August 3, 2021

“Democracy is not a given and we must nurture it”

Pegasus case, Hungarian anti-LGBT law, LGBT-free zones in Poland, murder of a journalist in the Netherlands… The rule of law in Europe is not a given. While the Commission is publishing its second report on the issue on Tuesday, July 20, in order to assess its country-by-country practice within the European Union (EU), Vice-President Vera Jourova delivers to the World his analysis of the situation.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, considers “unacceptable” – if they were proven – the revelations made in the context of the Pegasus affair on the practices of Hungary, which spied on journalists. What can the Commission do?

We need to analyze this case, which we discovered in the press. And see if it violates European law. If so, we will launch an infringement procedure against Hungary. At first glance, it seems to me that the protection of private data has not been respected.

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Is press freedom in danger in Europe?

We need to do more for press freedom. The Commission does not have much competence in this area, but the situation of the media in Europe is worsening, whether we are talking about the safety of journalists, the economic situation of the press or the political pressures of which they are the object. The Commission wants to make the most of the tools at its disposal and strengthen its powers.

That is to say ?

In September, I will make recommendations to member states to better protect their journalists. I did not expect this but journalists are more and more attacked, on the Internet, but also in demonstrations or in life. The latest example is the tragic assassination of Dutch journalist Peter R. de Vries. Member States must ensure the security of all their citizens.

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Then, before the end of the year, the Commission will propose a directive, therefore legislation, in order to protect journalists and human rights activists who are victims of gag lawsuits, which are launched by powerful people against the media in order to make them pay and discourage them. And, in early 2022, the Commission will present a law for media freedom.

It is about giving a status to those who are pillars of democracy. Today, we protect journalists as ordinary citizens. We do not take into account their role in society. That must change. Safety, we’ve talked about it. This legislation will also aim to increase transparency, in order to better understand who controls which media.

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