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Public Service Broadcasting in Crossfire

In a lightning raid on 11 June, the Greek government closed down the public service broadcaster ERT in the shadow of the financial crisis and the deep economic morass. We were all shocked that a European democratic government could think to break down the fundamental pillars of democracy, namely free and independent media.

Immediately journalists’ unions all over Europe supported our colleagues in Greece by sending strong messages to the Greek government and mobilising other European organisations and institutions for solidarity actions. It is important for free media and media pluralism that governments, parliaments and all politicians support a sustainable, independent and pluralistic media market while retaining the editorial freedom of public broadcasting services.

Last month, the public broadcaster of radio and television in Poland decided to outsource a comprehensive part of their production, which risked more than 500 job losses. In Greece, 2,700 jobs at ERT will be downsized to a handful. These journalists, whether they remain or leave, will face precarious working conditions.

As journalists’ union, we have to acknowledge changes caused by new technology or simply by the development of journalism and media in a changing landscape. We must urge media companies, including public broadcasters, not only to implement but also promote mid-career training and further education for journalists. Our affiliates should urge journalists to keep up with the pace and to develop their skills in the rapidly changing environment. This is the right way to develop and maintain high standards in journalism; it is not by dramatic closure, outsourcing and ignoring the need for a sustainable and pluralistic media.  

Mogens Blicher Bjerregård
The EFJ affiliates across Europe launched protests against the closure of ERT.
(11.6.2013) The global journalist community was shocked and outraged in the past few weeks following the sudden decision of the Greek government to shut down its public broadcaster ER,T resulting in over 2700 media job losses. Following the announcement, the EFJ immediately launched a global solidarity action to support their Greek affiliates in Athens (PFJU, ESIEA & PEPU) and Thessaloniki (ESIEMTH).

A series of protests were staged across Europe calling on the government to reopen ERT. The EFJ affiliates have also written to their governments calling for action to pressure the Greek government to revoke its decision. On 18 June, a court in Athens suspended the government's decision to close ERT but upheld the plan to replace ERT with a small broadcaster following a series of protests and public outrage.

In a letter sent to the Greek Prime Minister Antonios Samaras, the EFJ condemned unreservedly the closure of ERT and asked its affiliates to ‘stand shoulder to shoulder’ with colleagues in Greece in the fight for the reopening of ERT. Together with the European Trade Union Confederation and UNI-MEI, the EFJ also sent a letter to EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion, László Andor, deploring that the information, consultation and participation rights of the ERT staff, workers and journalists has been totally ignored.

To see solidarity actions launched by the EFJ affiliates and civil society organisations worldwide, visit our website.

UNI MEI President, Gerry Morrissey: “All our broadcasting unions stand in solidarity with POSPERT, colleagues at ERT and citizens in Greece.”

EBU President, Jean-Paul Philippot: ‘‘This is a damning first in the history of European broadcasting.’’

SEEMO Secretary General, Oliver Vujovic: "The government decision is a clear step against democracy and media freedom in Greece."

ETUC General Secretary, Bernadette Ségol: ‘‘The closure of the national public radio and television broadcaster ERT has been a shock in Greece and has sent shock waves throughout the whole EU.’’


Press freedom fight continues as media crackdown escalates

The fight for press freedom remains a difficult battle to win in Turkey as journalists continue to be targeted during the crackdown of the anti-government protests in recent weeks.

Journalists covering the anti-government protest were targeted by the police. Many were injured during the coverage of the event by heavy-handed measures used by the police.  A number of journalists were raided in their homes and taken away by the police. The attacks on journalists have become more rampant online as a BBC reporter Selin Girit was recently accused of ‘treachery’ by the mayor of Ankara who launched a series of ‘twitter attacks’ on Girit via social media.

The targeting of journalists in Turkey has led to international outcry on top of the high number (61) of journalists currently in jail. The EFJ and its international group, IFJ, have launched solidarity actions calling on national governments, European institutions and civil society organisations to join the protest for press freedom and democracy in Turkey. Many EFJ affiliates, the Global Unions, and the International Trade Union Confederation, have responded to the call and organised solidarity actions to support journalists in Turkey.
In a conference speaking up for media freedom,  hosted by the European Commission in Brussels on 20 June, the EFJ told European policy-makers to act on Turkey. The delegates, including Ercan Ä°pekçi, the President of the Turkish Journalists' Union (TGS) and former EFJ Vice President Philippe Leruth, staged a silent protest when the Turkish Ministry of Justice, Mr. Kenan Özdemir, spoke during the conference. Many participants stood up for journalism and joined the protest.

