European Commission rebuffs criticism of communications strategy

Written by Martin Banks on 11 October 2019 in News
News

The European Commission has hit back at criticism of its communications strategy by a leading journalists’ association.

Photo credit: Fotolia


The rebuttal comes after the International Press Association (IPA) made a series of criticisms and demands of the new Commission and its huge communications team.

The Commission is due to take office on November 1 and the IPA, which represents scores of journalists in Brussels, says it wants to achieve a “good working relationship” with the team, headed by Ursula von der Leyen.

Even so, the IPA says it has misgivings about the executive's current communications policy.


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It says, for example, that the midday briefing for Brussels-based reporters has "for many become increasingly irrelevant because it is difficult to get appropriate answers."

It adds, "It should not be abolished, but improved.”

The association says, “Factual information about the work of the Commission needs to prevail over political spin. All questions deserve an answer, even if they are repetitive and the issue has been discussed in the press room earlier. We expect that spokesmen and women (SPP) do not refer to old statements to avoid having to answer again.”

“The refusal to answer ‘if’ questions is frustrating for journalists, especially where issues of EU law and regulations are concerned.”

“Factual information about the work of the Commission needs to prevail over political spin. All questions deserve an answer, even if they are repetitive and the issue has been discussed in the press room earlier” International Press Association

“In politically-sensitive cases the SPP can and should resort to using the off-the-record/background mode.”

It adds, "We also ask that spokespersons treat journalists with respect.”

One of the other IPA criticisms concerns briefings for reporters, saying, “The current system of technical briefings is widely appreciated, but there is a great need for more background and off-the-record briefings, especially on politically-sensitive issues.”

“We would also like to see that spokespersons, at the request of journalists, remain available in the pressroom for off-the-record Q&A after the open midday briefing.”

The association goes on to say that press material on topics about which commissioners or officials give press conferences or briefings, should be available on time for journalists before those events, if necessary, under embargo.

“The practice of distributing material only minutes before or often even during press conferences makes it impossible to ask well-informed questions.”

Journalists also complained that they are sometimes “bombarded” with press material on three or four major topics on one single day, which makes their work “very difficult.”

“Inviting selected groups of journalists for informal or background meetings with commissioners should as a rule be done in a non-discriminatory way” International Press Association

IPA, after a wide consultation with its members, also addresses the issue of “equal” treatment.

It says, “Inviting selected groups of journalists for informal or background meetings with commissioners should as a rule be done in a non-discriminatory way, with media of all types and origins having the opportunity to attend on a regular basis. Freelancers have the feeling of being left out.”

Journalists, it says, are also asking for “regular appearances” of President-elect von der Leyen in the press room.

“In this regard colleagues welcomed her first press conference on 10 September and her willingness to meet the accredited press frequently, on- and off-the-record.”

On Friday, a European Commission source told this website that the issues raised by the IPA had been discussed with the new incoming leadership and the executive communication adviser of President-elect von der Leyen.

“I can only reassure you that the spokesperson’s service seeks to provide high quality material and briefings at all times and we are always open for feedback on how we can improve the service for journalists,” said the source.

About the author

Martin Banks is a senior reporter at The Parliament Magazine

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