Journalists’ unions warn about “confusing” EU Parliament resolution tackling anti-EU propaganda

© Federic Florin/AFP

The International and European Federation of Journalists (IFJ and EFJ) warned about a “confusing and incoherent” European Parliament non-legislative resolution adopted on Wednesday to counter anti-EU propaganda from countries such as Russia and non-state actors, like Daesh o Al-Qaeda.

MEPs suggested to reinforce the EU’s “strategic communication” task force and investing more in awareness raising, media literacy, online and local media as well as investigative journalism. The resolution calls on EU member states to boost funding for counter-propaganda projects.

A total of 691 MEPs participated in the vote: 304 (44%) voted in favor of the resolution dubbed "EU strategic communication to counteract propaganda against it by third parties", 179 (26%) voted against and 208 (30%) abstained from voting. Proposed by a Polish member of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) group, Anna Elżbieta Fotyga, the resolution was mainly supported by the Christian Democrats (EPP), the Conservatives (ECR) and the Greens (Greens/EFA). Most of the Socialists (S&D), the Liberals (ALDE) and representatives of United Left (GUE) abstained or voted against the resolution.

The resolution underlines the need to improve media freedom, media pluralism, independence of the media, ethical journalism, transparency of media ownership, support for journalists, combat media concentrations. It suggests investing in investigative journalism and information literacy, which would empower citizens to analyse media content critically. The report calls on the Commission and EU Member States to engage in the training of journalists, support independent media hubs and media diversity.

Regarding Russia, the voted text "recognises that the Russian Government is employing a wide range of tools and instruments, such as (...) multilingual TV stations (e.g. RT), pseudo news agencies and multimedia services (e.g. Sputnik) (...), social media and internet trolls to challenge democratic values, divide Europe, gather domestic support and create the perception of failed states in the EU’s eastern neighborhood." It also calls for measures to tackle the perceived Russian propaganda threat.

The IFJ and the EFJ are not convinced by this controversial resolution which seems to promote censorship, as the IFJ President Philippe Leruth explained in a letter sent yesterday to Ria Novosti and Sputnik news agencies.

"The IFJ and the EFJ don't believe that censorship, harassment and demonization are the right answers to counter so-called propaganda,” said Leruth. “Rather, we believe in ethical journalism, self-regulation, media pluralism and media literacy to face it. Under the umbrella of the OSCE, IFJ and EFJ have been for years very active in fostering dialogue between Russian and Ukrainian journalists under the motto ‘Two countries, one profession’. On 14-16 December, the EFJ, the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) and the EU Delegation in Russia will co-organise in Moscow the fourth and final meeting between EU and Russian journalists. The resolution carried by the European Parliament won't help promote this dialogue".

Journalists in Europe say that the resolution creates confusion between political and terrorist propaganda. They also denounce double standards on the part of the resolution’s drafters.

"In my view, the main flaw of this text is its confusion and its lack of coherence,” added EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez. “It is irresponsible to equate Russian media organisations with terrorist groups such as Islamic State. It is irresponsible to mix up Russian media with Kremlin-controlled media. The report confuses strategic communication, state propaganda, terrorist propaganda, counter-propaganda and independent information. The final version of the resolution has been improved but the global tone remains worrying. This is typical of the Cold War climate that is numbing Europe".

The IFJ and the EFJ backed their affiliate in Russia, RUJ, which also expressed its deep concern regarding this new resolution.

“We consider it as inadmissible attempt to introduce censorship and restrictions on freedom of expression and media across Europe, as the constant desire to equate journalists to weapons of information warfare and especially to the terrorists. These restrictions and sanctions against Russian media will become a dangerous precedent, entailing unpredictable consequences for all European journalism principles,” said the union in a statement.

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16

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