The situation for journalists in Turkey has worsened during this summer and after the coup attempt on July 15. Journalists were targeted during that day. One of them, Mustafa Cambaz, paid the highest prize with his life. After the coup attempt, journalists were detained, media outlets were shut down and fear were spreading.
I made contact with Thorbjørn Jagland, the General Secretary of the Council of Europe, to call for an urgent meeting with partners of the Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists. Following that, a meeting took place in Paris on 6th October, partners agreed to create a common approach to deal with the situation in Turkey and a media freedom conference shall be organised after the state of emergency is ended.
For the next three years, the EFJ together with the IFJ will continue a new project funded by the European Commission to help our affiliates in Turkey to fight against media freedom challenges and improve their unions’ capacity.
Regarding projects, the EFJ has increased its number of activities significantly. In the next two years, the EFJ will lead a project to tackle hate speech in the media, a topic that has become so contagious across Europe in all spectrums of our societies.
Meanwhile, we remain in close partnership through various joint projects with trade unions such as the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), UNI-MEI and the unions representing actors (FIA) and musicians (FIM). Recently, the EFJ concluded a project with a final conference with UNI-MEI, FIA and FIM at the European Parliament. The four federations brought the issue of atypical work in our sector to the attention of MEPs and Commission officials and called for review of labour law to allow the collective bargaining of atypical (freelance) workers.
The EFJ is also lobbying for strong authors’ rights for journalists in the review of the current EU copyright law. Significant steps have been made as the latest proposal contains provision to ensure fair remuneration.
The upcoming years will be challenging but the EFJ is ready to face the challenges with new projects and stronger alliances.
Since the coup attempt in the summer, the list of arrested journalists in Turkey is getting longer and longer. In total, about 100 journalists are behind bars and more than 130 media outlets shut down, including Kurdish daily Ozgür Gündem and Azadiya Welatrecently.
The conditions of detention are also a worrying issue. Three Evrensel journalists and a Reuters' correspondent have been recounting "torture and threats" after being arrested. From 31 August to 2 September, an international delegation of civil society organisations including representatives from the EFJ, Danish PEN, German PEN, Index on Censorship, My Media, the Norwegian Press Association, the Norwegian Union of Journalists, Norwegian PEN, PEN International, Reporters Without Borders and Wales PEN Cymru, visited Istanbul to demonstrate solidarity with writers, journalists and media outlets in Turkey. The delegation condemned the Turkish authorities’ abuse of the state of emergency to supress diversity and dissent, and called upon the government to immediately and unconditionally release all journalists detained in Turkey and to cease its harassment of the few remaining independent and opposition media outlets.
To end on a more positive note, the EFJ and IFJ together with nine other partner organisations received on 19 August the Turkey's Press Freedom Award. The prize rewards the international coalition for its involvement in emergency press freedom missions of 2015.
(09.10.2016) Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) organised its 21th Ordinary General Meeting, chaired by Canan Onurer (President of Basin-Sen in Cyprus), in Istanbul with the participation of members, delegates and international guests. The General Meeting elected the 33-year-old Gökhan Durmus (former TGS Istanbul Branch) as the union’s youngest president in its history. The new TGS board is composed of 3 women and 3 men. EFJ-IFJ and DJV (Germany) representatives shared solidarity messages at the General Meeting and met with banned media representatives.
(06.10.2016) Presidents of EFJ and IFJ together with the representatives of other partner organisations of the Council of Europe Platform for the Safety of Journalists met with the Council of Europe´s Secretary General, Thorbjørn Jagland in Strasbourg, to discuss possible follow up to the media freedom alerts published on the Platform with regard to Turkey in the aftermath of the 15 July failed coup. The Secretary General briefed them on the CoE actions so far and on-going co-operation with Turkey, as a member state of the organisation.
