Newsletter

26/12/2013 Newsletter no. 2 2013

Dear Friends,

As we approach the Festive season, and following on our Congress and General Assembly in Brussels last month - time once again to put pen to paper... For those of you who couldn't make it we had a very constructive and productive Congress and General Assembly in Brussels, made all the more pleasurable by the very smooth organisation, and for that our deep thanks to Peter Kramer and his colleagues at the Press Club of Brussels. Reports on the Congress 'Journalism and Democracy at a time of flux' can be found on www.aej.org and once again, a big thank you to all who contributed to the debates. 

TheGeneral Assembly unanimously approved modification of the statutesand passed two resolutions on secret snooping by state agencies andon the situation in Azerbaijan - these are also available onwww.aej.org. Media funding and the case of the European Union news website Presseurop also featured, and to that end please see the proposal from Jean-Christophe Leclercq on setting up a working group - it was agreed that it would be circulated and we'd like your feedback before the end of the month. Also, since we returned home it has been confirmed that Presseurop is to close on Dec. 20th. - there's an on-line petition 'Save Presseurop' on the website www.presseurop.euand I would urge you all to sign it.

Other things to note, Kristina is looking to compile a list of media contacts to whom we can distribute statements etc. ( see note below) while Fabrice has drawn our attention to a study being carried out by the Centre for Media Freedom and Media Pluralism in Florence (details below).

Also at the Congress, Vice-President Javier Fernandez Arribas raised the issue of the safety of journalists in Syria andwithin days we heard that a member of the French section Magnus Falkehed, had been kidnapped with colleague NiclasHammarstrom close to the Lebanese border … at time of writing there is still no word on them but at this special time our thoughts are with them and their families -we are also thinking about other colleagues whose safety may be compromised inSyria, Turkey or indeed Ukraine.

To all then, a safe and happy Christmas and every good wish for 2014,

Eileen Dunne


AEJ’s 51st Congress and General Assembly in Brussels

The Association of European Journalists gathered in the EU capital for its 51st Congress and General Assembly on Friday November 22. ‘Journalism and democracy in a time of flux…’ was the theme of the successful congress. The following day the General Assembly started with an In Memoriam for Dr. Horst Keller who sadly passed away in August. The address was given by David Haworth, who spoke movingly about the AEJ stalwart’s impressive journalistic career and called him ‘a great friend whom we will never forget’. An important moment for the association was the approval of the modification of the Statutes, not only an adjustment to reflect our changing times, but also an opportunity to streamline the organisation by introducing a fully-fledged Board.

Special attention was required for young journalists. Vice-President Saia Tsaousidou suggestion to make a top priority of interesting young colleagues in the activities of our association, met broad approval by the delegates. The event was organised by AEJ Int.’s Brussels representative N. Peter Kramer; with many thanks to the sponsors Huawei Technologies, Visit Brussels, Wallonie-Bruxelles Int., Stand-Up for Europe, Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, Restaurant Chez Leon and PressClub Brussels-Europe. You can see more information on www.aej.org


Journalism and democracy in a time of flux

The theme of the annual Congress of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ), held in 
Brussels on Friday November 22, was “Journalism and democracy in a time of flux”. In her 
introductory remarks, AEJ President Eileen Dunne highlighted the importance for societies of 
the role of independent journalism. Media actors everywhere, she said, were facing growing 
threats to their profession and their personal safety. The Congress was declared open by Torbjørn Frøysnes, Council of Europe Ambassador to the EU. The first session focused on serious attacks against media attacks against media freedom in Europe. Chaired by William Horsley, the AEJ Media Freedom Representative, leading experts (Jean-Paul Marthoz, Ides de Bruyne and Onur Andreotti) spoke about what has been done to provide a safe environment for journalism, what further action is needed and how widespread use of surveillance by state intelligence agencies is hampering the work of investigative journalism. The second session chaired by Eileen Dunne, discussed the future of media and media funding. The main speakers were Andrzej Krajewski, Free Speech advisor to the Polish Broadcasting Regulator, Wilfried Ruetten, Director of European Journalism Centre (EJC) and Sixtine Bouygues, Director of Strategy and Corporate Communications, European Commission.

AEJ Resolutions

The General Assembly of the Association of European Journalists, meeting in Brussels on Saturday 23 November, unanimously adopted two Resolutions. Resolution on secret interception of communications by state agencies denounces recent revelations of massive and inadequately supervised surveillance and opposes governments’ attempts to stop whistleblowers and the media from reporting the facts. The Resolution on serious abuses of human rights in Azerbaijan and other countries draws special attention to the persecution of media and human rights figures in Azerbaijan. It calls on the responsible authorities of the Council of Europe to postpone Azerbaijan’s six-month chairmanship of the organisation, currently scheduled to start in May 2014, until it conforms to the organisation’s rules.


Statement to situation in Ukraine

The Association of European Journalists (AEJ) protests in the strongest terms against the many acts of unprovoked acts of violence including beatings carried out by police against journalists and other media personnel during the recent and current demonstrations in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. At least about 40 media workers, including both Ukrainian and foreign nationals, have been victims of the excessive and shocking use of force by police, which has resulted in a large number of physical injuries. (…) The AEJ calls on the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that all such assaults cease immediately, take all necessary measures to protect media workers from violence, and punish law-enforcement officials who have attacked journalists and other media workers or have obstructed their work during peaceful protest demonstrations and gatherings in Ukraine.


Safety of journalists and human rights standards

The Committee of Ministers (CM) organised an important Thematic Debate on “Safety of journalists – Further steps for the better implementation of human rights standards,” on Thursday 12 December in Strasbourg. Participants in the debate included the Permanent Representatives of most of the 47 member countries and the following keynote speakers: William Horsley (read his Remarks here), Media Freedom Representative of the Association of European Journalists, Nils Muižnieks, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Gvozden Flego, Rapporteur on Protection of media freedom in Europe of the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media of the Parliamentary Assembly and Michael O’Boyle, Deputy Registrar of the European Court of Human Rights.

A Discussion Paper by the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe included proposals for proactive new measures to improve the safety of journalists across Europe, including an online platform highlighting information from monitoring groups about serious threats to safety, and a rapid response mechanism to provide better physical protection. A formal Decision by the ministers’ deputies is expected at a follow-up CM Thematic Debate scheduled for 22 January 2014.


AEJ regrets planned closure of Presseurop

It is with great regret that the AEJ has learned of the decision to proceed with the closure of Presseurop on Dec. 20th. We said in last June we had misgivings about the stated terms of the new media tender, but that in no way implied criticism of Presseurop and we fully endorse the recent audit by Deloitte which recommended that the Commission continue the project.


Special Media Freedom Reports for the AEJ Brussels Congress from Greece, Italy, Romania, Serbia, Turkey and Ukraine are posted on www.aej.org. Here are synopses of two of them:

Protests in Istanbul were a ‘bodyblow’ to press freedom

The AEJ report on Turkey states that some 30 journalists were sacked for refusing to bow to pressures to censor the way they reported the Gezi Park protests. Self-censorship has become widespread. Many journalists are obliged to spend their time working for the release of colleagues from unjustified detention or imprisonment. The mainstream media are losing their authority as ordinary people turn to social media as their preferred information source.