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For news before 2015, see AEJ UK News Archive

Forthcoming meetings
If you have not received the notice of a forthcoming event by email, please register your interest in the week preceding it by emailing the Secretary on cas.jenkins@gmail.com

2020

Concerns about UK government media management
The AEJ joined widespread criticism of the new UK government’s attempts to control and manage media access, tactics that echo Donald Trump. And it called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to end at once its restrictive and partisan media policies.
“The UK government has laid itself open to the charge of hypocrisy,” said William Horsley, the AEJ’s Media Freedom Representative and AEJ UK chair, “by seeking to evade the robust media scrutiny of its actions by independent media that is essential in an open society, while it also claims to be acting as a champion of media freedom to the rest of the world.”
More than 60,000 people signed an online petition urging the government to stop blocking media scrutiny.

On Feb. 3 - the first working day after the UK officially left the EU – all British political journalists at an official briefing arranged at the Downing Street residence of the prime minister walked out to protest the government’s decision to separate and exclude critical media on an arbitrary basis. The prime minister’s staff had invited selected political journalists to a “technical briefing” on Boris Johnson’s plans for a trade deal with the EU. When other members of the Westminster “lobby” – full-time political journalists based in the Houses of Parliament – showed up as well, the group was told only those invited could go in and the rest should leave. All the journalists present including those specifically invited then walked out. The prime minister’s aides claimed favoured journalists are routinely being granted special access to some press briefings a part of an “inner lobby” while others, essentially those considered opponents of the government, are excluded. That even included Press Association, the UK’s national news agency.
“We reserve the right to brief whoever we like, whenever we like”, said Lee Cain, the prime minister’s communications director.

The political editor of Fleet Street tabloid Daily Mirror,  Pippa Crerar, called the exclusion “sinister and sad”.

Answering questions in the House of Commons the prime minister claimed he loved journalism – he was once sacked from a reporting job at The Times for making up a quote.

The dispute had been simmering for months as Boris Johnson was repeatedly accused of evading scrutiny during the election campaign late in 2019. During six months in power the prime minister’s aides have imposed tighter restrictions on ministers’ contacts with the media, boycotted specific media and programs, and sought to bypass mainstream media altogether by delivering messages directly to the public in their own way - such as Johnson’s “address to the nation” to mark the UK’s departure from the EU on 31 January, filmed and released by his own staff instead of a national TV network. Downing Street staff were said to be furious after the BBC and some other networks declined to air clips from the message in their live programmes marking the actual moment of Brexit last Friday night. Downing Street’s broader attempts to change media management prompted this reporting by The New York Times and this discussion on BBC Radio 4’s The Week in Westminster (from 21 minutes in) - along with widespread other coverage.

In early January 2020 political journalists based in Parliament, known as the Lobby, raised concerns about changing rules for briefings. And a week later the editors of all UK national newspapers as well as leading regional, online and broadcast media called on Boris Johnson to reverse the new rules. A letter from the Society of Editors said the changes would “hamper the workings of a free press”.
In reference to his comment about hypocrisy, the AEJ’s William Horsley noted that the UK hosted a major Global Media Freedom Conference in London in July 2019 and the UK has assumed a leading role in a 33-nation Media Freedom Coalition whose publicly stated goals are to ensure that international and UN-sanctioned standards related to media freedom are upheld by the countries making up the Coalition themselves. The 33 states announced their intention to apply significant pressure on other states by diplomatic and other means to encourage them to discard repressive laws and practices that stifle of arbitrarily restrict press freedom. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab says he wants to ensure that the UK imposes harsh sanctions on individuals found to be responsible for serious abuses of fundamental rights.

Justice for Daphne?

Malta has a new prime minister and the country’s police chief has resigned in the ongoing scandal over the killing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. But there are still many questions for the long-running and repeated calls for justice in the killing. Aljazeera has this report and AEJ UK member and former BBC journalist Firdevs Robinson has this look at breaks in the story. On Nov. 20 2019 one of the country’s richest men, gambling and property entrepreneur Yorgen Fenech, was arrested and in court two weeks later accused of being the brains behind the killing. He’s denied the charges and blamed allies of the prime minister. Two of them resigned and in the face of major street protests Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said he would resign. His government spent two years stonewalling any genuine investigation and far longer rejecting accusations of widespread money laundering, political corruption and cronyism. The AEJ has joined a call to closely monitor a public inquiry into her assassination which opened on Dec. 6 2019.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2019

AEJ conference and call for media freedom
The international Association of European Journalists opened its annual conference on Friday Dec. 6 in Paris. Europe is no longer a completely safe place for journalists or media freedom and panel discussions will highlight the acute threats and the vital role of the media in the democratic process with conclusions and recommendations from the meeting to be communicated to the relevant authorities in UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the European Union. For one example of the issues being faced please see this presentation on failing media freedoms in Poland from Krzysztof Bobinski of the AEJ Poland. The conference is also leading a call to respect press freedom and journalistic independence from all the national sections of the AEJ, Reporters Without Borders, the European Federation of Journalists, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, and the South East Europe Media Organisation.

