European Federation of Journalists

EFJ Focus November 2017

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EDITORIAL: Lack of leaders standing up for media freedom in Western Balkans

The EU- Western Balkans Media Days that recently took place in Tirana, Albania, proved the importance of having a very firm focus on press freedom in the region where journalists are often caught in cross-fire.

Firstly, journalists in the region are often attacked, harassed and even imprisoned. In particular, female journalists are exposed to harassments and threats. Impunity for crimes against journalists remains as a common practice.

Governments have the duty to support media and journalists. Swift actions should be taken whenever there is a violation of journalists’ rights. It is extremely important for the media stakeholders to be convinced that governments and all politicians, at any time, will fight for their press freedom.

Secondly, without decent working conditions, quality journalism cannot exist. In addition, the lack of social dialogue between the employers and journalists is the weak link to defend media freedom in the region. Without common goals in the media industry for press freedom, free and independent journalism, and keeping politicians and authorities away from the newsrooms, journalists and media will remain in the same vulnerable situation as today.

Therefore, it is important for the European Union to press the applicant countries in guaranteeing full media freedom and the rights to freedom of association which will pave the way for social dialogue. The EFJ together with its affiliates in the region plays an important role in improving the media freedom situation and develop dialogues in the region.

  • An action plan to improve media freedom with deadlines and milestones can be established in Western Balkans before they become EU members. We cannot wait for years to make progress. We need action now.
  • Ensure the equal rights and equal treatment for freelancers who perform the same jobs as employees.
  • Raise salaries and fees now! If state support for media is needed to ensure pluralism and high quality journalism, don’t hesitate to introduce more financial support. In other countries such systems work without having states intervening in newsrooms. Supporting media is supporting democracy.
  • Always urge and expect governments to stand up for journalism at any time.
  • Respect authors’ rights including moral rights of journalists, as these rights guarantee quality and credibility in journalism.
Mogens Blicher Bjerregård
EFJ President
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