EU inconsistent in press and online freedoms
While the countries of the European Union are supposed to be united under a single set of principles and beliefs, the country partnership is quite divided when it comes to freedom of the press and internet.
The E.U. is quite unique as a government body. It brings together countries with a variety of different socio-economic backgrounds and unites them under a variety of different policies from social to economic. The hope is that with these various countries becoming more aligned with one another, all participants will be able to promote social and economic prosperity throughout their respective countries.
However, there are certainly challenges that come in looking to unify these countries. The levels of democracy in these countries varies greatly. One need look no further than the recent corruption scandals in Italy or on going economic crises in Greece to see that these government differ greatly than those of the Scandinavian countries.
This creates some difficulty for the E.U. in looking to extend the rights and social concerns that it agreed upon when it drafted the Treaty of the European Union. The collection of countries makes up over 500 million people and makes about 25 percent of the world's economy, meaning that it is of the utmost importance making sure that free and open individual liberties are extended to all of the citizens of the country.
There is a wide range of policies when it comes to press and internet freedom throughout the E.U. According to the Freedom House Global Press Freedom rankings, some of the most free and constricting governments are included in the E.U. For example, countries such as Bulgaria and Greece only have a ranking of "partly free," when it comes to an open forum for journalists, while Norway and Sweden top the list as the most free countries in the entire world for these very same policies.
This disparity between counties seems to run counter to the common logic of the E.U. If people are supposed to be unified under a set of policies and laws that span these nations, then the rules for journalistic freedom should be the same across borders.
The Index on Censorship recently published a report on the state of freedom of expression in the E.U. and found that this disparity reflects the findings of the Freedom House rankings. The news source noted that freedom of expression is among the founding principles of the E.U. and when a government decides to participate in the organization, it signs a treaty saying that it will uphold these freedoms.
However, this is clearly not he case. The source reported that most member states with the exception of Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and the UK have yet to repeal criminal sanctions on defamation. On top of this, their are issues of privacy law and freedom of information throughout the E.U., especially as more information comes out about the extensive surveillance programs that have been used by a number of governments.
Finding a solution
Because of these issues are so varied across the continent, it can seem as if the E.U. does not have much control in improving these policies. However, the Index on Censorship noted that it finds itself in a critical position that could make a difference in this matter going forward.
The Charter of Fundamental Rights is being introduced into E.U. primary law, which could allow the organization to take a larger position in media freedom policies going forward. In upholding the right outlined in the charter, the E.U. could work to ensure more media plurality throughout member countries and work to make it safer for journalists to operate.