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Published 2023-10-03

Schibsted’s part in the EU’s decision to secure media freedom in Europe

Today, the European Parliament (EP) agreed on its proposed changes to the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA), published by the EU Commission in September 2022.

tv studio, Aftonbladet, Stockholm office

The EMFA treats media freedom in three different dimensions: freedom from public influence,  freedom from editorial interference by media owners and freedom from social media overriding editorial decisions. The ambition of the EU institutions is for the new media freedom act to stem an illiberal wave that has already hit several countries in Europe.

The EP has today adopted important principles for protecting the free media in Europe and is improving the Commission proposal on many issues. The most important provisions, which Einar Hålien, Petra Wikström and the Public Policy team at Schibsted have worked for over a year to secure and improve, now appear to be in place. 

Schibsted has actively lobbied on this file and has been invited to several hearings in the European Parliament, but also met with the Commission and many Member States throughout the process. We have focused on safeguarding strong editorial independence from owners, protection of editorial content on social networks and the importance of assessing the impact of very large online platforms in any media merger. The responsible editors’ sovereign sole responsibility for the editorial content, in line with a long Nordic tradition, is the single provision in the new law that we have fought the hardest for. The European Parliament has now adopted the Nordic system of editorial independence.

The EP has also strengthened the proposed protection of editorial content on large online platforms. The EP is proposing to not only address cases where platforms suspend our content that they deem is violating their terms and conditions, but is also adding cases of restrictions of editorial content on platforms. The EP also states that editorial content cannot be taken down before we publishers have been able to defend their publication. 

Schibsted’s commitment to EMFA comes naturally from our 160-year tradition as a publicist and is also firmly rooted in Stiftelsen Tinius’ values. We do not see any immediate threat to media freedom in the countries our media brands operate in, but as an operator in the countries with the world’s firmest freedom of the press laws, we should get involved in the best interests of countries where media freedom is actually threatened.

We will continue to monitor the upcoming negotiations between the EP, Council and the Commission to ensure that the final text reflects the EP’s position. The aim of the EU institutions is to adopt the new law before the EU elections in June 2024.