The European Parliament is to crack down on racism and hate speech in its own house by cutting its live feed during publicly broadcast debates if any MEP is deemed to be saying anything offensive, the UK’s Press Association reported on Sunday.
According to the report, representatives have granted special powers to the parliament’s president to axe the live broadcasts, and to delete any offending video or audio material afterwards so the public will have no inkling as to what has been said.
It says, however, the rules on what is considered offensive are not clear and there are concerns about manipulation and censorship. Often ‘hate speech’ accusations are used against those with different political opinions
“This undermines the reliability of the Parliament’s archives at a moment where the suspicion of ‘fake news’ and manipulation threatens the credibility of the media and the politicians,” said Tom Weingaertner, president of the International Press Association (IPA), according to the news agency.
The move is believed to be connected with the rise of populist politicians across Europe, some like France’s Marine Le Pen who have a voice in the European Parliament and who use it to send out their message via the live broadcast.
PA said that beyond routine shouting matches, members occasionally wear T-shirts with slogans or unfurl banners. Flags adorn some members’ desks.
The maximum fine for offenders would be around 9,000 euro.
The move was first reported by Spain’s La Vanguardia paper, which said ‘offending material’ could be “deleted from the audiovisual record of proceedings”.
That means citizens would never know about it. Weingaertner said the IPA was not consulted on that.
A technical note, the report said, outlines a procedure for manually cutting off the video feed, stopping transmission on in-house TV monitors and breaking the satellite link to halt broadcast to the outside world.
According to PA, Gerolf Annemans, from Belgium’s Flemish independence party Vlaams Belang said the move could be abused “by those who have hysterical reactions to things that they qualify as racist, xenophobic, when people are just expressing politically incorrect views”.