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Brussels/Madrid – The European Union Media Freedom Act, which requires declaring media ownership and further protecting journalists for the sake of transparency and media pluralism, came into force on Tuesday, although the EU foresees a gradual implementation of the measures.

The new community regulation seeks to foster transparency about the business groups that control the media, as well as to effectively protect journalists and news providers from governmental pressures, interferences, and spyware attacks.

The vice president of the community executive in charge of Rule of Law and Justice, Vera Jourova, noted that, “for the first time, the European Union has a law to protect the freedom of the press,” acknowledging that “journalists play a crucial role in democracy and must be protected.” She then urged national governments to take the necessary steps to implement the new rules in their legislation “as soon as possible”.

The reform includes the obligation for member states to protect the independence of the media by limiting intervention in editorial decisions. In addition, journalists will be shielded to perform their work freely and without disclosing their sources.

Among the innovations is the obligation for all media to provide transparency about the identity of their owners, who will have to publish in a national database and also if they are partially or wholly publicly owned. Additionally, the media will have to report on public funds received in terms of advertising or as grants, including funding from third-party countries.

Furthermore, public funds granted to the media or online platforms must be allocated using public, proportionate, and non-discriminatory criteria.

Public media will ensure sustainable, predictable, and transparent financing and to prevent their political instrumentalization, and their directors and board members must be selected through transparent and non-discriminatory procedures for sufficiently long terms.

The Government of Spain also plans to promote measures that favor transparency regarding the ownership of the media and the origin of the institutional advertising they receive, as announced by the president Pedro Sánchez at the end of April.

After considering for several days whether to continue in office due to his family being subjected to a smear campaign, Sánchez called for democratic regeneration. As he said, some “pseudo-media” have spread rumors that have served as the basis for complaints such as the one filed against his wife Begoña Gómez, for alleged crimes of influence peddling and corruption in business.

At that moment, the president announced that he would promote measures for democratic regeneration and pointed to the renewal of the General Council of the Judiciary (CGPJ) and the promotion of transparency in the media. On the latter, sources from Moncloa have indicated that the European Media Freedom Act is a mirror to look at and a good framework to apply them.

The government spokesperson, Pilar Alegría, said on Tuesday that the discussion on democratic regeneration requires “temperance” and “seriousness,” so the Executive intends to involve other political parties, trade unions, and other institutions. (May 7)