The European Union's leading voice in the
struggle to defend citizen's rights, Commissioner Viviane Reding, gave her
backing to the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and its members in
their campaign against threats to press freedom across the continent.
Mrs Reding, the Commissioner responsible
for Justice and Fundamental Rights, took the opportunity of a meeting
with EFJ leaders to underscore warnings about new threats to
press rights arising from EU and national anti-terrorism measures and
growing interference of governments to manipulate media content.
"I share the concern of the EFJ that press
freedom in Europe faces a growing force of
government interference and anti-terrorism measures," she said. "The Commission
supports the fights of journalists and the media against these threats. With
the adoption of the Charter of Fundamental Rights and its Article 11 on freedom
of expression and information, we will closely monitor press freedom attacks
Arne König, EFJ President and leading the EFJ
delegation, urged the Commissioner to give priority to defence of
free expression when implementing anti-terrorism policy in Europe. "We believe the cardinal principles of journalism
to protect their sources should never be compromised by anti-terrorism measures,"
The EFJ leaders warned that the EU Data
Retention Directive posed a potential threat to press freedom and civil
liberties. The Commissioner agreed that the collecting of information has "to
be targeted and proportional". "The Commission is currently preparing an
assessment of the Data Retention Directive and will present an evaluation of its
application by September," she assured the delegation.
On the issue of cross-border defamation cases
and ongoing EU discussions revising rules regulating competent tribunals, the
so-called Brussels I Regulation, the EFJ stressed the need for
a balanced solution that would duly take into account press freedom.
Commissioner Reding expressed her concerns about the libel tourism and the
importance to take press freedom concerns on board in the current debate.
The delegation also pressed the Commissioner
over continuing problems caused by weakening social rights of media
workers. "I am extremely concerned about the freelance crisis in the media
sector and the precarious working conditions of young journalists. If this
continues, this may affect the quality of journalism," she said. "But
with the Lisbon Treaty entered into force in December 2009, the social rights
of workers which are guaranteed in the fundamental rights of citizens will be
better enforced and balanced in the single market," she stressed.
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The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in more than 30 countries