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AEJ journalists mark World Press Freedom Day with rallies, statements and public debates

As leading press freedom monitoring organisations, including Committee to Protect Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, released their annual reports showing a further steep decline in press freedom and the protections for journalists, the AEJ organised and took part in major advocacy events, protests and civil society gatherings across Europe -- including in Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Romania, Turkey and the UK. Here are some highlights:-


Austria: AEJ President and senior ‘profil’ magazine editor, Otmar Lahodynsky, gave a lecture on 2 May about the media-situation in Turkey at Vienna’s specialist university for journalism, the Fachhochschule für Journalismus. Following his participation, representing the AEJ, in an international press freedom mission to Turkey from March 27-April 2, he presented the sad situation of the last independent news organizations like the newspaper "Cumhurriyet", of which eleven members of staff have been behind bars for months without indictments or trials, despite an international outcry. Most TV stations report in favour of President Erdogan. During the campaign before period before the referendum on April 16th no free political debate was possible in Turkey thanks to the draconian measures imposed by Mr Erdogan during the nine-month long state of emergency which still continues.

With 155 journalists presently in jail, Turkey has turned into the biggest prison for journalists in the whole world.

On 3 May Otmar was a guest on a new radio-program "Punkt Eins” on "Österreich 1" – a one hour program from 1pm devoted to the topic of media freedom: See www.oe1.orf.at .

Belgium: AEJ Belgium was among the organisers of the major ‘Difference Day’ event in Brussels on 3 May. The all-day event included a special AEJ panel discussion on ‘The challenge of building trust: Is technology there to save the media?’ On the day, the Evens Foundation awarded the ‘most promising young journalist award’ to Christophe Zotter of Austria’s ‘profil’ magazine. The Journalist of the Year prize went to Tom Nuttall of The Economist.

For more information see AEJ Belgium www.aej-belgium.eu and this video of the AEJ session on Difference Day: https://youtu.be/U2frVXmo94g

Bosnia and Herzegovina: To mark World Press Freedom Day 2017, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung in BiH and the BH Journalists Association (BHJA) presented the results of the latest survey of public opinion on the themes of “Journalism, Public Opinion and Media Freedom”. The publication was accompanied by simultaneous debates in Sarajevo and Banjaluka. The opinion survey covered core issues affecting media freedom questions, such as changes in the conditions of media freedom and work of journalists in the last 9 years; the relations between politics and the media; media responsibility: toward citizens and political elites in Bosnia and Herzegovina; which media most command people’s trust; and changes in public perception of attacks on journalists and media.

Bulgaria : AEJ Bulgaria announced that it is continuing its traditional annual online questionnaire and research into the state of Freedom of speech in the Bulgarian media. This is the fourth time that it carries out this survey of journalists across the country. It will be open until 5th of June, and the findings are to be made public in the first half of September.

Ireland: AEJ Ireland will host a meeting with guest speaker Jon Williams, head of news at Ireland’s public broadcaster RTE, who is also a board member of the US-based press freedom organisation, Committee to Protect Journalists.

Greece: AEJ Greece issued a strong statement denouncing attacks against journalists and media freedom, in the context of the growing climate of intolerance and demagoguery in Greece and elsewhere. See https://en.unesco.org/sites/default/files/jakarta_declaration_4may2017_en.pdf

Italy: The AEJ Italian Section celebrated WPFDay by participating in a high-level debate in the Italian Senate in Rome, devoted to the theme of ‘The Inviolable Right to information’, together with the leading journalists’ safety NGO, Ossigeno per L’Informazione. Ossigenoreleased its latest statistics on attacks against the media in Italy, based on close monitoring and in-depth research and investigation. Read more here:

Romania: The AEJ’s Romanian Section/ Azir put the spotlight on the importance of journalistic ethics and containing political interference and pressures on journalists.

See separate AEJ news item: http://www.aej.org/page.asp?p_id=588

Turkey: Dogan Tilic, the AEJ’s honorary vice-president, visited Spain to address the Press Freedom Symposium organized by the Catalan House of Journalists and University of Lleida, in Lleida. On 3 May member organisations of the G9 Platform of press freedom groups, which includes the AEJ, issued a statement in front of the Caglayan Palace of Justice in Istanbul, where dozens of journalists were summoned in recent months to face arbitrary accusations of criminality or anti-state activities. The statement called for the release of over 150 journalists from Turkish jails and an end to the harsh repression of free speech.

United Kingdom: On 3 May AEJ UK chairman and AEJ vice president William Horsley took part in a Panel Debate at the Senate House, the headquarters of the University of London, to watch the first screening in the UK of ‘Velvet Revolution’, which tells the powerful stories of six women journalists from the Philippines to Syria and Azerbaijan who risk their lives to speak truth to power, reporting about government abuses, civil conflict and religious intolerance in different regions of the world. The film’s executive producer, Indian journalist and film maker Nupur Basu, and Rebecca Vincent, director of the London bureau of Reporters Without Border were among the speakers. The event was hosted by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies in cooperation with the Commonwealth Journalists Association.

William Horsley published a column on ‘Press freedom watchers see enemies of press freedom within’, focusing on the growing infiltration or takeover of media houses by state interests and others for dubious purposes, on the website of the Centre for Freedom of the Media, University of Sheffield.

See: http://www.cfom.org.uk/2017/05/press-freedom-watchers-see-threats-from-enemies-within/

UNESCO: The international conference marking World Press Freedom Day 2017 was co-hosted by UNESCO in Jakarta, Indonesia, from May 1-4. The gathering focused on the vital role of the media and free expression in building just and peaceful societies, and explored the possibilities for strengthening the legal and political framework to uphold freedom of expression and other rights in Asia. The concluding Jakarta Declaration called, among other things, for journalists and media to provide reliable public interest reporting and to counter ‘falsified news’.

The AEJ is an independent professional association of journalists active across Europe, based on national sections. For details see national section websites on www.aej.org . The AEJ is a partner with the Council of Europe in the online Platform for the safety of journalists, an early warning and rapid response system to record and follow up on serious threats and attacks against press freedom anywhere in Europe. See www.coe.int/fom .