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AEJ and the Council of Europe

The AEJ takes part in the policy work of the Council of Europe (CoE) on key issues of media freedom as a participant in the Steering Committee on Media and Information Society and the Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists. It works on behalf of its members across Europe to hold the CoE and its 47 member states to their commitments on media freedom and freedom of expression.

The Platform went live on 2 April 2015 and was formally presented to the public on 19 May. In those seven weeks, 47 alerts had been submitted and some responses had already been given. By the end of the year, the number of alerts had risen to 107, 53 government responses had been received and the first four cases had been closed.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Article 19 and Reporters without Borders are the other four partner organisations in this project.

More broadly, the AEJ has challenged member states to put aside narrow state interests to better protect the lives and rights of journalists who work to hold power to account. The CoE's Committee of Ministers acknowledged the threat to European democracy that stems from restrictions on press freedom in its Declaration of 13 January 2010 and Decision of 18 January 2012.

Already in 2009, AEJ Media Freedom Representative William Horsley wrote the Respect for Media Freedom Report for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), chronicling the killings of 20 journalists in the previous three years and a widespread pattern of violence and abuse of state power directed at journalists because of their work.

Governments failed to fulfil their pledge at the 2009 Ministerial Conference in Reykjavik to review anti-terrorism laws and practices to ensure compliance with Council of Europe norms and standards. Many journalists are being unlawfully prosecuted and jailed because state secrecy and terrorism laws are misused for political purposes in CoE member states. They have now committed themselves to comply with the European Convention through a new set of political commitments (Recommendation of 14 April 2016).

The explicit protest of many of the world's leading human rights organisations thus continues to be ignored. That heavy responsibility rests with member states.

The AEJ supports other CoE campaigns, including anti-discrimination in the media (since 2009). William Horsley and Zdenko Duka (Croatia) have taken part in meetings on related themes.

The news to the right on this page will keep our records up to date with developments.


Anniversary of the ECHR

William Horsley's message to the British Institute of Human Rights on 3 September 2013:

The 60th anniversary of the Convention should indeed be celebrated by people across Europe and beyond, and it should be an occasion to counter a lot of hostile and ignorant attacks on the Convention itself, as well as the Court of Human Rights and its work. It is a good time to recall that the Court’s rulings have helped Britain to improve its patchy human rights record on issues where political or popular opinion had seemed implacably opposed to change, like banning corporal punishment and sweeping stop and search powers for the police.

Recent events in the UK as well as elsewhere have shown again that the Strasbourg court is an absolutely vital safeguard against attempts by the state – including in the UK – to exceed its legitimate powers in matters of justice and security. Journalists should especially be mindful that rulings of the ECtHR have strengthened their legal rights to investigate and disclose injustices – from the Sunday Times's thalidomide ruling in the 1970s to other landmark cases giving protection to journalists when reporting matters of public interest or resisting the demands of courts to reveal confidential sources. The Convention and the Court are one of the few defences against the worst kinds of injustice and abuse of state power, many of which we are witnessing in the present day, and which today’s political leaders are often proving themselves too weak and shallow to take action against.

 

 

News

Some of these items also appear in News/Events. All are transferred to News Archive at the end of the year following publication

6 May: AEJ section events to mark 3 May as World Press Freedom Day 2016 were plannned across Europe (www.aej.org). Reports of those held are being published on www.aej.org. AEJ Turkey took part as a member of the G-9 Platform, Freedom for Journalists (www.aej.org)

29 April: International criticism is mounting against Azerbaijan’s prosecution of 15 journalists, including Khadija Ismailova and Shyrin Abassov, for tax evasion and illegal enterpreneurship. They were working for Meydan TV, an independent online media outlet based in Berlin but with a local news bureau. See www.aej.org

26 April: A growing number of foreign journalists are being denied entry, banned from entering Turkey or deported. GOP, the Turkish Freedom for Journalists Platform to which AEJ Turkey belongs, has lodged a protest. See www.aej.org

