The spectacular scene in London last month was not science fiction but reality. The editor of the Guardian witnessed two hard drives being destroyed by two government officers to prevent journalists from using the material obtained from whistleblowers.
Worse still, the ''attack'' was instructed by the UK Prime Minister who had demanded the Guardian to hand over materials from protected sources. The incident has a chilling effect on press freedom.
In recent years, we have seen increasing attempts to weaken journalistsâ€™ rights to protect their sources. The recent incident taking place at the Guardian is a culmination of these attempts, which made evident that anti-terror laws and surveillance measures in Europe have a serious impact on journalism.
To counter these attacks, we must urge our governments to review thoroughly the impact of anti-terror laws on press freedom and civil liberty. Politicians must show a commitment in upholding press freedom, including the protection of sources, which is a cornerstone of democracy. Governments have a responsibility to allow critical journalism to flourish instead of creating mistrust in the public.
The journalism community is ready for actions to bring back the right balance between media freedom and public safety. Together with media organisations, we shall demand a thorough investigation and hearing of this case by the European Commission and the Council of Europe.
(09.09.2013) Domenico Quirico, the Italian journalist was finally released from Syria following his capture in April. Quirico has thanked the EFJ, the IFJ, and the Italian journalists' union (FNSI) for their tireless campaign to secure his freedom since his capture.
EFJ President Mogens Blicher-BjerregÃ¥rd said that the release of Quirico is a positive step forward in the struggle for press freedom, justice, and the right of journalists to work freely and safely in Syria. (Read more)
Journalists have long been the victims of the war on terror as recent misuses of anti-terror and national security laws by the authorities in the UK, Switzerland and France have confirmed its chilling effect on press freedom.
(18.08.2013) David Miranda, the partner of Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian journalist reporting on the mass surveillance programmes by the United Sates National Security Agency (NSA), was held by the British police at Heathrow airport for almost nine hours under schedule 7 of the UKâ€™s anti-terror laws.
Following the incident, the editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, revealed that the British government had demanded the newspaper to either hand over or destroy the material they had obtained from US whistleblower Edward Snowden on the surveillance programmes.
The EFJ has written to Viviane Reding, the Commissioner responsible for the fundamental rights of European citizens, asking the European Commission to investigate potential violations of EU law on freedom of expression and information by the UK government through the misuse of anti-terror law.
(13.08.2013) The Swiss police searched the house of investigative journalist, Ludovic Rocchi, who works for Le Matin and had published an article on a plagiarism case concerning a university professor in NeuchÃ¢tel.
Rocchi's article was based on information he received from a whistleblower; however, he was later sued by the professor for libel, slander, and violations of secrecy.
Following a court order, the police searched his house and confiscated all his electronic materials. His computers were seized by the police. His wife was questioned. The police also attempted to identy the whistleblower.
According to EFJ affiliate impressum, the court order is "outrageous". Some academics also considered that the judge acted â€œdisproportionatelyâ€. On 23 August, Rocchi filed an appeal against the search.
The French parliament will discuss a new draft law on the protection of sources which includes a provision for an exception for â€œmatters concerning the fundamental interests of the nationâ€. This will present many loopholes for the existing law on protection of sources. On 9 September, the French daily Le Monde revealed that the phone conversations of one of its reporters were monitored by the police in 2009 while he was working on a criminal case.(Read more)
Who can be arrested under UK Terrorism law?
Anyone, including journalists. Schedule 7 of the UK Terrorism Act 2000 allows UK police to stop, examine, and search passengers at ports, airports, and international rail terminals on suspicion of terrorist acts. Passengers have no right to remain silent or receive legal advice, and they may be detained for up to nine hours. Detained passengers must "give the examining officer any information in his possession which the officer requests". If they fail to co-operate, they are deemed to have committed a criminal offence and could face up to three months in prison, a fine, or both.
What can be done?
The EFJ, together with IFJ and civil liberty organisations, have been campaigning against the use of anti-terror laws in relation to media activities and conducting an independent review of the impact of anti-terror law on media. Recently, the EFJ wrote to its members, asking them to urge their national governments to review national anti-terror laws and ensure their compatibility with human rights law on freedom of expression and information.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has proposed a motion for a resolution calling on national governments to review national anti-terror laws and improve the legal protection for bona fide whistleblowers. Two senior UN representatives also have condemned Miranda's high-profile detention as a threat to press freedom. A case brought by Liberty, a British civil society organisation, is currently pending at the European Court of Human Rights challenging Schedule 7 of the UK Terrorism Act 2000.
Highlights from Twitter
From this issue, we will highlight trending media news from our Twitter network. Remember to follow @EFJEUROPE!
Campaign Update TURKEY
Despite the summer break, the EFJ and its affiliates continued the campaign to Set Journalists Freein Turkey. Patrick Kamenka from the French union SNJ-CGT attended a hearing involving 21 journalists in the Ergenekon case on 5 August.
Before the trial, there were heavy security measures in place outside the Silivri prison where the trial took place. Regardless of our solidarity and international pressure, a number of journalists were given lengthy prison sentences ranging from six years to life imprisonment. The result has outraged the journalism community and led to a series of protests.
Following these developments, the EFJ wrote to the Turkish Permanent Representative to the EU, contesting the court ruling and demanding a court appeal.
