Goodbye to Freedom?

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Goodbye to Freedom?
A survey of media freedom

across Europe

By the Association of European Journalists



Edited by William Horsley


November 2007

Goodbye to Freedom?

A survey of media freedom in 20 European countries
Published on November 10 2007

Edited by William Horsley

AEJ Media Freedom Representative and Chairman of the AEJ UK Section

This Survey is written by journalists active in 20 member states of the Council of Europe, the main guardian of human rights and democracy for the continent. It provides a snapshot of the many different aspects of the continuing struggle for media freedom and independence, including violence against journalists, legal barriers, and distorting political and commercial pressures on media workers. All the countries included are members of the Council of Europe and have committed themselves to upholding the freedom of the media and freedom of expression. The Survey is intended to be a source of information and motivation to journalists, media organisations and government authorities across Europe, in the belief that free and independent media are essential to democracy and the rule of law.


With special thanks to senior staff of Internews Europe (formerly of the Educated Media Foundation, Moscow) for the Report on Russia

The Survey was prepared for the AEJ Annual Congress held in Dublin, November 10 2007, as the basis of a Workshop on Media Freedom with Miklós Haraszti, the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

It is also available on the website of the Association of European Journalists www.aej.org and of the UK Section www.aej-uk.org. For any feedback and queries, contact william@aej-uk.org.

The AEJ is an independent, self-funding association for journalists in Europe with more than 1000 individual members in over 20 national sections. It promotes professional contacts across Europe’s borders, open debate on European issues, and the freedom and independence of media and journalists in Europe. For further details please visit the AEJ website.

William Horsley was appointed AEJ Media Freedom Representative in June 2007 and has served as Chairman of the UK Section of he AEJ since 2001. He is a former foreign correspondent for BBC TV and Radio.

The AEJ wishes to thank the sponsors of the 2007 Dublin Congress: DEPFA BANK plc, Intel (Ireland) Ltd, CRH, Department of Foreign Affairs, European Commission Representation in Ireland, European Parliament Office in Ireland, Forum on Europe, Diageo Ireland, Seán Quinn Group, ESB, The Irish Times, BT Openzone and Fáilte Ireland.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction and Summary William Horsley 1
Armenia Liana Sayadyan 7
Austria Otmar Lahodynsky 10
Belgium Michel Theys 12
Croatia Zdenko Duka 14
Cyprus

Part One — Kyriakos Pierides 17

Part Two — Hasan Kahvecioglu 20
Czech Republic Tomas Vrba 22
France Régis Verley 25
Germany Horst Keller 28
Greece Athanase Papandropoulos 30

Hungary József Martin 33

Ireland Joe Carroll 36
Italy Carmelo Occhino and Elzbieta Cywiak 39
The Netherlands Fred Sanders 43
Poland Krzysztof Bobinski 45
RomaniaRuxandra Ana 49
The Russian Federation Manana Aslamazyan and Gillian McCormack 52
Slovakia Peter Kerlik 55
Spain Pedro González 57
Turkey Dogan Tilic 60
United Kingdom and EU Celia Hampton and William Horsley 65
INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

By William Horsley

The AEJ Media Freedom Survey investigates the relationships between the media and governments across Europe, especially the constraints and obstacles to the media playing their proper role of recording and scrutinising events in public life. The resulting picture is cause for concern. Although some free and vigorous media can be said to flourish in all but a handful of the countries covered, the Survey reveals a picture of a profession and an industry beset by problems of political interference, economic weakness and uneven or doubtful professional standards. The authors of many of the Reports report serious abuses of media freedom and independence – hence the title Goodbye to Freedom?

The Survey reveals a common pattern in many countries: journalists and news organisations face multiple barriers to their work from restrictive laws, unjustified interventions by government authorities and a mixture of overt and unseen pressures to manipulate or distort their work. In Russia and Armenia journalists who seek to investigate official abuses of power face intimidation and real dangers of violence or even death. In many of the countries covered, laws on state secrets and defamation are regularly used to stop journalists from examining the actions of those in power or exposing corruption in various forms. Even in Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland, countries where the principle of media freedom is highly valued, attempts were made in the past year to punish journalists with prison terms for publishing classified papers on matters of public interest.

