Newsletter

12/08/2013 - NewsLetter no. 2 - 2013

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

As we head into the Summer break, time to take stock of developments in the AEJ in the past few months – see below for accounts of the various activities AEJ members have been involved in, but also note that discussions have been taking place on a number of fronts-with old and new friends and about several potential projects ... these discussions have at times exposed the strengths and weaknesses of the AEJ and given much food for thought ... most pressing the future of free, independent journalism, and how public funds might be used to support that...

This is a topic we hope to explore at our forthcoming annual congress, which may be a slimmed down congress for logistical and nancial reasons – we are looking at the second half of November and hope to have concrete news on that after the holidays... 

I notice from Twitter that the French section launched their 2013 Prix Louise Weiss last week - while the Spanish held their 25th Seminar on Europe the previous week - this is something we also need to discuss – a social media presence for the AEJ.
In the meantime, If you have events or reports you would like included in a forthcoming Newsletter or indeed any other contributions you would like to make - please contact Tibor - tibor.macak@gmail.com
 
For now, bonnes vacances,
Eileen Dunne, President


AEJ takes first steps to taking in new Sections

Kristina Hristova, who has been appointed as the AEJ representative for ‘AEJ enlargement’ and is also head of AEJ-Bulgaria, was able to arrange a face-to-face meeting with a group of journalists from Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia (FYROM). It was a first step towards encouraging prominent journalists in those countries to set up new AEJ Sections. An informal meeting was held on June 29in Sofia, Bulgaria, at the time of a Council of Europe seminar about hate speech and self-regulation of the media in the region. There is still much preparatory work to do, but there seems to be a good prospect that one or both of those groups of journalists will be able, eventually, to establish a Section. Any newly-formed AEJ Section would first have to be approved at the annual meeting of the AEJ Assembly.

The goal of the Sofia hate speech conference was to identify the most significant problems of the media and journalism in the three countries and to establish a basis for further common actions on the regional level.

The AEJ marks 2013 Press Freedom Day with new campaigns for media freedom and journalists’ security

Many AEJ Sections around Europe held meetings and rallies, and publicised their campaigns and investigative reports on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.Read the latest Reports from AEJ colleagues in Armenia, Belgium, Bulgaria, Ireland, Slovakia, Turkey, Ukraine and the UK. Read more on the AEJ Int.websitewww.aej.org

Oppressor or sponsor? Governments strengthen their influence on the media in Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia

Due to the continuously shrinking private advertising market, the state governments in Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Macedonia have turned into the most influential advertiser in the media. Not surprisingly, this trend has highly destructive influence on the freedom of speech in the three Balkan countries, as the public money are mostly spent for securing media comfort for the ones in power. To various extents in the respective countries, this comfort is being achieved through different channels for applying pressure on the journalists – political, public, economic, legal.

This is one of the main conclusions of a journalists’ meeting organized by AEJ-Bulgaria with the support of the Council of Europe, dedicated to the problems of hate speech and self-regulation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria and Macedonia. The conference took place on June 29thin Sofia, Bulgaria with the aim of identifying the most significant problems of the media and journalism in the three countries and establishing a basis for further common actions on regional level.

European Commission cancels tender for online media on EU affairs

The European Commission has written (in a letter dated 11 July) to the International Press Association, which represents the Brussels press corps, saying that the Call for tender for an online media on EU affairs has been discontinued. The decision is likely to fuel further debate on how public funds can and should be used to support free, independent and quality media in Europe at a time when many journalistic jobs are being lost.
On June 19the Commission had announced it was inviting bids to develop and manage a new online media that would correct an ‘under-representation’ of EU affairs in printed and digital media. Its purpose was described as being to filter, select and explain the news to EU citizens.

SpeakUp!2: European Commission seek ’joint answers’ to suppression of free media in Southeast Europe

The suppression of media freedom in the countries waiting to join the EU is growing worse. Journalists there face physical dangers and undue pressures of many kinds, and feel severely let down by the EU as well as their own governments. The European Commission wants to reverse this trend as a priority. But the issue is highly political. So far EU member states have not done enough to rein in the governments and murky business interests that are stifling independent and inquiring journalism in the region. Those are among the points that emerged as a broad consensus from the European Commission’s SpeakUp!2 conference on 20 June 2013.

