30/10/2014 Newsletter no 2- 2014

Dear friends, dear colleagues!

Two weeks ago, on 16-19 October, we gathered for our General Assembly in Burgenland. I am sure you agree that we had a fascinating series of debates with panelists like EU-Commissioner Dombrovskis, diplomats, experts from the OSCE and IPI, and leading politicians from Hungary.

Thank you so much for your participation and cooperation. I think we met in a very constructive mood.

Let me again thank you for your trust having elected me as new AEJ-president. I feel very honoured and hope to be able to live up to your expectations.

I want to thank Eileen Dunne who did an excellent job as President of the AEJ during the last four years. It was not always easy when I think of the new statutes.

As I said in Neusiedl, unity is strength. This applies also to the AEJ. Our association can continue playing an important role in fostering Europe-wide cooperation and in promoting media freedom. And we have a strong board to reach our goals. Of course, we need the support of all our sections.

At the top of our priorities should stand efforts of all sections to attract new and young colleagues. Added value of AEJ-membership could be secured by organizing more seminars on European topics.

If you have suggestions and proposals, don't hesitate to contact me.

Best wishes

Otmar Lahodynsky

General Assembly in Neusiedl/Austria elected officers for AEJ-board

President: Otmar Lahodynsky/Austria.

Secretary General: Tibor Macak/Slovakia was re-elected for the next two year period.

Vice-Presidents: Saia Tsaousidou/Greece, Javier F. Arribas/Spain and William Horsley/UK (who also retains his responsibilities as AEJ Special Representative for Media Freedom).

Treasurer: Luigi Cobisi/Italy was re-elected

AEJ Representative for Network Development: Fabrice Pozzoli-Montenay/France.

About the new AEJ president Otmar Lahodynsky

Otmar Lahodynsky (59), Austrian journalist and EU-expert, follows Eileen Dunne as the Association’s President. He has been the chairman of the Austrian section in 2004. Otmar studied German and English-philology at Vienna University. Earlier in his career he was Correspondent in Brussels for the daily „Die Presse“ covering EU and NATO, deputy Editor-in-Chief of „Die Presse“ and Chief of foreign desk of the Viennese daily „Kurier“. Since 1999 he has been European editor for the Austrian political weekly „profil“. He is the author of a textbook about the European Union „EU for you!“ (with Wolfgang Böhm), whcih has been published in Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Estonia, Romania, Montenegro and Turkey. Awards: Silbernes Verdienstzeichen der Republik Österreich, Cavalier-Order of the Republic of Poland and Kalligas-Award, Greece.

AEJ Resolution on the safety of journalists and the dangers of impunity

18.10 2014 The annual General Assembly of the European Association Journalists (AEJ) meeting in Burgenland, Austria, condemns as unacceptable the high number of violent attacks against journalists, acts of arbitrary harassment and interference, and other attacks against media freedom and freedom of expression in European countries, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Turkey and Russia.

The members of the Association call on all States to fulfil the solemn commitments to create a safe and enabling environment for journalists which they made in the UN General Assembly Resolution on the Safety of Journalists that was adopted unopposed in December 2013; we welcome the declaration in that Resolution of 2 November as International Day to end Impunity for Crimes against Journalists and call for urgent actions by state authorities, professional bodies and civil society groups to eradicate impunity, in line with the special events being organised by the Council of Europe, UNESCO and other Inter-Governmental Organisations. AEJ members urge determined actions to stop political and other forms of interference in editorial content; impunity which creates a climate of fear and self-censorship; oppressive media laws and misuses of administrative powers and fines; abuse of laws related to defamation, blasphemy and libel; and actions by state authorities and concerned citizens to eradicate persistent failures to find and punish crimes against media workers (impunity).

Commissioner Dombrovskis: Russian aggression cannot be tolerated

The opening session on Saturday morning was addressed by Commission Vice-President, Valdis Dombrovskis, newly appointed Commissioner for the Euro and Social dialogue and a former Prime-Minister of Latvia. He talked about the need for Research and Development as each country returns to financial stability, highlighting the proposed €300 billion investment package and pointing out the difference in attitude between the US and the EU.

He pointed out that the new Commission involves a re-organisation of Vice-Presidents to co-ordinate the work of the various DGs, they are in the early stages of decision making (not competing), the portfolios are more substantial and ambitions are high. About the situation in Ukraine he said Russian aggression cannot be tolerated, and while there is no unilateral military support, it is up to each country; the truce is not really functioning in his view and he suggested possible NATO involvement in security. All of the Baltic States are seeking to join the Euro, which will be good for their economies – they had fixed exchange rates and this is a natural progression to deeper integration under the Maastricht criteria.

