Journalists went on a one-day strike this week as NBC Universal, a US media conglomerate, was in negotiation with Euronews to buy a stake of up to 30 per cent in the European broadcaster for around €25 million.
Several Euronews journalists said many of channel’s news programmes avoided criticising Turkey following the failed coup there in July, and that criticising Russia’s assertive foreign policy towards its neighbours and towards the EU was also complicated.
A European Parliament report last year on Russia’s manipulation of information about Ukraine said that “there are growing concerns about the independence – or alleged lack thereof – of Euronews,” which also broadcasts in Russian and Ukrainian.
Euronews has also recently come under fire for teaming up with the president of the Republic of Congo, Denis Sassou Nguesso, who has been in power for three decades and is accused of stifling freedom of speech and political opposition, to launch Africanews, a pan-African television news channel.
The European Commission subsidises Euronews – last year it gave it €24.7 million – and in return it says it expects that “Euronews must keep intact its independence and its mission of European general interest.”
Asked if it was proper use of EU taxpayers’ money to subsidise a channel that broadcasts programmes “sponsored” by oppressive regimes, Commission spokeswoman Nathalie Vandystadt told the British Telegraph:
“The Commission has no relation with those programmes.”
“The (Commission’s) contract with Euronews protects the channel’s independence and editorial freedom, and as such it is totally unfounded and unfair to state that the EU funding qualifies as ‘propaganda’,” she said.
Euronews for its part denied that there was any pressure on journalists to avoid producing reports that were unfavourable to the Turkish or Russian governments.
Spokeswoman Lydie Bonvallet also rejected the accusation that programmes “sponsored” by countries like Saudi Arabia or Uzbekistan were propaganda.
“Euronews is a private company… and, (as) for all international news media, advertising and brand content is a key source of revenue,” she told the Telegraph.
She said all journalists at both Euronews and its sister channel Africanews adhere to an “editorial charter based on the fundamental principles of freedom of expression… and editorial independence limited only by respect for the facts.”
With respect to the African channel, which launched this year, she said:
“We defy anyone who will watch Africanews day after day to find a biased story about the Republic of the Congo.”
Euronews is a multilingual news media service, headquartered in Lyon, France. Created in 1993, it aims to cover world news from a pan-European perspective. Naguib Sawiris, an Egyptian businessman, is Chairman of its Supervisory board. The Sawiris family owns 53% of the media (through Media Globe Networks).