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Swedish bloggers give MEP a kicking over media pluralism

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Sweden’s bloggers have blown a gasket over an Estonian MEP's proposal that they and their European kindred spirits should assume some kind of responsibility for their content, forcing the European parliament to rush out a statement saying there were no such plans on the table.

If anything, the Swedish blogosphere’s hysterical and often personal attacks on Estonia’s Marianne Mikko, on the basis of some off-kilter reporting by mainstream Swedish media, might bolster those who think that a focus on standards amongst journalists and/or bloggers might not actually be a bad thing.

Mikko’s report on media pluralism was adopted by the European Parliament Culture Committee almost a month ago, and suggests that there was a need to “clarify” the status of blogs and to “create legal safeguards for use in the event of lawsuits as well as to establish a right of reply”.

The committee’s statement on the report proposes other clear assaults on freedom and democracy such as “editorial charters” to stop owners, shareholders and governments interfering with editorial content, and introducing fees for the commercial use of user-generated content.

The working document for the report, published in December, raises concerns over media professionals running their own “private” blogs, suggesting that this could cause problems regarding “source protection, applicability of ethical codes and the assignment of liability in the event of lawsuits”. Similar concerns apply to blogs maintained by public figures and private citizens, it suggests.

Points worth considering perhaps, but the fact is this is an own-initiative report which has even less impact than most of the paperwork spewed out of Strasbourg.

Somewhere along the line though, Sweden's media appears to have translated this as a barely-disguised blueprint for a draconian scheme to round up bloggers, register them, and embed some kind of party-line chip, before letting them loose again as Strasbourg-supporting drones.

The response was swift, according to the EUObserver, and laced with personal attacks on Mikko, who is apparently a former journalist.

"Exchange the EU for China, and you would have a real media outcry," the site quotes Sören Karlsson, blogger and publisher of the daily Helsingborgs Dagblad.

Peter Swedenmark, an editorial writer for daily Västerbottens Folkblad, said the proposal smacked of Ceausescu's Romania "Unfortunately, in the naive proposal from Mikko, there seems to be some kinship with the Romanian line."

One Swedish politician condemned the “incredibly stupid proposal”, saying it was clear that Mikko had not shaken off her Soviet-era journalism training, the EUObserver reports.

All of which was no doubt highly therapeutic for Sweden’s blogosphere, barely a fortnight after Stockholm enacted an eavesdropping law even George Bush would envy.

Strangely, there doesn’t appear to have been any objection to Mikko’s suggestion that producers of “user-generated” content - you know, blogs and the like - should get something more than a symbolic level of compensation from mainstream media outlets for their efforts. ®

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