The Czech Presidency of the European Union has circulated a compromise text for the Regulation on the transparency and targeting of political advertising. This text poses risks to democracy and civil society. ARTICLE 19, together with 33 civil society organisations, raise our concern in a letter addressed to all EU Ministers for European Affairs and put forward recommendations for amendments necessary to ensure that the text safeguards fundamental rights.
The current text on the Regulation of Political Advertising includes several problematic components that could lead to the shrinking of civil space, such as:
- defining the free expression of political ideas and civic engagement as political advertising, therefore imposing disproportionate obligations on simple civic participation;
- establishing a sanctions regime that applies to users of political advertisements on unclear grounds and leaving to the Member States the task of laying down the rules on sanctions, potentially discouraging civil society from using advertisement and restricting civic space;
- postponing necessary measures to ensure the integrity of electoral processes in the EU until 2026, including the establishment of ad repositories for online political advertisements and further restrictions to the processing of personal data in political advertising.
In our view, the Regulation text must ensure:
- A clear scope for political advertising: The Regulation must acknowledge the critical importance of civic speech for democracy and clearly distinguish it from political advertising, always defining advertising as a service;
- A minimum, instead of maximum, harmonised sanctions regime that specifically targets service providers: The Regulation must ensure effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions while also preserving freedom of expression and the civic space;
- Ambitious measures to be implemented as soon as possible: The Regulation must include measures on the establishment of ad repositories for all online political advertisements and restrictions on the processing of personal data in political advertising.