels, each designed to increase its powers over the media.

It’ll be interesting to see what politicians in Eastern Europe, a part of the world that knows something about a muzzled media, have to say about this. Or is press freedom just another thing that they are prepared to throw away in the name of the European dream (or the EU career) to which so many of them are—quite evidently—in thrall?

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