Meanwhile, EFJ representatives from journalists’ unions in the UK, France, Germany and Denmark have travelled to Istanbul and continue their support for the ongoing campaign to Set Journalists Free in Turkey. They have visited the jailed journalists and attended their hearings (read the next article for detailed account of the visit).

You can see the solidarity actions launched by the EFJ affiliates and CSOs Here.

24 July, Istanbul

24 July, Istanbul
24 July, Istanbul

11 September, Istanbul
25-27 September

8 October, Istanbul
2nd Freedom of Journalists Congress of the Freedom Platform and Türkiye Gazeteciler Sendikası (TGS)
Seminar on "Censorship in Turkey"
Hearing of journalist Füsun Erdogan of Bianet and Özgür Radyo
Next hearing on OdaTV case
KCK Press case (involving 44 journalists under prosecution and 22 journalists currently in jail)
Hearing of journalists at ETHA news agency


How evidence is planted on journalists?

Esben Ørberg, the EFJ delegate from the Danish Journalists' Union (DJ) tells his dismay and shock of the visit to Europe's biggest court house in Istanbul and the court hearing of imprisoned journalist, Füsun Erdogan. DJ has ‘adopted' Erdogan as parts of the ongoing EFJ campaign to Set Journalists Freed in Turkey.

(Istanbul, 3 June 2013) I just managed to grab her hands for a quick greeting before the security guards surrounded the 50-year-old journalist Füsun Erdogan forming a human barrier between us.  Erdogan was quickly taken away from the courtroom in Europe's biggest court house, on the outskirts of Istanbul.

It was a moving and tragic moment. Her family and friends followed her with their eyes. It seemed that none of them see this coming - Erdogan is sent back to jail after 7-year imprisonment and she may not be free again. (Read more in English and Danish)

EFJ submits new project on confronting austerity

(16.6/2013) The EFJ, in cooperation with its affiliate in Austria (gpa-djp), submitted a project to the European Commission on Confronting Austerity: Financial and Employment Models for Journalism. If accepted, the EFJ will organise a seminar dealing with the impact of austerity measures on journalism and discussing ways of alternative funding for (freelance) journalists in March in Vienna, Austria.

Collective bargaining round starts in newspaper sector in Germany

(27.6.2013)The EFJ affiliates in Germany, dju in ver.di and DJV, will meet with a delegation of the Association of German Newspaper Publishers on 19 July to discuss the possibility of increasing salaries and integrating online journalism in the collective agreements.

New law passed to limit access to information

(11.6.2013) While the Council of Europe recently adopted a resolution calling on member states to reinforce laws on access to information, Hungary reversed the trend by passing a new law to limit access to public data amid controversy over state tobacco shop tenders. Human right groups criticised the new law saying that government offices will be given the power to decide on what constitutes information in the public interest. The EFJ condemned the decision saying that access to information law should be in line with European standards which put public interest before the authorities’ interest.

A fact-finding mission will be organised by the International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) and meet with the EFJ affiliate in Budapest, Hungary on 1 – 2 July to discuss necessary steps to be taken on this development.

New VAT law on media hinders press freedom

The Croatian government passed a new law requiring newspapers and magazines to pay up to 10% value added tax (VAT). According to the new law, which will be enacted on 1 July, daily newspapers printed on paper containing at least 25,000 words, except on those which wholly or mainly serve for advertising, will have to pay 5% VAT. For other newspapers and magazines which do not fall into this category, 10% VAT will apply. The IFJ, EFJ and its affiliates, the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists protested against the new law branding such law as "fundamental interference in the freedom of media". 

Is it about the audience or the news?

(11.6.2013) What make a diverse media, whether is it the audience or the news? This was the subject heavily debated among journalists, union representatives, editors, media trainers and publishers in a meeting held at the UN buffer zone in Nicosia, Cyprus.  The meeting highlighted the need to provide more training for journalists and editors on issues related to diversity. Journalists and editors need to reflect a diverse audience in the news-making process. It also raised the impact of the crisis on media diversity and the problem of media ownership.

The EFJ, and affiliates from Italy, Germany, Croatia, Cyprus, Belgium, Spain and Greece, attended the meeting and formed a working group to improve the capacity of journalists’ unions in improving journalism ethics and media diversity.

