Media Freedom

World Press Freedom Day

AEJ and World Press Freedom Day 2011

Armenian section

This year Armenian media organisations decided to hold joint actions for WPFD: press conference, photo-exhibition, a poetry and song recital, conference on Media challenges etc. Individually, journalists will produce special coverage of court cases against media outlets for label and defamation brought by high officials or MPs. This year this has become a hot topic for Armenian media because after the decriminalization of defamation last year the Armenian authorities have sought to silence free or opposition press by pressing for high fines and compensation claims in libel and insult cases. Every week one page of our weekly newspaper Hetq is devoted to this issue, publishing legal analysis or covering court hearings. On May 3 we had additional pages with special features.

On the eve of May 3, the World Press Freedom Day, Edik Baghdasaryan, the founder member of the Armenian Section of AEJ was awarded the "Time for Free Press" prize for his investigating position and professional courage. The award was presented on behalf of the Yerevan Press Club, Journalists Union of Armenia, Internews Armenia and the Freedom of Speech Defense Committee. "In reality, the press is free it is just necessary to use it in a right way", Baghdasaryan said.

Chairwoman of the Union of Journalists Astghik Gevorgyan said there are very few critics like Edik Baghdasaryan in Armenian press. He is the one to implement the function of the fourth power. Chairman of the Yerevan Press Club Boris Navasardyan said, this year's winner proves that by overcoming impediments it is possible to do your own work.

Belgian section

Members of AEJ Belgium and API (the association of EU correspondents based in Brussels) were invited by the Council of Europe Liaison Office with the EU for the Media Freedom Lecture on Access to Official Documents. Thomas Hammarberg, CoE Commissioner for Human Rights chaired the meeting.

Bulgarian section

AEJ Bulgaria organised its first seminar on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day. The successful seminar on "Access to information for journalists" took place on May 4 in the premises of the Representation of the European Commission to Bulgaria. Almost 45 journalists joined the presentation and the discussion on how media representatives have to deal with public institutions for providing more transparency about state affairs. Main lecturer was Alexander Kashumov from Foundation Access to Information, a legendary figure in Bulgaria, that has contributed a lot for reforming the public attitude towards more transparency of the authorities in Bulgaria and has given journalists legal help during their process for access to information. The other speakers were: Kristina Hristova, General-Secretary of AEJ Bulgaria, who presented some practical data bases with useful information and gave advice how journalists could use them; and Boicho Georgiev, from publishing company Ciela, who provided practical tips how journalists could use data bases with information about commercial entities in Bulgaria about their investigations.
On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the General-Secretary of AEJ-Bulgaria, participated in two radio discussions about media freedom in Bulgaria. The first one was on Radio Reaction, the students radio of Sofia University on May 3 and the second on May 4, organised by the Bulgarian National Radio.

Dutch section

May 4 is a commemoration day in The Netherlands. Journalist organisations incl. the AEJ gather in a special meeting in the International Press Center Nieuwspoort in The Hague and pay attention to journalists which lost their lives on duty.

French section

AEJ France reminds about the French journalists hostages in Afghanistan Hervé Ghesquière and Stéphane Taponnier, who have been imprisoned for almost 500 days now! See: http://www.soutienherveetstephane.org  

Greek section

AEJ Greece organised, as every year, a discussion about the freedom of the press in the office of the European Parliament in Athens.

Hungarian section

AEJ Hungary organised a special WPFD meeting for members and other journalists.

Irish section

Press freedom is an essential cornerstone of democracy but it is under permanent pressure from a variety of sources, the Editor of The Irish Times, Geraldine Kennedy, told the Association of European Journalists in Dublin. The purpose of journalism was to serve the public’s right to know, she said in an address to mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

That principle had governed her decision to publish Colm Keena’s controversial news report in September 2006 on the payment of monies to then-taoiseach Bertie Ahern during the latter’s time as minister for finance some years beforehand. “I make no apology – and I never have – for taking the steps required to bring that story to publication in the public interest and to protect journalistic sources in doing so,” Ms. Kennedy said. The protection of sources was a fundamental requirement of a free press and that was the reason The Irish Times fought to protect the source of the document which led to Mr. Ahern’s resignation as Taoiseach. “We won a landmark judgment, enshrining the principle of journalistic privilege and the protection of sources in Irish law for the very first time."

The media were only as good as their sources: “We can’t compel people to answer questions, demand discovery of documents and all the other powers which are, rightly, reserved to the legal system.” In her experience, “many of the best sources are people who act for the highest motives – they see something going wrong which they believe ought to be righted”. But whatever a source’s motives, “he or she must have the full protection of anonymity and they must be able to rely upon the assurances of a journalist that they will not reveal their identities to anyone”.

People in positions of power tended to dislike the media and would take any excuse to limit the powers of the press.“Unfortunately, the excesses of the media, mainly of the tabloid press in Ireland, sometimes give them just such an excuse in areas like privacy.“We saw how close the last Government came to introducing a privacy Bill alongside the recent changes in the Defamation Act and, we should admit, for pretty understandable reasons. How many members of that last Government and/or their families have had their privacy invaded by the media for reasons of prurient rather than public interest?”

“It is important that the media, like all other institutions of power and influence, use their power and influence responsibly and are prepared to admit mistakes when they make them. For this reason The Irish Times has always been a strong advocate of a Press Ombudsman and Press Council to provide redress to people who feel aggrieved and act as a standard-setter for all elements of the media, including the Irish editions of British newspapers,” Ms Kennedy said.