The Survey is the result of the determination of members of the Association of European Journalists to take stock of the political and legal framework in which the media now work and to share the information about the barriers they face. Those who work in the media reflect its values and priorities and also help to set them. They now operate under the intense pressures of multi-media working and rolling 24-hour news. Within Europe they work using many different languages. It is not easy to make informed judgements about how they compare with one another or how free they are to work without fear or favour. This Survey is intended to contribute to a better understanding of these things.
The Annual Reports published by media-watching organisations such as the International Press Institute, Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House have provided a valuable reference point for our Country Reports, some of which refer to their findings and to their international rankings of the level of media freedom in the various countries. This AEJ Survey is a snapshot of the media in action in 20 countries, written by active journalists who assess the general health of media freedom in their own country and also draw on their personal experience and observations of the media’s relationship with governmental power. The Reports highlight important clashes between governments or the courts and the media and give insights into the informal and unseen ways in which the powerful can shape the media landscape, for example in President Sarkozy’s France or in Italy under the former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Each Report includes a general assessment in an Overview of key developments. The authors also write in more depth about one or more chosen Case Studies, focusing on particular issues

which represent barriers or limits to media freedom. Each Report ends with a short section called Conclusion and Future Action. The AEJ Survey has been produced to be considered and discussed with the OSCE’S Representative on Media Freedom, Miklós Haraszti. Its findings are to be shared with the Council of Europe, the main guardian of media freedom and freedom of expression in Europe, and other interested parties.

The Survey also exposes the uneven record of the media themselves. Robust media freedom can only flourish if journalists defend it by conscientious effort, high professional standards and a willingness to confront those in power with hard questions and determined investigation. This Survey presents evidence that in many parts of Europe journalists are now under intolerable pressure to serve the interests of political forces or commercial interests. The situation is especially troubling with respect to public TV and Radio broadcasting in many countries, where little or no pretence is made to preserve the independence of broadcast news and programmes from political influence or control. Harsh economic pressures and especially the growth of an “army” of freelances also tend to make journalists more dependent and less able to stand up for the integrity and quality of their work. In some countries trade union membership and influence has been deliberately undermined by employers, making journalists more vulnerable to manipulation or dismissal.
The message from these accounts is clear: freedom of the media is not a birthright, but must be fought for and defended. Unavoidably, the relationship between media and government power is an adversarial one, because the goal of politicians is to win power and keep it, and for them to control the message put out by the mainstream media can be a crucial weapon. The Report on the Czech Republic cites the pessimistic view of one senior journalist that the country’s journalists are malleable enough that politicians do not even think it necessary to apply pressure to get the media to behave in the way they wish. This Survey shows that media freedom is fragile or weak unless it is exercised.

SUMMARY OF THE SURVEY
These are the main findings of the Survey about the barriers to media freedom in Europe:-

Violence and intimidation directed against journalists is unfortunately common in the two states of the former Soviet Union covered, Russia and Armenia. In Russia the failure so far of the judicial authorities to clarify the truth about the murder of Anna Politkovskaya in 2006, and of more than ten other journalists in the past several years, is especially grave. Harsh security and press laws threaten journalists with prosecution or loss of employment, leading to a climate of oppression and acting as a warning to journalists against investigating cases of official corruption or abuse of power. Manana Aslamazyan, one of the authors of the Russia report, was head of the Educated Media Foundation in Moscow until the Russian authorities raided its offices and forced its extensive training operations to end – all in response to a minor infringement of currency regulations. The Russia Report cites an example of the “guidance” on coverage given by Kremlin figures to leading editors and journalists. The Armenia Report mentions 13 cases of physical violence against journalists. Assaults on journalists have also occurred in Greece and other countries. In Turkey a newspaper editor, Hrant Dink, was murdered early this year. In Spain many journalists have received death threats from violent Islamist groups and the Basque separatists of ETA.

Criminal prosecution of journalists using secrecy or defamation laws has taken place or been attempted recently in almost all the 20 countries surveyed, despite the OSCE’s campaign for libel and defamation laws to be treated as civil not criminal matters. Security laws have been tightened in many states in response to the increased threat of terrorism. The many recent and current criminal investigations and court cases against journalists for leaking official secrets suggests that governments have grown tougher. In Hungary, two newspapers were prosecuted for publishing state secrets. But in many cases detailed in the Survey – including in Germany and the Netherlands – governments themselves stand accused of misusing the law to protect themselves from evidence found by journalists pointing to official deception or incompetence. Poland has laws on the statute book allowing special penalties for insulting the country’s President. A similar law in Spain specifically outlawing insults against the Royal Family was used in July this year to suppress a cartoon making fun of the heir to the throne, the Crown Prince. In France several news organisations have defied the courts by refusing to reveal their confidential sources of information about doping in the sport of cycling. Slovakia still uses media laws, little changed, that were devised by a totalitarian communist system. And in Ireland the editor and a reporter on The Irish Times are currently threatened with jail for refusing the orders of the courts and of a special Tribunal to disclose the source of published information related to an investigation into allegations of corruption surrounding the country’s serving prime minister.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has made several recent rulings protecting media freedom and free expression. In July 2007 the Strasbourg court overturned the conviction of a Greek radio journalist previously fined for chairing a discussion programme on which another speaker made damaging remarks about other public figures. However the authorities in Slovakia have refused to accept their obligation to bow to a similar ruling by the ECHR. In that case the Strasbourg court overturned the conviction and fine imposed on a journalist who had insulted a senior church figure and accused him of collaborating with the communist secret police.

