Some EU governments are channelling national money only to those media that are the “willing servants of state propaganda”, which is not in accordance with what the EU wants, Věra Jourová, the EU Commissioner for Values and Transparency has said, EURACTIV’s media partner, Croatian daily Jutarnji list, reported.
Speaking before the European Parliament’s Inter-Party Committee on Media on 30 November, Jourová said such cases have been observed in Poland, Hungary, and Greece and a law to that effect is being drafted in Slovenia.
Referring to EU funds, she said Europe should insist that every penny is disbursed in a proper and transparent way.
“We must see a fair distribution of money and not privileged financing of some who are willing to sing the songs of the government,” she said, according to Jutarnji list.
The national Slovenian News Agency (STA), a state-funded public media outlet, reported earlier this week that its government funding had been revoked.
Following a suggestion of the Office for Press and Communications (UKOM), the conservative government of Janez Janša decided on 30 November to stop financing the national agency.
Under the law, state funds are received as a “public service” under a contract that is renewed at the end of each year and paid out in monthly instalments.
However, Janša has on several occasions expressed dissatisfaction with the STA’s work, so this decision is interpreted as political pressure on the agency, Jutarnji list reported.
The two parties in Janša’s ruling coalition, DeSUS and SMC, distanced themselves from the decision.
Under Viktor Orbán, Hungary has placed most of the media under government control, the latest case being index.hu. Poland has announced a “media repolonisation” [ie aligning them with ‘national causes’] and in Greece, the practice was exposed during the first wave of the pandemic.
At the time, the government in Athens provided €20 million to media to raise awareness of the need to stay safe at home. Some media refused to receive the money, emphasising the lack of transparency in the distribution of funds, while some others, especially the ones highly critical of the government, received no funds at all.
Earlier this week, journalists asked the European Commission about press reports published about this issue in Athens, and an EU spokesperson replied the reports were inaccurate.
“We have seen some misleading reports about an internal meeting with MEPs, but I would like to make it clear that Vice President Jourová did not comment on the situation in Greece specifically during this debate,” the spokesperson said.
Several officials who took part in that internal meeting, however, confirmed the content of the vice-president’s comments to EURACTIV, including her explicit mention of the four countries where this funding practice has been noted.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]