Newsletter

30/06/2014 - Newsletter no.1 - 2014

From William Horsley, AEJ Special Representative on Media Freedom

Dear AEJ Colleagues and Friends,

We are entering a ‘hot’ phase in the struggle for free and high-quality journalism, and the AEJ is being asked to play an active part. The recent large-scale targeted violence and legal intimidation of journalists in Ukraine and Turkey has shocked European governments. They say they understand the  importance  of independent journalism in combating censorship, grave misuses of state power, and a slide into authoritarianism.

The AEJ has long been in the front of efforts to make the Council of Europe and the European Union wake up to their responsibilities by taking strong, coherent  action to protect journalists from the growing wave of attacks.

On May 19 a ‘big tent’ Roundtable meeting in Strasbourg of media, NGOs and European institutions led to a promise by Council of Europe officials to set up a comprehensive website, using verified information from journalists’ and NGO groups, as an Early Warning System of serious violations of journalists’ safety and media freedom. The AEJ is also expected to take part. The idea is to get the ‘online platform’ ready to launch before another big meeting in Paris on 4 December 2014  - although major issues of cost and website management have yet to be settled so some doubt that deadline can be met.

The Council of Europe has announced plans for a full-scale Monitoring Mechanism for severe violations of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly rights across Europe, starting next year’ and also for a so-called ‘Rapid Response Mechanism’ – meaning political intervention to provide ‘remedies’ and give new protection to journalists’ safety and rights. In view of the past political resistance from some States this sounds like a tall order, but the proposed actions are essential.  

Meanwhile the European External Action Service in Brussels has published the EU’s new Freedom of Expression Guidelines. And Index on Censorship has just launched a website project to map media freedom violations in Europe— www.mediafreedom.ushahidi.com  is funded by the Commission.

So stand by to be part of a new push to improve editorial independence and media freedom – and make journalism safer!

Please be aware of these important developments in defence of free speech and media freedom. The struggle is vital if free journalism is to survive

You can contact me by e-mail with comments or action alerts and I will respond as soon as I can,

all the best, William


William Horsley, London wh@williamhorsley.com

Romanian national order for Teodora Stanciu

Great message from Romania: Teodora Stanciu, President of AZIR - the Romanian Section of AEJ - has been decorated by Mr. Traian Basescu, President of Romania, with the “National Order of Merit". The decree for the decoration states, among others, that: „President of Romania, wanting to reward the merits of Ms. Teodora Stanciu – Radio Romania Cultural program creator - as a sign of high appreciation for the competence and professionalism proven over time and for the promotion of perennial Romanian culture, confers order of National Order of Merit in rank of Knight.” The ceremony was held at the Cotroceni Palace, on Europe Day, May 9th. The AEJ International congratulate Teodora and wish all the best for the future!

AEJ Board meeting

The Board of the International AEJ held its first official meeting in Dublin (April 12, 2014).

Those present included President Eileen Dunne, Secretary-General Tibor Macak, Vice-Presidents David Lennon, Isaia Tsaousidou and Javier F. Arribas, Treasurer Luigi Cobisi and Special Representatives N. Peter Kramer (Brussels) and William Horsley (Media Freedom). Kristina Hristova sent her regrets, work commitments prevented her from attending. On the agenda the following subjects: AEJ Membership criteria (Article 5 of Statute), situation around the AEJ Romanian Section, Media Funding, Special Representatives’ reports, Congress and General Assembly 2014, Finances, Young journalists’ competition in co-operation with the European Commission. All Secretary Generals AEJ national sections received the minutes of the Board meeting.    

World Press Freedom Day meeting sounds the alarm at increasing attacks

At the major gathering at UNESCO in Paris for 2014 World Press Freedom Day UNESCO launched its World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, including shocking evidence of many states’ persistent failure to find and punish those responsible for killings of journalists and other attacks that deprive societies of access to reliable and uncensored information.

The Declaration adopted at the meeting followed warnings that some States wish to step independent media and the free flow of information being formally enshrined as a major element for the first time in the UN’s development priorities when the Millennium Development Goals are replaced in 2016. 

Media and civil society leaders pressed for freedom of expression to be placed at the centre of future global development policy for the sake of good governance and universal rights and freedoms. Paris conference heard many concrete examples of the link between free and inquiring media and good governance, including the exposure of high-level official corruption. Among the striking data highlighted in the World Trends report was the disturbing fact that records show only 7 out of 430 cases of killings of journalists between 2007 and 2-12 resulted in any convictions of those responsible. 

This pervasive climate of impunity was described as the single biggest cause for the relentless increase in targeted attacks on journalists in recent years. In November 2014 UNESCO will conduct a detailed review of the record of UNESCO member states concerning judicial follow-ups after journalists’ killings. Leading NGOs have intensified their campaigns and efforts to improve this extremely poor record in dozens of countries. 