European Media against Hate Speech
(11.10.2016) Europe's migrants and refugees crisis has intensified the spread of hate speech and the role of the media has been questioned. In this context, the EFJ launched a project on European Media against Hate Speech, together with a group of partners, Article 19, Media Diversity Institute (MDI), Community Media Forum Europe (CMFE), Croatian Journalists' Association (CJA), Cooperazione per lo Sviluppo dei Paesi Emergenti (COSPE) and Community Media Institute (COMMIT). The group had its first kick-off meeting in Brussels to develop detailed plans and activities. The 18-month project funded by the European Commission, DG Justice & Consumers, will initiate a series of workshops and debates targeting journalists, civil society organisations and media, as well as legal experts to counter hate speech. An official launch of the project with a website will be scheduled at the end of November.
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(07.10.2016) The EFJ commemorated the death of Anna Politkovskaya, a reporter for the Novaya Gazeta, newspaper and a prominent critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was shot dead at her apartment building in central Moscow. Together with its affiliate in Russia, RUJ, they called on the Russian government to renew its efforts to identify those who ordered the journalists’ murder.
(08.10.2016) Hungary’s biggest opposition newspaper Népszabadság (People’s Freedom), has been unexpectedly suspended. Media workers were notified by letter that they were dismissed "until further notice". They were prevented from entering the building - even to pick up personal belongings - and their email accounts were blocked.
Around 2,000 Hungarians protested in Budapest on Saturday against the closure of the country’s leading leftist newspaper. Mediaworks, owned by Austrian firm Vienna Capital Partners, said the paper was operating at a “considerable” loss and struggled with dropping circulation. But civil rights groups said the newspaper had been shut down because it had published stories critical of right-wing Prime Minister Viktor Orban‘s government. “It seems clear that the government and the ruling party do not want to give a chance to the opposition to express its views through an independent media,” said László Lengyel, executive co-chairman of Hungarian Press Union (HPU).
(22.08.2016) The Kosovo public broadcaster RTK was attacked in Pristina by hand grenade. The explosive device was thrown into the yard of the main building, close to the transmission antennas. Some journalists were working inside the building at the time of the explosion but no injuries were reported.
One week later, on 28 August, RTK was targeted by a second attack. An unknown attacker threw an explosive device at the house of RTK’s General Director, Mentor Shala. The device, which caused no casualties, was likely a hand grenade that was thrown in to the backyard while the entire family was inside the house. Responsibility for both attacks was claimed by a group called “Rugovasit”, a term for inhabitants of the Rugova mountains at the disputed border with Montenegro, as Kosovo’s Parliament is about to vote a demarcation deal with this country, which opponents fear will see Kosovo lose thousands of hectares.
Broadcasting Expert Group meet in Brussels
(29.09.2016) The EFJ Broadcasting Expert Group met the first time in Brussels and elected its new chair Susanna-Maria Sjöstedt from the Finnish Journalists' Union. The group exchanged latest development in the broadcasting sector from Austria, Italy, Germany, Greece, Finland, France, Serbia and the UK showing a decline in funding for public service broadcasting. At the EU level, a representative from the European Commission, DG CONNECT, Ms. Joanna Wrona, attended the meeting and explained the state of play of the current reform of the EU law regulating audio-visual media services (Directive 2010/13). Currently, the European Parliament is discussing the proposal from the Commission and the admendments are being tabled. The EFJ raised concerns over the latest admendments that could weaken the provision to strengthen the independence of national regulators.
AREG discusses EU copyright reform
(10.010.2016) The EFJ Authors' Rights Expert Group (AREG) met in Brussels and discussed the European Commission proposal on copyright reform. The key issues at stake for journalists concern reporting obligations for publishers and broadcasters, proposal for a neighboring right for press publishers and exceptions and limitations.
(07.09.2016) Journalists and media workers from South East Europe and Turkey will share best practices, illuminate present challenges in labour rights and benefit from legal expertise after joining European Labour Rights Experts Group.Under the EU-funded project “Building Trust in media in South East Europe and Turkey,” UNESCO and EFJ are carrying out this knowledge-sharing exercise, whereby journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, FYR Macedonia, Serbia, Turkey and Kosovo, are now able to join EFJ’s Labour Rights Expert Group (LAREG), a group that congregates representatives of journalists’ organizations from EU member states.
