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AEJ renews Media Freedom efforts, pledges closer cooperation with Council of Europe Database on Media Freedom violations


Media Freedom session at Ordu Congress

At its Congress on 8 to 9 October 2010 in Ordu, Turkey, the AEJ agreed actively to support the ongoing Turkish journalistsí Petition to free over 40 jailed Turkish journalists. The meeting heard detailed reports of new, oppressive measures against free and independent media in Turkey, Armenia, Belarus, Bulgaria and Ukraine.The AEJ pledged support for the goals of the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), created by Iceland MP Birgitta Jonsdottir. Ms Jonsdottir outlined the IMMIís goals of making Iceland a haven for investigative journalism, by giving journalists and publishers some of the most powerful protections for free speech in the world. The Initiative is intended to inspire other nations to strengthen their own laws in favour of fundamental freedoms, and to thwart gagging orders, legal harassment and destruction of historical records. AEJ delegates from 17 countries also passed a Resolution urging German prosecutors to drop an ongoing criminal investigation against Austrian journalists. The two-day meeting was used to prepare AEJ members for closer cooperation with the Council of Europe by contributing to the forthcoming CoE Database project. The Database, to be launched as soon as possible, will identify serious violations of legitimate media freedom across Europe, so that they can be addressed and resolved in line with the European Convention on Human Rights, which is incorporated into domestic law in all 47 member states of the Council of Europe.

Notable points and outcomes from the AEJ Congress on Media Freedom:-

In a speech, Ercan Ipekci, Chair of the Turkish Journalists Union, said 46 Turkish journalists were currently in jail. He called for the removal of 27 different articles in the Turkish Penal Code which are used to criminalise the work of journalists, and warned that without genuine freedom of expression and the media, Turkey would be at risk of becoming a dictatorship.

Birgitta Jonsdottir, the author of Icelandís uniquely liberal laws protecting freedom of expression and free media, called for support from European politicians, journalists, transparency watchdogs and NGOs for her International Modern Media Initiative. Its goals include giving protection to the work and the physical safety of investigative journalists who expose wrongdoing by governments, political parties, businesses and others. The IMMI would offer physical protection to online journalists, attempt to shield them from prosecution, and combat online censorship with help from an alliance of politicians, journalists and human rights organisations committed to defending freedom of expression. Read more about the IMMI

AEJ delegates paid tribute to Anna Politkovskaya, the Russian investigative journalist and human rights champion who was murdered in Moscow exactly four years ago. The AEJ Media Freedom Representative William Horsley urged all AEJ Sections to support the call by UNESCO, the UN Agency responsible for freedom of expression, for news organisations to observe a Minuteís Silence in honour of media workers killed for their work. The Minuteís Silence may be observed on or around World Press Freedom on 3 May each year, and serves to raise awareness among the public and political leaders of the risks faced by inquiring journalists and the importance of their work to maintaining political and other freedoms.

Athanase Papandropoulos, Honorary President of the AEJ, raised the issue of the dramatic decline in the number of journalists enjoying full-time staff status with viable news organisations, and the rising trend for journalists to be obliged to work freelance or part-time on a precarious professional basis. He pointed out the risk that this sweeping economic and technological change may dilute the quality of journalistic output, and undermine the commitment of journalists to the best codes of ethics and their ability to exercise independent judgement. His contribution was part of the AEJís ongoing debate on The Future of Journalism.

Regis Verley, the delegate from France, urged all AEJ Sections to put up a Media Freedom page on their own national websites. The suggestion was welcomed by the AEJ Media Freedom Representative, as a way of keeping a close focus on MF issues and sharing information and ideas among AEJ Sections and members.

Peter Kramer, Secretary-General of the AEJ, drew attention to the growing concerns of representative journalists organisations in Brussels concerning the media policy of EU institutions, claims of a growing lack of transparency, and the failure of the European Parliament and other EU bodies to hold member states and candidate states to expected standards and international norms of freedom of information and expression. The AEJ will pay close attention to these concerns in its future work on Media Freedom, media ethics and the Future of Journalism.

AEJ AND COUNCIL OF EUROPE DATABASE: The AEJ is working with staff of the Council of Europe and the Commissioner for Human Rights, as well as other leading journalistic and human rights organisations to support the successful launch and operation of the Database on Violations of Media Freedom at an early date. The Database will be based on the Council of Europeís published list of 27 Indicators of Media in a Democracy.