 

Bob Elphick
It was with sadness that the AEJ UK learned of the death of long-time member Bob Elphick on 11 September at the age of 89. He had a long career with Reuters and the BBC covering the old Soviet Union, central Europe and north Africa before working for the European Commission as AEJ member Michael Lake details here and is noted in this article. His life will be celebrated on September 26.

 

AEJ co-signs Open Letter for upgraded efforts to protect media freedom
The AEJ has co-signed a letter to the new Council of Europe Secretary-General for upgraded measures to stop criminalizing and demonising journalists, counter the toxic atmosphere of hostility to the media, and stamp out impunity. For more please see here.

 

AEJ Bulgaria makes a Declaration for ethical journalism
More than one hundred Bulgarian journalists and leading media outlets have called on local politicians to cease legitimising the yellow press that pours praise on those in power and harms all who criticize them while receiving financial incentives to do so.

 

AEJ joins call for new European Commission President to prioritize press freedom
The AEJ joined the Committee to Protect Journalists and others to ask the new President of the European Commission to make key media issues a policy priority for the EU. The AEJ is among 20 media and press freedom organisations urging Ursula von der Leyen to take action on media freedom, journalists’ safety and access to public information. For more please see this on the AEJ International website.

Media Freedom Promises Not Credible Without Action
The AEJ joined a total of 33 media freedom groups calling on governments to ensure the protection and safety of all journalists and media workers as the first Global Media Freedom Conference opened in London. Please see this report on the conference from AEJ member and former BBC World Service editor Firdevs Robinson. The group including the AEJ, representing and working with hundreds of thousands of journalists and media workers around the world, made their call on July 9 in advance of the first major international conference on media freedom, hosted by the foreign ministers of Canada and the United Kingdom. Several states attending the conference currently have journalists in prison and unsolved murders. The 33 media freedom groups demand all states hold themselves accountable and show demonstrable progress on complying with their existing obligations and international standards. The AEJ UK and the AEJ Bulgaria attended the conference. For the conference agenda and participants please see here and more at these links:
New threats to journalism blog from BBC media editor Amol Rajan
The Canary’s take on Russian “news” outlets RT and Sputnik banned from conference
More irony from The Canary on human rights lawyer Amal Clooney v. Jeremy Hunt
BBC Director General Tony Hall re “Assault on Truth”

China – traps in the way of dominance?
China’s development faces four fundamental traps which could slow down or even derail the country’s widely assumed march towards global economic dominance – traps that few people outside the country recognise says economist George Magnus, author of “Red Flags: Why Xi's China is in Jeopardy”. As China hit the headlines again with a crackdown on protests in Hong Kong and a surprise twist on Huawei in the trade war with the United States, it is these inter-related traps that form a potential block to China’s development Magnus told the AEJ UK on June 25. Best known for anticipating the financial crisis of 2008, Magnus
has been travelling to China since 1992 and laid out his four traps – debt, currency, ageing, and income. Please see this full report on the meeting from AEJ member Chris Cragg and this audio transcript.

World Press Freedom Day
AEJ Sections joined journalists across Europe to mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3 paying tribute to courageous journalists and demanding safe working environments. Please see the AEJ International site for details on various events – in particular this report from Armenia a year after the Velvet Revolution there and these notes about Bulgaria. In the UK the AEJ has responded jointly with Index on Censorship to urge the British government to rethink its proposals for new, wide-ranging regulation of “online harms” which could have damaging impacts on media freedom. Please see here for more.

Assange case raises major questions
The recent arrest in London of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has far-reaching implications for press freedom, the public’s right to know, and public trust in journalism writes William Horsley, AEJ UK chairman and AEJ Media Freedom Representative.

RSF 2019 World Press Freedom Index – Increased Danger
The 2019 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF-Reporters Without Borders) shows fewer countries are safe for journalists and an increase in violence and danger. Norway is ranked the safest for the third year running, Finland is second and Sweden is third. The UK rose seven places to number 33 but RSF notes: “Despite improvements in some areas and the presence of a robust independent media, the UK remained one of the worst-ranked Western European countries in the World Press Freedom Index, largely due to a heavy-handed approach towards the press, often in the name of national security.” And the United States ranks 48th, down three places “as a result of an increasingly hostile climate that goes beyond Donald Trump’s comments... Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection.” Please see here for the full report.

Safety for journalists?
The UK House of Commons has hosted a key event on growing concerns about safety for journalists ahead of a planned international conference later in the year on media freedom. On 25 March, the Foreign Policy Centre and the Justice for Journalists Foundation invited four panellists to examine the issue of safety and justice and possible solutions - chair John Whittingdale MP, former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, panellists Maria Ordzhonikidze, Director of Justice for Journalists Foundation, Professor Philip Leach, Director, European Human Rights Advocacy Centre, Rebecca Vincent, UK Director of Reporters Without Borders, and Joy Hyvarinen, Head of Advocacy at Index on Censorship.
For more please see this report from AEJ member Firdevs Robinson.

