Daniel Freund

3. October 2023 Democracy

European Parliament votes for better protection of media freedom - But: Still no leverage against Orban's media empire

Today (Tuesday), the European Parliament voted with a clear majority in favor of the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) (448 in favor, 102 against, 75 abstentions). Following the vote a set of comprehensive measures with the aim of protecting journalists and the media will constitute the European Parliament position. The use of spyware against journalists should be banned, although with a few restrictions. Furthermore, it’s sought to achieve more transparency regarding the ownership structures of media enterprises. Media ownership would be made illegal for high-ranking politicians. The Green proposal to give the EU-Commission the power to break up extreme media concentrations, such as Viktor Orban’s media empire, did not find a majority. 184 MEPs voted in favor of the corresponding amendment, 409 were against (24 abstentions).

Daniel Freund, Green negotiator on the Media Freedom Bill in the European Parliament’s Home Affairs Committee, comments:

“Governments have no business on journalists’ phones. It is regrettable that there is no majority for a fundamental and comprehensive ban on the use of spyware. However, the greatest threat to freedom of the press in the European Union comes from politically controlled media empires. Extreme media concentration under the control of the Orban government has led to a situation in Hungary where there is de facto no newspaper, no TV and no radio outside Budapest that does not broadcast the Orban government’s propaganda on a continuous loop. The media freedom act will have a strong and positive effect on creating more transparency for sure. However, the EU Commission won’t have effective instruments at hand in order to take action against Orban’s propaganda machine. Concerned letters from Brussels will not make Orban give up his control over the Hungarian media sector. To protect media freedom in Europe, the EU Commission has to be empowered to break Orban’s media monopoly.”

To protect media freedom in Europe, the EU Commission has to be empowered to break Orban's media monopoly.


35,000 lobbyists are attempting to influence EU laws. Commissioners switch position into the private sector. MPs work as lobbyists on a part-time basis. From my time at Transparency International I know that the EU is still better than the member states in many respects.  However, there is also a need for far more transparency in the EU.