IFJ and Middle Eastern Journalists Seek “Fast-Track” Procedure for Media to Combat Visa Obstacles

We have corrected our press release in the fifth paragraph to correctly identify European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs Franco Frattini. A corrected version follows.

The International Federation of Journalists and the Federation of Arab Journalists have condemned the increasing bureaucratic hurdles being placed in the way of entry by Middle Eastern journalists and media staff into countries of the European Union.

At a meeting in Brussels last week the two groups agreed that delays in granting visas restrict freedom of movement was creating frustration in media and may contribute to a growing misunderstanding between communities.

“It is more difficult than ever for journalists to cross borders to do their job or to meet with European colleagues,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “This leads to increased frustration and misunderstanding and a strong feeling that Middle Eastern journalists are not welcome in Europe.”

The two groups called for new procedures regarding visas especially for journalists. “What is needed is a fast-track procedure that will respond to the journalists’ need to be on the spot as quickly as possible if they are going to be able to do their work effectively,” said White.

The IFJ is writing to Franco Frattini the European Commissioner for Justice and Home Affairs and to UNESCO Director General calling for international organisations to press European governments to relax “inappropriate restrictions” and to recommend to member states of the European Union that they consider introducing procedures for journalists to speed up visa processing.

“There is a growing impression that parts of Europe are becoming no-go areas for journalists from the Middle East,” said White. “Getting into Europe is as difficult for Middle Eastern journalists today as it was in years past for Western reporters to set foot in the Soviet Union.”

During the 1970s and the 1980s the IFJ and other press freedom groups campaigned for an open-door policy that would allow journalists to travel freely to do their work, now they are being forced to do the same in countries that 30 years ago were vociferous critics of closed societies.

“Travelling reporters are a threat to no-one,” said White, “but they do provide an opportunity for more informed and better quality journalism in an age when prejudice, stereotype and ignorance tend to dominate the headlines.”

For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide

(Originally published 25/10/06)