This is the first of a series of meetings in a joint project funded by the EU and CoE with partners including the EFJ. Affiliates in Greece (ESIEMTH) and Germany (DJV) will organise two regional meetings. The first meeting will take place on 4 – 6 October in Thessaloniki, Greece. Affiliates interested in attending, please contact Yuk Lan Wong. If you missed the meeting in Nicosia, you can catch up HERE.
Martine Simonis (AJP, Belgium) and Robin Elias (ITN, UK) shared their own experience in improving media diversity through as trade union leaders and newsroom manager. ©Yuk Lan Wong

Photo exhibition highlights impunity against journalists in Greece

(25.6.2013) The EFJ director, Marc Gruber, intervened at a panel discussion organised by the Greek MEP, Maria-Eleni Koppa, on “News under Persecution” on the occasion of a photo exhibition of the Greek Photo-Reporters Union. The exhibition showed striking images of violence, mostly by police forces, against photo-journalists in Greece in the past years. “The impunity against journalists is the key problem,” said Gruber, “Especially when violence is committed or even organised by police forces.”  The meeting highlighted the dramatic impact of the crisis on the working conditions of journalists in Greece, and the general climate of violence during the various demonstrations across the country. (Read more in Greek)

Citizen’s Summit agrees measures to increase transparency in EU

(24.06.2013) Civil society organisations across Europe met in Brussels for the first Citizen’s Summit, debating the impact of EU policies on citizens and democracy. The EFJ, represented by its director Marc Gruber, led a discussion on media pluralism, transparency and access to information, together with Alter-EU and Access-info, the organisations campaigning for transparency in EU policy-making. Participants agreed on a set of recommendations such as supporting the European Citizen Initiative on media pluralism, the need for a compulsory registery for EU lobbyists and clearer rules on access to information, especially for information at the Council of the Ministers level. (Read more)

EFJ told EU media experts to uphold media freedom

(14.6.2013) The EFJ has told EU media experts to uphold media freedom and pluralism by enforcing laws on protection of journalistic sources and monitoring violations on media freedom. In a policy paper sent to the European Commission’s High Level Group on media freedom and pluralism, the EFJ welcomed the Commission’s initiative to tackle the issue but warned that the proposal to impose fines and to give media councils the power to remove journalistic status would hinder a free press. The EFJ has also told experts to closely examine the impact of current competition laws on media freedom, especially for the case of freelance journalists. Contributions from all stakeholders will be published on the Commission’s website. For the EFJ response, please contact Marc Gruber.

CoE says ‘whistleblowers should be protected from retaliation’

(24.6.2013) The Council of Europe (CoE) has adopted a resolution to enforce the protection of whistlelowers who disclose state secrets in the public interest across 47 member states. According to the resolution, whistleblowers should be protected from retaliation, provided that they acted in good faith and followed procedures. The resolution also calls for more open access to information. It argues that access to information should be granted where public interest in the information in question outweighs the authorities’ interest in keeping it secret, including when such information “would make an important contribution to an on-going public debate”, the committee said. (Read the full report)

Media and the Image of Women

The Council of Europe will organise a conference on “Media and the Image of women” in Amsterdam on 4-5 July. The IFJ/EFJ will take this opportunity to introduce the latest publications on gender equality. (Read more)

IFJ Gender Council elects new board


Who makes money with content? Who should Pay?

Mike Holderness, chair of the IFJ/EFJ Authors' rights expert group (AREG), gave a presentation at the European Dialogue Internet Governance on ‘Who makes money with content? Who should pay for content?’

Holderness differentiates creative works from "content". He stated that the fundamental principles of authors’ rights are about rights of the individual, not commoditised content. Looking at Google's business model he pointed out that free information on the internet will ultimately mean that there is nothing left to adverstise on Google that attracts money. (Read more)

EU Health Prize for Journalists

Journalists writing on health issues are invited to submit their articles for the 5th edition of the EU health prize for journalists. Applicants must submit their articles between 01/08/2012 and 30/09/2013 via the website before 14 June 2013. For more information, visit HERE.

European Court of Justice supports levies for reprographic devices

(27.6.2013) The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that member states can put in place a system in which a levy is paid by printer manufacturers to compensate authors for unauthorised copying of their work. The ruling also states that even if a rightholder has authorised the copying of his work, the fair compensation rule can still apply. Read the full judgement.

Google News introduces opt-in system in Germany

Following the adoption of specific provisions in German law on how news aggregators can reproduce media content, Google introduced an opt-in system whereby publishers wanting to stay on Google News Germany must confirm with Google. Outside of Germany, the opt-out system, through which publishers will have to take steps to make sure their content isn't indexed by aggregators, still prevails. (Read more)
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Renate Schroeder, Marc Gruber & Yuk Lan Wong