In Turkey, incidents of legal harassment and violence against journalists are sharply down compared to the situation in the1990s. But the murder of the Armenian-language newspaper editor Hrant Dink last January outside his Istanbul office and the attempt to prosecute the Nobel Literature Prize-winner Orhan Pamuk highlight the twin dangers of nationalist violence against liberal-minded writers and of criminal prosecution through Turkey’s archaic laws banning insults against Turkish identity or state institutions. In 2006 a total of 293 people faced legal action based on the country’s illiberal laws on free expression. In some cases the army itself has brought prosecutions against journalists who investigated or criticised the military’s involvement in politics. Turkey’s criminal laws are out of line with its Council of Europe obligations and incompatible with press freedom.

Cyprus illustrates how the overwhelming influence of partisan politics and rival nationalisms make a free and independent media all but impossible. The two-part Report by a Greek Cypriot journalist, Kyriakos Pieredes, and his Turkish Cypriot counterpart and colleague, Hasan Kahvecioglu, finds a surprising amount of common ground. It recognizes serious limitations on free expression and media on both sides, although the Greek Cypriot government of the Republic of Cyprus alone is recognised by the rest of the world. Crucially, they agree that the role of the media of both communities has overall been harmful, not helpful, to the cause of political healing as a result of distorting influences on journalists and their work. The Turkish military still operates blacklists against journalists in northern Cyprus whom they regard as disloyal to Turkish interests. But the most significant example of a government stifling media

freedom was provided by the government and media of the legitimate government of the Republic of Cyprus. In 2004, the European Commissioner Günter Verheugen was refused air-time on any Greek Cypriot TV Channel to refute the arguments for rejecting the UN Plan for a Cyprus settlement made by the Cyprus President Tassos Papadopoulos. In that Cyprus referendum vote, effective control of the mass media was important, perhaps even decisive, to the outcome. The tight media control robbed the population of the right to hear the full facts and the opposing arguments before Cyprus acceded to the European Union a few days later with the island still divided. Some EU figures protested, but media freedom was sacrificed to political expediency.

Public broadcasting: The Reports on public TV and Radio across Europe reveal an alarming picture of failures of independence and of journalistic integrity. Party political influence has brought sharp accusations of political interference and distortion in old European Union member states like Austria, Spain and Italy. Spain has recently enacted a new law aimed at establishing the independence of public broadcasting. Our Report on Italy examines the “anomaly” of the limited ownership and blatant political influences on Italian television, which the OSCE has criticised as threatening the “quality of democracy” there. Changes have been made to the Gasparri Law in response to strong pressure from the European Union and others. But critics are not yet confident that the result will be real journalistic independence for employees of RAI.

In many of the new and aspiring members of the EU the legacy of the communist one-party control of media and government is heavy-handed party political influence over public broadcasting. In the Report on Poland Krzysztof Bobinski describes the arrival of “political officers” in public TV to enforce the partisan editorial slant of the Law and Justice Party-led government, which was ousted in last month’s elections. He casts doubt on the prospect for Polish journalism to escape from the corrupting influence of partisan reporting in the near future. In Hungary the oppressive influence of party politics in the management of public TV has led to a drastic decline in quality and viewing figures, throwing the whole future of public TV in doubt. In Slovakia the political parties stand accused of manipulating the choice of public TV managers for their own advantage. In Croatia the ruling parties are accused of the same trick in appointments to the management and editorial leadership of HINA, the national news agency that exerts a big influence on news coverage by the rest of Croatia’s media..

