All evidence shows that strong unions and labour rights are prerequisites for journalists to guarantee quality journalism. This is the message I delivered in a high-level European conference (see below) on media freedom in Western Balkans and Turkey on 4 November in Brussels.
I stressed the importance of journalistsâ€™ labour rights, capacity building of journalistsâ€™ organisations and a long-term action plan to improve the working conditions of journalists and achieve media freedom in the region.
The European Commissioner in charge of neighbourhood policy, Mr. Johannes Hahn, also emphasied the vital role of media in the democractic developments of EU applicant countries. The EU should strengthen their efforts in empowering journalists and civil society organisations in the region as parts of its enlargement policy.
In cooperation with the International Federation of Journalists, the EFJ has in recent years made significiant progress to improve capacity of its unions in the region. The EFJ will continue to develop capacaty-building programmes to focus on recruitment, collective bargaining, fostering social dialogue between journalists and employersâ€™ organisations. We will also continue to put pressure on governments to fight impunity for crimes against journalists and to ensure the safety of journalists.
To do this, we need to have a long-term perspective in order to develop a sustainable landscape for media and journalists in the region. EU politicians should transform their words into concrete actions.
In the upcoming EFJ General Meeting on 25 - 26 April 2015 in Sarajevo, we will discuss future work in the region.
The EFJ has joined a campaign launched by the Belgian branch of the world association of writers, PEN, to highlight the struggle of Dawit Isaak for freedom and gather international support to free Dawit. The event is held in Bozar (Centre for Fine Art) in Brussels starting from 15 November to 22 November.
On 15 November, the International Day of the Imprisoned Writer, the Belgian P.E.N. representative will organise a sit-in around Isaakâ€™s prison cell. Between 2pm and 5pm their members will read aloud. A number of writers in exile residing in Belgium will also be taking part in this event.
On this occasion, the EFJ has also written to the Head of the Delegation of European Union to the State of Eritrea, Ambassador Christian R. Manahl and members of the European Parliament at the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee, asking their assistance to help free Dawit.
Dawit Isaak fled to Sweden in the late 1980s, to escape the aggression in his native country. He was granted Swedish citizenship. After the Eritrean War of Independence he returned to his country and supported its reconstruction, amongst others through the weekly called Setit. It was a plea for journalistic independence and freedom of speech, an internationally recognised human right and precondition for a democratic society. While Eritrea began to show more dictatorial characteristics, Isaak kept fighting for democracy and freedom of press. In 2001 he was imprisoned without any form of indictment, charge or trial.
(03/11/2015) The Center for Independent Journalism (Romania) in cooperation with the Albanian Media Institute organised a regional conference on journalistsâ€™ employment conditions in South Eastern Europe in Tirana. Together with EFJ affiliates from Bosnia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and future members from Albania and Kosovo and the EFJ Director Renate Schroeder, participants discussed an action plan on how to improve the situation of journalists in the Balkan including capacity building of journalistsâ€™ organisations, social dialogue, improved legal and labour protection for all journalists independent of their employment relation.
(13/11/2015) EFJ Director Renate Schroeder was invited by the European Free Alliance/The Greens to a panel discussion about â€œPress Freedom-keeping Journalists safeâ€ on 13th November in the European Parliament.She informed the meeting about the different activities the EFJ is involved when it comes to mapping media freedom, the Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists and pledged the EP to stand up for journalistâ€™ rights, media freedom and democracy, which at the moment is too often compromised by political interest. Sasa Lekovic, President of the Croatian Association of Journalists, presented the recently launched â€œSEEMO Safety Net Manual, Guidelines for Journalists in Extraordinary or Emergency Situations.
EFJ speaks at Parliament on tackling hate speech
While the issue of migrants and refugees has dominated the European agenda recently, the Social Democrat group of the European Parliament organised a debate on hate speech and ways to tackle the problem in wake of the migrants/refugees crisis. Ricardo Gutierrez, the EFJ General Secretary on parliamentarians that journalists play an important role in countering hate speech through responsible and ethical reporting. He stressed that new regulations will not help tackle the problem but only through training, educations and public awareness campaigns.