14 April: The AEJ hailed the new set of political commitments to protect journalism and the safety of journalists adopted by the Council of Europe on 13 April. See www.aej.org, the text of the recommendation and the Council of Europe press release. (14 April 2016)

10 March: On 4 March, Turkey’s Freedom for Journalists Platform united in condemning the government’s seizure of the Zaman newspaper: “Such acts are not seen in democracies.” The Platform includes the AEJ, which published the following statement:

On [4 March] the Turkish authorities seized the Istanbul headquarters offices of Zaman, Turkey’s largest circulation newspaper and one of the most outspokenly critical voices in the Turkish media. The action was taken on the basis of a court decision which failed to provide any proper evidence to justify taking the newspaper into forced administration. The Association of European Journalists (AEJ) condemns this blatant attack on press freedom. The authorities‘ abuse of Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws to brand the work of journalists and other critical voices as assisting terrorism is absurd and must be ended at once.  

The Turkish government’s actions in arbitrarily arresting and imprisoning dozens of journalists, and interfering in the management and editorial policies of media organisaions, contradict Turkey’s international commitments and undermines its claims to be considered as a democracy.

The seizure of the premises of Zaman with the use of massive police force came only three days before the EU leaders summit with Turkey. The AEJ expects the European Union and the governments of its member states to forcefully condemn the seizure of Zaman and to demand that Turkey should stop the widespread judicial harassment and other attacks on press freedom, free all members of the media wrongly held in detention, and drop the ongoing criminal cases against numerous editors and journalists.  

Otmar Lahodynsky, AEJ President

Tibor Macak, AEJ Secretary General

William Horsley, AEJ Vice-President and Representative for Media Freedom

"President Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Condemn Turkey's crackdown on press freedom" – please sign this petition.

10 March: A hasty reform of the legislation governing the heavily indebted public sector broadcasting organisation has raised AEJ concerns.

13 January: The European Commission announced a preliminary assessment of the rule of law in Poland in light of the changes made to the Constitutional Court’s statute. While well aware of the media law and its potential to erode legal freedoms, the priority is to ensure that the judicial system is capable of enforcing them.

11 January: Polish President Andrzej Duda signed the media bill into law on 7 January. Thorbjørn Jagland, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, had asked him to open a dialogue with the Council on article 10 ECHR before signing the bill. See aej.org. Austria’s Die Presse has published the AEJ’s open letter to the Polish President. See aej.org

5 January 2016:summary of AEJ action on the Polish law on public service broadcasting by the Media Freedom Representative.

31 December 2015: A survey by Politico’s Alex Spence catalogues the arrests, assaults, murders and legal restraints suffered by Europe’s journalists in 2015. “An awful year.” See aej.org

29 December: The AEJ has written an open letter to the new Polish government to abandon its proposal to place public service broadcasting under direct government control. See aej.org

9 December: An international declaration was published calling on governments to take decisive action to end murders and violent attacks directed at journalists. It was proposed by the IPI and backed by many in or representing the media, including the AEJ. See aej.org

10 November: An exceptionally successful AEJ Congress was held on 6-7 November in Sibiu, Romania. The generosity of the Romanian Section as hosts is deeply appreciated by all, particularly as it is only four years since it last undertook this burdensome task. A comprehensive report of the congress by Firdevs Robinson appears on the AEJ’s international website, as does a report by David Barker that focuses on corruption. The dangers currently facing Europe are analysed by Anthony Robinson, former Eastern Europe Editor of the FT, in an article inspired by the debates at Sibiu. Media freedom reports by the AEJ sections are accessible on the Survey page on this site, and further documents are being added to this page and the News and AEJ in Europe pages as they become available. Please also watch the international website’s News page for further developments.