Burgenland – 25 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain


The AEJ Congress in Neusiedl was opened on Friday 17 October with an address by László Nagy, one of the organisers of the Pan European Picknic at Sopronpuszta near the Neusiedl Lake in August 1989 – a defining moment in the lead-up to the collapse of the Iron Curtain. Harald Ladich who works for “Regional Management Burgenland” (RMB) explained how the region profited from EU-funds when Burgenland became Austria’s only “target 1”-region. When Hungary joined EU in 2004 cross-border cooperation was greatly strengthened.

There followed a session with Lívia Járóka, an anthropologist , who became the first Romany woman to be elected to the European Parliament. She became an MEP in 2004 at the invitation of Mr. Orban, and served until June of this year. Ms Járóka grew up in Sopron, her father ethnically Roma, her mother Hungarian. In 1989 she was just 15 years old as Communism was falling apart she said, and her family could feel it, (though they weren’t allowed to talk about it at school!) In the previous couple of years they had heard Western radio for the first time and Western literature was beginning to appear on bookshelves.

New challenges and Priorities for the EU – do we need a new Foreign and Security policy?

This session was dominated by the crisis in Ukraine . It was led off by Olexander Scherba, a special envoy of Ukraine’s foreign Minister. Mr Scherba spoke very passionately about the problems confronting his country – pointing out that just months ago it would have been unthinkable for a Ukrainian to shoot a Russian. The substance of his remarks were delivered on an off the record basis. Wolfgang Petritsch, a senior Austrian diplomat who served as High Representative for Bosnia-Herzegovina, looked at the twin challenges of Ukraine and the Middle-East. He talked about traditional borders being swept away and gave his vies on what had worked and what hadn’t in the Foreign and Security Policy of the EU. Eduard Kukan, an MEP, member of the European Parliament’s Foreign Policy Committee and a former Foreign Minister in the Slovak Republic, spoke of the difficulties for 28 EU states to come up with workable solutions to major problems, but said we needed an EU CFSP because we were unprepared to deal in a timely fashion with current crises. Anton Pelinka, a Professor of Political Science, advocated a shift from a Common Foreign and Security Policy to a trans-national strategy, recalling Henry Kissinger’s remark – ‘If we want to call Europe, who do we call?’ Mr Pelinka suggested the key was not so much policy but rather politics, and that the role of the new High Representative on Foreign Affairs would be to bridges that gap. However, he is not optimistic about achieving a common EU policy re Ukraine, considering the dissonance among the voices of Hungary, Poland and Turkey.

Journalists under fire in Europe

At the AEJ’s 2014 Congress on 17 October members of the Association of European Journalists from across Europe met in Burgenland, Austria to discuss topical reports detailing violence, harassment and interference. Frane Maroevic, a senior adviser in the Vienna-based Office of the OSCE Representative on Media Freedom and Barbara Trionfi, press freedom adviser in the International Press Institute (IPI) shared their concerns with AEJ members about the proliferating threats to journalists and journalism. During the half-day debate members voiced extreme concern about the murders by the so-called Islamic State in Syria of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Alan Henning and the abductions of a number of other journalists of different nationalities; and the killings, assaults, abductions and injuries inflicted on media workers covering the conflict  in Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine both before and following Russia’s violation by military force of the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine.

Protection of media freedom in Europe

AEJ Media Freedom representative William Horsley has presented his in-depth Report on The protection of media freedom to parliamentarians of the 47 Council of Europe States. The Report contains a detailed record of all forms of violent attacks and official harassment against journalists in Europe during the past two years. It was presented in Strasbourg on 24 June. Among its key findings are the killings of 12 journalists in Russia and Ukraine, the targeted violence against members of the media in Ukraine before and after the Russian annexation of Crimea in March 2014, and patterns of state-backed intimidation of journalists in Turkey and Azerbaijan. The Report was commissioned by the Committee on Culture, Science, Education and Media of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE). It is the fourth of a series of expert reports produced by William Horsley for the Assembly since 2009.

Open questions in the Bulgarian media campaign for the European elections

The main question is „Where was the EU in the media campaign for the European elections in Bulgaria?“ And the answer to that question is that the EU was „completely absent“, according to Ralitza Kovacheva, a Sofia university media researcher who has made a detailed analysis of media coverage of the May 25 European Parliament elections for AEJ-Bulgaria. That startling conclusion is supported by Ms Kovacheya’s detailed analysis. This is one of the major findings concerning the media coverage of the campaign leading up to the elections: there were no face to face debates at all between the leaders of the main parties, nor between the leading candidates of the rival parties. On the main TV channels the leading candidates appeared mostly alone, and occasionally in pairs in paid-for political advertisements. A number of actual TV debates were held, but mainly they involved only representatives of the smaller parties and independent candidates.