Belgium: Defending journalists’ rights in a federal system

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On Saturday (28/02/2015), the Association des journalistes professionnels (AJP, representing the journalists in the French and German speaking part of Belgium) and the Vlaamse vereniging van journalisten (VVJ, representing the journalists in the Dutch speaking part of Belgium), both EFJ affiliates under the federal umbrella organization called AGJPB-AVBB, held their annual congress at the House of Journalists in Brussels.

Unlike many other countries in Europe, AJP and VVJ are not classical trade union organisations but they are registered as non-profit professional unions. They are considered by the authorities and other civil society organisations as the legitimate representative of professional journalists and they can be involved in the bargaining of collective agreement for journalists and media workers in media outlets.

According to the new figures released by AJP during the congress, Belgium has officially registered 5.359 professional journalists, including 2.043 AJP members, 550 foreign correspondents (living in the French-speaking Belgium), 22 local correspondents, 531 stagiaires, 87 students and 79 honorary members. The affiliation rate of journalists to the AJP in Belgium is 76 %.

AJP and VVJ have both elected 21 new members for the next 4 years for their separate steering committee and later will indirectly elect their 14 members for the federal AGJPB-AVVB level. 42 % of the new AJP board are female, a higher rate than the percentage of women journalists in Belgium. “We should intensify our pressures against precarious working conditions and fight harder against authoritarianism in the media sector,” said François Ryckmans, journalist for RTBF (Belgian Public Service Broadcasting) and AJP President who was reelected for a new term. At the VVJ, Kris Van Haver (journalist for the daily De Tijd) has been elected as vice-president, the president will be appointed at a latter stage.

AJP members were also exclusively briefed about the upcoming new platform for freelance journalists (http://journalistefreelance.be/) to be officially launched end of March. This new initiative will offer a freelance calculator based on media coverage and freelance’s experience, promote personal branding for members, support new opportunities in the media sector and guarantee the ethical standards for the public.

On authors’ rights, Ivan Declercq (VVJ staff and EFJ FREG member) has shared an important information : “Freelancers can invoice 100 % in authors’ rights, according to Johan Van Overtveldt (Belgian Finance minister) on the conditions that this is written in their contract and the amounts relate only to the transfer of those rights”.

(Photo: Marc Simon / AJP)

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