When Governments are Losing Touch with Civil Society
As EFJ President, I was present at the International Governance Forum (IGF) in Istanbul at beginning of September in a global debate focusing on the development of the digital world and its impact issues most concerning journalists such as press freedom, protection of sources, safety and free access to information.
During the discussion, a representative from Tunisia expressed framed in my view one of the most important challenges we have in the digital age – governments are losing touch with civil society and the ‘‘offline world’’ is missing the connection with the online world.
In history, we learned that the man in power has always been distant from the ordinary people living in real world. But digitalisation has changed this relationship. Development of new media platform is faster than the governments’ attempt to legislate or suppress media freedom. Some political leaders try to regulate a digital market in a way, which appears to be ridiculous and out of touch with the digital world we are heading towards to. Turkey is a case in point. Earlier this year, the government of Turkey tried to shut down the social media network Twitter but the effort proved to be in vain because dissident voices become even louder online.
In this context, the role of EFJ and its affiliates are very important because we can act as the bridge among policy-makers, journalists (or some say ‘‘content providers’’) and the end-users in making the digital world richer with quality and plurality in information.
As the industry saying goes ‘‘content is king’’, journalists have an important role to play in ensuring that the content they produced is of high quality, reliable, ethical and accessible by the public while their authors’ rights are respected.
Mogens Blicher Bjerregård EFJ President
EFJ EFJ Annual Meeting 2014
The EFJ will welcome more than 50 delegates from 26 national delegations in its Annual Meeting in Moscow, Russia on 20 – 22 November. This year, the theme will be “Journalists in Times of Conflicts: Impunity, Safety and Ethics” to highlight the challenges facing journalists working in conflict zones.
A special report (see below news on EFJ Mission to Ukraine) on the difficulties facing journalists in Ukraine will be presented and discussed during the meeting. Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE (Organisation for Cooperation and Security in Europe) Representative on Freedom of the Media will deliver the keynote speech in the Meeting.
MISSION TO UKRAINE Ukrainian and Russian Journalists to Develop Joint Actions
As a part of the on-going support for journalists working in the conflict zones in Ukraine, the EFJ will organise another mission to Kiev, Ukraine on 7 – 9 November. Yannis Kotsifos, member of the EFJ Steering Committee, will visit the EFJ affiliates, NUJU and IMTUU, as well as local journalists to understand the difficulties they face in their daily work as a result of the conflict and to develop measures to help them tackle these difficulties.Meanwhile, the EFJ affiliates in Russia (RUJ) and Ukraine (NUJU and IMTUU) have agreed to further the existing cooperation in a recent meeting held by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna on 26 September. With the support of the OSCE and the IFJ, RUJ, NUJU and IMTUU will develop a joint report documenting the various challenges, including attacks, arrests and killings facing journalists in the two countries.See the joint statement put out by the RUJ, IMTUU and NUJU following the Vienna dialogue last Friday which condemns the attacks and killings of journalists and calls for the release of six more journalists believed to be held in Eastern Ukraine.
NEW PUBLICATION Confronting Austerity in Journalism
“Journalists’ and their organisations must be the driving force for the future of journalism’’ – this is the notion highlighted in the study published by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) about finding ways to sustain quality journalism.
Commenting on the study, the EFJ General Secretary Ricardo Gutiérrez said, “The first observation revealed in the study is that job cuts facing by journalists are the primary concerns of unions and associations of journalists in Europe; the second observation is that journalists and the industry as a whole are investing heavily in new digital platforms.’’
“The good news is that journalists and their organisations are responding to the challenge of digital transition. Like most of its affiliates, the EFJ remains optimistic. But we need publishers on board and they should start investing in the newsrooms instead of cutting back. Only quality journalism can ensure the industry’s survival in the competitive market. In order to do so, we need newsroom staffed with professional journalists who are well trained and working in decent conditions,” added Gutiérrez. (Read more)
Stand Up for Journalism Day, 5 November
For the 7th time, the EFJ will be marking 5 November as a day to “Stand Up For Journalism”, and we are asking our affiliates across Europe to join in the campaign. On the day or during the week of the 5 November, journalists across Europe and around the world come together in solidarity to spotlight some of the major challenges they face.
