ASSOCIATION OF EUROPEAN  JOURNALISTS

UNITED KINGDOM SECTION

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Minutes of the UK Section's 2010 Annual General Meeting

The meeting took place at Europe House on Wednesday, 12 January 2011, and was chaired by William Horsley with 18 members present.

 

Chairman’s report for 2010

William summarised his written report, thanking Margaret Hughes for her efficient organisation of the section, and David Lennon for an impressive strike rate in attracting speakers. In his absence, Michael Springate was thanked for keeping the accounts in good order, and Celia Hampton’s work in keeping the website smart and up to date was appreciated.

William reminded those present of the sad death of Brian Hanrahan, who had taken part in numerous AEJ meetings down the years. Kevin d’Arcy mentioned that an AEJ Chairman from the distant past, Gerry Mansell, had also died.

Members were reminded that they had received invitations by email to take part in a public discussion the following evening, 13 January, about the impact and ethics of the disclosure by Wikileaks of confidential US diplomatic cables. The meeting was to be chaired by the AEJ UK chairman. It was one of a number of such topical events organised by other groups which the Board brings to the attention of AEJ members as a courtesy service.

William’s work as the International AEJ’s Media Freedom Representative has included on-going efforts in the Council of Europe to improve the protection for journalists facing violence, intimidation and prosecution, and circulating appeals on behalf of colleagues working in European countries that are failing to meet their commitments to freedom of expression, including Belarus, Russia and Turkey. Members noted that the European Commission is putting pressure on Hungary, currently holding the EU Council Presidency, to reconsider a new media law which allows a media authority dominated by members of the ruling party to impose heavy penalties for ill-defined offences such as "unbalanced journalism" or articles that "offend human dignity". Such appeals and news items are posted on the UK Section’s website as well as that of the international AEJ, www.aej.org. Section members were urged to complete the simple procedure needed to log on to the members’ area of the international website, where more internal AEJ information is posted.

Several section members had been able to attend the AEJ 2010 Congress in Ordu on the Black Sea coast of Turkey, and had enjoyed a stimulating 2-day event. Details of the debates, on Turkey’s EU accession prospects and burning press freedom issues, are posted on the websites.

Secretary’s report

Margaret referred to her written report; the section had 41 paid-up members; the speakers had been varied and of high calibre. The next guest – on 15 February – would be Christopher Andrew, the official historian of MI5. He would probably be followed by Sir Menzies Campbell and William D Barnard, Chair of Democrats Abroad UK. Celia had provided great support as Margaret took over from her the role of Secretary. The free use of the meeting room in the newly furbished Europe House was much appreciated. On those occasions, hopefully rare, when Europe House may be unable to accommodate us, the economical and friendly Finnish Institute would remain our preferred alternative.

Treasurer’s report

Before going on holiday, Michael Springate had provided a financial account for 2010, with figures for the previous 3 years for comparison. The section was comfortably solvent.

David Lennon noted that the cost of lunches at guest meetings had more than doubled since the previous year. Celia explained that this was mainly because the section was now employing caterers to provide the food and wine, and to clear away afterwards, as had been decided in previous discussions.

 

 

Members agreed that it had been unsatisfactory in the past for the Secretary to do this time-consuming and often arduous work. The Board’s management of AEJ events had resulted in a rewarding series of meetings as well as a historically healthy bank balance, and the outlays as recorded appeared to be well justified. The cost of catered lunches would of course continue to be monitored to ensure good value and service.

Election of officers

Rick Thompson proposed the re-election of the three officers for another year. David Barker seconded. There were no other candidates proposed, so William, Margaret and Michael were re-elected by acclamation, with a warm round of applause for their work for the section. David Lennon as Events Director and Celia Hampton as web manager were also thanked for agreeing to continue their valuable work.

Other business

As in previous years, there was a discussion about how to attract younger journalists to the section. Active full-time journalists clearly find it difficult to attend lunchtime meetings. Firdevs Robinson volunteered to approach contacts at City University, which has a large media and journalism faculty, to see if they might like to nominate one or two post-graduate students to attend each meeting as non-paying guests, to benefit from the briefings and to meet experienced AEJ members to extend their networks of contacts. This offer was accepted. Firdevs will take this forward in consultation with the Chairman and other Board members. Members affirmed that any small costs arising from this arrangement would not present an obstacle.

There was a short general discussion about whether or not the Section should speak out more frequently on domestic pressures on high quality journalism. For example, staff at the BBC World Service were waiting for an announcement about what could be dramatic cuts to services and personnel because of the recent licence fee settlement, which had removed the FCO grant in aid. Some of these services might be to eastern European countries where media freedom is under severe attack from harsh laws and rising levels of violence against journalists because of their work.

It was concluded that any formal AEJ protests on media issues in the UK should normally be limited to clear-cut issues or cases where legitimate media freedom is judged to be in danger.  The core of the AEJ’s mission is still to promote better reporting of European affairs at home, and to defend media freedom Europe-wide. The general improvement in the AEJ’s profile, and its more active involvement in the public sphere in debates on European and media-related issues, was felt to be positive, and there would be further opportunities to reflect on the day’s lively discussion. .

David Lennon invited all members to propose additional guest speakers for the coming year, preferably with names and contact details. Any suggestions should go both to wh@williamhorsley.com and to pdlennon@gmail.com.

Informal discussions continued after the meeting at the Marquis of Granby.

 

 

 

 

Chairman's report

Secretary's report to the AGM

Meetings