European Union Chief Backs Journalists in Fight to Protect Press Freedom in Europe

The European Union's leading voice in the

struggle to defend citizen's rights, Commissioner Viviane Reding, gave her

backing to the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and its members in

their campaign against threats to press freedom across the continent.

Mrs Reding, the Commissioner responsible

for Justice and Fundamental Rights, took the opportunity of a meeting

with EFJ leaders to underscore warnings about new threats to

press rights arising from EU and national anti-terrorism measures and

growing interference of governments to manipulate media content.

"I share the concern of the EFJ that press

freedom in Europe faces a growing force of

government interference and anti-terrorism measures," she said. "The Commission

supports the fights of journalists and the media against these threats. With

the adoption of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and its Article 11 on freedom

of expression and information, we will closely monitor press freedom attacks

throughout Europe."

Arne König, EFJ President and leading the EFJ

delegation, urged the Commissioner to give priority to defence of

free expression when implementing anti-terrorism policy in Europe. "We believe the cardinal principles of journalism

to protect their sources should never be compromised by anti-terrorism measures,"

said König.  
The EFJ leaders warned that the EU Data

Retention Directive posed a potential threat to press freedom and civil

liberties. The Commissioner agreed that the collecting of information has "to

be targeted and proportional". "The Commission is currently preparing an

assessment of the Data Retention Directive and will present an evaluation of its

application by September," she assured the delegation.

On the issue of cross-border defamation cases

and ongoing EU discussions revising rules regulating competent tribunals, the

so-called Brussels I Regulation, the EFJ stressed the need for

a balanced solution that would duly take into account press freedom.

Commissioner Reding expressed her concerns about the libel tourism and the

importance to take press freedom concerns on board in the current debate.

The delegation also pressed the Commissioner

over continuing problems caused by weakening social rights of media

workers. "I am extremely concerned about the freelance crisis in the media

sector and the precarious working conditions of young journalists. If this

continues, this may affect the quality of journalism," she said.  "But

with the Lisbon Treaty entered into force in December 2009, the social rights

of workers which are guaranteed in the fundamental rights of citizens will be

better enforced and balanced in the single market," she stressed.

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The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in more than 30 countries