Vladimir Putin’s “Number 1 Enemy”
Bill Browder characteristically starts his presentation with an escapade in Spain in May 2018 when he was arrested on an Interpol warrant requested by Russia. It was another chapter in the story of a man proud to call himself Putin’s number one enemy. At a crowded AEJ meeting of UK-based journalists on February 26 he described his personal journey from American capitalist making a huge fortune in post-Soviet Russia to campaigner exposing corruption and abuse – a story that ironically goes back to his grandfather who led the Communist Party in the USA in the 1940s. Browder is CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, was thrown out of Russia in 2005, and is the man behind the Magnitsky Act – named after his now dead Russian lawyer – which is aimed at rooting out money laundering and bans gross abusers of human rights from visiting or holding assets in the USA. Given the number of accusations that Browder throws out it might seem surprising that he’s still alive and fighting but he says keeping a high public profile is probably what keeps him alive. For more on this meeting please see this report from AEJ UK chairman William Horsley and this audio transcript of his presentation and following question and answer exchange.

AEJ calls for justice and investigation in Slovakia murder
The AEJ has joined nine other international organisations concerned about press freedom and freedom of expression to call for an investigation into the state authorities in Slovakia over the failure to prevent the murder of a Slovak investigative journalist. The appeal marks the first anniversary of the mafia-style killing of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova on 21 February 2018.  The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee has adopted a resolution calling for the Slovak government to ensure the safety of journalists and expressed concern about “allegations of corruption, conflict of interest and impunity in Slovakia’s circles of power”. The media freedom organisations representing thousands of journalists and human rights activists across Europe have welcomed the arrests of suspects who have been charged in connection with Kuciak’s and Kusnirova’s murder but have urged the Slovak authorities to examine their responsibility in failing to prevent the assassinations. A few months before he was killed Kuciak reported threats against him. The state is obliged to protect the life of journalists under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the media freedom organisations say so far there has been no adequate investigation of possible state breaches of its protective obligation. They are calling for answers to the following questions:
- whether Slovakia knew, or ought to have known, of a present and immediate threat to his life;
- which steps, if any, have they taken to protect Kuciak from that threat;
- and what will be done to protect Slovak journalists in the future.
The full text of the appeal and list of signatories is here.

Press Freedom more fragile than ever
Even inside the EU.  The latest annual report from the Council of Europe Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists – which includes the AEJ - paints a disturbing picture of media freedom:
Across Europe journalists are intimidated and attacked.
Murders of journalists go unpunished.
Freedom of media - a cornerstone of democracy - is under threat.
The report blames an atmosphere of impunity, weakened institutions and lack of accountability - and calls for urgent action by the Council of Europe, the European Union and their Member States. Please see here for the report, this link to the Platform, and this report and commentary from the AEJ International representative for media freedom William Horsley.
The 12 partner organisations in the platform are: European Federation of Journalists, International Federation of Journalists, Association of European Journalists, Article 19, Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, Index on Censorship, International Press Institute, International News Safety Institute, Rory Peck Trust, European Broadcasting Union and PEN International.

A Journalistic Lesson from Malaysia
For those who may have missed it a recent book exposes the world’s biggest financial heist, in Malaysia, – and offers journalists everywhere a lesson in the value and impact of determined investigation into malfeasance. The book is The Sarawak Report published last autumn and former AEJ UK Secretary Kevin d'Arcy brings attention to it in this review. The author is Clare Rewcastle Brown, a reporter for BBC, Sky News and ITV in the 1980s and 90s and sister in law to former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown. She began a blog about corruption and deforestation in her birthplace of Sarawak in Malaysia in 2010. She ended up exposing the theft of billions of dollars from a key Malaysian government fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad known as 1MDB. Hers is not the only book about the scandal – there are three so far – but her years of blogging also unearthed international links in some of the key journalistic issues of our times. Her work on the Sarawak Report blog has reported connections between the former Malaysian government of disgraced prime Minister Najib Razak and companies - British and international companies - with significant influence on mainstream journalistic media in the UK and USA. For instance FBC Media, a British public relations company working directly on behalf of the Malaysian government, provided "documentaries" to BBC World News and similar material to CNBC and CNN in the USA as well as a number of elite print media. BBC World News broadcast these for two and a half years before having to apologize to its viewers in 2011 and ending its relationship with FBC Media. Sarawak Report has also detailed links between the Razak government and another British company - the SCL Group - which it says provided political help. SCL, formerly Strategic Communication Laboratories, was the parent company of Cambridge Analytica, now closed but controversially involved in harvesting Facebook data and using it to influence the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit referendum. Neither FBC nor SCL are known to be involved in the misuse of 1MDB funds. But Clare Brown's years of journalistic digging and determination have illuminated a web of dealings that all journalists can value in the current climate of fake news, media manipulation, and vote distortion.

 

 

 2018

Lord Paddy Ashdown
AEJ members were shocked and saddened to learn of the death on December 22 2018 of Baron Ashdown of Norton-sub Hamdon after a short illness. The generosity and goodwill of Lord Ashdown, former leader of the Liberal Democrats and diplomat, stretched to being an AEJ UK lunch guest at short notice in October 2017. He spoke then with passion (as a famous Europhile) about the ‘folly’ of Brexit and his part in the campaign to try to stop it from happening. Please see AEJ member Jonathan Fryer’s personal tribute to one of the most engaging and versatile public figures of his generation.

AEJ president on the future of Europe
As the European Union is poised to lose a key member through Brexit, AEJ President Otmar Lahodynsky writes that now is the time for the citizens of Europe to stand up and safeguard the basic values of the EU.