(09.09.2016) The EFJ, the International Federation of Actorsd (FIA), UNI MEI and the International Federation of Musicians (FIM) have launched a handbook on ”The Future of Work in the Arts, Media & Entertainment Sector”outlining conclusions and recommendations addressing atypical work in the Media, Arts and Entertainment sector. The launch of the handbook coincided with an event, co-organised by the four federations on how to meet the challenge of atypical working, taking place on 8 and 9 September in Brussels.
(05.09.2016) A delegation of the EFJ met with Johannes Hahn, EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations to discuss how to improve working and social conditions for journalists and how to foster high quality public service media (PSM) and media pluralism in the Western Balkans. The worrying situation in Turkey regarding press freedom and the measures taken against a high number of journalists were also addressed. Both Commissioner Hahn and the EFJ agreed to cooperate, including NGOs and other EU institutions, in order to explore ways to help journalists and media workers affected by this situation.
(12.10.2016) An EFJ delegation met with the co-rapporteur of the review of Audiovisual Media Service Directive, Petra Kammerevert, to discuss issues of concern to the EFJ, such as how to strengthen the independence of the national regulatory authorities and the important role of the European Regulators Group for Audiovisual Media Services (ERGA) . The European Commission proposal formalises the role of ERGA as an independent expert advisor to the Commission and as a forum for the exchange of experiences and best practices between the national regulators. The co-rapporteurs in their amendments are less eager to give more power to the ERGA and wish to give more power to a so-called Contact Committee consisting of representatives from national governments and MEPs. Deadlines for amendments in the Culture Committee are 19 October.
The meeting also discussed a recent policy paper on “Fostering Media Diversity and Press Freedom” adopted by the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists & Democarts. The paper includes many of the action points the EFJ had elaborated in its EFJ manifesto prior to the EP elections, such as the importance of journalists’ trade unions, media literacy, media pluralism and media freedom; training, protection of journalists; access to information; protection of sources and whistleblowers’ protection as well as the need to look at new financing models etc, are all addressed.
(04.10.2016) The EFJ and the Alliance Internationale de Journalistes (AIJ) successfully organised a roundtable discussion on Refugees and Migrants, the inconvenient truths – Journalism against bias and stereotypes in Brussels. Migrants and refugees have suddenly jumped at the top of the agenda and media organisations play a crucial role in shaping the public opinion. How to cover the refugee crisis with more humanity? How best to communicate with media? Many journalists, NGOs representatives and intergouvernmental organisations (UNCHR, OIM) dealing with migration issues attended the event to reflect and build a constructive dialogue on these fondamental questions.
(15 - 16. 10. 2016) The EU delegation to the Russian Federation, in association with the EFJ and the Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) organised on the 15th and 16th of September the third event in a series of meetings of EU and Russian journalists in 2016. After the meeting devoted to safety of journalists in digital age (in London), the seminar on independent journalism (St Petersburg), the event look edat the role of professionalism and journalistic standards in steering away from stereotypical approaches to reporting the EU and in portraying Russia.
The final conference of the EFJ project ‘Rights and Jobs in Journalism’ is to be organised in Zagreb on 25 October. It will bring together EFJ members and experts to highlight good practices identified during the four workshops and develop further strategies to reinforce the rights of journalists’ and capacity of unions. A handbook consisting of case studies and best practices examples from EFJ members will be launched at this occasion.
It is time to think about the next EFJ Annual Meeting. Would you like to host in your country our supreme governing body meeting? Those interested are invited to complete the enclosed application form and send it back as soon as possible to the EFJ Secretariat: firstname.lastname@example.org. The decision will be taken during the next Steering Committee, on 9 December.
Next Monday, Eurocadres will launch – in partnership with the European Federation of Journalists and other trade unions, academics, NGOs and political groups – a platform calling for an EU-wide whistleblower protection. It will be open for organisations and individuals to sign after the event.