Italian section

World Press Freedom Day has been celebrated in Rome by journalists associations Osservatorio Ossigeno per l’informazione, dall’Associazione Stampa Romana, the Italian Section of AEJ, the Press Union (FNSI), Liberainformazione, Unione Nationali Cronisti Italiani (UNCI) and Articolo21 at the National Library on Monday 2 May with a performance of the monologue “Uno scandalo italiano - Storia di Cosimo Cristina, il giornalista 'suicidato' da Cosa Nostra" (A Italian Scandal, the story of Cosimo Cristina, a journalist “suicided” by Cosa Nostra). The text written by Luciano Mirone was read by the author with the help of sounds and images to tell true story of a local correspondent for the Palermo’s daily L’Ora, killed at 25, in 1960 at Termini Imerese (Sicily): Cosimo Cristina. He was the first in a row of 8 journalists killed in Sicily in the following years. Journalists’ associations desire to remember all those Italian journalists having lost their lives in their country by Mafia or terrorism actions.

Romanian section

AZIR, the Romanian AEJ section, organised for WPFD a debate in the series ‘Romania – time for reflection. People and Institutions’. The Presidents of the National Romanian TV Alexandru Lazescu, and National Romanian Radio Andras Istvan Demeter were invited to present, after they were appointed 10 months ago, their strategy for audiovisual media, the responsibility of the mission of the public media and the possibility to guarantee freedom of opinion for their journalists. The interesting debate was moderated by Professor Mircea Martin.

Spanish section

Will organise (later) a seminar on press freedom in Europe, esp. in Italy and Hungary.

Turkish section

Javier Fernandez Arribas, Int. Vice-President of the AEJ, was the first speaker during the Freedom for Journalists Congress on May 3 in Istanbul. Other speakers: Patrick Kamenka (EFJ), Steven Ellis (Int. Press Institute), Johann Bihr (Reporters without Borders), Oliver Vujovic (SEMO), Chris Conybeare (World Ass. of Press Councils). Click here for Javier’s speech.

UK section

In the UK World Press Freedom Day was marked by a public debate on the theme “Arab spring 2011: The Freedom to Report”. The two-hour event, chaired by AEJ UK Chairman William Horsley, was held in a packed meeting hall at the Thomson-Reuters news agency Headquarters in London. Speakers included Shahira Amin, a well-known Egyptian TV journalist who quit her job at Nile TV in protest at the state media’s distorted coverage of the popular uprising; Alanoud Al-Sharekh, a strategic analyst for the IISS in the Gulf; and Magdi Abdelhadi, one of Britain’s leading journalists reporting on the Arab world.

Read about the event on the Index on Censorship website.
See the full list of speakers for the WPFD event

Ukrainian section

AEJ Ukraine held in Kiev a meeting with journalists.

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No WPFD activities in 2011 were planned by the AEJ sections in Austria, Finland and Serbia.
The sections in Slovakia and Moldova didn’t send information.

AEJ and World Press Freedom Day 2010

In 2010 many AEJ Sections arrange or took part in rallies, debates and other events to mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3. For the first time, journalists in the UK and some other countries observed a Minute’s Silence in tribute to journalists in all countries who have been killed while doing their work. The observance of a Minute’s Silence is a new recommendation by the Director-General of UNESCO, the UN agency responsible for issues of Media Freedom.

AEJ Armenia

AEJ Belgium - in cooperation with the European Parliaments Information Bureau for Belgium, organised on World Press Freedom day, May 3, a discussion with MEP and former TV anchorman Dirck Sterckx, about the influence of governments and media ownership on freedom and quality of journalism.

AEJ France

AEJ Greece

AEJ Ireland

AEJ Italy

AEJ Moldova

AEJ Netherlands - cooperated traditionally on May 4, in International Press Center Nieuwspoort in The Hague, in the commemoration of journalists who lost their lives whilst on duty.

AEJ Spain

AEJ Turkey

AEJ UK - The British Section helped to stage a lively debate about the impact of unregulated political comment online in coverage of the UK election. Read more - Watch video

And AEJ UK chairman William Horsley spoke at a Seminar at the BBC on May 4th about the dramatic impact of the rapid spread of the Internet and social networking media on the political climate in Europe, Iran and Africa. Some journalists in Britain observed UNESCO's call for a Minute's Silence in honour of journalists killed in the course of their work. Read this blog

AEJ Ukraine - On the eve of World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd the AEJ's Ukrainian Section shared serious concerns expressed in The Ukraine Insider, an online newsletter. It warns about the prospect of "repressive measures" to stifle dissent, following February's election victory by the Party of the Regions. Read more 

AEJ Austria, AEJ Hungary AEJ Serbia and AEJ Slovakia – (Board) Members participated in WPFD activities of other organisations

> On the occasion of WPFD 2010, N. Peter Kramer, international secretary-general AEJ, was interviewed by UK and Slovak radio stations.

AEJ and World Press Freedom Day 2009

Many of AEJ national sections paid attention to World Press Freedom 2009. Not all off them on the ‘official day’: May 3 but on days before or after.

A wide scale of activities were organised: interviews on the occasion of WPFD in national media, events in co-operation with colleague journalist organisations, special book launches, public discussions etcetera.

Click for the WPFD 2009 reports by AEJ sections in UK, Belgium, Serbia, Italy and Armenia.

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