Editorial Democracy in European Media - IFJ / EFJ Final Declaration

Milan, March 25-27, 1995

Representatives of EFJ journalists unions from 15 European countries meeting twice in Milan on March 3-5, 1993 declared and reconfirmed in Milan, March 25-27, 1995 that:

Democracy is the form of government which grants the people as a whole an influence on government policy and which recognises the right of freedom of speech and expression. A wide-ranging flow of information is essential for this. It is necessary to guard democracy against the creation of monopoly positions or political and economical concentration of power.

In Europe today we see the development of concentration of ownership resulting in a few number of large media companies controlling the majority of communication channels available to the public. Concentration of media ownership thus results in damaging the very basis of democracy society -- pluralism and diversity of opinion.

There is an urgent need for national and European legislation limiting concentration of ownership, mergers and cross-ownership.

But apart from measures aimed at safeguarding pluralism in the media in general, there is need for securing pluralism inside the publishing houses and broadcasting stations. There is the need to secure editorial independence.

Common minimum standards of editorial independence should apply in all media throughout Europe. These minimum standards must include:

the Editorial staff represents the moral and intellectual capital of publishing houses and broadcasting station;

the right of the editorial council to be consulted on decisions which affect:

appointment and dismissal of the editor-in-chief;

definition of editorial policy and content of the paper/broadcasting station;

personnel policies;

transfer/change of tasks of the journalists in the editorial department.

the right of the editorial council to be heard on matters of grievances concerning editorial policy;

the right of the journalist to refuse an assignment if the assignment proves to breach journalists professional ethics as laid down in the union's code of conduct;

the right of the editorial staff to prevent interference of management of third parties on the editorial content;

the right of journalists in Europe to equal pay and equality in career development.

In case of grievances the editorial council, the editor in-chief and management hold bona fide negotiations. Representatives of the journalists associations and unions can be involved in the negotiations in line with existing labour/press legislation.

The EFJ/IFJ should aim at establishing these common minimum standards as guidelines at European level. At national level unions should aim at implementing editorial statutes following these guidelines through national legislation and/or collective agreements at company level. Existing editorial statutes where they are preferential prevail over the common minimum standards.

Editorial statutes are not a substitute for other structures of information, consultation and participation of workers. They are one of the means to safeguard journalists' independence, autonomy and special responsibility of informing the public.

Representatives of journalists unions in Europe express their concern about the current attempts in some countries to pass laws which will limit the right to report and which will extend the areas subject to limits and secrecy. They also express the expectation that the Governments and the Parliaments of the European countries state the specific function of the journalistic enterprise according to the public interest for a wide-ranging flow of information and in the unique interest both of the readers and viewers.

The EFJ/IFJ should study the possibilities and implications to include key clauses of codes of conduct in journalists' employment contracts.

The EFJ/IFJ should develop strategies to negotiate for a clause of conscience at European level in case of mergers and take overs.

The EFJ/IFJ should include the issue of editorial independence in the social dialogue discussions with the European Broadcasting Union (EBU).

The EFJ/IFJ and public service broadcasters should develop a joint public campaign on editorial independence.

The EFJ/IFJ should study the possibilities for a European Company directive that clearly separates the media and non-media interests of European corporations.

The EFJ/IFJ reaffirmed the principle that the editor is the first among journalists and not the last among managers and agreed to campaign with other international organisations, notably the International Press Institute (IPI), for the recognition of this principle.

In those countries where state subsidies are given to newspapers, national unions should campaign with governments that newspapers with editorial statutes have priority access to press aid.

This declaration has been adopted by participants from major European countries at the EFJ conference "Editorial Independence and Consultation Rights for Journalists, Milan, March 3-5, 1993 and amended at the follow-up conference "Editorial Councils in Multinational Companies: Safeguarding Internal Pluralism, March 25-26, 1995.