(23/10/2015) The EFJ represented by its PresidentMogens Blicher BjerregÃ¥rd attended a stakeholder meeting in the audio-visual sector about future EU policy on allocation of radio spectrum. The meeting also attended by the EU Commissioner in charge of the Digital Single Market, Mr GÃ¼nther Oettingerwho has stressed the importance of the sector as key driver in the European digital economy. Blicher BjerregÃ¥rd emphasised the need for policy makers to ensure media diversity and quality of content in deciding a European policy on spectrum.
Members of the News Council at the RTVE, (Consejo de informativos), an internal body formed by RTVE journalists, explained their concerns over the quality and credibility of information and the need to develop measures to prevent political interference. The situation of journalists are particularly precarious ahead of the Spanish general election in December.The EFJ supports the call by journalists to ensure the independence of journalists and to restore trust in journalism.
Journalists working in digital media
(29/10/2015) The EFJ Expert Group on Digital Media (EGDM) had its meeting in Brussels and discussed the results of the survey "How do European online journalists work?" launched by the EFJ two months ago. The results reveal a dangerous trend where many online journalists face precarious working conditions. Among the 231 respondents, 62% said they worked overtime and over 50% of them do not have a full-time employment contract. Nevertheless, 45% are satisfied with their jobs (22% neutral and 33% unsatisfied).
In order to make the survey more representative, the online questionnaire is still open for respondents. Please circulate the online survey (available in French, English and German). To read the survey' results, click here.
Former US Politico reporter, Mike Elk, also joined the meeting via the internet and shared his experience in organising and mobilising digital workers. He told the group that digital workers have become active in the US and use social media to reach out to other workers and campaign for their rights.
Mapping Freelance journalists in Europe
The EFJ and the Freelance Expert Group (FREG) launched a short online survey to get updated data on European freelance journalists, their economic and social status and their role within the unions. A map including the responses will be published on the website on 19 November, the next date of the Freelance Expert Group Meeting. The survey covers 33 answers from affiliates from 28 European countries providing an interesting insight on unions' activities for their growing freelance membership.
Media pluralism monitor
(6/11/2015) The EFJ attended the final conference of the the Media Pluralism Monitor project in Florence supported by the European Commission to monitor various risks for media pluralism in the EU countries. Ricardo Gutierrez, the EFJ General Secretary told participants that national governments legislate media pluralism in a transparent manner. Journalists and civil society organisations must be involved in the progress.
A report with the risk level for journalists in each EU country will be published at the end of this month. The report will include the situation not only on media pluralism but also on working conditions of journalists, the rights to information, and many other criteria to access the level of risk for journalists.
Greee to reform defamation bill
(6/11/2015) The EFJ together with the International Press Institute (IPI) and the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) welcomed a new draft legislation submitted to the Greek parliament with the aim to combat abuses of the Greeceâ€™s civil defamation law. A joint mission including the EFJ (represented by Yannis Kotsifos), IPI, SEEMO and the Panhellenic Federation of Journalistsâ€™ Unions (POESY), has met with government represenatives including the Justice Minister Nikos Paraskevopoulos to discuss the new draft.
Paraskevopoulos told the delegation that the proposed changes would scrap the lawâ€™s minimum limit for compensation in defamation cases and institute a mandatory 20-day pre-trial period during which the impugned media outlet would have the opportunity to publish a retraction. The group welcomed the new draft saying that the recent development is in the right direction.
EFJ speaks in UNI-MEI Assembly
(27/10/2015) Ricardo Gutierrez, the EFJ General Secretary spoke the General Assembly of UNI-MEI in Lisbon on the growing pressure journalists face in Europe with declining working conditions and legal restrictions.
The UNI-MEI Assembly voted a resolution calling on government to protect journalists and media workers. The Assembly also voted an urgent motion on the future of the BBC in view of the recent crisis.
(05/11/2015) The EFJ, IFJ and their affiliate the Journalists Union of Turkey (TGS) reviewed the implications for journalists and trade union rights following the victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the re-run of Turkeyâ€™s national elections during a Press briefing at the Brussels Press Club.
Turkish journalists Cevheri GÃ¼ven and Murat Ã‡apan, working for the weekly magazine Nokta, have been charged and jailed by a court in Istanbul last Tuesday 3 November. GÃ¼ven is the editor-in-chief of the publication and Ã‡apan, the managing editor in charge.