The EFJ Steering Committee is proposing to use the day to highlight the situation of journalists in an increasingly concentrated media environment. New actors including Google threaten not only media pluralism but increasingly the survival of many freelance journalists who are weak to negotiate with gigantic media conglomerates. Tycoons have been buying media outlets and in many countries appear to exert media control. All of them influence editorial control or promote a political ideology.
EU Seminar on Transparency of Media Ownership
(3.10.2014) The EFJ has attended a seminar organised by the European Commission (DG Connect) on best practices on transparency of media ownership. National experts from Austria, Croatia and Finland have shared their best practices in encouraging media companies to publish information on the ownership. Speakers emphasised that it is not just a matter of media ownership but those who control the media are given the privilege to set the media agenda for the public.
At the final section of the seminar, Commissioner Neelie Kroes told the audience that addressing the transparency of media ownership is not enough. “The EU has the competence to act further if we only have the courage to dare”, said Commissioner Kroes. You can catch up the key debate via #EUMT14.
FINLAND New Agreement Concluded after Tough Negotiations
(1.10.2014) The Journalists’ Union of Finland has concluded a new collective agreement for around 4500 journalists and media workers in the print media and news agencies in the country. ‘‘I congratulate our affiliate on the successful negotiation of the new collective agreement under the challenging environment,’’ said Ricardo Gutierrez, EFJ General Secretary.
The new agreement will cover journalists working for online news website and media which was challenged by the employers. Although the union has made a small victory for the salary of journalists by achieving a moderate increase of 1.34% after 26 months, the union has successfully rejected the proposal to reduce the number of holidays for journalists. It has also made the employers to recognise the need of local shop stewards at a time when media organisations are merging due to concentration of ownership. The agreement ensures that the number of shop stewards in local media will not be reduced.
EUROPE The Future of Public Service Broadcasting in Europe
(18.9.2014) The EFJ President Morgens Blicher Bjerregård and policy officer Yuk Lan Wong have met with the President of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) Mr. Jean-Paul Philippot at the Belgian French-speaking broadcaster RTBF in Brussels to discuss the future of public service broadcasters (PSB) in Europe.
During the meeting, the EFJ has raised concerns over the governance of the new PSB which was criticised for its lack of independence and staffing procedures. Blicher Bjerregård and Mr Philippot agreed there is a need for joint efforts to maintain a strong PSB in each European country as PSB is an important element in sustaining the pluralistic landscape.
GERMANY Government to Propose Law to Limit the Right to Strike
(2.10.2014) Every worker is entitled to the right to strike which is guaranteed by the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights and the constitutions in many EU countries. However, Germany will challenge this right by proposing a new law to limit the right to strike. According to the proposal, only the union with the most members in a company should have the right to negotiate with the employers and carry out strike actions. This would mean that larger unions will have a monopoly of power, making the smaller unions practically superfluous.The EFJ affiliates in Germany, DJV and DJU. Verdi, are joining forces to oppose such a proposal. Michael Konken, Chairman of the Journalists’ Union of German (DJV) said, ‘‘Workers must be free to choose whichever union to represent them. The proposed law will violate the constitution of Germany which guarantees the right to strike for every worker.’’
The draft law is expected to be published at the end of this year.
