Members of the European Parliament have struck back against a “totalitarian” edict which seeks to ban the parliamentary televisual services from filming any member staging a protest on political issues of the day.
Martin Schulz, the head of the European Parliament, has effectively ordered a broadcasting ban against MEPs who protest in the chamber by waving signs or wearing slogan-emblazoned t-shirts, by instructing in-house cameramen not to film protesting elected members. He claims doing so encourages them to “misbehave,” turning the Strasbourg meetings into a “circus”.
Meeting minutes leaked to the Telegraph reveal that he has also called for a reduction in the number of photographers allowed in the chamber during plenary sessions, he says to prevent a “scramble” around guest speakers.
The move is part of an agenda to enhance the legitimacy of what Mr Schulz terms the “home of European democracy” in the eyes of European citizens. In September last year Mr Schulz erupted in a fit of pique after Italian member Gianluca Buonanno, of Lega Nord donned an Angela Merkel mask and, leaving his seat, approached Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker as he delivered his State of the Union Address.
“This is being financed by the European tax payer!” Mr Schulz raged.
According to the leaked minutes of last Wednesday’s meeting, Mr Schulz has now “asked the Audio Video Services of the Parliament to reduce the number of photographers present in the Plenary and not to photograph or film Members misbehaving in Plenary (showing posters, t-shirts etc) [so as] not to encourage inappropriate conduct.”
A source who was at the meeting has confirmed the note is a true record of what took place. Mr Schulz’s spokesman has also confirmed that a request was made, saying television services were asked not to show “members who are staging a demonstrations” as the service is “primarily meant to be a record of parliamentary proceedings”.
But indignant MEPs have accused him of anti-democratic totalitarianism, arguing that visual aids help to get their message across.
During last year’s referendum on a Greek bailout, a number of MEPs brought placards to the chamber which read “Oxi” – Greek for ‘No’. Among those who waved placards was Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, whose banner was removed by the Mr Junker while his back was turned.
Mr. Juncker nicked my #Oxi sign in the European Parliament when I turned my back. Don’t worry, I went and got it back.
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) July 8, 2015
Others have employed similar tactics in protests against the TTIP trade deal between the EU and America, and in support of Palestinians, among other issues. Similarly, eurosceptics turned their backs during the opening of the new session of parliament as the European anthem ‘Ode to Joy’ was played.
In January, UKIP MEP Mike Hookem took to the chamber wearing a beret and a t-shirt in support of ‘Marine A’, otherwise known as Alex Blackman, the marine jailed for killing an Afghan fighter on the battlefield.
“This is undemocratic totalitarianism,” Mr Hooker said of Mr Schulz’s edict. “We are there to get our point across, and sometimes the best way to do that is visually.
“MEPs of all denominations will carry on and we will fight against this.”