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A pseudo-warning to the pseudo-media


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Diario de Navarra

Ana Azurmendi

Professor of Constitutional Law at the School de Comunicación

I had not read the interview of La Vanguardia ( Saturday June 15) to the President of the Government, Pedro Sánchez, until I got the news that he had talked about reforming "the organic law of Honor and the Right to Rectification" (sic). Then I was very interested in accessing this journalistic piece. I have been studying and talking about these laws to the students of School of Communication since 1991, they are very important. Old acquaintances of all newspapers, magazines, radios and anything that moves in the Public Communication, the Organic Law 1/1982, of Civil Protection of the Right to Honor, to the Privacy staff and family, and to the own Image, and the Organic Law 2/1984, Regulating the Right of Rectification -these are their official names- have been applied thousands of times, yes, thousands, in sentences of First Courts written request, Provincial Courts, Supreme Court, Constitutional Court, since 1982 and since 1984 respectively.

The miracle is that, being laws that predate the Internet - which appeared in homes in 1995 - they continue to be applied successfully, even in conflicts provoked by tweeters and youtubers. No one doubts that these legal texts require update. To begin with, they were drafted with the honor, privacy and image of politicians and celebrities almost exclusively in mind, when, nowadays, unlawful intrusions in those rights reach all citizens, of all ages and conditions. Hence the widespread panic upon learning, for example, that goal is going to train its artificial intelligence with all the photos of Instagram users.

However, let no one think that we are unprotected on social networks. The Law of data personal and digital rights, of 2018, protects privacy on the Internet and also regulates rectification. That is to say, legal complements have been created that have covered the new needs for the protection of rights. But it is true that these eighties laws need to be updated. The recently introduced European Law on Freedom of the Media (the official name is the European Regulation on Freedom of the Media, (EU) 2024/1083 of 11 April 2024), looks very good. It sounds much more like a safeguard for the media than a way to facilitate censorship by governments. And this is grade in three things: 1) The guarantees it establishes for the secrecy of journalists' confidential sources; 2) The mantra about the need for independence of the media and journalism; and 3) The insistence on transparency in the allocation of the state advertising -it is mentioned 24 times in the text-.

Not only that, it defends the media from the tyranny of digital platforms. An exception granted to almost no one else. Google, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, Instagram cannot remove a media content, not even by applying their own self-regulatory codes. They are forced to establish a dialogue between the two organizations - platform and media - before arriving at anything definitive.

So what about the "pseudo-media"? I understand that they are pointed out because they do not meet the standards of quality journalism. That they do not fit in the definition of media given by the European Law (read its article 2). Now, if for the European Union those radio and television news or those newspapers are media, then it doesn't matter whether they are pro-government or counter-government, because they will be fulfilling the indispensable political role of "being the guardian of democracy" (as expressed in the European Law). The European Court of Human Rights confirms that this role is fulfilled by a media "if it provides reliable information on matters of public interest to citizens", also "when exaggeration or provocation is present" in the information [among others, cases Stomakhin v. Russia (2018), Radio Broadcasting Company B92 AD v. Serbia (2016), Björk Eidsdóttir v. Iceland (2012), Pfeifer v. Austria (2007), Haukom v. Norway (2007), Tønsbergs Blad A.S. v. Norway (2007)].

Not only that, he points out that both government measures and laws often produce a "chilling effect" on the journalist and the media, consisting of not reporting something relevant, due to the economic consequences -compensations, fines- or other consequences subject, imprisonment or professional disqualification to which they give rise. In final, the guardian of democracy, the media, should not be muzzled or frightened. They require independence and freedom. This is what the European Law on Freedom of the Media says at degree scroll .