Media ownership and exploitation: France provides a Case Study of a wider trend, in our fluid economic times, for powerful business figures from unrelated big industries like defence to take over the ownership of leading newspapers and other media titles. They include Le Figaro and Le Journal du dimanche. French journalists warn of the danger of interference in editorial matters in favour of the government or commercial interests. Journalists already point to examples of censorship, including one of an article revealing that the then wife of Nicolas Sarkozy failed to vote at all on election day when he was elected President. Media organisations have called for new safeguards in the law and the French constitution.
The Slovak Country Report picks up a warning by the chairman of the European Federation of Journalists, Arne König, that extreme job insecurity and poor wages are damaging the quality of journalism in many parts. He says many freelances should rather be called “forced-lances” because they have little or no choice about their terms of employment. In the Report on Belgium Michel Theys finds that the proportion of freelances among the country’s journalists is a quarter of the total. The Report concludes that owners and publishers should be obliged to fulfil their proper responsibilities to provide decent working conditions.

The Survey demonstrates that the media is often at the heart of wider political debates and of landmark legal decisions. The Report on Austria focuses on efforts to enforce the country’s laws against denial of the Holocaust. An Austrian court ruled in 2000 in favour of the right-wing politician Jörg Haider when he was accused in a magazine article of trivialising the Holocaust. The journalist responsible was fined; but last year the European Court of Human Rights reversed that ruling and decided that Austria’s justice system was at fault for its original judgement.

The Romania Report links recent setbacks in the country’s anti-corruption drive to a fierce battle taking place within the media for and against the reformist President, Traian Băsescu. A recent episode when the president lost his temper, insulting a woman journalist who questioned him while he was shopping in a supermarket with his wife, showed up the partisan agenda of some news coverage as well as the media’s preference for scandal and sensation over matters of substance, including issues such as social discrimination and high-level corruption. A draft law has been prepared which would create new “press offences” in Romania, including secret filming in the course of corruption investigations, attracting sentences of up to seven years in prison for journalists who break the rules.
Media “wars” with those in political power: As the impact of the media, especially television, has grown, political leaders have not only grown more sophisticated, hiring “spin doctors” and trying to win the media over with blandishments or privileges. They have also grown more intolerant of criticism. The Czech prime minister, Mirek Topolanek, accused the media of bias against him and threatened to enact a new law to curb press freedom. In Slovakia prime minister Robert Fico branded the media as “the political opposition”. And in Britain Tony Blair, who is widely seen as having charmed and cajoled the media into giving him favourable coverage for many years, criticised them as destructive “wild beasts” shortly before his departure from office in June 2007. The British media continue, however, to scrutinise all political parties with often brutal thoroughness.

The UK has a fast-growing and lucrative Internet market, and the UK Report explains why the media are suspicious of the decision by European Union governments to impose new rules on self-regulation of content to Internet sites which offer “TV-like video-on-demand services”. The European Commission’s original plans for heavier regulation have been set aside, but the new rules which are due to come into force in 2010 still go against advice from the industry and may lead to censorship.

The evidence from the AEJ Survey of 20 countries leads to these broad conclusions:-


  • Media freedom and independence in Europe are not assured, and in some of the countries surveyed they are growing weaker. They must be won in law and in practice.




  • The problems of direct political interference in media affairs and contents are more acute in the “new democracies” of Central and Eastern Europe; but Western European countries can no longer be confident that they offer a more secure model of media freedom. New political and economic pressures in many of the older EU states mean that media freedom and independence there, too, are insecure.




  • Most of the Reports in the Survey describe a marked trend in the media towards sensationalism and reporting about celebrities and trivia, which have served to downgrade the reputation of journalists in the mind of the general public.

  • Impartial and thorough reporting about alleged failings or abuses by those in authority depend on the media’s confidence in their own independence, on a legal framework for openness and on a broad level of support for the media as representatives of the public interest.




  • In Europe, popular concern for freedom of expression and media freedom is undeveloped compared with the support for other causes. National sections of the Association of European Journalists are actively involved in strengthening cross-border links between journalists in different regions of Europe. The Spanish Section organises a valuable annual forum for exchanges with journalists from Central and Eastern Europe. Representatives of the Turkish and Romanian Sections of the AEJ are actively working to raise journalistic standards and to represent journalists in their quest for independence and freedom.

* * * * *

I thank Peter Kramer, the AEJ General Secretary, warmly for his enthusiastic support for this AEJ Survey, which is the first of its kind. The AEJ’s International President, Diego Carcedo, has never wavered in his support for the project. Celia Hampton generously used her computer skills to help produce the printed and Internet versions of the Survey. The Survey is the work of all its authors and a testament to the reality that freedom of speech and of the media are necessary pre-conditions of other basic freedoms.


