MEPs to join forces against disinformation

Jean-Marie Cavada, former Chair of the EP media intergroup 2009-2014, speaks during the event. [Alexandre Dechaumont]

A number of newly elected members of the European Parliament committed to joining forces in the upcoming five-year term in fighting disinformation, during an event organised by EURACTIV foundation.

Members of several groups shared their concerns over the impact of misinformation on European democracy and vowed to work together to fight it during the networking event held on 4 June.

Asked what advice he would give to his successor, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pointed to the need for battling fake news in an interview with German newspaper BILD.

“I would advise him or her to make more energetic public statements to counter the repeated attempts to smear the EU,” Juncker said. “The Commission should set up an anti-fake-news department which would do nothing else but expose these lies.”

“We have been too hesitant about this in the past,” the Commission chief admitted.

Better regulation and media literacy

Siegfried Mureșan, a recently re-elected Romanian MEP (EPP), stressed the responsibility public servants have in fighting disinformation but also pointed out the duty of media and citizens.

“The media have a responsibility in terms of separating yourselves, in terms of transparency, in terms of codes of conduct. All of us, as citizens, also have a responsibility to distinguish between fake news and a serious media outlet, media source,” Mureșan argued.

Mikulas Peksa, a Czech Pirate Party representative who was elected for the first time, shared this assessment in an interview with EURACTIV and stressed the importance of media literacy so that citizens are capable of critical thinking.

Developments in artificial intelligence represent important risks, Peksa said, however, the solution is not regulation, he argued.

“What we need is an educated population so that people will be really capable to distinguish the disinformation because there is no real way how to prevent the disinformation from reaching our people. But we have to, so to say, vaccinate them against this kind of disease,” said Peksa, whose party has joined the Greens/EFA.

Ahead of the EU elections in May, the Greens argued that media policy should “absolutely” be a priority for the next European Commission. The press has a great impact on shaping people’s opinion and the political agenda and so far, the EU’s role in this area has been very limited.

In order to ensure a healthy media landscape in Europe, the institutions need to work towards more and better coordination between member states too.

“What we really need is a common European market for media,” Peksa said.

Ricardo Gutiérrrez, secretary general of the European Federation of Journalists, added that “in history, we all know that journalism is the best antidote for disinformation”.

Christophe Leclercq, the founder of EURACTIV, said “several evils threaten our democracies: foreign interference, abuses by oligarchs and allied governments, or concentration of power by platforms. This calls for high journalism standards based on healthy revenues, and for regulation based on competition rules, not government censorship. ”

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Lead candidates for the upcoming European elections are pondering ways of safeguarding the media sector’s integrity in light of persistent economic challenges and emerging threats like Russian disinformation.

[Edited by Beatriz Rios/Zoran Radosavljevic]

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