Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘media freedom’

The AEJ Congress in Greece

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 4th December, 2018

AEJ Congress Greece 1The Association of European Journalists (AEJ) held its annual Congress over the weekend, hosted by the Greek section. We were based in Agrinio, a rather pleasant little town of which, I confess, I had previously never heard, though sessions also took place in Vonitsa and Messolonghi. The Greek hospitality was wonderful, but of course it was the content of the discussions that was paramount. Greece has suffered a double whammy in recent years, with its economic crisis (it should never have been allowed to join the euro!) and the mass influx of refugees from Syria and elsewhere. The European Union has failed to enact a satisfactory strategy for dealing with this migration, largely because of a lack of unity among member states, ranging from Germany’s open door policy to stiff resistance from Hungary. There is an undoubted but unwelcome link between this situation and the rise of far right political parties in several EU member states — an issue that attracted much concerned debate within the AEJ.

AEJ Congress Greece So, too, did the matter of growing threats to media freedom, for example in Hungary (again!), but also to the extreme extent of assassinations of journalists, as in Malta and Slovakia. Though not all AEJ sections are in EU member states, the organisation is essentially supportive of the European project, so the challenges facing the EU currently were something of a dampener on the Congress, despite the warmth of the Greek hospitality. So, too, the issue of “fake news” or disinformation, which is not just an issue in Trump’s America. And as if that were not enough there is the whole horror show of Brexit, which is having a big impact beyond Britain’s shores, not least in Ireland. The British AEJ section held out the hope that Brexit may be stopped; the feasibility of that may become more obvious over the next few days.

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Keep up the Pressure to Free Al Jazeera Journalists

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 1st February, 2015

Al Jazeera trialIt is great news that for once the rumours proved to be true and that Peter Greste, an Australian former colleague of mine at the BBC, currently employed by Al Jazeera, has indeed been released after 400 days in a Cairo jail. He is now returning home to join his family. However his Arab colleagues Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed still remain behind bars. Their only “crime” is that they were doing their job, reporting on events in Egypt at the time that President Mohamed Morsi was overthrown in a military coup. The trial was a travesty and although it got a lot of international media coverage thanks to my friend Patrick Kingsley of the Guardian and others, foreign governments did not do enough to pressure the Egyptians to release all the journalists. I fear that now the Egyptian government will revel in its perceived “humanity” in releasing and deporting the foreigner Peter, but we must not forget those who remain behind. Freedom of the media — and of expression generally — is under huge pressure right across the Middle East, including in countries that are seen as firm allies of the West. The moral authority of nations such as the UK and the United States can only thrive when it stands up for its liberal principles — which means London, Washington and other capitals need to be making clear that authoritarian regimes cannot expect political, financial and military support unless they respect human rights and fundamental freedoms.

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The EU and Media Freedom

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 20th June, 2013

A useful briefing on the European Parliament’s recent resolution on standards of media freedom across the EU, from David Geary of the European Movement UK:
media freedomThe European Parliament adopted recently a resolution on standards for media freedom across the EU. In the context of recent debates in this area from media ethics to political collusion to the debate about privacy and the fallout from the Levenson Inquiry, this resolution is both timely and relevant.
The resolution on the EU Charter: standard settings for media freedom across the EU, was passed 539 votes to 70 (with 78 abstentions). The Rapporteur was Romanian Liberal Democrat MEP, Renate Weber. The text calls for the governments of all member states to ensure that threats to media freedom, such as attempts to influence, pressurise or otherwise interfere with the view of restricting the ability of the media to function freely within a state, are prohibited. It also suggest that legal mechanisms must be established to ensure that senior appointments to public media organisations safeguard that candidates selected are best enabled to maintain the independent integrity of the respective media organisations. The text covers both public and private media, because both outlets play their own significant role in society and seeks to make sure that both are provided with the same rights, such as those derived from the media plurality clause of the Charter on Fundamental Rights. The Parliament calls for full implementation of the rights established under this Charter.
media freedom 2Acknowledging current challenges to media freedom, especially in cases where governments have cited security concerns, the Parliament requests that such moves should not be abused or used to exercise a degree of political control over the media. Bureaucratic processes such as broadcast licensing were also identified as potential areas of concern which might be manipulated to limit access to the media market for political or partisan reasons. The Parliament requests that both the Commission and Member States take action to address and prevent dominant positions by establishing lower competition thresholds in the media industry than in other markets. The European Parliament establishes two factors which give rise to a dominant position within a media market. First is the ability to benefit from monopoly pricing power. Secondly, the ability to benefit from political influence, especially when that influence creates the opportunity to implement regulatory practices and changes which can offer a competitive advantage. Both characteristics of a dominant media power make it difficult to combat or regulate and the European Parliament identifies this as a critical issue for member states to address. In accordance with previous requests on the Commission to establish a legislative framework governing media ownership, Parliament once again calls for a set of concrete measures to provide a legal oversight to media ownership, establishing minimum standards for Member States.
The independence of journalists is at the centre of the European Parliament’s effort to protect medial plurality. Noting that journalistic independence requires that journalists must not be prevented from accessing public documents and information, Parliament calls on Member States to establish a comprehensive legal framework protecting and promoting freedom of information requests. Alongside access to public information, Parliament notes that true journalistic independence cannot be achieved as long as members of the security services of Member States infiltrate the offices of public and private media organisations. Parliament calls on Member States to stop such activity. The Parliament also notes the effect of poor working conditions and the lack of security of tenure can have on journalistic independence. So it calls for regulation in this area as well as safeguarding journalists from undue pressure from publishers or owners.
Parliament identified the need for promoting ethical journalism and the establishment of professional standards for ethics and conduct, notably the obligation to identify the difference between a fact and an opinion, to ensure that the accurate, impartial and objective media content becomes the standard by which media organisations are assessed. Parliament calls for the establishment of a regulatory authority independent from government which can ensure compliance with standards and ethical codes and provide an avenue to consider complaints from affected parties.
Having the entire range of media operating across the EU in mind, the European Parliament considered developing standards for social media and internet based media providers alongside the more traditional print and broadcast media. In addressing online media, Parliament called for the Commission to include internet media operators in the EU Regulatory framework when the time comes to revise the Audio-visual Media Services Directive.
The importance of monitoring media freedom in the Member States is of critical importance and the European Parliament called on the Commission, the Fundamental Rights Agency and/or the EU Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom to publish an annual report on media freedom, which would then be presented to both Parliament and the EU Council for their consideration and with the intention of having the two co-legislators make proposals to follow this report.
David Geary
European Movement policy officer

 

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