European Journalists Association - the communication network asbl

World Press Freedom Day May 3, 2008 - EJ statement

03/05/2008




On the World Press Freedom Day 2008 the European Journalists Association-The Communication Network asbl” (EJ) joins all democratic institutions and organizations engaged to promote and defend human rights to speak up in favour of the freedom of press.

In the globalized and highly  interdependent  world we are living in the freedom of expression is facing a growing threat both because of the media concentration and from the various governments’ attitude.
We have many solemn declarations in favour of freedom of expression signed by a number of governments but in to many cases such fundamental human rights’ principles are strongly violated.
The  Universal Declaration of Human Rights adopted and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 of 10 December 1948 states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.

The Council of Europe’s European Convention on Human Rights, signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union proclaimed at the European Council summit in Nice on 7 December 2000 and  included with legal in the Lisbon Treaty of 13 December 2007, the latter  under ratification solemnly recall the same principles and commitments.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, especially through its Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 56 OSCE participating States and  provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and promotes full compliance with OSCE press freedom commitments.

Unfortunately the follow up and implementation of such principles and commitments are often disregarded and governmental institutions fail to comply with them.

It is not just the  scandalous case of China, where  censorship is very strong, more than 50.000 censors are controlling the internet and many journalists are in prison because they expressed opinions that the governmental institutions didn’t agree with and like.

It is a shame that in Russia the murder of the journalist Anna Politovkskaja has been kept in the dark.

In many other countries in the world and even in EU member states  we can find situation where freedom of press is threatened or at least hindered and access to  information sources for journalists is prevented, based on many legal pretexts such as state’s secret or interest.

We experience, unfortunately, frequent interception of communications or other surveillance to obtain information about journalists’ sources.

Even in Western countries there is evidence of  secret services observing journalists’ activities illegally.

Ensuring freedom of press and for all the media is a top priority for a concrete implementation of the human rights’ principles,  for promoting participation in public and political discourse, and for contributing to the fight against poverty.

Independent, free and pluralistic media are central to good governance in democracies that are young  and old alike.

New technology will continue to evolve and allow citizens to further shape their media environments as well as access a plurality of sources. The combination of access to information and citizen participation in media can only contribute to an increased sense of ownership and empowerment.

As EJ we ask to all Institutions caring responsibility and having legal instrument to implement the basic and fundamental principle  of freedom of press  to everything to guarantee its concrete implementation.

To the European Union’s Institutions we ask to safeguard  journalists from governmental attacks when they  criticize Governments.

Furthermore, EJ expresses deep worry  on the trend towards  media concentration, witch is being experienced in the European countries; a trend that is a threat to the reedom of press  and pluralism.

Considering the growing role of the European Union as global actor, EJ thinks that EU Institutions should be more strongly involved in promoting freedom of press non solely within the EU but also outside it.

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To mark World Press Freedom Day 2008, the Council of Europe has launched  an online discussion forum on media freedom in times of crisis. The forum seeks to promote debate and analysis among journalists - but also anyone concerned about freedom of expression - on how tighter security measures enforced by governments during wars, terrorist threats or political instability could affect the way journalists access information and make their reports.

Journalists can also publish their views on whether or not information that may be considered offensive for religious groups should be sanctioned, as well as any other topics they may wish to raise. Contributions may be made: http://mediafreedom.cws.coe.int. (Council of Europe)