The Commission invited 450 journalists from the Western Balkans and Turkey to Brussels to talk about the daily risks and pressures they face. They gave first-hand accounts of threats and repression, and many called on the European Union to match its pledges with actions to protect press freedom. The Commission had stepped up efforts to improve the justice systems in those states, curb the misuse of anti-terrorism and defamation laws against inquiring media, and strengthen journalists organizations and the independence of media regulators. But Mr. Fuehle acknowledged that violence against journalists still breeds self-censorship; and media routinely face political interference, including in public service broadcasting.

Tamara Chausidis of the Independent Union of Journalists in Macedonia said that critical journalism had ‘disappeared’ in that country as a result of blatant government discrimination, political attacks on independent media as ‘traitors’ or ‘criminals’, and massive layoffs. Media were being forced to ‘sell’ their editorial policies to survive, she said. Independent writers had been replaced by obedient mouthpieces of political forces.
Tibor Macak, a radio journalist in Slovakia who is now the AEJ’s Secretary-general, stressed the need to develop civil society institutions, like the League of Experts (LEX), which was created in Serbia five years ago, to increase capacity in fields like legal advocacy and economic transparency. LEX was the brainchild of two not-for-profit organizations as well as the AEJ’s Slovak section.Read more on the AEJ Int. websitewww.aej.org

 New AEJ Bulgaria journalists’ survey exposes ‘institutionalized pressures’ on media

Journalists in Bulgaria are regular victims or witnesses of pressure in the media they work for. The applied pressure comes both from the inside, practised by editors and owners, and from the outside, through the direct influence of advertisers and political and economic players. This has led to the creation of a widespread “culture of pressure” in the Bulgarian media landscape, including well integrated and institutionalized channels which transmit external influences directly into the news rooms.

These are the main conclusions of a survey on the state of media freedom in Bulgaria conducted by the Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria (AEJ) among 169 journalists in the period 10thMay to 10thJune 2013. The results expose the indisputable deformations of the democratic process in Bulgaria and shed fresh light on the malign forces that are the target of ongoing anti-government and anti-oligarch protests.

AEJ in discussion with Turkish journalists about project on ‘Civil Society Dialogue between Turkey and EU’

The AEJ is in discussion with a civil society consortium in Turkey who have asked the AEJ to be an ‘associate’ in this EU-funded project – IF they win a bid for the funds, in competition with others. The AEJ has agreed in principle, on the condition that the Association will have no legal or financial responsibility or specific obligation to undertake any activities. We might be asked voluntarily to take part in some activities as an independent, professional journalists’ association. The project would run from 2013-2014 and its activities may include media freedom support, civil society debates and possibly journalistic training and establishment of new online media. As is well known, preparing to bid for EU Grants requires a great deal of painstaking work, with no guarantee of success. Thankyou to some AEJ Sections and Members who gave their wise advice and views about how to respond to this interesting initiative. If the civil society consortium in Turkey does win, hopefully there may be a few opportunities for the AEJ to engage, and to assist in a valuable project concerning Turkey and the EU. Everyone will of course be informed as soon as more is known about this.

 MORE NEWS ON THE MEDIA FREEDOM FRONT:

October 16EP Seminar; AEJ Submission about EU Freedom of Expression Guidelines; Forthcoming Council of Europe Media Ministers Conference in November

William Horsley, AEJ Media Freedom Representative, has accepted an invitation from Renate Weber MEP, the Rapporteur of the report on EU Charter: standard settings for media freedom across the EU, to take part in a public event on Media Freedom in the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday 16 October. The Seminar will include EU decision-makers, journalists and online activists in a debate on steps to improve the situation of media freedom in the EU and the world. Please watch for more information on this once the Agenda is finalised and published.

This Seminar will be one of several follow-up events after the publication in January 2013 of the report and recommendations of the Commission-appointed High-Level Group on Media Freedom and Media Pluralism (headed by former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga).

The High-Level Group concluded that the EU should act to protect media freedom, in line with commitments in the EU’s Charter of Fundamental Rights, with extra energy and determination because of the vital part played by freedom of expression and media freedom in securing democratic government and maintaining the rule of law. The AEJ has endorsed that sentiment in the form of William Horsley’s submission to the Commission about the High Level Group’s findings. Our submission also reflected the caution expressed by other media and journalistic organisations about the risk of a negative impact arising from any ill-conceived moves to impose EU regulations affecting journalists’ independence and freedom to report on matters of public interest.

