Members of the European Parliament have backed new laws to enhance media independence.

The European Media Freedom Act also seeks to ban the use of spyware on journalists' phones, except in certain circumstances such as serious crime.

However, at least 80 civic groups and press unions, such as Ireland's National Union of Journalists, had called for an outright ban.

Today, almost two thirds of MEPs, 448, backed the Media Freedom Act, while 102 MEPs voted against it, with 75 abstaining.

The overall intention of the law is to strengthen the independence of media organisations in a number of ways, such as ensuring that the media landscape is diverse, improving transparency around media ownership and limiting public advertising to ensure organisations are not overly reliant on the state.

Fianna Fáil MEP Barry Andrews supported the legislation.

"Overall, the act is a positive step forward," he said.

"Diminishing trust in traditional media sources, violence against investigative journalists, crackdowns on critical voices and independent media, and increase in hate speech online pose new threats to freedom of expression and to the daily work of journalists", Mr Andrews said.

Now that the European Parliament has adopted a position on the proposed law today, negotiations will then begin with the European Council, comprising the 27 member states, to agree on a final text before it can become EU law.

Clare Daly MEP and Mick Wallace MEP abstained on the vote, due to the decision not to ban the use of spyware in all circumstances.

"The Parliament has voted to legislate to authorise the use of spyware against journalists. Now in the context that we [the Parliament] always give out about media dominance, about authoritarianism, about the need to protect journalists, we have really exposed ourselves badly here", Ms Daly said.

Sean Kelly MEP, delegation lead for Fine Gael, explained that while he would have preferred to see an outright ban too, he ultimately decided to support the legislation as he felt it represented progress.

"I think there are enough matters dealt with there to ensure that journalists will not be spied on when they're doing their legitimate work but also if the public is at risk in terms of criminality or terrorist acts, that by judicial approval, then and only then can spyware be legitimised", Mr Kelly said.