Journalists and publishers in Europe have joined forces to challenge a new European law that could undermine media reporting of the business world.
The European Federation of Journalists, part of the International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' group, today issued a joint statement with ten of Europe's leading media organisations criticising the European Union over its planned directive on Market Abuse.
"This law is a much-needed attack on insider dealing and abuse of market rules," said Aidan White, EFJ General Secretary, "but in its current form it would treat journalists who inadvertently report misleading information or make an innocent mistake as criminals." The EFJ fears that the impact will restrict the scope and speed of financial news and information.
The EFJ and the nine other industry signatories are asking the European Union to amend the draft by introducing a "purpose test" element into the section of the Directive covering information dissemination in the media. This would ensure that journalists would only be subject to market abuse sanctions if they knew, or could be reasonably expected to have known that the information they disseminated was false or misleading, and that they disseminated the information in order to create a false or misleading impression. An example of such a test exists in the UK Financial Service's Authority.
"The effect of criminalizing such innocent mistakes would slow the speed and quality of information flow from news providers to markets, as journalists might be compelled to exclude information rather than risk criminal sanctions" said the joint statement, which was sent to the European Parliament's Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs and the Permanent Representatives of the Council.
The COREPER will discuss the draft directive on November 29, before it goes to the ECOFIN Council on December 4. In the Parliament, the report by the rapporteur Robert Goebbels will be presented on December 18/19 in the Committee on Monetary and Financial Affairs.
This is the first time all major representative organisations in the media have come together in a joint protest. They include the European Federation of Journalists, the European Publishers' Council, the European Newspaper Publishers Association, the European Magazine Publishers Association, the European Broadcasting Union, the Association of Commercial Television, the Association of European Radios, the UK based Independent Television News, the Newspaper Society and the UK Press Complaints Commission.
The joint statement reflects a common concern within media towards protecting media freedom and upholding standards of investigative journalism and quality content.
A joint meeting on the issue involving all the partners in the industry coalition is planned for Brussels in December. "This law is important, but we must make sure we don't sacrifice quality and standards in journalism along the way," says the EFJ.