AEJ journalists mark World Press Freedom Day across Europe: the intensifying struggle to save independent media
World Press Freedom Day this year saw anti-media violence during Armenia’s popular uprising against a repressive government; new actions to silence independent journalism in Hungary and Turkey, and multiple protests against the murder of two journalists in the past year in Malta and Slovakia and ‘vicious ties’ between some governments and criminal elements.
A special report from the UNESCO 2018 World Press Freedom Day conference in Accra, Ghana on May 2-3 is published separately on this website:
Out of Africa: the winning ways of the enemies of press freedom: https://www.aej.org/page.asp?p_id=635
ARMENIA: The AEJ and other press freedom organisations have been monitoring frequent cases of police violence against journalists over several years of public protests against the increasingly authoritarian rule of prime minister Serzh Sargsyan. Hetq.am reported 17 cases of unjustified violence during the most recent protests, In an online article the newspaper highlighted past failures by the authorities to ensure that police and plain-clothes attackers of journalists are punished as they must be.
The Council of Europe’s Platform on the safety of journalists and protection of journalism carried this Alert about the latest violent attacks on journalists.
Violence Against Reporters During 11 Days of Protests in Armenia https://go.coe.int/ZMC14
BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA: Members of the AEJ in Bosnia participated in the press conference on May 3 in Sarajevo where the Annual report on ‘Media Freedom in BiH in 2018’ by the BH Journalists Association was presented. The event was supported by the Friedrich-Ebert Foundation. The occasion was reported in full by Media Daily online:
Also on May 3, the BJA organized street campaigns and promotions in several cities by the Youth Press Association (ONA u BiH), who distributed promotional materials.
BULGARIA: This year the Association of European Journalists – Bulgaria marked the World Press Freedom Day (May 3rd) by organizing a series of lively events that focus on the difficulties the journalism faces. And AEJ Bulgaria marked the day with this article about the very high price some journalists are forced to pay for informing the public:
Journalists should not pay the high price of free speech on their own: www.aej-bulgaria.org/eng/p.php?post=2684&c=283
On March 26 AEJ-Bulgaria issued symbolic accreditation badges for 95 Turkish journalists for the EU-Turkey Leader’s Meeting in Varna, Bulgaria, in the frame of Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of EU. There the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met the Presidents of the Council and the Commission Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker and the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Boyko Borissov. Journalists mainly from the West European media had worn the symbolic badges and a question about the human rights and freedom of speech in Turkey has been posed during the press conference/. AEJ-Bulgaria’s action was covered by many Bulgarian media. http://www.aej-bulgaria.org/eng/p.php?post=2658&c=290
On April 27th 2018 the International Conference “Children and the Media. Mission: Ethical Reporting” was held, organized by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Association of European Journalists. The conference was officially opened by Maria Jesus Conde, UNICEF Representative in Bulgaria and Irina Nedeva, Chairperson of AEJ-Bulgaria. The two organizations have announced the beginning of long-term cooperation aiming at a more respectful, ethical and inclusive representation of children in the public space. A Guidebook to help journalists and public relations professionals in their work with children was presented and a series of trainings are being developed, based on the Guidebook, targeting journalists, photo reporters and videographers, public relations specialists and students.
Dean Starkman is AEJ- Bulgaria’s special guest in the second week of May holding two public lectures in Sofia. On May 10th at Sofia University Starkman will speak about Brave New World: Global challenges to public interest journalism in the age of Trump and the topic for his lecture on May 11th will be Market Domination in Hungary. Why the Orban Story must be understood as a media story, how his FIDESZ party created a model for illiberal media policy in Europe, and independent investigative reporting’s increasingly important role on the frontiers of the fight for Hungarian democracy.
Dean Starkman is a senior editor with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. He is also a fellow at Center for Media, Data and Society and a visiting lecturer at the School of Public Policy at Central European University, Budapest. He is the author of The Watchdog That Didn’t Bark: The Financial Crisis and the Disappearance of Investigative Journalism (Columbia University Press, 2014), an acclaimed analysis of business-press failures prior to the 2008 financial crisis.
