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Chairman's report to the 2013 Annual General Meeting

In 2013 we very sadly lost a much-liked and respected Section member, Frank Gray – a former FT journalist and a regular at our meetings over many years.

The membership’s decision a year ago to raise the fee for our lunch meetings to £25 seems to have been well-judged. Our finances are now in a healthier state than before.

The section attracted a range of outstanding speakers in 2013, including the Minister for Europe, the recently retired President of the European Court of Human Rights, and the chairman of Parliament’s Security and Intelligence Committee (see the Secretary’s report for details). The good strike rate was again thanks to good coordination and persistence on the part of the team of UK section officers, including Events Director David Lennon.

Members of the section were motivated by the Snowden revelations and subsequent events to table a resolution on mass surveillance by state agencies, which was adopted unanimously at the annual AEJ Congress in Brussels in November 2013.

The 2014 AEJ Congress will be held in Austria (details to follow).

The AEJ was also one of the founding signatories of the earlier Index on Censorship petition calling for action to curtail mass surveillance by governments in Europe and the US. That petition was delivered to EU leaders at the EU Summit in October 2013.

On wider press freedom matters: the AEJ played an active part in the recent decision by Council of Europe states to set up an online Early Warning System highlighting serious attacks and threats against media workers, and a new Europe-wide "Rapid Response Mechanism" designed to counter the alarming scale of physical assaults, threats and cases of serious harassment and jailings of journalists in many parts of Europe. Media workers in Russia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan, Turkey and the Balkans are among those most at risk but significant problems also persist nearer to home.

 

 

As AEJ Media Freedom Representative I took part in deliberations  on these issues over two years and was asked to make proposals to the 47 Council of Europe member state at a meeting in Strasbourg on 12 December 2013. The announcement of the official plans for new protection mechanisms was made on 23 January. Details are on www.aej.org. A Council of Europe Committee on safety of journalists and journalism has been established to flesh out ways of implementing these plans. The AEJ has been chosen as a non-governmental member of that committee.

The international AEJ was a co-organiser of the final MEDIADEM conference in February 2013, where the research group’s findings were presented along with recommendations to the European Commission following the Report of the High-Level Group on Media Freedom and Pluralism.

The AEJ is an official supporter of the forthcoming international conference on "Freedom of Information under Pressure. Control – Crisis – Culture", to be held in Vienna on 28 February and 1 March 2014 at the Vienna University of Technology.

All such events, in the UK and elsewhere, are open to all UK Section members. Notices about all events, including selected non-AEJ events, are circulated to members in advance.  

This website is increasingly rich in UK Section content – including event notices, media freedom news, write-ups and selected Blogs and Briefings of likely interest to members, and information about AEJ activities in the UK and abroad. Our thanks are again due to Celia Hampton for creating and maintaining a site we can be proud of.

William Horsley, Chairman

27 January 2014