Media For Democracy in South-Eastern Europe

2000 - 2003




  1. Building Independent and Effective Trade Unions and Associations of Journalists

  2. Legal Defence of Media Freedom

  3. Independent and Accountable Public Service Broadcasting

  4. Structures for Self-regulation, Journalists' Ethics and Media Freedom

  5. Promoting Professional Journalism in Conflict and Human Rights Reporting

  6. Promoting Basic Standards of Safety of Journalists


The IFJ is launching the Media for Democracy in South-eastern Europe project which involves journalists organisations in Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Hungary, FYR Macedonia, Romania, Slovenia, Slovak Republic and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia but will also reach journalists in other parts of Central and South-eastern Europe.

The project provides a concerted, comprehensive and strategic programme in support of media freedom, professional ethics, ethnic diversity and respect for human rights in South-eastern Europe. It tackles obstacles to media freedom, independent journalism, journalists' rights and tolerance in media. The project promotes editorial independence, high standards of professionalism and journalists' ethics. It enhances journalists' professional and social status. It encourages diversity within media and solidarity among media professionals in the region. It assists in the creation and strengthening of a legal framework that guarantees the free exercise of journalism. It promotes independent and accountable public service broadcasting and it seeks to improve standards of safety for journalists. All elements of the project will assist in the creation and promotion of a media culture well-placed to provide for democratic and open debate in society. The programme takes place from 2000 until 2003.


During the first phase of the project in 1999 South-eastern Europe saw further conflict and destabilisation through the crisis in Kosovo. In spite of these developments the project continued to forge co-operation between journalists in support of media freedom, professional ethics, ethnic diversity and respect for human rights.

Experience during the first phase of the programme has shown that the media strategy for human rights and democracy must be based upon the following principles:

  1. That journalists and media within the region must not be subject to external or internal pressure in their work.

  2. That all obstacles to press freedom in South-eastern Europe should be removed and that, in particular, journalists must be guaranteed freedom of movement.

  3. That journalists must be free to follow their mission of providing accurate, comprehensive and timely information to all. To do this journalists must
    • maintain their duty to the truth, to journalistic independence, and to the defence of fundamental human rights,

    • respect the diversity of religious, social and cultural values within communities and be aware of the consequences of any reporting or media activity which might encourage social division or discord,

    • observe the cardinal ethical principles of journalism which include professional secrecy, the rejection of any personal advantage, and all actions which violate citizen's rights.

  4. This programme builds on the objectives identified in the Media Action Plan for the countries of the region adopted by journalists, media professionals and government representatives from 18 countries of South-eastern Europe at the Athens Conference in March 1998. The objectives of the plan formed the basis for the programme and have been discussed and reviewed throughout the first phase of activity. The programme has the following objectives:

    • to support editorial independence, self-regulation and ethical conduct;

    • to promote diversity within media, to raise awareness of the principles of tolerance and to enhance sources of information;

    • to encourage co-operation and solidarity among journalists for the promotion of peace and democracy;

    • to enhance the professional and social status of journalists by safeguarding trade union and professional rights;

    • to promote a legal framework that guarantees media freedom and the free exercise of journalism;
    • to improve safety of journalists;

    • to defend and expand independent public service broadcasting and ensure media pluralism.

    This programme includes practical actions in support these objectives. As agreed among the journalists' organisations in the region the programme takes a comprehensive approach in support of peace and tolerance in the region and aims to tackle all relevant obstacles to the exercise of free, independent and diverse journalism.


    In line with the project objectives and the constraints identified in the countries concerned the following activities are planned in the second phase of the programme.

    1. Building Independent and Effective Trade Unions and Associations of Journalists

    This part of the project targets the journalists' unions and associations in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (including Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo), Bulgaria and Romania.

    The work builds on the experience, materials and training expertise developed by the IFJ in its international trade union development programme since 1989.


    Over a two-year period each journalists' organisation will organise:

    Up-dated membership overview;
    Organisation and recruitment drive;
    Training of union organisers;
    Drafting of collective agreements for print and broadcast media in line with European standards;
    Four collective bargaining training seminars;
    Four training seminars on rights of women and rights of minorities in the union;
    Preparation of strategy documents on union organisation;
    A regional workshop on union organisation and collective agreements is also planned to take place in BiH towards the end of the programme.

    2. Legal Defence of Media Freedom

    Legal Assistance focuses on those countries where a basic legal framework guaranteeing media freedom is not in place and where legal standards have to be challenged in court in order to bring them into line with European standards. In the current phase of the programme this includes: Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Croatia and Romania


    The journalists' organisations in BiH, Serbia and Croatia have already established a network of bona fide and competent lawyers who provide a legal advice service to journalists and media organisations. A team is being established in Romania. This service will be available, without discrimination, to all journalists and media organisations. Applications for legal assistance will be made to the national association who will assess them on the basis of the legal advice given.