A recent UN General Assembly resolution proclaimed 2 November officially as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists and major events will take place around that date this year to strengthen protections for journalists against violence and intimidation and to uncover the corruption and abuse of power that lie behind cultures of impunity in too many UN member states.

The AEJ’s media freedom representative William Horsley represented the AEJ at the Paris conference.

OSCE ‘Safety of Journalists Guidebook’

An updated and expanded edition of the OSCE Safety of Journalists Guidebook, written by the AEJ’s special representative on media freedom William Horsley, can be accessed online in English (www.osce.org/from/118052). The Guidebook outlines States’ obligations towards journalists’ safety and media freedom arising from OSCE commitments as well as binding international law provisions. It provides detailed guidance to state authorities about good practices in legislation, law-enforcement and systems of justice that are essential to fulfil those obligations. The updated version of the Guidebook was called for in response to the disturbing growth in cases of intimidation and repression of journalists and independent journalism across many parts of the OSCE area, which covers Eurasia and North America. The publication maps patterns of targeted violence against journalists and the growth of cultures of impunity that point to a serious weakening in standards of democracy and the rule of law in many places.

Stop Killing Journalists!’: global campaign around World

Since 1992 over 1000 journalists has been killed while doing their work – an unacceptable death toll of men and women committed to keeping the world informed. Short video by Al Jazeera's Public Liberties and Human Rights desk for World Press Freedom Day on 3 May is backed by the Association of European Journalists, the International Press Institute, Committee to Protect Journalists, Human Rights Watch, Article 19, Reporters Without Borders, IFJ/EFJ, International News Safety Institute, UNESCO, and other organisations committed to defending freedom of expression and media freedom. The world has awoken to the need for strong and urgent action by all concerned – including journalists themselves. The UN General Assembly has passed a Resolution calling on all States to reform their laws, policing and justice systems to put an end to increasing and systemic violence and intimidation against journalists in many countries. The UN also decided that 2 November will be the International day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.

Stelian Negrea of AZIR/AEJ Romania wins lawsuit after exposing blackmail and censorship by media employer

We join our Romanian colleagues of AZIR/AEJ Romania and warmly welcome Stelian Negrea’s victory in his long fight for justice after he courageously exposed wrongdoing by his former Romanian media employer. At our Annual Congress in Bucharest many members signed a petition about the Labour Contract, article 3.7 of which obliges a journalist to fulfill the requirements of owners or be liable for a fine of €100,000. When Stelian Negrea resigned from the Intact Media Group in 2011 and exposed corrupt editorial practices there, Intact, which is owned by politician Dan Voiculescu, filed a lawsuit seeking €100,000 in damages and enforcement of the contract. The court rejected both.

Here is the statement made by AZIR/Romanian Section of AEJ about the successful outcome of the case:

Stelian Negrea, a member of the Independent Journalists Association of Romania (AZIR)/Romanian section of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), has finally won a three-yearlong lawsuit against the Intact media group owned by politician Dan Voiculescu, a former officer of Nicolae Ceausescu's Securitate.

Intact media group’s lawsuit had demanded 100,000 euros in damages from Stelian Negrea, after he revealed blackmail editorial practices of a media trust owned by Dan Voiculescu directed against his political opponents and commercial companies.

Also, Intact media trust asked the court to recognize the validity of a contract which Stelian Negrea said would have obliged him to become a mere tool of this media mogul. The Court also rejected this claim of Dan Voiculescu’s media group.

Stelian Negrea was head of the Department of Investigation of Intact during March-April 2011, after which he decided to resign from this position and to reveal the editorial practices of blackmail and censorship.

AEJ Romanian Section: critical debate on the search for press freedom

The Association of Independent Journalists of Romania (AZIR), the Romanian section of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), held a critical public debate on the theme „Freedom of the press: What press? What freedom?“ at the National Library in Bucharest. The event was moderated by Teodora Stanciu and Stelian Negrea, respectively the president and secretary of AZIR secretary. It was attended by journalists, leading Romanian cultural figures, students at the Faculty of Journalism, journalism professors and others.

Council of Europe: protect your journalists and whistleblowers

The Council of Europe has called on its 47 member states to fulfill their obligation to protect journalists and other media actors from intimidation and attacks, and to adopt national legal frameworks for the protection of whistleblowers.
In the Declaration on the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists and other media actors, the Committee of Ministers alerts states to the increasing reports of attacks on journalists and other media actors in several parts of Europe, including specific dangers that female journalists face, and urges them to investigate these attacks vigorously in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. Those at risk include not only professional journalists, but also individuals who contribute to inform the public debate, perform journalistic activities or public watchdog functions.