Journalists’ Unions in Europe : An Agenda for Change

<CENTER>EFJ Annual Meeting, Bilbao, 3-4 April 2005

Statement From the Steering Committee

of the European Federation of Journalists



1. The European Federation of Journalists meets at a time of unprecedented crisis and challenge for journalists and their unions.

2. Across the European Union and beyond, into transition countries, journalists and media staff yearn for minimum legal, professional and social conditions providing social justice, rewards and opportunities.

3. But their aspirations are undermined by media employers in all sectors who sacrifice core principles of reliable, independent and quality journalism in pursuit of market imperatives that serve the narrow interests of owners and shareholders.

4. Across all sectors of media, owners work in a ruthless, concerted process of cross-border co-operation, to impose a new order in European journalism that ignores the wider public interest, that betrays the core principles of editorial freedom, and that abandons all pretence of mission in journalism.

5. As a result, there has been a steady deterioration in employment rights, a growth of unethical journalism, falling public confidence in media and an unprecedented erosion of attachment to European values of public service in journalism.

6. We condemn without reservation this culture of greed, concentration and editorial exploitation that is vividly exposed in the current wave of attacks on the pay, conditions and status of journalists across Europe.

7. At the same time, we deplore the complacency and inaction of governments, at national and regional level, over the threats posed to the future of media and independent journalism by these developments.

8. The European Federation of Journalists, meeting in Bilbao, Spain, believes that urgent actions are needed at political and enterprise level across Europe to confront this growing crisis.

In particular, we demand the implementation of an agenda for change in media, based on the following core demands:

Union Rights and Collective Agreements For All

Governments and employers must reaffirm the right of journalists to organise freely, to negotiate collective agreements, to meet with colleagues from the same company, even when they work in different countries.

As part of its campaign for change the European Federation of Journalists will work closely with the European trade union movement to lobby European governments, singly and collectively, to defend employment rights, to enhance authors’ rights for all and, in particular, to fight the exploitation of freelance workers.

Economic Strategies that Respect Culture and Diversity

Europe must eschew new laws and economic regulations which could harm the profession of journalism or damage the richness of cultural diversity and national identity in Europe. Proposals for a directive on services must contain appropriate safeguards and exceptions.

Plans to revise working time rules and regulation of broadcasting must not create new grounds for further exploitation of media staff or create new opportunities to undermine the European model of public broadcasting.

The EFJ insists that the principle adopted by the Council of Europe and the European Union, that information products have a social, cultural and democratic value as well as economic standing must underpin all policy-making.

Action to restrain the concentration of media at national and regional level is vital to reduce the assault of commercialism on the news agenda and to protect the information rights of all Europeans.

Priority for Public Service Values

Nowhere is the European media crisis more evident than in the battle for the heart and soul of broadcasting where media employers, from both print and broadcasting, are working together to dismantle the structure of public interest journalism.

The enlargement of the European Union includes many new states, most of which have not created viable, genuinely independent systems of public broadcasting. In addition, devastating proposals for broadcasting policy are being developed in countries where public service values have been traditionally strong, including France, Spain, Portugal, Denmark and Germany.

Thousands of jobs are threatened in a continuing attack on the BBC in the United Kingdom and the perilous situation of media concentration and political pressure in Italy adds to fears for the future of public broadcasting.

The EFJ will campaign vigorously to defend public service values and insists that European national and regional bodies adopt the principles set out in the Manifesto of Public Service Values launched earlier this year.

Quality Journalism for a New Europe

Finally, we reaffirm our commitment to the traditional mission of journalism in the service of democratic society.

In an increasingly fearful and intolerant political climate, quality journalism is vital to preserve and enhance values of democracy and tolerance. We endorse, therefore, the concerns expressed in the conclusions of the Bilbao Declaration from the Conference Journalism, Civil Liberties and the War on Terrorism, held on 1- 2 April 2005.

In these circumstances it is urgent to support new initiatives

• to defend the citizen’s right to information

• to promote open government and to challenge the security state

• to enhance pluralism

• to strengthen the right of journalists to professional secrecy

• to support editorial independence and encourage ethical conduct.

All of these demands, buttressed by decent pay and conditions and respect for the right to organise in journalism, provide an unanswerable agenda for change that is urgently needed to reinvigorate the landscape of journalism and media throughout Europe.