Financial journalists will not be exempt from EU directive

EFJ’s White: "a step forward"

Financial journalists will not be exempt from tough new European Union rules making them criminally liable for markets misinformation, a committee of MEPs has decided.

But regulators will now have to take into consideration that they are already subject to self-regulation.

The European Parliament committee agreed to an oral amendment from Robert Goebbels, the Parliament Rapporteur, which says technical arrangements for the implementation of the Markets Abuse Directive should take account of "the rules, including self-regulation, governing the profession of journalists".

The directive has reached the committee stage in its progress through the European Parliament.

The European Publishers Council and the European Federation of Journalists both welcomed this last-minute effort to give added protection to financial journalists, who complain that new rules to expose and eliminate insider trading on world financial markets may limit press freedom.

Angela Mills, the EPC’s executive director, said: "It would make it more difficult for regulators to ride roughshod over the media." The council may continue to lobby for an exemption before the draft regulations are finally approved.

"This is a step forward," said Aidan White, general secretary of the EFJ. "Some may say it does not go far enough, but it makes clear that the law should focus on finding the big-time crooks and fraudulent market speculators and should not encroach upon journalism, where self-regulation is the best way to deal with unacceptable conflicts of interest."

Immediately after the vote on the draft directive, the EFJ brought together journalists and legislators to discuss its potential threat to press freedom.

Goebbels told the audience that the latest amendment added to safeguards already inserted into the text after intensive lobbying. He said journalists had nothing to fear if they fully disclosed any personal financial interests in the markets they covered.

However, Belgian journalists Marc van Cauteren said proposals for secondary legislation under discussion contained threatening elements and might undo the good intentions of the Parliament to protect self-regulation.

Internal controls at his own paper,  , the Financieel-Economische Tijd, worked well, he said, and had led to the instant dismissal of reporters who broke the rules.

By Jean Morgan

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