The ‘European Democracy Action Plan’ Risks Sanctioning EU Citizens For Exercising Free Speech
The long-waited “European Democracy Action Plan” has finally been unveiled, but its proposal to sanction alleged purveyors of so-called “disinformation” is extremely worrisome because people (including EU citizens) might have their fundamental rights and freedoms violated if they’re punished for publishing and/or sharing content that’s been arbitrarily flagged as such, and the Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency’s ambiguity about whether this will be imposed against publicly financed Russian international media outlets like RT and Sputnik risks the possibility that their EU employees might be sanctioned for their professional affiliations too.
The EDAP’s Supposed Principles
The “European Democracy Action Plan” (EDAP) has just been unveiled, but instead of reassuring everyone about the bloc’s commitment to human rights in its fight against so-called “disinformation”, it dangerously risks violating them by proposing that alleged purveyors of such arbitrarily flagged information products be sanctioned. The document starts off innocuously enough by explaining the need to “promote free and fair elections and democratic participation; support free and independent media; and counter disinformation”, all of which it’s claimed will be done “in full respect of the fundamental rights and freedoms enshrined in the Treaties and the Charter of Fundamental Rights, as well as in national and international human rights rules.” Regarding the aforementioned Charter, they note how “media freedom and media pluralism” are “enshrined” in it. The EDAP also condemns the fact that “Smear campaigns are frequent and overall intimidation and politically motivated interference have become commonplace” when describing the threats to journalists’ safety, some of which they note are “even initiated by political actors, in Europe and beyond”, which “can lead to self-censorship and reduce the space for public debate on important issues.”
The Definition Of “Disinformation”
This makes it all the more surprising that the EDAP later goes on to propose sanctions against those who repeatedly spread “disinformation”, which they define as “false or misleading content that is spread with an intention to deceive or secure economic or political gain and which may cause public harm”. Although they promise that this will be done “in full respect of fundamental rights and freedoms”, no transparent mechanism is suggested for explaining how they determine the offending individual’s intent for sharing supposed “disinformation”, nor is there any mention of an appeals process for those who are unfairly targeted for the same political reasons that the EDAP’s authors earlier condemned. The document notes that the experiences of the European External Action Service’s (EEAS) East Stratcom Task Force (which, while not mentioned in the text, is the combined foreign and defense ministry of the EU that also runs the defamatory “EU vs. Disinformation” portal which regards any non-mainstream “politically incorrect” viewpoint as Russian and/or Chinese “disinformation”) will play a role in this process, which is extremely disturbing because of how politically motivated that structure’s determinations are.
A Dystopian Task Force For Stifling Free Speech
The EEAS East Stratcom Task Force actually represents everything that the EDAP earlier said that it’s against. To channel the document’s own words, “Smear campaigns are frequent and overall intimidation and politically motivated interference have become commonplace” as evidenced by their hit piece in December 2019 against me personally and occasional “debunking” of OneWorld’s factually sourced analyses (which are personal interpretations of the facts and not representative of a “chain of command from the Kremlin” like they libelously wrote without any evidence whatsoever other than circumstantial speculation). Their labeling of the site as “being a new edition to the pantheon of Moscow-based disinformation outlets” proves that they’ve arbitrarily concluded that the intent of its authors such as myself is spread “disinformation”, which the EDAP defines as “false or misleading content that is spread with an intention to deceive or secure economic or political gain and which may cause public harm”. I never had any such intent since the purpose in sharing my analyses is solely to stimulate “debate on important public issues”, which is a personal mission statement that’s actually in accordance with what the EDAP purportedly says that it wants to protect.
“EU vs. Disinformation” Or “EU + Disinformation”?
From my experience being defamed by the EEAS East Stratcom Task Force’s “EU vs. Disinformation” project, I have no confidence in its capabilities to make independent and accurate determinations but rather suspect that it’s a political instrument wielded by the EU’s foreign and defense ministries to intimidate those who share “politically incorrect” interpretations of “important public issues”. The EDAP says that its anti-disinformation proposals “do not seek to and cannot interfere with people’s right to express opinions or to restrict access to legal content or limit procedural safeguards including access to judicial remedy.” Nevertheless, my right to express my opinion is being infringed upon after my work was defamed as “disinformation” (importantly without anyone from that platform ever making an attempt to contact me beforehand even on Twitter despite them referring to my account there and thus being aware of it prior to the publication of their hit piece), and I have no access to “judicial remedy” after what they’ve done. Based on what the EDAP proposes pertaining to sanctions against alleged purveyors of “disinformation”, OneWorld, its media partners, myself, and/or the other contributors including those who are EU citizens might possibly have such costs unfairly imposed upon them.
