Covid-19: overview of key initiatives at European level

posted on 14 April, 2020   (public)

Mapping of key developments, reminding about fundamental rights… As crisis threatens to jeopardize media sustainability, European institutions highlight vital role of media

(News item updated on 12 May 2020 with information on ERGA) In times of crises, the media are more essential than ever to society, in order to spread accurate and crucial information but also to fight against information disorder, i.e. misinformation, disinformation and malinformation.

At the same time, the crisis is seriously affecting the resources (be it financial, legal, technical and human) of media providers and might lead to a restriction of freedom of expression. With a view to highlighting the vital role that the media play in the current crisis, a number of European institutions have developed a range of initiatives: 

  • The Council of Europe: the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Marija Pejčinović Burić, has issued ‘a toolkit for governments on respecting human rights, democracy and the rule of law during the COVID-19 crisis’. This document was sent to the 47 member States and aims at reminding the fundamental Human rights standards such as freedom of expression and the strict conditions for any freedom restriction in times of emergency.
  • The European Union: the European Commission has launched a special webpage presenting the EU’s response to the Coronavirus crisis in several sectors (economy, travel, public health…), and including a special focus on the fight against misinformation. Besides providing links to online resources and tools for educators and teachers, the European Commission lists the accurate facts regarding the virus and the EU’s response.
  • ERGA: the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services has released a press release, reminding the crucial importance of professional journalism and underlying the need for measures from the European Commission and Member States to limit the impact of the crisis on the media sector. Moreover, ERGA has extended the work of its subgroup on disinformation to gather measures taken by online platforms to fight information disorders and created an Action Group to ‘exchange experiences and information about the crisis’ implications on the economic conditions for the audiovisual media sector in the Member States’. The overview  on the current, planned and other measures in the area of disinformation and media literacy is now available at this link
  • The European Audiovisual Observatory: as of early April, the EAO has launched a data tracking on specific national and European measures aimed at supporting the audiovisual sector in their 41 Member States, such as ‘public support, regulation, industry agreements and policy declarations’. In conducting its task, the EAO team will be supported by its Advisory Committee, and several associated networks such as EFARN and EPRA.
Links to the initiatives:

- The Council of Europe's toolkit
- The special webpage of the European Commission
- ERGA press release, note and the Measures on disinformation and Media literacy (overview)
- The EAO tracking tool

Further EPRA Background: the EPRA Board has invited its members to share information on how their authority engages with citizens and stakeholders in relation to the Covid-19 crisis. The information collected will serve as an output for a working group on Regulators and Citizens and will be shared with other relevant networks.