The European Union (EU) is pouring millions of pounds into organizations that advocate state control of the press. For many, the funding -- uncovered recently by Telegraph journalist Andrew Gilligan -- is yet further evidence of the EU's increasingly Orwellian, authoritarian nature. The Soviet dissident Vladimir Bukovsky has for years referred to the organization as the EUSSR.
One recipient of European taxpayers' money, Mediadem, for example, has been given 2.3 million pounds. Mediadem describes its mission as working to "reclaim a free and independent media." Addressing the topical issue of how to restructure the system of redress for those wrongfully accused or defamed by newspapers, Mediadem recommends the "imposition of sanctions beyond an apology or correction" and the "co-ordination of the journalistic profession at the European level."
Mediadem's representative, Dr Craufurd Smith, has written, "Liberal conceptions of media freedom focus on editorial freedom for government interference.... [however] states may also be required to take positive measures to curtail the influence of powerful economic or political groups.... this entails that neither the media, nor those individuals who own or work for the media, enjoy an absolute right to freedom of expression."
This is not the first time the EU has sought to control freedom of expression. In 2001, the European Court of Justice ruled that the EU was allowed to suppress political criticism of its institutions and of leading figures. The court ruled that the EU was lawfully allowed to punish individuals who "damaged the institution's image and reputation."
The European Court of Justice is the EU's highest court. Its advocate general, Damaso Ruiz-Jarabo Colomer, had previously argued that a book criticizing EU financial policy was akin to extreme blasphemy, and thus not protected by free speech laws.
The attack against freedom of expression has extended to economic information. In 2011, an EU official proposed a ban on the issuing of sovereign credit ratings for countries in bailout talks. Michel Barnier, a European internal market commissioner, said, "I think it's legitimate to have a special treatment when a country is in negotiation or is covered by an international solidarity program with the IMF or a European solidarity".
In the wake of the Leveson Report, a British parliamentary inquiry into the "ethics of the Press," an EU report called for tighter press regulation and demanded that the EU should be given new powers to enforce fines or the sacking of journalists against errant media outlets.
Much of the EU's keenness to intervene comes from its concern at the negative coverage it receives in the British press. When the EU is not proposing to regulate the press, it is spending vast sums on pro-EU advertising. In 2012, the EU spent £682 million of British taxpayers' money on its enormous public relations department.
Some of this money has been funnelled into the creation of "Captain Euro." an online children's comic book, in which the integrationist super-hero battles against an "evil organization" that is "hard at work in the shadows."
Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan has noted there is a whiff of anti-Semitism to the cartoon. The "enemy" of Captain Euro, called Dr Vider, has a prominently hooked nose and uses the free market to make money, "no matter if it might involve the suffering of others." It is further explained that, "Banned and ostracised from the financial world for unprofessional conduct he managed to escape arrest despite his involvement in financial scandal."
An internal EU report goes some way in explaining the fondness for comic books, by concluding, "Children can perform a messenger function in conveying the message to the home environment. Young people will often in practice act as go-betweens with the older generations, helping them embrace the euro."
In 2012, the EU spent £106,000 on a video in which a white woman, dressed in EU colors, overcame threatening, dark-skinned martial arts attackers. The video was withdrawn after complaints of racism. Further, various EU youth groups have produced music videos -- in one of which, European youths sing, "I am European, and I love it to be, I am European, it's my destiny."
While the EU is happy to use the Internet to disseminate pro-EU propaganda, it also advocates the regulation of Internet content. In 2012, the EU proposed the "harmonization" of laws across the 27 member-states to force websites to delete information shortly after consumers request its removal. The EU also funds a number of a projects designed to explore censorship of "terrorist" content on the Internet.
There is a joke in Brussels that if the European Union were a country applying to join itself, it would be rejected on the grounds of being undemocratic. But it is not much of a joke. The EU is run by a body that combines legislative and executive power, with an unelected President at the very top. According to a recent Parliamentary report, widespread fraud has led to more than £4 billion of taxpayer's money "disappearing" from the EU budget each year. Auditors have refused to sign off EU accounts for eighteen years in a row and EU officials have been sacked for exposing corruption and fraud within the vast bureaucracy.
The European Union's flaws are best summed up by Sholto Byrnes, who wrote in the Independent: "All it takes to have a profound suspicion of the EU and its greedy accretion of powers is this: to believe in transparency and accountability; to feel in your bones that sovereignty should not be passed from nation state to international body without the voters being consulted; and to desire that those voters should be as close as possible to the representatives they elect. To be, in other words, a democrat."
Unable to counteract criticism of its failings through meaningful reform, the European Union is resorting to undisguised propaganda and proposed regulation of its critics.