Leaders and experts of journalists’ unions and associations from over 20 countries, meeting over the weekend in Tallinn, condemned poor social standards in the media sector in Central and Eastern Europe.
Now journalists’ unions are planning to challenge media companies - many of them foreign-owned with holdings in the region - over what they perceive to be unacceptable “double standards” of wages and conditions applied at home and abroad.
Participants of the “East Meets West: Social Dialogue in the Media Sector” Conference, organised by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), noted that globalisation and the free movement of capital in Europe cannot be separated from protection of employees' rights.
In the statement adopted at the Conference, participants noted that, “Freedom of the press cannot be practiced by companies who do not operate good business practices everywhere, not just in their home countries. The process of EU enlargement is strengthening European democracy, but also carries some threats to fundamental rights, as set out in the new European constitution, including freedom of the press”.
Poor business standards include unfair and sometimes illegal salary payments, keeping secret information about low salaries, non payment for overtime, refusal to provide journalists with access to professional education, and sacking trade unionist activists and those who seek to organize European Works Councils.
The statement condemned the action of a Bulgarian newspaper owned by the German company WAZ, who threatened to sack one of its editors for wishing to participate in EFJ meetings and European works council activities. The EFJ intends to publish other examples of unacceptable and undemocratic behavior of media companies.
“The EFJ calls for a start of serious social dialogue between media sector employees and employers in the new EU and other South East European countries”, said EFJ Chair Arne König, “we have to put a stop to these unacceptable practices and to improve professional standards, salaries and job security”.
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The EFJ represents more than 200,000 journalists in more than 40 countries