EFJ observers will be visiting Turkey to attend the upcoming trials of imprisoned journalists. (Read more)
11 September, Istanbul
16 September, Diyabakir
24 September, Istanbul
25-27 September, Silivri
8 October, Istanbul
10 October, Istanbul
OdaTV trail, EFJ observer: Barry White, NUJ
KCK trial, EFJ observer: Joachim Legatis, dju in ver.di
Trial of FÃ¼sun Erdogan, EFJ observer: Esben Orberg, DJ
KCK trial, EFJ observer: Ricardo Gutierrez, EFJ General Secretary
Defamation case against ETHA news agency
First hearing for journalist, Sami MenteÅŸ (Yurt newspaper)
International Day of Solidarity with Journalists
(08.09.2013) The Russian Union of Journalists (RUJ) joined many others to mark the International Day of Solidarity with Journalists with a memorial concert in Moscow Conservatory. During the occassion, EFJ vice-president Nadezda Azhgikhina awarded the special Politkovskaya prize to investigative journalist Olga Allenova. (Read more)
Heavy Agenda for Upcoming Steering Committee
The newly elected Steering Committee will have its first meeting in Brussels on 18 September. The reform of the EFJ expert groups including the proposal to create a new group working on media convergence and online media will be at the top of the agenda. The meeting will also discuss the follow-up to the resolutions adopted in the General Meeting in May and the upcoming Stand Up for Journalism Day on 5 November. An induction session will be organised for the 7 (out of 9) new members.
Meeting on Ethics and Journalism Practices
Around 45 media professionals will gather in Thessaloniki on 4â€“6 October to discuss ways to improve diversity and ethics in the media. The meeting endeavors to exchange best practices and find innovative ways and tools to improve media diversity and tackle the issue of discrimination through balance and accurate reporting.
The meeting will be hosted by EFJ affiliate in Greece (ESIEMTH) as part of the joint project on Media in Europe for Diversity Inclusiveness (MEDIANE) with the Council of Europe (CoE). The project co-funded by the CoE and the EU was led by the CoE. It also offers an exchange programme for media professionals to work together and exchange best practices. For more information, please visit HERE.
Towards More Transparency of Media Ownership
(24.09.2013) The Sub-Committee on Media and Information Society of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly will organise together with Access Info Europe/Open Society Media Programme a conference on transparency of media ownership, which will be held in Brussels, with the participation of the EFJ.
This is a long-standing concern for the EFJ and we welcomed the initiative taken by the committee to prepare a report on this issue. The conference will set the basis for a new, joint approach between media professionals, civil society groups, and politicians in order to guarantee full transparency of media ownership in the future. For more information, please contact Marc Gruber.
European Initiative for Media Pluralism Relaunched
(19.08.2013) We have reported the European Initiative for Media Pluralism in past issues of the EFJ Focus. The inititative was relaunched on 19 August, which means that European citizens have until 19 August 2014 to collect the 1 million signatures required to make a legistlative change in Europe.
Help us collect 1 million signatures to make a legislative change for media pluralism in Europe. Sign the petition now!
The Public Broadcaster Still Faces Uncertanties
(05.09.2013) The Greek government recently confirmed that an ''interim organisation'' will be set up to replace ERT, the public broadcaster which was shut down on 11 June. The government announced that a hiring process will begin soon to give priorities to the 2000 employees at ERT. However, only 577 out of the 2000 former ERT employees were re-hired. Those hired were givien only a two-month contract.
The government also plans to set up a new public broadcaster (NERIT) following the parliament's approval. However, it is unclear whether former ERT employees will be re-hired. Meanwhile, the lawsuit between ERT and its former employees will resume in January 2014.
Labour relations continue to worsen elsewhere in Greece: the Lambrakis Group, one of the countryâ€™s largest publishers, fired 50 media workers and further pay cuts will take place.
Commissioner Barnier Asked to Investigate Unfair Contracts
(29.08.2013) The EFJ asked the chief of the internal market and services department, Commissioner Michel Barnier, to investigate the unfair contractual practices in journalism and the creative sector in order to prevent further economic loss. An EFJ delegation met with Mr. Barnier and raised the concern over the increasing use of unfair contracts that deprive journalists and creators of their right to claim fair payment for their work. Mr. Barnier told the delegation that a study to assess whether authors and performers are paid fairly for their work is underway. The study will look into the aspect of unfair contractual practices and the economic loss of authors and performers.
The delegation also raised concerns over the proposed new European law on collecting societies and emphasised that journalistsâ€™ unions should not be considered or confused by the authority as collecting societies.
(01.08.2013) The Russian government introduced a new law to protect copyright online. According to the new law, films and music can be protected. The protection will later be expanded to protect general content online. However, some liberty groups are worried that the new law could restrict the right to freedom of expression and information online. (Read more)
We conclude that whilst the procedures to obtain injunctive relief provide some safeguards for freedom of expression, serious concerns remain as to the way in which the provisions will be applied in practice. - See more at: http://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/37202/en/russia:-federal-law-on-amendments-of-several-acts-on-the-protection-of-intellectual-property-rights-in-information-and-telecommunication-networks#sthash.2x9r2aYz.dpuf
It aims to strengthen online copyright enforcement in Russia, and provides for new intermediary liability rules. - See more at: http://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/37202/en/russia:-federal-law-on-amendments-of-several-acts-on-the-protection-of-intellectual-property-rights-in-information-and-telecommunication-networks#sthash.2x9r2aYz.dpuf
GENDER EFJ Submits Project on Equal Pay in Journalism
The EFJ has submitted a project proposal to the European Commission in order to launch a campaign to end the gender pay gap in journalism. If accepted by the Commission, the EFJ, together with its partners, will launch a series of trainings, awareness-raising campaigns, and a study to tackle the gender pay gap in journalism.
Call for Interest to Host EFJ General Meeting 2014
Are you interested in hosting the next EFJ General Meeting for May 2014?
If so, contact us now! The deadline is 1 November.