European Federation of Journalists

President’s speech, EFJ Annual Meeting 2015, Montenegro

Safety, rights and jobs

Mogens Blicher Bjerregård
EFJ President

Safety, rights and jobs have been and will be our three keywords in the European Federation of Journalists these years. In solidarity we will work within that framework

Safety as has been more an IFJ topic has also become an EFJ issue. I addressed it last November at the annual meeting in Moscow. Unfortunately, we see more journalists killed in Europe than ever, journalists are jailed for doing their job. Journalists are beaten and the digitization challenges protection of sources.

Rights: Labor rights, rights to organize without being expelled from the media as we have seen in this part of Europe, and authors’ rights deeply challenged by the EU commission.

Jobs, where are they after austerity, during and after the financial crises? How do we find the jobs because the need of journalism is more important than ever. People who can tell the story are wanted! The digitization applies for more journalists. We know that journalists get hired, but were – and do we care? This is actually a key question.


Caring about safety, we have to address both a safe environment for journalists and to urge our authorities to find the mechanisms to fight impunity. The International Federation of Journalists has safety as a worldwide agenda, also in Europe. Normally we of that reason won’t pay that much attention to safety.

In full respect of the important work done by our mother organization, IFJ, we have to put it on top of our agenda as well – unfortunately. The figures tell us why: From 2006 to 2013, UNESCO has reported 21 killings in Europe. During the last 18 months in Europe another 21 journalists and media workers are killed. 10 in at Charlie Hebdo 10 during the war in Ukraine and 1 in Russia. Also in Afghanistan, Mali and Central Africa European journalists have paid the highest price for press freedom.

Turkey and Azerbaijan represent countries with the largest jails for journalists. We have had a successful campaigning for releasing journalists in Turkey, and we will continue. Now also focusing on Azerbaijan. In Macedonia we have successfully been campaigning for the release of Tomislav Kezarowski, who will take the floor later today. As a strong organization we in solidarity can make the difference.

In this part of Europe hosting us today, safety and press freedom is extremely important. We cannot, we will not accept that the authorities are violating our colleagues, setting them behind bars and threaten them to be silent. Last Thursday an investigative journalist in Croatia was beaten up. Hundreds of journalists face risks like this. As journalists’ we will not accept to be threatened to silence. We are here to tell story, we are here to ensure the development of our democracies.

We urge our governments to bring the perpetrators to justice. All international intergovernmental institution as UNESCO, EU and Council of Europe have firmly tried to find the right mechanisms to fight impunity, but until now mostly through declarations and not many concrete actions taken. This was also addressed during the UNESCO World Press Freedom Day held in Riga.

However, we welcome the alert platform set up by Council of Europe in cooperation with a number of NGO’s and among them the EFJ and the IFJ. Since the platform was launched two month ago, the organizations have submitted 50 alerts, and among them 40 from the EFJ.

Let me just highlight a few of the alerts from the EFJ.
• In Turkey a bill will ban opposition TV to use the satellite infrastructure controlled by the state.
• In Spain a bill hostile to press freedom makes unauthorized use of material as photos of authorities or member of security forces prohibited with sanction of fines up to 30.000 €.
• A French journalist accused for revealing information about the financial scandal Luxleaks.
• Cartoonist in Turkey are found guilty of insulting president Erdogan – the president who supported the manifestation in Paris after the attack on Charlie Hebdo – who said double standard?
More alerts come from Slovenia, France, Azerbaijan, Ukraine and Russia.

All alerts are followed up by the Council of Europe asking the member states to react, but we have to emphasize that we not only want answers from the member states, we want action taken, we want a new respectful approach to journalists press freedom. We will follow up how the Council of Europe deal with the alerts.

We have dealt with these topics in two meetings with EU-commissioners, namely Frants Timmermans from the Netherlands and Johannes Han from Austria. They both agreed on our agenda.