Cracking Down On EU Citizens
Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency Vera Jourova ominously told the US government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) “in an interview to coincide” with Thursday’s release of the EDAP that “sanctions will should [sic] follow the EU’s cybersanction regime, which was used for the first time this year to freeze assets and introduce visa bans on offenders — primarily Russian, Chinese, and North Korean citizens and companies — that have attacked the bloc.” Just as equally disturbing was that “she didn’t want to specify at the moment (whether Russian media companies such as RT and Sputnik can be targeted in the future), but added that ‘it can be governmental or nongovernmental actors, whoever will be identified, using very good evidence, that they are systematic producers or promoters of disinformation.’” This confirms what I feared when I read the EDAP, namely that individuals employed by those two companies (including EU citizens among them), as well as people such as myself dangerously defamed by the EEAS East Stratcom’s Task Force and others for allegedly being part of a Russian state “disinformation” conspiracy, might one day wake up to find themselves sanctioned by the EU.
EDAP’s Ambiguities Must Be Immediately Addressed
In order to sincerely abide by its stated principles to respect people’s freedoms, the EDAP must be amended to remove any ambiguities which could allow for the sanctioning of individual people, especially those who might even be EU citizens. After all, its “EU vs. Disinformation” “watchdog” functions more as a politically driven attack dog as proven by my personal experience of having been defamed by them (made all the incriminating on their part because no attempt was made to contact me for comment on the same Twitter account that they wrote about in their hit piece before publishing it). Everyone has the right to freely express their views even if they’re “politically incorrect”, and it’s practically impossible for a nebulous structure representing the entire bloc’s foreign and defense ministry to confidently determine someone’s “intention to deceive or secure economic or political gain and which may cause public harm” whenever they publish, share, or tag someone under such arbitrarily flagged information products. Nobody can be confident in the EU’s ability to combat legitimate instances of “disinformation” when that defamatory label is casually thrown around with reckless abandon without considering the life-changing consequences that it could have for the victims like myself.
Media Literacy Is The Solution To “Disinformation”
The EDAP had it right near the end of the document when it proposed improving everyone’s media literacy like I earlier suggested over the summer after being victimized by a different defamation attack. Instead of violating people’s rights and especially those who might be EU citizens, the bloc should prioritize media literacy in order to cultivate a well-informed populace capable of arriving at their own conclusions about the various information products that they encounter. Falsely labeling something “disinformation” just because a government superbureaucracy like the EEAS can’t tolerate the fact that someone is peacefully sharing a dissident political opinion in line with their UN-enshrined human right to do so seriously discredits the bloc as a whole and raises questions about its stated intentions. Jourova herself said in a speech on the day that the EDAP was unveiled that “We do not want to create a ministry of truth. Freedom of speech is essential and I will not support any solution that undermines it”, yet that very same document that she was promoting does exactly that when it comes to my and others’ freedom of speech, especially those who are EU citizens whether casually involved in what’s wrongly described as “disinformation” or employees of foreign media companies.
Sanctions are never the solution to combating so-called “disinformation”, media literacy is, as the former is akin to the same state intimidation that the EDAP purports to be against while the latter is proof of confidence in people’s capabilities to independently arrive at their own conclusions. Only a “ministry of truth” would dare to sanction people, including its own citizens (however that would work out in practice despite potentially being illegal under the EU’s own laws since its people’s assets and freedom of movement can’t be seized/restricted without court order), for exercising their freedom of speech by sharing “politically incorrect” interpretations (analyses) of the facts. Quite hypocritically, some in the EU claim that Russia is a “dictatorship”, yet Moscow hasn’t threatened to sanction foreign media outlets, foreign commentators, and even its own citizens through asset seizures and/or travel restrictions for sharing views that contradict the Kremlin’s. In fact, judging by the EDAP itself and Jourova’s ominous hints in her interview with RFE/RL, it can be said that the EU will be much less democratic than Russia if it goes through with its “disinformation” sanctions proposal, thus turning the bloc into a modern-day Soviet Union when it comes suppressing freedom of speech and peaceful dissent.