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How to articulate journalistic self-regulation and media regulation?

At a time when Europe is honing its approach to the moderation of online content, the Conseil de déontologie journalistique (CDJ) explores the relationships between journalistic self-regulation and regulation of the media information within the EU.

After discussions with the stakeholders, ten recommendations emerged which underline the need for dialogue and cooperation on an equal footing between both bodies, in order to best protect freedom of the press and the right to information.

In French-speaking Belgium, interactions between the press council (CDJ) and the audiovisual media regulator (CSA) are standard and included in a decree. However, for most press councils, this is not the case. Based on its experience, the CDJ therefore wondered if its model of cooperation was truly unique, and was thus interested in the formal or informal exchanges that take place between authorities in other countries of the European Union.

Starting from the Belgian example, the comparative analysis carried out within the CDJ by Helena Peten de Pina Prata focused on how regulation and self-regulation coexist and overlap. The first part of the research compares and analyses the similarities and differences in European countries. This is done on the basis of a series of collected data, namely an in-depth qualitative examination of six selected countries (Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain, Italy and Sweden) and an online survey that extends the scope of the study to all press regulators and councils in EU member states.

The research concludes that there are several criteria likely to influence the relationship between press councils and regulators – the existence of a press council or other self-regulatory body; legal recognition of the press council; its seniority; its missions ; its powers and competences; and the missions of the regulator.

The second part examines the conclusion through the perspectives of European press councils and representatives of the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA). In light of the observations, 10 recommendations were then developed. These focused on how press councils can, ultimately, contribute to the objectives of media regulation, while protecting the independence and freedom of the press.

This analysis is all the more relevant as it is carried out at a time when a new regulatory framework concerning online content and digital players is emerging – the proposed European legislation on media freedom ( EMFA), the implementation of the new Digital Services Regulation (DSA) – and could challenge the current divisions of competence in place in each EU member state.

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