ASSOCIATION OF EUROPEAN  JOURNALISTS

UNITED KINGDOM SECTION

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Secretary's report for the UK Section's Annual General Meeting 2007

Prepared for the UK section's Annual General Meeting, 10 January 2008

 

The section's officers during 2007 were

Chairman : William Horsley

Secretary : Celia Hampton

Treasurer : Mike Springate

Membership of the UK section grew to 41, up from 36 in the previous year. As our lunches are open to non-members, the less formal circle of journalists who wish to be kept informed of our events now runs to about 200.

2007 was a memorable year at international level in the AEJ, culminating in an outstanding annual congress in Dublin on 9-10 November, as the ten UK members who were there can testify. For nearly a decade, the AEJ had become a troubled association given over to posturing and internecine battles. We have now shaken off this legacy and are looking for a modus vivendi with the sections that defected in 2003 - above all, in Germany.

For the first time in memory for a lot of us, the AEJ now has a purpose and focal point beyond its internal affairs - the Media Freedom Network. This is down to the efforts of our chairman, William Horsley, who was appointed AEJ Media Freedom Representative in June. Over the following months he worked on the first Media Freedom Survey, Goodbye to Freedom? A survey of media freedom across Europe. This was launched to great public acclaim in Dublin.

The Network is made up of those who contributed the 20 country reports to the Survey, other interested members and journalists in countries where the AEJ has no presence, such as Russia. It has contacts with leading figures in the field, foremost of whom is Miklós Haraszti, OSCE Media Freedom Representative. He was our lunch guest in November 2006.

William is also liaising with the Council of Europe's Media Committee and has already taken part in one Council of Europe consultation with leading media organisations to plan some of their 2008 activities. A further AEJ seminar in Brussels to exchange views on hot issues is planned for around the end of February 2008 with the European Journalism Centre, and the Network will work closely with those responsible for commemorating World Press Freedom Day around Europe.

On 3 May 2007, the London WPFD event was a debate on "World Media Freedom is in Retreat". The event was chaired by William and supported by the section. The 100-odd journalists present voted more than 3:1 in favour of the motion. The speakers included Miklós Haraszti and Oleg Panfilov from Moscow’s Centre for Journalism in Extreme Situations.

The World Press Freedom Debate 2008 is provisionally planned for Friday, 2 May, on a theme that has yet to be decided.

The UK section has a growing range of contacts with other bodies. In the past year, the German Embassy invited members to several events, including a ministerial level briefing just before Germany assumed the EU Presidency. After our meeting with Ambassador Bustani, a number of us attended a memorable Brazil Day party at his residence on 6 September. Thanks to the good offices of Martyn Bond, our members have privileged access to the London Press Club and, through it, to the Commonwealth Club.

The section enjoys especially warm relations with the European Parliament's office in London. We greatly appreciate its making available this elegant room for our regular meetings. We have also established closer relations with the European Commission's London office. The Commission generously hosted our meeting with Commissioner Frattini in February.

 

 

William sent letters to President Gül of Turkey protesting against article 301 of the Penal Code that criminalises the insulting of "Turkishness". Whether by cause and effect or coincidence, the government announced a couple of weeks later that it is to propose a reform of the law.

More recently, William wrote to the Chairman of Russia's Central Election Commission to draw attention to the excessive media bias shown in the Duma election campaign and ask what action is being planned to take account of this apparent violation of Russia's election rules. No reply yet.

The section's website www.aej-uk.org has been totally revamped. The top priority was a facility to update the information in something closer to real time. The operation has now been taken inhouse. It follows David Barker's scheme for revision and, in August, I designed a new version. After a week of techno-wrestling that I would rather not recall, I can now update it as events happen.

Members are encouraged to visit the website from time to time. The News page is now abreast of the news, and information on all pages is updated as soon as it changes. The full text of the Media Freedom Survey is available on the Survey page, along with the press coverage it received on publication. Rick Thompson's Europe Diary is updated monthly. We greatly appreciate having this feature to enhance the website's content.

Since our report for 2006, our lunchtime meetings have been with the following guests:

Franco Frattini, European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs (a special briefing arranged with the Commission's London office) — 22 February

Richard Lambert, Director General of the Confederation of British Industry — 19 March

Christopher Johnson, former UK adviser to the Association for the Monetary Union of Europe — 19 April

Gérard Grunberg, Research Director at the Institute of Political Studies, Paris — 8 May

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, former UK Special Envoy to Iraq 23 May

Richard Thomas, UK Information Commissioner — 28 June

José Maurício Bustani, Brazil's Ambassador to the UK — 9 August

Muhammad Abdul Bari, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain — 4 September

Yiğit Alpogan, Turkey's Ambassador to the UK 18 October

Sir Francis Jacobs, Advocate General at the European Court, 1988-2006 — 19 November

Fatih Birol, Chief Economist at the International Energy Agency — 5 December

Records show that the UK section is about the most active and purposeful national section of all in this regard but, as we know, it takes a huge amount of time and effort.

Last but not least, my very special personal thanks to all those whose labours have helped me to clear up the room after meetings!

 

Celia Hampton, Secretary

London, 12 December 2007

 

 

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting

Chairman's report

Secretary's report on the UK Section's activities for the AEJ Congress

Meetings