31 October: The Annual Congress will be held on 6-7 November in Sibiu, Romania. We are again be indebted to the Romanian Section for hosting this year’s event, only four years since it last undertook this burdensome task. Media freedom reports by the AEJ sections in Armenia, Ireland and Ukraine are available from aej.org and on Bulgaria from aej.org (27 October, 2 November 2015)

10 September: The AEJ has expressed its solidarity with Hürriyet, the Turkish daily. On 8 September, its Ankara offices were attacked for a second time by a group of AKP and Erdogan supporters protesting against the paper’s reporting of the recent deaths of Turkish troops at the hands of the PKK. See aej.org

3 September: The AEJ joined other press freedom advocates in calling for a swift reversal of the conviction of Khadiya Ismayilova in Baku of various crimes of dishonesty and corruption and her 7½-year prison sentence. This politically motivated case has been followed on the new Council of Europe platform. See aej.org

2 September: Raids on opposition media, the arrest of a VICE News team and threat of further repressive action before Turkey’s election on 1 November have raised international protests. AEJ member Firdevs Robinson reports on this in Firdevs talks Turkey. See aej.org

1 September: Аn abrupt change in the regulations on who is able to carry a Turkish press card triggered strong reaction from the country’s professional journalists’ organisations. Journalist members of the committee that decides on eligibility were not consulted. The TGC journalists’ association and TGS union, withdrew their members: “There is no sense for us in remaining as extras.” See aej.org

2 August: New proposals for European governments to safeguard journalists from violence, intimidation and harassment were presented by the AEJ’s Media Freedom Representative to the 2 July meeting at the Italian Senate (below). They urge open accountable government and stronger adherence to human rights principles. See aej.org (2 August 2015)

2 August: Support for the work of Ossigeno, the media freedom organisation, was pledged at a meeting in the Italian Senate on 2 July. The Mafia’s threats of violence go largely unreported, but as many as 30 journalists live under permanent police protection. Ossigeno is working with the parliamentary Anti-Mafia Commission. See aej.org (2 August 2015)

21 June: On 16 June, the Grand Chamber unanimously upheld an Estonian court ruling that an online news portal could not plead freedom of expression to escape liability for allowing defamatory or otherwise unlawful comments to be posted by readers. The AEJ joined the Media Legal Defence Initiative in expressing dismay at the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights. See aej.org

11 June: AEJ President, Otmar Lahodynsky, has published a critique of the draft EU directive on trade secrets – a term that normally means proprietary knowhow. By extending legal liability to anyone publishing any secret business information obtained through a breach of confidentiality, it would seriously hamper investigative journalism. See aej-bulgaria.org

25 May: In the first six weeks, 50 alerts were posted on the Council of Europe’s new platform for the protection of journalism and the safety of journalists. It was presented to the press in Brussels on 19 May by CoE Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland. He also published the annual State of Human Rights in Europe report on that day. For the AEJ’s intervention, see aej.org

8 May: The AEJ has expressed its dismay at amendments to the draft directive on the protection of undisclosed know-how and business information. By restricting disclosure of internal company information, it could hinder investigative journalism into corporate conduct. See aej.org

20 April: The AEJ has called on the government of Ukraine to investigate the contract-style killing of Oles Buzyna, a pro-Russian, on 16 April. Buzyna was a former editor of Segodyna. Three other recent killings that call for proper investigation include two journalists (Sergey Sukhobok and Olga Moroz) and a former MP (Oleg Kalashnikov). See aej.org

15 April: The Association of European Journalists has expressed its grave concern about gratuitous verbal abuse and mockery directed against Romanian journalists Stelian Negrea and his wife, Eli Roman, by employees of the Antena 3 TV channel. See aej.org

2 April 2015: The Council of Europe’s online reporting facility for threats to journalists and their safety was launched on 2 April. It can be viewed here (scroll down past the photograph). See 28 November 2014 below and aej.org

All alerts from the AEJ must be channelled through William Horsley – each partner organisation has only one contact person. See Guidance, Form and the Memorandum of Understanding.

26 February 2015: The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly adopted a new resolution on 29 January calling on various European countries, including the EU, to remedy violations of press freedom and fulfil their obligations to protect journalists. See aej.org

7 January 2015: The AEJ expressed horror at the barbaric murders in Paris at Charlie Hebdo – the most bloody attack ever against French journalists and press freedom. It joined the French Section in expressing its deep condolence and solidarity with the victims' families and Charlie Hebdo's staff. See aej.org