The Human Rights Commissioner of the Council of Europe Thomas Hammerberg gave his support to comprehensive calls for a new dialogue in European journalism to counter the media crisis at a meeting of journalists at the International Press Centre in Brussels.
Hammerberg outlined a rights crisis across journalism in the Council of Europe area highlighting cases in Azerbaijan, Russia and other parts of the former Soviet Union. But he said that even in Europe’s democratic heartlands governments and media employers were undermining scope for quality journalism. More had to be done, he said, to promote dialogue and support within media for a rights agenda that would benefit both people within media and the public they serve.
He was joined by the President of the Brussels Foreign Correspondents Association (API) Lorenzo Consoli who criticised the way European institutions seek spin control of the work of journalists and he levelled special criticism of lobbyists who pretend to be journalists and the “instant journalism” mentality of media bosses who do not allow time for proper research and investigation of journalists’ stories.
Another speaker, Leigh Phillips of the National Union of Journalists, spoke out at the exploitation of young people who are trying to get into journalism many of whom are employed as interns, without pay and without any employment protection. “It’s a form of slave labour,” he said. He also called for a “Berlin Wall” to be created within media to stop the blurring of editorial and commercial sections of media.
Summing up the meeting, European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) General Secretary Aidan White called for new coalitions to be created in defence of journalism, decent working conditions and quality media. “We all have an interest in this. It’s good for journalism and good for democracy,” he said.
A special editor of a campaign newspaper produced by the Belgian Journalists’ Association (AGJPB) and the EFJ was distributed to European Commission and members of the European Parliament at separate events during the day.
Hammerberg, Phillips, Consoli and White.
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