AEJ Turkey survey shows more restrictions on the media

The AEJ Turkey’s annual survey of press freedom with other members of the joint G-9 press freedom Platform says 145 journalists are still in jail for their work in Turkey, and another terrible year in 2018 saw a series of deliberate actions by the government that have further stifled the ability of the media to inform the public. Please see the full report here.

 

Press freedom solidarity mission to Slovakia calls for full justice over Jan Kuciak’s murder
The AEJ joined eight other partner organisations on the safety of journalists to press the Slovak government to bring all those responsible for the murder in February 2018 of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée to justice. The AEJ and partner organisations publish regular press freedom alerts on the Council of Europe’s Safety of Journalists website visited the Slovak capital Bratislava on Dec.6. They also urged the Slovakian government to counter the hostile working environment for investigative journalists and to make legal and policy reforms to ensure the personal safety of journalists as well as their contacts or sources. Please see the full joint statement here.

 

AEJ joins call for justice for Jamal Khashoggi
The Association of European Journalists International has joined the Journalist Support Committee (JSC) to call for justice and a full investigation into the death of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey. His death has turned a spotlight on the Saudi regime’s pivotal role in a number of key issues – the Yemen civil war, western arms sales to the Saudis, international terrorism, its actions as one of two key Western allies in the Middle East, and its financing and trade particularly in relation to the USA and western European countries. In its statement the AEJ and JSC decried Khashoggi’s death and called for disclosure of all information in the Turkish investigation and for a thorough, independent review of the human rights record of the Saudi authorities. They join other journalist and human rights groups in their alarm as Saudi activists remain in jail. Jamal Khashoggi disappeared inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on Oct.2 2018. He was one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent journalists, once an advisor to the country’s intelligence chief, but left in 2017 to the USA where he wrote a regular column for The Washington Post in which he criticised the direction of his country under Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, profiled in this BBC Radio 4 program.

Dennis Kiley
Denis Kiley’s “full and outrageous life” was celebrated on July 13 2018. Exiled nearly 60 years ago from apartheid South Africa for reporting on deaths and abuse at the Modder B prison near Johannesburg, Kiley ended up in England by way of Kenya and the Congo, continuing to write and publish reports on Africa for many years. The colourful story of his adventures is detailed with fondness by friend and colleague Raymond Whitaker, Dennis’ deputy at FT syndication and later founding member of the Independent’s foreign staff and foreign editor of the Independent on Sunday. Dennis died peacefully in a North London care home on June 29. A long-time AEJ member, Dennis celebrated his 85th birthday in May but soon afterwards was diagnosed with an advanced form of prostate cancer. And although he had also suffered from a rare form of dementia since 2012 he had continued to enjoy life with his family and friends including trips to Japan and Sardinia before going into care in January.

 

Rule of law failing in Europe?
The AEJ has raised questions about how well the rule of law is working inside Europe in the wake of the killing of two journalists - in Malta and Slovakia. And it’s wondering if a ‘climate of impunity’ is developing, as AEJ Vice President and media freedom representative William Horsley writes in this report on a press seminar organised by the Association of European Journalists at the European Parliament in Brussels.

 

AEJ joins plea for media freedom in Turkey
The AEJ is one of 17 press freedom and media organisations that have signed and published an Open Letter to the president of Turkey. The letter is a 6-point appeal to reverse the drastic decline in freedom of expression and press freedom there and was published on June 23 2018 just before the hotly contested presidential and parliamentary elections in which President Erdogan and his party won re-election on June 24, extending his 15-year domination of the Turkish political landscape. See this link on the AEJ International website.

Spotlight on Turkey’s breach of international obligations
Reporters Without Borders challenged the UK prime minister to hold Turkey to its democratic obligations as protests marked President Erdogan’s London visit in May 2018. And the latest AEJ reports and commentaries set out the mountain of evidence showing that Turkey is trampling on press freedom and is systematically violating the rule of law by jailing journalists and silencing opposition voices. Please see this round-up on the AEJ International website.

Turkey faces further loss of independent media
Turkey’s largest media group has sold its outlets to a business group close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in March 2018. Dogan news outlets were among the few relatively independent media in a country dominated by TV stations and newspapers allied to Erdogan. The sale further curtails independent journalism as Turkey takes an increasingly authoritarian turn under his leadership. Dogan Holding sold its outlets — including flagship Hurriyet newspaper, the mass-circulation daily Posta, CNN-Turk and Kanal D television channels and Dogan News Agency — to Demiroren Holding.

China and the world
AEJ UK members received some wide-ranging insight into Chinese thinking at a meeting on April 19 2018. Dr Yu Jie, head of China Foresight at the London School of Economics foreign policy think tank, said President Xi Jing Ping’s immediate plans are to eliminate factions inside the Chinese Communist Party and establish China as a global power. Yu Jie has advised Chinese state-owned companies on European investment and leading European firms seeking to forge strategies for the Chinese market. For more on her thoughts please see this report from AEJ member and former FT correspondent Peter Norman and here for an audio transcript of her remarks.