EFJ Calls for All Charges Against Tomislav Kezarovski to be Dropped
(7.10.2014) The EFJ has sent a letter to Andrej Lepavcov, the Ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia to the European Union, calling for Macedonian authorities to bring an end to the “absurd” judicial prosecutions against journalist Tomislav Kezarovski, stating that he is being unfairly punished for revealing the identity of a police source and protecting his journalist sources. The EFJ is calling all its affiliates to sent a similar letter to local ambassadors. (Read more) (photo : EFJ)
SERBIA B92 to Drop Critical Talk Show amidst Political Pressure
(3.10.2014) The EFJ has joined their affiliates in Serbia, the Independent Journalists’ Association of Serbia (NUNS), the Journalists’ Association of Serbia (UNS) and the Journalists Union of Serbia (SINOS) in protesting against the decision taken by the private radio and TV station B92 to drop the political talk show following political pressure.UNS has launched an online petition asking for public support to demand the return of the talk show. The other association NUNS has organised a silent protest with more than 300 journalists and public figures from political and cultural life on Sunday in front of B92premises. The union (SINOS) has also issued a statement against the decision to drop the talk show. (Read more)
SWITZERLAND Call for Action to Ensure Safety of Journalists in Conflict Zones
The EFJ, the Swiss professional association of journalists Impressum, Amnesty International, the University of Fribourg, Reporters without Borders and Press Emblem Campaign (PEC) adopted a joint resolution at the end of the third Forum on the journalism this Sept. 24 in Lausanne. In view of the escalating threats and dangers facing journalists in the conflict zones, the resolution calls for actions to ensure the safety of journalists. (Read more)
TURKEY Journalists Covering IS Face Attacks
(25.9.2014) Journalists covering the people suffering from the Iraq-Islamic State (IS) conflicts near the Turkey-Syria border in the city of Suruç were attacked by the police in Turkey. According to the EFJ affiliate, TGS, the Turkish police was systematically targeting journalists reporting the conflicts although journalists have shown them their press cards. The TGS has recorded several journalists were attacked physically, including several female journalists who were harassed. The EFJ and TGS condemned the attack and demand the Turkish authorities to respect the journalists’ rights to report. (Read more in Turkish)
ROMANIA Media & Politics
(23.9.2014) “The media developments in Romania are dramatic,” said Marina Constantinoiu at the beginning of the seminar on “Media & Politics” organised by the South Eastern European Media Organisation (SEEMO) at the House of Parliament in Bucharest. As SEEMO’s coordinator, Constantinoiu warned about the drastic decline in advertising revenue by 90% and predicted that Romania will probably be the first European country with no printed media.While Constantinoiu’s prediction is yet to be proven truth, the 50 participants to the conference debated about how to improve the quality of journalism in the media in Romania. Suggestions include an efficient self-regulation, de-politisation of public broadcasting media, transparent media ownership and ethical guidelines for journalism. Renate Schroeder, the EFJ Director shared her views on how to reset the agenda and to fight together for journalism as a public good. She referred to an EFJ report “Journalism in the shadows: The challenge for press freedom”, which was published in 2011. Three years after the publication, the state of media in Romania unfortunately has not improved for journalists and throughout the region, be it inside the European Union or outside. (Read more)
SLOVENIA Journalist prosecuted for revealing party’s neo-Nazi links
Prosecutors in Slovenia charged journalist Anuska Delic with publishing classified secrets for her coverage of links between the former prime minister’s political party and a far-right group. Delic, who faces three years in prison if found guilty, says she is a target of a politically motivated investigation by authorities, who are pressuring her to divulge her sources. ‘‘Important journalistic principles are at stake – that is the right to protect confidential sources and the right to report. The preliminary hearing is scheduled for October 15. The EFJ and its affiliate, the Slovenian Association of Journalists, are following the case closely and will react to the outcome. (Read more) (photo by : Matej Druznik / Delo)
AUTHOR’S RIGHTS Libraries Given Green Light to Digitise Newspapers
(11.9.2014) University libraries can now digitise books and newspaper articles for educational purposes following the ruling by the European Court of Justice. According to the court decision, Member States can authorise their libraries to digitise books and articles with the objective “to promote the public interest in promoting research and private study’’. However, this authorisation does not allow individuals to make private print, scan or copy on a USB key.If individual users of a library want to print the copyrighted works out on paper or store them on a USB stick, they can only do so via dedicated terminals decided by the library and they must provide fair compensation to the authors or rightsholders for re-producing the copyrighted content.
Freelancers Experts Group Meeting and Roundtable, MinskAssises internationales du journalisme, Metz
“Journalism in the Age of Mass Surveillance” IFJ Conference, London
SEEMO Congress, Skopje
Rencontres européennes de Luxembourg, Luxembourg
TUMM FES Conference on Working Conditions for Journalists in Montenegro, Podgorica
Publishing on the move: Knowing and organising to anticipate the changes, UNI-Graphical, Brussels