    Legal Advice Service:

    case by case advice on issues such as libel, defamation, privacy, access to information, protection of sources, unfair dismissal, non-payment of journalists;
    assistance in preparation of statements and interventions on draft and existing media legislation;
    assessment of potential cases
    defence of journalists.

    Legal Advice Report: Two reports, which will explain successful cases and their criteria and conditions will be published. The report will further outline key European standards in relations to the cases concerned for use in other parts of the region.

    3. Independent and Accountable Public Service Broadcasting

    The IFJ will organise activities in support of the set of standards agreed by the IFJ and the EBU and further defined at the Zagreb conference in April 1999 on "Editorial Independence in Public Service Radio and Television". These activities will take place in Bulgaria and Croatia where rules governing public service broadcasting nominally adhere to standards of independence but where the practice still reveals a system of control.


    Organisation of campaign for public service broadcast reform;
    Organisation of discussions with representatives of the public service broadcaster to agree minimum standards of editorial independence and accountability;
    Organisation of a joint IFJ/EBU/CIRCOM regional conference to review implementation of the agreed standards and to adopt a joint target programme for reform of broadcasters in the region.

    4. Structures for Self-regulation, Journalists' Ethics and Media Freedom

    The project will help establish Media Freedom and Media Performance Observatories in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria. These will be self-regulatory structures run by the media professionals that will provide for accountability of media to the public and monitor media performance under the existing conditions of media freedom. These country initiatives will be accompanied by a regional review committee that will translate their experience into the regional context.


    Raising awareness drive among journalists about the code of ethics;
    Organisation of two national seminars to agree the code of ethics and to elect a committee to draft statutes for the self-regulation structure;
    Organisation of national seminar to agree scope and composition of the Media Freedom and Media Performance Observatories, in principle the Observatories should:
    Monitor attacks on media freedom as they effect journalistic quality;
    Monitor adherence to the code of conduct by the key national newspapers;
    Establish a system to receive complaints from the public on media performance;
    Establish an ethics review committee to discuss problems with editors and publishers.
    The Media Observatories will publish bi-monthly reports on media freedom and media performance including a review of the adherence to the code of ethics by key national newspapers, a review of complaints received by the public and a review of attacks on media freedom. An annual regional report citing examples of media performance and freedom from the two countries, reviewing standards and structures in other parts of the region and providing advice on how to promote media freedom and ethical journalism will also be published.

    5. Promoting Professional Journalism in Conflict and Human Rights Reporting

    Journalists in the region have to meet the highest possible standards when reporting conflict or tensions between different ethnic groups in the region. In the wake of the Kosovo conflict and following the IFJ conference on "Conflict Reporting and the Media: The role of Journalism in the Prevention and Resolution of Conflict", held in Ohrid, June 1999, it was agreed to promote training for journalists reporting conflicts. Three conflict reporting training courses will be organised in Albania, Macedonia and Kosovo. This will be followed by a regional review meeting to discuss the training approach and its impact on reporting tensions in the region.

    In addition the IFJ will produce a Human Rights Reporting Handbook for journalists in South-eastern Europe available in Albanian, Serbian-Croatian, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Romanian and Turkish as well as an English and French version for further distribution.


    three conflict reporting training courses.
    a regional workshop to review the training courses and to draw conclusions of how to apply them across the region involving other partners such as training schools, media centres and the Reporting Diversity Network.
    Preparation and production of a human rights reporting handbook to include the following chapters:
    Why journalists in South-eastern Europe need to know about human rights;
    Human rights as they affect the work of journalists in South-eastern Europe;
    Priority human rights issues for journalists (examples an case studies from all parts of the region covering issues such as tolerance, refugees, torture etc);
    Major conventions and standards;
    Human rights contacts and sources of information for media professionals and journalists.
    Ohrid Declaration: Conflict Reporting and the Media: The Role of Journalism In the Prevention and Resolution of Conflict, June 24-26, 1999

    6. Promoting Basic Standards of Safety of Journalists

    In 1998 the IFJ and the BBC with the support of the Freedom Forum launched the International Institute of News Safety which aims to promote better safety standards for journalists around the world. The IFJ has worked on journalists safety for over twenty years and the BBC has become in recent years the world's most recognised provider of safety training giving courses not only to its own staff but to an increasing number of correspondents around the world. The project will use the materials already developed and adapt them to the region.

    The lack of information and basic safety tools affects journalists throughout the region who at the same time find themselves reporting situations of social strife (demonstrations, tensions between different groups, violence) on almost a daily basis. The IFJ will produce a standard safety kit and a model basic safety training manual to be distributed to newsrooms across the region.


    Production of 3,000 basic safety kits to include first aid information, safety tips for journalists based on the IFJ Safety Handbook, international code for the safe conduct of journalists, international and local contact addresses, ICRC hotline information, examples of good practice;
    Distribution of the safety kits through the IFJ member organisations;
    Production of a safety training manual in several languages based on the BBC safety training material and materials developed by the IFJ;
    Distribution of the safety training manual to IFJ member organisations, media organisations, training institutions, media centres.