Fake news, Facebook, and Democracy
It could have been a plotline straight out of the U.S. TV series Homeland – allegations of an illegal data grab used to manipulate national votes through social media. But this was life once again imitating art – sparked by an investigative report published in mid-March 2018 by The Observer newspaper and shared with the UK’s Channel 4 television and the New York Times. The company at the centre of this story – Cambridge Analytica - said in early May it’s shutting down and starting insolvency proceedings – but the reporter who first broke the story raises major doubts about whether this either ends the questions or closes the issue. For the latest developments see here in The Guardian, here at BBC News, as well as in many other media. The stories report how a UK data analytics and election consultancy firm – Cambridge Analytica – used data harvested from 50 million Facebook users to influence both the U.S. presidential election and the UK referendum on leaving the European Union. That soon turned into 87 million users as Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg was called to answer questions in the U.S. Congress – and has again been urged to testify at a UK Parliamentary committee. Facebook and Cambridge Analytica have denied any wrongdoing. Facebook lost around $50 billion in share value on the stock markets in two days – but recovered all that within two months. Facebook changed its internal rules. Facebook suspended its relationship with Cambridge Analytica. Cambridge Analytica suspended its chief executive Alexander Nix after he was shown on TV boasting about his company’s influence in the American election. UK Information Commissioner officials raided Cambridge Analytica offices to search for records. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and EU regulators are looking at possible breaches of the law.
By way of perspective on the latest revelations, parts of this story have actually been reported previously – as Wired magazine notes here and this earlier report on the Brexit vote shows. The Observer reporter breaking these stories – Carole Cadwalladr – even got a pat on the back from Alastair Campbell, former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s spin doctor. And for a look at what can happen with Facebook data and some of the issues raised see this New York Times piece.

 

World Press Freedom Day
AEJ journalists have noted an intensifying struggle to save independent media as they marked World Press Freedom Day on May 3 2018 across Europe. This year saw anti-media violence during Armenia’s popular uprising against a repressive government; new actions to silence independent journalism in Hungary and Turkey; and multiple protests against the murder of two journalists in the past year in Malta and Slovakia and ‘vicious ties’ between some governments and criminal elements.  There is also this special report from the UNESCO 2018 World Press Freedom Day conference in Accra, Ghana on May 2-3 – Out of Africa: the winning ways of the enemies of press freedom. This UNESCO report and the round-up of events here was compiled by AEJ UK chairman and AEJ international media representative William Horsley.

Can Canada’s largest newspaper save itself with fact checking Donald Trump?
The Toronto Star was the inspiration for Clark Kent’s Daily Planet – and like nearly every mainstream newspaper and broadcaster in the western world it’s desperately trying to save itself. Having its star reporter in Washington spend a lot of his time fact-checking the American president is part of a survival strategy in a maelstrom of digital media, a puzzled public confounded by fake news, and shrinking revenues.

Is Anywhere Safe?
Two new reports highlight ongoing concern about erosion of media freedom where you might expect it to flourish – in Europe and the (former British) Commonwealth. William Horsley, AEJ UK Chairman and AEJ international media freedom representative, has this report on how Commonwealth leaders meeting in London in April 2018 have turned a blind eye to journalists being threatened or killed with impunity in member states. And this article on the latest world press freedom index  from Reporters Sans Frontieres/Reporters Without Borders showing the “traditionally safe environment for journalists in Europe has begun to deteriorate”.

 

Fake News undermines democracy...
and even confuses expert researchers
Two new reports try to examine the difficult phenomenon of fake news. The AEJ has issued a road map on how to respond after a detailed consultation by Irina Nedeva, its adviser on fake news issues, with input from the AEJ-UK’s William Horsley, former BBC Europe correspondent, and Rick Thompson, former BBC News executive.  The AEJ report recommends: invest in media literacy, boost professional journalism, create incentives for ethical media, and increase awareness of political misuse of news.
Across the Atlantic in the USA, Nieman Labs has a disturbing report on how difficult deciphering false information from reality is even for expert researchers. Please see the article here.

Poland, media freedom and Lech Walesa
Poland, the cradle of the Soviet Union collapse, is once again a frontline in the fight for press freedom in Europe. And Lech Walesa – former Solidarity leader, president of Poland, and Nobel Prize winner –urged a gathering of journalists in February 2018 to hold fast to press freedom and free speech. He was addressing a meeting in Gdansk of journalists and civil rights activists from across Europe who debated strategies for fighting back against reverses for press freedom across Europe. William Horsley, AEJ UK chairman and AEJ International vice president and representative for media freedom, was in Gdansk and has this account of the event.

 

Roger Broad
Friends and colleagues commemorated AEJ UK founder member Roger Broad at the Reform Club in London on 2 February 2018.  It was with enormous sadness that the AEJ UK learned of his death on Aug. 17 2017 from complications following heart surgery.  Please see here for more about Roger and this story of his career from former colleague Michael Berendt. 

 

Democracy and populism
The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s chief economist says populist government benefits corrupt elites. And Sergei Guriev, linking the rise of nationalist populism in western countries with “reform reversal” in some post-communist countries, argues that populist governments remove political checks and do not create free markets and democracy whereas states which consolidate democracy do well. He was speaking at the AEJ’s first meeting of 2018 on January 17 about the political economy of reform in Europe and its neighbourhood. Dr. Guriev is a former senior Russian economic policy advisor now in exile and working for the EBRD. His bank’s Transition 2017-18 report shows economic performance in many parts of the former Soviet Union has fallen behind other global emerging markets because of excessive state controls and weak corporate governance. His remarks before he went off the record are here – and they prompted these personal reflections from AEJ member Anthony Robinson, a former east Europe editor of the Financial Times.

