News Media Europe

European press publishers insist on press freedom safeguards in the reviewed Disinformation Code of Practice

Press releases , May 26, 2021


-Brussels, 26 May 2021-

In response to the European Commission’s Guidelines reviewing the Code of Practice on Disinformation unveiled today, News Media Europe insists that press freedom safeguards should be considered in the upcoming review of the code. The self-regulatory code has since 2018 been an attempt to force online platforms to deliver results in the fight against disinformation, yet Signatories failed to meet expectations according to Vice-President Jourová and Commissioner Breton (press release here).

News Media Europe is satisfied that some of its recommendations have been taken into account and generally supports the Guidelines.

Given the complexity of the issue of disinformation and risks on freedom of expression, the association welcomes that the framework remains co-regulatory and flexible. At the same time, the Guidelines clearly point out the systemic risks that some online platforms represent on European democracies, and the obligation to mitigate such risks through greater transparency, demonetization, reporting and accountability measures.

While there’s clear efforts in the guidelines from the European Commission to preserve free speech, the revised Code should not provide Signatories tools to rate editorial content. News Media Europe expresses strong concerns about the application of “trustworthiness indicators” to media sources, as a threat to press independence and editorial freedom.

Wout van Wijk, Executive Director, said: “Empowering citizens to make informed decisions about what they see and read is the way to go about it. However, we observe a tendency from tech giants to pick and choose partners to the detriment of media pluralism. The Code must ensure citizens navigate within a free and plural environment that truly reflects the diversity of the European press offering, not platforms’ à-la-carte selection.”

Hence in the re-drafting process, News Media Europe calls the European Commission and Signatories to include press freedom safeguards:

  • Signatories should not discriminate against press titles, e.g. via recommender systems, warning or labelling tools;
  • Signatories should not fact-check editorial media, which already integrates in-house editorial and moderation teams aligned with journalistic editorial processes and ethical codes;
  • Broadened participation including brands and advertisers should not negatively affect the press, a sector heavily reliant on advertising as an important source of funding for open content;
  • The user flagging system should not be used as a basis to take down press content, the competence in this area being strictly limited to courts or national regulators.

News Media Europe stands behind the idea of a Code of Conduct, which should in our view be extended to negotiations for content distribution between news media companies and gatekeeping platforms, a key element for the promotion of reliable information online. We invite the European Commission to keep an open door for such dialogue.

For further information, please contact:

Wout van Wijk (Executive Director):

Aurore Raoux (Policy Manager):

News Media Europe represents the progressive news media industry in Europe – over 2,500 media companies including newspapers, radio, television and internet. News Media Europe is committed to promoting the freedom of the press, enhancing the freedom to publish, and to championing the news brands, which are one of the most vital