21 unions and associations of journalists from 16 countries met in Athens to discuss the growing threat to journalists and journalism across the region from 4-6 November.
Delegates adopted a strong declaration rejecting the politics of division, manipulation and intolerance and committing themselves to campaigning to rebuild trust in journalism and sustain journalism as a common good.
The meeting, organised by the IFJ’s Greek affiliates JUADN and ESPIT, discussed the wide range of challenges facing journalists in the region, including their safety, press freedom and political pressure on media and deplored the increasing violence against media and the pressure on journalists from unscrupulous governments, politicians and extremists, all of which is creating a new climate for self-censorship where fake news and online hate can flourish.
A motion of support and solidarity with Palestinian journalists in their struggle against violence, intimidation and the denial of their rights was unanimously endorsed.
Delegates also condemned savage cuts in editorial departments and the violations of journalists’ rights at work by many media employers who in the face of a business crisis have abandoned the mission, ethics and values of journalism and called for active solidarity with the victims of the economic crisis.
They declared that professional and independent quality journalism exercised in conditions of respect for core labour standards, is vital to defend citizens’ right to know.
The unions also agreed a wide-ranging programme of action which included a commitment to:
- Develop their codes of ethics in line with internationally recognised conventions and good practice
- Establish national structures for self-regulation in cooperation with representatives of the profession and civil society organisations;
- Encourage ethical and professional journalism and support journalists who are committed to their profession despite the political or economic pressures they are facing.
- Developing a Mediterranean and Black Sea programme for the safety of journalists to provide information, training and materials to reduce the risks facing journalists in conflict zones;
- Oppose the imposition of restrictions to freedom of movement in the region as well as unjustified and harsh visa restrictions, and calling for the creation of fast-track procedures to allow journalists to travel across borders for their work without interference;
- Actively demand all states within the Mediterranean and Black Sea region and in conflict zones bordering the region to meet their obligations under United Nations Resolutions 1738 and 2222 to protect journalists and media staff, to accept their responsibilities by investigating crimes against journalists and bringing the perpetrators to justice, and to consider deliberate targeting of journalists a war crime.
- Lobby their respective governments support and promote the IFJ’s International Convention on the Safety and Independence of Journalists and other Media Professionals.
- Work to ensure states adopt modern laws to regulate the work of journalists, that ensures freedom of journalistic work, the right to access information and protection of sources, the abolition of prison sentences and detention, as well as ending the suspension of publications, setting limits for fines for press offences, and the abolition of all forms of pre-censorship;
- Lead an inclusive dialogue to establish self-regulation structures for journalism capable of dealing with the complex media environment and complaints against the media.
- Reform the state owned media and make it independent from government or any other political influence.
- Organise campaigns to abolish all legal provisions that criminalise press offences or hinder journalists’ work.
The meeting unanimously agreed to establish a sub-regional group of the IFJ to co-ordinate and build its activity and solidarity.
The new group will work to address professional and trade union matters, and to protect and defend freedom of expression and information and journalists’ human rights as well as promoting common interests in the fields of social, economic, cultural and media policy within the regional institutions.
The meeting elected a co-ordinating committee comprising delegates from Greece, Portugal, Russia, Palestine and France.