 

Concern about investigation into Maltese journalist’s murder
The AEJ joined its partners in January in the Council of Europe Platform for the Promotion of Journalism and the Protection of Journalists to express deep concern over the lack of progress in the investigation into the murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia.
The media freedom groups “… join Daphne Caruana Galizia’s family in calling on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to appoint a special rapporteur to monitor the ongoing murder investigation and make an assessment of the contextual circumstances that led to her murder.”

 

Croatia Mission
The AEJ international president Otmar Lahodynsky joined a fact-finding media freedom mission to Croatia in January 2018. After talks with politicians, journalists, and trade unionists the participating organisations agreed that the major problems to be addressed include political pressures on the public broadcasting station HRT, the lack of transparency of media ownership and the destructive influence of hate speech on the society. Please see more here on the international AEJ website

 

 2017

AEJ joins Turkish opposition march for justice
On June 17 
2017 AEJ Honorary Vice Chair and Turkey Representative L. Dogan Tilic joined an opposition march for justice. Turkey’s main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu. Began his march from Ankara to Istanbul following the arrest of Enis Berberoglu, an MP of his Republican People’s Party (CHP) and former editor-in-chief of the daily newspaper Hurriyet.

Helmut Kohl
The man who saw the reunification of Germany and himself as the master builder of a united Europe died on 16 June 2017. AEJ-UK chair William Horsley was the BBC’s Germany correspondent in the 1990s and had these reflections – broadcast on the BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent (at 6:22 in)- as the UK starts to leave Europe.

AEJ and World Press Freedom Day 2017
In the UK, AEJ UK chairman and international vice president William Horsley joined a panel debate focussed on women who risk their lives to report government abuse, civil conflict and religious intolerance in difficult regions of the world. The debate on May 3 2017 was sparked by the first screening in the UK of `Velvet Revolution’, which tells the powerful stories of six women journalists from the Philippines to Syria and Azerbaijan. The film’s executive producer, Indian journalist and film maker Nupur Basu, and Rebecca Vincent, director of the London bureau of Reporters Without Border, were among the speakers at Senate House, headquarters of the University of London, and hosted by the Institute of Commonwealth Studies in cooperation with the Commonwealth Journalists Association.
Please also see this article by William on the growing infiltration and takeover of media houses by state interests and others for dubious purposes.
For more on the AEJ and other media freedom organizations’ activity to mark World Press Freedom Day across Europe please see AEJ International website. Annual reports from media monitoring organisations show a further steep decline in media freedom and protection for journalists. 

Survey reveals widespread intimidation of journalists in both eastern and western Euope
The Council of Europe has published the results of the first large-scale survey of journalists across Europe. More than two-thirds of the 940 journalists taking part said they had experienced physical assaults, intimidation or harassment on account of their work in the past three years.  The AEJ’s Representative for Media Freedom and AEJ UK chairman William Horsley described the survey as a “wake-up call” to national governments in Europe to review their laws and practices to better protect press freedom. “This survey,” he added, “demonstrates how the increasingly hostile working conditions for journalists reflect dangerously repressive tendencies in states across east and west Europe, and a shrinking of the space for free speech and the proper scrutiny of state power.” See here for more on the survey conducted by experts from the University of Malta and supported by the AEJ, the European Federation of Journalists, Index on Censorship, International News Safety Institute and Reporters Without Borders. And here for the survey itself, also on the UK website.
At the same time the Council of Europe has released its annual report from the Council’s Secretary-General on the State of Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Europe. The report highlights a dangerous tendency towards “legislative nationalism”,  showing nearly half the Council’s 47 member states fail to satisfactorily guarantee the safety of journalists, with an increase in violence against journalists, criminalisation of the media’s newsgathering work, and growing threats to whistle-blowers and the ability of journalists to protect their confidential sources.

Analysis of media coverage – UK and USA
For an analysis of UK press coverage of the Brexit issue please see this link written by AEJ UK chairman William Horsley.
For a forecast of trends in journalism in 2017 see this analysis by the Reuters Institute.
And look at this detailed study in the Columbia Journalism Review on how the right-wing media in the USA changed both the U.S. election result and the broader media agenda.

European Human Rights Convention best guarantee for UK press freedom?
The head of the UK Independent Press Standards Organization (IPSO) – Sir Alan Moses – says the European Court of Human Rights provides the best guarantees and safeguards for press freedom in the UK, “better than any British courts”. And he told a journalistic audience that Fleet Street is thus “ill advised” to campaign to get out of the Council of Europe. The head of IPSO, a former Appeals Court judge, also applauded British press opposition to government attempts to create a government press regulator. See here for more on his presentation. IPSO – set up and supported by major British newspaper owners – is involved in an ongoing UK power struggle over media freedom and responsibility between major publishers, the government and critics of media abuses.  It was created after the 2011-12 Leveson Inquiry into scandals about abuses of media freedom and intrusion into individuals’ private lives. A number of major independent media- including The Guardian, The Financial Times, the Observer, the London Evening Standard, Private Eye, BuzzFeed, Yahoo, and the Huffington Post – have been unwilling to sign up to either IPSO or the government’s recently inaugurated press regulator.

