British journalists still rule Brussels — despite Brexit.
The U.K. may have left the EU club in January, but the fascination of its media with the workings of the European capital remains, according to data on the origins of accredited journalists.
There are currently 135 journalists from U.K. media outlets accredited with the European Commission. That’s more than any other country and dwarfs the media contingent from Germany (86) and France (93) despite both countries having a larger population than the U.K.
Only Belgium comes close, with 131 accredited journalists (although close to half of those are employed by POLITICO, which while based in Brussels has a newsroom which includes 22 different nationalities).
The Brussels bubble media contingent has shrunk significantly in recent years, according to the Commission’s accreditation data, dropping from 1,031 in 2018 to 848 this year. That decline — which predates the specific problems for the industry caused by the coronavirus pandemic — is reflected in all the major countries, with France losing 10 bubble journalists, Germany losing 22, Spain losing 12, Italy losing three and the U.K. losing 34.
This is bad news for democracy, said Julie Majerczak, head of Reporters Without Borders’ Brussels office. “Journalism and journalists are a cornerstone of democratic societies, they have a crucial role to play in reporting facts, denouncing abuses and holding powerful people to account,” she said. “The COVID-19 crisis has been showing us how important reliable information is and how essential journalism and journalists are if we want to be informed. The decline of Brussels-based journalists is not good news for democracy and for the European Union.”
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The decline in the British reporting contingent is also reflected in separate data on media accreditation at European Council summits. The numbers from the European Council Press Service show that U.K. outlets were unsurprisingly out in force (with 237 accredited journalists) at the European Council summit in October 2019 at which the Brexit deal was signed off by EU leaders. Belgium was in second place with 215 accredited journalists, followed by France and Germany on 124 each.
By the December summit (which coincided with the U.K. general election) the number of journalists from U.K. outlets had dropped to 61, and at the February summit at which EU leaders failed to secure a deal on the EU’s long-term budget, just 33 journalists from U.K. media showed up. Ireland’s contingent was 15 at the October summit, but fell to five at the December European Council.
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