William also made a submission in response to the Commission’s request for input from media and civil society organisations to the Draft EU Guidelines on Freedom of Expression. The EU’s External Action Service carried out public consultations up to mid-July and is due to make public the Guidelines before the end of 2013. The stated goal is to enhance the protection of bloggers and journalists by identifying and making proper use of an agreed set of measures in the EU’s external relations. They should give clear political lines to EU officials in Brussels and in EU missions abroad, including practical guidance on how prevent violations of Freedom of expression and react effectively to violations.

The AEJ’s submission drew on the experience and views of AEJ Sections and members expressed at recent Congresses and in our surveys and activities, especially at the Council of Europe. William’s AEJ submission placed special emphasis on the need for the EU to exercise its influence to safeguard the physical and legal protection of journalists against abuses, violence and censorship; and the need for a more proactive and responsible EU external policy towards regimes which routinely tolerate or allow attacks against media workers.
Finally, as was mentioned at the AEJ’s 2012 Congress in Offida, the Council of Europe has decided to hold its scheduled Conference of Media Ministers in Belgrade on 6-8 November.

The theme will be ‘FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND DEMOCRACY IN THE DIGITAL AGE: Opportunities, Rights and Responsibilities’.

The Agenda is still being discussed, but it will include the issue of Safety of Journalists and Protection of free expression in online media. This will be the first such CoE ministerial meeting since the 2009 Conference in Reykjavik, Iceland, where the AEJ tabled a significant amendment committing the Ministers of all Council of Europe states (except Russia, which obtained a derogation) to carry out regular reviews of anti-terrorism laws and practices to ensure that they do not infringe the basic rights of freedom of expression of journalists or other media workers. We are confident that the AEJ will be able to make a positive contribution again, as our Media Freedom Representative has been active, together with the EFJ and others, in the preparatory discussion in the CoE’s Media Steering Committee (CDMSI), which has been meeting in Strasbourg for at least two weeks every year since 2008, when the AEJ resumed its participation in the Committee after an interval of several years.

Registration for the Belgrade meeting is open until 30 October 2013. Information about the Belgrade conference is up on the Council of Europe’s website: just google Conference of Council of Europe Ministers responsible for Media and Information Society Belgrade
Or enter this URL in your browser:-
http://www.coe.int/t/dghl/ standardsetting/media/ Belgrade2013/default_en.asp

INVITATION TO APPLY FOR A EUROPEAN EXCHANGE/MEDIANE

MEDIANE is a joint EU/CoE initiative aimed at raising awareness about the importance of diversity in media content in European countries.

The programme offers media professionals – including journalists, trainers and students -a chance to broaden their scope by mutual visits for 5 days/5 nights to work on a joint project, sharing their experience of diversity & inclusiveness in media content. MEDIANE provides a prepaid ticket and 500 € for each outside exchange period.Participants must together produce a media report, journalism training tool, case study or guidelines for recruitment.

Please register if interested on
www.surveymonkey.com/s/ MEDIANE_EEMPS_Registration
For more information see
http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/ cultureheritage/culture/ Mediane/exchanges_en.asp

The International Freedom For Journalists Congress

The International Freedom For Journalists Congress met in İstanbul on July 24th with the participation of representatives from international media organizations, family members of journalists in jail and journalists who have been prosecuted or released from jail.

OSCE Media Representative Dunja Mujatovic send a video message to the Congress. International figures who personally attended the meeting and made speeches included IFJ Chairman Jim Boumelha, EFJ deputy chair Nadezda Azhgikhina, IPI Press Freedom Representative Steven Ellis, SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic, RSF Europe Bureau Representative Johann Bihr, CPJ deputy chair Rob Mahoney, IPA representative Jose Borhino and International PEN deputy chair Eugene Schoulgin.

AEJ Honorary Vice-President L. Dogan Tilic was elected as the chair of the congress, and read a message to the gathering from AEJ President Eileen Dunne at the opening, expressing solidarity with Turkish journalists and wishes for the success of the congress.

The Congress heard that 22 journalists were dismissed from their jobs and 37 others were forced to resign during the Gezi protests because of complaints by persons in powerful positions about their reporting. It was again noted that at the time of the Congress there were still 64 Turkish journalists in jail.

The Congress also underlined that abuses of freedom of expression continue to represent serious obstacles to the country’s democratization, and urged the Turkish government to immediately release all the journalists in jail.