RSF issues appeal on Turkish press freedom
Reporters Without Borders has appealed to EU leaders to do all in their power to rescue journalism in Turkey, where over 100 journalists have been jailed as suspected terrorists and over 700 press cards have been rescinded. On a trip to London, exiled Turkish newspaper editor Can Dundar warned that the coming referendum on changing the Turkish constitution could lead to the country becoming a dictatorship. 
Please see the AEJ International site for more.
If you would like to join or onpass the RSF campaign see this link.

Iris on media freedom
For analysis and ongoing reports particularly on video media and freedom of expression see the Iris network site – the European Audiovisual Observatory set up 25 years ago by the Council of Europe to compile statistics and analyse Europe’s tv, video and film industries including broadcast news.

Mediating Trump
U.S. President Donald Trump, fake news, and post truth.. for some reflections at the beginning of 2017 please see:

Open letter from White House press corps – from Columbia Journalism Review (courtesy of AEJ member Andrew Dobbie as is the CJR article below)
www.cjr.org/covering_trump/trump_
white_house_press_corps.php

The Coming Storm for Journalism – from Columbia Journalism Review
http://www.cjr.org/special_report/trump_
media_journalism_washington_press.php

Covering politics in post-truth America – from the Brookings Institution
https://www.brookings.edu/essay/covering-politics-in-a-post-truth-america/

The New York Times on fake news.

Who to blame for fake news -
http://billmoyers.com/story/whos-reallyto-blame-fake-news/

Prospects for the American press under Trump:
http://pressthink.org/2016/12/winter-coming-prospects-american-press-trump/

http://pressthink.org/2016/12/prospects-american-press-trump-part-two/

And prospects for journalism in 2017 from Nieman Labs:
http://www.niemanlab.org/2016/12/the-aberration-of-20th-century-journalism/

http://www.niemanlab.org/2017/01/whats-the-big-journalism-trend-for-2017-fear-oh-and-voice-news-bots/

 

 

 

 

2016 and 2015

Fears for media freedom in Poland
AEJ Poland member Krzysztof Bobinski on the stand-off between journalists and the Polish government concerning plans to restrict the media’s physical access to parliament for reporting.  For more details see the AEJ International website.

Turkey post coup
"Turks love conspiracy theories" says
international consultant Mehmet Öğütçü – as do many people. Just returned from another frequent trip to Turkey, the former Turkish diplomat, OECD executive and now chairman of consultancy Global Resources Partnership provided a detailed and well informed briefing on the current state of Turkey at an AEJ-UK lunch on Nov.8. For more on this well attended and enlightening meeting please see this account from AEJ member Nevsal Hughes.

AEJ Resolution slams Turkey’s massive attack on journalists’ rights
Members of the Association of European Journalists, meeting at their annual General Assembly in Kilkenny, Ireland, condemned the ongoing systematic and relentless oppression by the Turkish government authorities against the media.  The AEJ also called on the Council of Europe, its member state governments, the European Parliament, the European External Action Service and the European Commission to exert their influence on Turkey’s government and parliament to cease arbitrary judicial proceedings, release all the journalists being held in detention for their work, and commit themselves unreservedly to honouring Turkey’s commitments to freedom of the press, free speech and the rule of law. The full text can be found here and a news article is here.

AEJ deplores governments’ hostility to private media
The AEJ general assembly meeting in Kilkenny, Ireland passed a resolution criticizing the economic, political and police pressure being put by certain Council of Europe member governments on privately owned media. Please see the full resolution here, noting problems particularly in Hungary, Poland and Turkey.

AEJ asks the EU to renew the Euranet Plus’ service contract
The AEJ general assembly meeting in Kilkenny, Ireland expressed its concern about the threatened termination of the Euranet Plus radio service for listeners across Europe. Please see here for more on the call for continuing support of the independent network of 18 radio stations in 16 countries and 14 languages reaching up to 22 million daily listeners which produces at least 75 minutes each week about EU news.

AEJ marks Day to End Impunity
The AEJ marked the UN-declared International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, on 2 November, with a statement: ‘Impunity kills. End Impunity!’ The statement, published here, calls on government authorities and all concerned to combat impunity with vigour and determination.

 AEJ deplores abrupt closing of leading Hungarian newspaper
The AEJ raised concerns about the sudden closure of Népszabadság, Hungary’s leading daily newspaper and one of the last critical voices in the country’s national media. The newspaper was suddenly closed on Oct. 8, prompting thousands of Budapest residents to take to the streets to protest at what many see as a new attack on press freedom in Hungary.  

AEJ calls for justice in the murder of Anna Politkovskaya
T
he AEJ joined a demand for open justice and renewed investigations by Russian authorities into the Russian journalist’s murder. Marking the 10th anniversary of Politkovskaya’s killing, the AEJ and 7 other journalistic and press freedom organizations also called for an end to impunity in the killings of other journalists in Russia. Politkovskaya was killed on Oct. 7 2006 in her Moscow apartment block – she had reported on numerous atrocities, torture and other human rights abuses in Chechnya. The AEJ is one of the partners with the Council of Europe in the online Platform for the safety of journalists. For more information see here.

