The Florence Declaration 1998

Freedom of Information in the Mediterranean

Meeting of Trade Unions of Journalists

in Mediterranean Countries

Florence, 11th-13th October 1998

We, the representatives of journalists' trades unions from 12 Mediterranean countries, meeting in Florence from October 11th-13th 1998, declare that:

Freedom of information is a right covered by Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, signed 50 years ago, which states that everyone has the right, without threat of persecution, to gather, receive and disseminate information and ideas regardless of frontiers and by any means of communication

We note that all Mediterranean countries acknowledge this right formally, but it is not completely effective in any of them. Indeed, freedom of information is a right formally adopted by some countries but in which media face intolerable conditions:

where journalists have been killed, arrested or threatened or put on trial for their opinions;

where newspapers and broadcasting stations have been censored or closed down;

where there exist harsh laws restricting the press, imposing censorship or creating economic and bureaucratic obstacles to press freedom;

where state control of broadcasting and technical resources, such as printing facilities and public advertising.

Independent journalism and freedom of the press are essential guarantors of freedom of expression and democracy.

The meeting agrees that the challenge of freedom of information, the crisis of globalisation of the media economy and the impact of changes in information technology, means journalists and their unions must strive for new and more effective forms of solidarity and co-operation.

To this end the journalists' unions present in Florence commit themselves to work together to promote joint actions in defence of freedom of expression and in pursuit of freedom of information for all. In particular, they will

1. Support media and journalists' unions fighting for freedom of expression and freedom of information;

2. Fight all forms of censorship and violations of journalists' rights, particularly in co-operation with the IFJ Safety Programme, Informazione Senza Frontiere (ISF) and other freedom of expression organisations in membership of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX);

3. Provide assistance to journalists who are the victims of violence or who are imprisoned or otherwise victimised for exercising their profession;

4. Demand jointly that governments provide access to visiting journalists to enter any country of the region to carry out legitimate journalistic activity

5. Promote legal conditions which guarantee freedom of information for all at national level and to campaign for international standards of freedom of information to be adopted throughout the countries of the Mediterranean;

6. Campaign for the release of all imprisoned journalists arrested for the exercise of their profession and defend colleagues suffering persecution because of their professional activities;

7. Support legal actions, in co-operation with other freedom of expression organisations, to eliminate violations of freedom of information and to provide better conditions for freedom of information.

In addition, the meeting supports joint actions and activities, co-ordinated through the solidarity programmes of the IFJ which focus on the following priority areas:

Improvement of the working conditions and trade unions rights of all journalists through trade union development programmes;

Enhanced professional training for all journalists;

Actions to promote editorial independence and authors' rights of journalists;

Campaigns to remove structures by which political control is exercised over radio and television by the government;

Support for national and international activities in defence of public service broadcasting and the promotion of pluralism;

Activities to secure freedom of movement and freedom of communication inside and between countries of the region;

Opposition to concentration of media ownership, and the adoption of strong anti-trust laws to be applied at national and regional level including opposition to the Multilateral Agreement on Investment which further threatens media pluralism.

In pursuit of these objectives, participants further agree that unions of journalists of the Mediterranean region should meet annually to promote solidarity and to monitor steps towards freedom of information in the region.

It is agreed also to establish contact with other media networks in the region, for example those dealing with public service broadcasting, the defence of independent journalism, and those promoting solidarity between media professionals and civil society in support of human rights and democracy.

At the same time, it is agreed to establish a network of correspondents among all the organisations represented in Florence and to invite all journalists' organisations which support press freedom and independent journalism in the Mediterranean region to participate.

The meeting thanks the Moroccan Union of Journalists for the invitation to hold the 1999 meeting in Morocco and agrees to support this initiative and asks the Moroccan Union and the FNSI to co-ordinate arrangements for that meeting.

Finally, all participants wish to place on record their thanks for the initiative and support for this historic meeting provided by the FNSI, the Tuscany Association of Journalists., the ISF and the International Observatory on Freedom of Information (OLI).

Florence, October 13th, 1998