ASSOCIATION OF EUROPEAN  JOURNALISTS

UNITED KINGDOM SECTION

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Chairman's report to the 2010 Annual General Meeting

 

I am pleased to report that in 2010 the AEJ UK Section's Board was able to deliver a full programme of 12 lunchtime meetings with newsmakers despite some unavoidable disruption caused by the office move by our generous hosts, the European Parliament's London Office, into their new joint premises with the European Commission in "Europe House" (the former Conservative Party headquarters building in Smith Square, Westminster). We expect to be able to continue meeting regularly at Europe House, in line with plans to make that address a hub for debates on issues of Europe-wide interest in the UK.

Highlights of our professional meetings included briefings from high-profile speakers on many topics where vital British interests are intimately linked to those of Europe as a whole – including global climate change (Prof Bob Watson), anti-terrorism laws and civil rights (Lord Carlile, the government's independent reviewer of anti-terrorism laws); the outlook for the UK's new coalition government (constitutional expert Peter Hennessy), and key aspects of the European Union's development such as the struggle to advance the Middle East peace process (EU Special Envoy Marc Otte), the role of the rotating Presidency (Spain's Ambassador Carles Casajuana i Palet) and the agenda and enhanced powers of the European Parliament (E-P Vice-President Edward McMillan-Scott).

The record of our meetings on the AEJ UK website now includes, whenever possible, links to relevant websites, press releases or other publications and, in some cases, short summaries of the remarks made by guest speakers.

I am grateful to all the members of our team, whose efforts have resulted in a high standard of guest speakers as well as historically high levels of membership and attendance at meetings. Margaret Hughes has smoothly taken over the role of Secretary from Celia Hampton; Mike Springate has kept our accounts in good order as Treasurer; David Lennon as Events Director has kept up an impressive strike rate in attracting speakers; Celia continues to keep our website smart, up to date and informative.

We have also continued to help build the AEJ's Europe-wide network of more than 20 national sections into an active forum for informed discussion of pressing issues for the journalistic profession, and a significant voice upholding the principles and practice of media freedom and independence, alongside organisations like the European Federation of Journalists and Reporters Without Borders, in the Council of Europe, UNESCO and other international bodies.

 

 

The AEJ Congress in Ordu, Turkey, in October 2010 included two days of lively debate among members from all corners of Europe on current threats to legitimate media freedom, and the importance of maintaining journalistic ethical standards as well as effective scrutiny of public affairs by the media. Speakers included Birgitta Jonsdottir, the outspoken Icelandic woman MP who set up the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative to support "whistleblowers" – specifically Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks – but who later criticised some of Assange's decisions.

Recent initiatives which I have taken part in as the AEJ's Media Freedom Representative include include ongoing efforts in the Council of Europe, where we have official Observer status, to improve the physical and legal protection for media workers facing violence, harassment or criminal prosecution because of their work, and to persuade member states to bring their security and anti-terrorism laws into line with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (on freedom of expression).

We have also signed and circulated appeals on behalf of journalistic colleagues in Belarus, Russia and Turkey, which remain among the European countries with the worst records in terms of meeting their commitments to free expression and media freedom. All AEJ members are encouraged to sign the relevant petitions, organised by major journalists' organisations in the countries concerned. Details of all these matters are on our website, and on the website of the international AEJ, www.aej.org.

The AEJ, as a member of the UK's Press Freedom Network, is also promoting the UNESCO-led initiative to raise public awareness of the acute threat to democratic societies from attacks on journalists and other forms of repression, by observing a minute's silence on or around World Press Freedom Day. For the first time, on WPF Day in May 2010, some leading news organisations in the UK and other countries honoured journalists throughout the world who have been killed while doing their work by observing a minute's silence in newsrooms and other places of work, and issuing public statements.

I wish all AEJ UK members a successful year, and hope that everyone will make the most of our programme of events and the AEJ's international network again in 2011.

 

William Horsley

Chairman, UK Section of the AEJ

January 2011

 

 

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting

Secretary's report for the AGM

Meetings