AEJ in Council of Europe consultations on Turkey’s abuse of emergency laws
The AEJ and 7 other European journalistic and press freedom organisations met with the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe for intensive discussions about the critical situation for independent journalism in Turkey. In the wake of July’s imposition of a state of emergency, there were calls at the meeting in Strasbourg on Oct. 6 for urgent action by Turkish authorities, European governments and the Council of Europe to prevent torture and mistreatment, ensure the exercise of impartial and professional justice, and to end widespread abuse of the emergency laws. See the AEJ report and the Council of Europe statement for more information.

Turkish media freedom groups denounce ‘silencing’ of media
T
he G-9 Platform of media and press freedom organisations in Turkey issued a statement and appeal “A Coup Against Journalists” condemning the wholesale closures of media, detentions and sackings of journalists, and other oppressive measures taken under state of emergency laws in Turkey. The international AEJ fully supports the statement and appeal which can be found here.

Turkey Crackdown
For the latest information and alerts about violations of media freedom and attacks on the safety of journalists in Turkey please see Council of Europe’s Platform for the safety of journalists (www.coe.int). These alerts are sent directly and quickly to the state authorities in Turkey and other countries concerned. Their responses to allegations of violations are published on the platform. The AEJ is working closely on this day by day with the EFJ/IFJ, Article 19, Committee to Protect Journalists Index on Censorship, IPI and Reporters Without Borders. William Horsley, UK chairman and AEJ international Vice President and Media Freedom Representative, notes that “the arbitrary and sweeping arrests of journalists and closures of media outlets in Turkey are alarming and urgent. Many journalists who have not been arrested are obliged to lie low and not speak in public because of the dangers.” Horsley has an assessment of Turkey’s actions under the state of emergency on the international AEJ website. There is also a petition from Amnesty International calling on President Erdogan to uphold human rights in Turkey, even in a state of emergency. The petition here has options to sign - http://bit.ly/turkeyrights 

Celia Hampton
Sadly, Celia Hampton, our long-time secretary, treasurer and website editor, passed away on May 17 after a protracted illness.  Celia was a friend and colleague to many AEJ members and contributed an enormous amount to the AEJ in both the UK and internationally. Despite increasing frailty and ill health she continued to write regularly on her specialty legal matters before finally succumbing to the pulmonary illness which dogged much of her life in recent years. Please see our Obituaries section for more information and personal recollections.

World Press Freedom Day 
A number of AEJ national sections marked World Press Freedom Day on May 3 as reported on www.aej.org Several sections produced reports and the AEJ Turkey took part as a member of the G-9 Platform, Freedom for Journalists (www.aej.org)
The 2016 World Press Freedom Day conference in Helsinki on May 2-4 was marked by a clamour of voices calling on Europe to recognise its own failings. William Horsley, AEJ UK Chairman and International AEJ Representative for Media Freedom, has these reflections on the issues.

AEJ Greece awards Journalism Prize to Peter Kramer
The prize, made by the Greek section of the AEJ, was awarded to Peter Kramer, former AEJ Secretary-General. It was presented by HE Mr Prokopios Pavlopoulos, President of the Hellenic Republic, on 20 April. Congratulations to Peter, a great friend of ours. See www.aej.org and europeanbusinessreview.eu (1 May 2016)

Concern over Romania’s public broadcasting
A hasty reform of the legislation governing the heavily indebted public sector broadcasting organisation raised AEJ concerns. (10 March 2016)

EU to examine Poland’s highest court
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.

29 April: International criticism mounted 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 were being denied entry, banned from entering Turkey or deported. GOP, the Turkish Freedom for Journalists Platform to which AEJ Turkey belongs, 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.

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.”

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. Die Presse has published the AEJ’s open letter to the Polish President. See aej.org

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

2015

31 December: 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

30 November: The AEJ protested in the strongest terms against the arrest and detention of Turkish newspaper editors, Can Dundar and Erdem Gül, on charges alleging terrorism, spying and breach of official secrets. See aej.org (30 November 2015)

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 appears on the AEJ’s international website, as does a report focusing 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 Media Freedom and AEJ in Europe pages as they become available. Please also watch the international website’s News page for further developments.

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: 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

23 July: International AEJ Newsletter

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, 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

4 June: The European Commission has altered the conclusions of a 2013 study into EU financial support for selected investigative journalism projects (see press release). The study’s authors, a group of respected journalists and lawyers, conclude that there is a case for support. The version published by the Commission concludes that obstacles make the scheme unviable. A €1.5m budget line set aside for a trial has disappeared. MEPs are expected to ask the Ombudsman to investigate.

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 killings that call for proper investigation include two journalists and a former MP. 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: 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 also 28 November 2014 below, aej.org and Media Freedom

26 February: 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

5 February: One of our most distinguished colleagues, Juraj Alner, has been granted the order of France's Légion d'Honneur. Juraj has been a journalist and scholar since 1964 but he was excluded from journalism for the 20 years leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall for being "anti-Communist". He was General Secretary of the international AEJ in the early 2000s and founder of the Slovak section. The President of France nominated him for his work on European integration and on Slovakia's accession to the EU. See aej.org

7 January: 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