The president of the European Parliament has been granted the ability to pull the plug on live broadcasts of debates to crack down on “racist language.”
Members of the European Parliament quietly passed the measures in January to stop politicians from spreading what they consider to be racist behavior in the chamber. The president can now purge any recordings of an MEP expressing “defamatory, racist or xenophobic language or behavior.” Offenders may also be fined up to 9,000 euros ($9,505).
The definition of what constitutes as a violation is loosely defined and critics call it a form of censorship.
“This undermines the reliability of the Parliament’s archives at a moment where the suspicion of ‘fake news’ and manipulation threatens the credibility of the media and the politicians,” said Tom Weingaertner, president of the Brussels-based International Press Association, according to The Associated Press.
Some liberal politicians welcome the rule as a way of shutting down MEPs who use the parliament as a populist theater.
“There have been a growing number of cases of politicians saying things that are beyond the pale of normal parliamentary discussion and debate,” British MEP Richard Corbett told AP.
The measure comes at a time when populist parties around Europe are gaining popularity. Geert Wilders of the Dutch Freedom Party and Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front both lead in polls ahead of key elections this spring. Both candidates want to take their countries out of the EU if they come to power.
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