Another prerequisite for press freedom is our rights, our fundamental rights. Therefore, I want to emphasize some of the articles in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights:
• Article 12 says that everyone has the right to freedom of associations of all level and, in particular, the article mentions trade unions.
• Article 28 the right of collective bargaining and action
Especially in the European applicant states these articles are violated, as union leaders in Turkey, Macedonia and Montenegro all have faced sacking. This is not acceptable and we have to address this. In many countries, we see resistance from media owners to collective bargaining. We must insist on social dialogue referring to article 28.

The right to organize as stressed in article 12 is in fact violated by legislation in several countries, namely when labor laws deny trade unions to organize freelances as we know it from Portugal and some other countries.

The meeting with the Belgian commissioner Marianne Thyssen on labor rights also highlighted the importance of the social dialogue, because press freedom is also about journalist having possibilities to make a living out of their job.

The 11th and 12th May we organized the first workshop during the project Rights and Jobs financed by the EU. It is a two years project, four workshops and a final conference. The workshop in May in Copenhagen was about recruitment, and allow me to stress: it was a success!

I hope that those of you who attended the seminar agree with me, that it was a meeting with an open-minded approach where everybody could go home with inspirations to find new ways to recruit. I even think this seminar somehow was a change for the EFJ in our approach as we need to go for more dialogue to find solutions.

The right to organize and the need to improve organizing in a range of countries will become an even more central part of the EU agenda. I addressed this issue when I in Riga two weeks ago attended the 1st Eastern Partnership Media Conference. And, from EU it was included in the final remarks that EU through projects should provide strengthening of professional journalist organization as well as strong employer organizations. – And then we should repay by an increasing dialogue and cooperation with our employers organizations.

Another attack on our rights are the proposal of bringing copyright, authors’ rights into the EU Digital Market as an obstacle for developing this market. Dear delegates, the authors’s rights in total in Europe today represent an annual turnover of 500 billion € and 7 million jobs. Since the annual meeting in Moscow, this proposal has become one of the most important issues for our organizations to deal with. I will return to this point during the report from the Authors Rights Expert Group, and it will be dealt with in the motions.


Talking about solutions we must be aware of, where the jobs are, because the jobs are moving, and more of them have moved away from traditional media, but we are able to find them if we want. To be able to tell a story will always be demanded. In the growing jungle of media outlets including a huge number of online websites, it has never been more important to be able to guide citizens by journalism.

Financing of journalism has become one of the most serious challenges we have faced. New technology paved the way for the idea that content is for free, and this idea has grown in a way that urges not only media owners but also governments to develop new business models. That includes subsidizing. You can like it or not, but I believe that the states must invest in pluralism and of course it must be in the framework of the principle of keeping at arm’s length.

At the Copenhagen workshop three weeks ago, a British consultant justified that the number of job for journalists has increased in Great Britain but with no effect at the trade union level. This is not only happen in Great Britain. If we want, we can reach out to a range of jobs in both the private sector and the public sector, where journalists are working for private companies, NGO’s or municipalities, states or public institutions. The numbers of freelances are growing and developing new markets for journalism.

Future challenges will be closely linked to digitization, the internet, the big players, social media. Looking at all new possibilities we also have to reflect how we can shape the future of journalism.

I am well aware that we have different approaches to what extent our organizations should develop. I deeply respect our different approaches, and I think we should all do that mutually. Within each of our decisions we in solidarity can develop tools to gain more members. Let’s inspire each other.

Final remarks

The globalization is a fact in Europe, the employers, the media owners and the states are all operating more cross border than ever. – We as journalists unions need to achieve better instruments to strengthen our cross border activities, because we have to be at the same level. Strengthening of the European Federation of Journalists and our solidarity is a prerequisite for that goal. Therefore, we must have this on our agenda until the General Meeting.

EFJ is the largest continental group of the IFJ as our membership represents 67% of the global membership of the IFJ. We are the main contributors to the IFJ finances. I find it very important that we as a European organization is an active part of the IFJ, we promote basic values and standards in profession and journalists rights which is the only way to protect journalists’ rights and save journalism as a public good.