HUNGARY: “What kind of media for what kind of society?”
Well known international experts speak out about press freedom and social media
On the eve of World Press Freedom Day, at the end of April 2018, an important conference was held under the title „What kind of media for what kind of society?” in the ancient historical castle of the Karolyi family in Fehervarcsurgo, 85 km south-west from Budapest. Press freedom, media independence, fake news and the impact of social media dominated the presentations of famous experts and journalists. The conference was opened by H. E. Eric Fournier, Ambassador of France in Budapest, who depicted the tragic situation of journalists in Turkey and emphasized the importance of press freedom in democratic societies. Very many distinguished professors, researchers and journalists took up the invitation of the Jozsef Karolyi Foundation and shared their insights about the state of the media in Europe and the struggles to ensure that independent media survive.
Highlights included the presentation of professor Stephan Russ-Mohl (Lugano) about the foundations of open and well-informed societies and its enemies, and an analysis by Professor Marc Lits (Louvain-la-Neuve) who outlined the troubling changes in the political public discourse and the impact of social media. Celestine Bohlen, former correspondent of the New York Times in Moscow, Budapest and Paris, gave her insights into the interconnection between media and message and the massive impact of technology on the content of the news media.
The presentation of Jozsef Martin, professor emeritus of the Eszterhazy Karoly University (Eger, Hungary) and president of the Hungarian Section of AEJ was in tune with the newest press freedom list of 180 countries by Reporters Without Borders, where Hungary is ranking on the not very elegant 73th place – ten years ago the Hungarian ranking was much better in 17th place. That means that Hungary is now ranked below Senegal as well as Poland and Romania. Jozsef Martin depicted the public media as dominated by the direct influence of government, and the process of growing number of media dependent on the government or businessmen and companies close to the government; meanwhile the independent critical media is losing ground and media pluralism is bleeding. Hungarian media people, especially journalists, need a strong inner moral code during their hard work where they constantly have to face with different pressures, said Martin.
The lectures of the two day conference will be published by the end of this year by the Publishing House L’Harmattan and the Jozsef Karolyi Foundation.
MALTA: The AEJ was among the many media and freedom of expression groups which issued this joint statement in October 2017 after the murder of the celebrated Maltest investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia:
“Index on Censorship and 15 other press freedom organisations, including the AEJ, jointly condemn the killing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and call for an immediate and independent investigation into her death…“ Read the whole item here: https://www.aej.org/page.asp?p_id=603
The AEJ also supported the successful bid for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to appoint a Repporteur charged with overseeing the Maltese investigation into the killing; and took part in a vigil outside the diplomatic mission of Malta in London and other public events and meetings with politicians, experts and members of the Caruana family.
EUObserver published this compelling piece outlining the background of Daphne’s case, saying that the ‘Malta problem’ is a serious problem for the EU: https://euobserver.com/justice/141707
SLOVAKIA: In February the AEJ Slovakian Section published this statement after the cold-blooded murder killing of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee:
TURKEY: AEJ Turkey, a member of the G9 Platform which is an umbrella for 10 Turkish journalists’ associations, took a leading role in special events organized both on the Labour Day (May 1) and Press Freedom Day.
On both days G9 Platform member associations acted together to raise their voice in solidarity with jailed journalists, to protest the sale of country’s biggest media group to a pro-government business and the exclusion of opposition voices in mainstream media and state TV in the run-up to a very critical election in June.
On Labour Day, G9 Platform journalists marched behind the banner “Journalism is not a crime” carrying placards protesting the terrible media freedom situation in Turkey. On May 3rd they made a joint statement signed by each G9 Platform member association, starting with AEJ Turkey.
THE AEJ’S WEBSITE: Our website has published many other reports, articles and joint statements of protest concerning attacks on press freedom in the past year, including highlights from the recent Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index, on www.aej.org
THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE’S PLATFORM: The AEJ is one of the partner organisations of the Council of Europe’s Platform for the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists on www.coe.int/fom
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