William Horsley

London, November 2007



ARMENIA

By Liana Sayadyan

Overview
Every year since 2002 the international human rights organization Freedom House has placed Armenia in the category of countries where the media is not free. In its report for 2006 Freedom House said: “Although there is a good amount of media diversity and pluralism, some major broadcast media maintain a pro-government bias, and there is no independent public broadcaster. Most newspapers are privately owned but are dependent on support from business conglomerates or political interests.”
Reporters Without Borders, in its global survey on the situation in 2006, put Armenia in 101st place out of 168 countries in all. That represents a backward move since 2003-04, when the country was ranked in 90th place.
The problems with freedom of the press in Armenia stem from three main factors:-

  1. Legal restrictions, violence and failures of the rule of law

  2. Economic dependency

  3. A low level of professionalism and professional ethics



Case Study 1) Legal restrictions, violence and failures of the rule of law

Armenia’s laws on libel and defamation (Articles 135 and 136 of the Criminal Code) create a difficult legal environment for journalists, and lead in practice to widespread self-censorship. During the past 16 years of national independence these laws have actually been applied only once, in 1999, when Nikol Pashinyan, the Editor-in-chief of Oragir newspaper was sentenced to one year’s imprisonment, and the sentence was not carried out thanks to international pressure. However the laws seriously inhibit the press from investigating government abuses, especially corruption. The current laws also plainly contradict the Declaration on Freedom of Political Debate in the Media, issued on 12 February 2004 by the Council of Europe, of which Armenia is a member.

The adoption of a new Law on TV and Radio Broadcasting in 2000 failed to provide a fair and transparent framework for regulating the activities of broadcasting companies. Instead it enabled the authorities to close down critical television stations by denying them licences to remain on air. The decision-making process was distorted by political interference.

The members of the National Committee for Television and Radio were appointed arbitrarily by the President of Armenia, Robert Kocharian, himself. And in 2002 the Committee refused to extend the licences of two independent TV stations, A1+ and Noyan Tapan. Those stations were denied the legal right to appeal; their subsequent applications for broadcasting licences have been turned down; and a complaint brought by A1+ has been upheld by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. But the Armenian government has refused to implement the ruling. Meanwhile the country’s president has gone ahead and signed an amendment to the Television and Radio Law which effectively allows him to keep his appointments to the National Committee in place. The amendment allows for eight Committee members, four appointed directly by the president and four more nominated by parliament. Since the governing party dominates parliament, the president is thus assured of keeping control in his own hands.

In 2006 the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Miklós Haraszti, during a visit to Armenia, criticized the way in which the licences have been allocated. Mr Haraszti noted that the composition of the Committee was unduly restricted, and full details about the ownership of companies bidding for licencss were not made public as the law requires. In effect, this means that the principle “one licence per company” is often ignored, since the same enterprise can set up several broadcasting subsidiaries and so acquire several licences at the same time. One family in Armenia, the Sargsyans family, now controls three TV channels: Armenia, ArmNews and TV5.

Although the Armenian Constitution establishes formal guarantees of freedom of the press and freedom of speech, the government consistently limits media freedom in several ways. Armenian Public Television, which has strong influence over public opinion, is operated as a state enterprise; its supervisors are appointed by the President, and its output consistently reflects the views of the government. In November 2005, during a referendum campaign on the constitution, the main mass media, including Public Television, actively supported the government’s campaign for a “Yes” vote, while the opposition was mostly deprived of opportunities to put its case in the media. The editorial policies of the nation’s private electronic media do not differ much in practice from those of Public Television. The President, Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and a number of leading business oligarchs allied with the government are shielded from criticism. And in 2004 a new TV channel, Erkir Media, was set up on behalf of the governing Armenian Revolutionary party (Dashnaktutyun) to broadcast its message directly to viewers. The Executive Director of Erkir Media, Gegham Manukyan, is a member of parliament for Dashnaktutyun and a former member of the party’s executive.
These tight restrictions on media freedom are accompanied by numerous cases of violence and threats of various kinds directed at journalists. Thirteen specific cases were recorded between 2006 and 2007, including the following:-

In September 2007 Hovhannes Galajyan, the Editor-in-chief of Iravunk newspaper, suffered significant injuries and was hospitalised after being attacked by unknown assailants who broke into the newspaper’s offices and beat him using metal bars. Mr Galajyan had already been violently assaulted one year earlier, in front of his own house. He stated after the first attack that he believed it was related to coverage in his newspaper which impugned the reputation of the then Defence Minister (and now Prime Minister), Serge Sarkissyan.

Threatening e-mails were sent to Edik Baghdasaryan, the Editor-in-chief of the online newspaper Hetq, demanding the suppression of articles containing allegations concerning the country’s leading oligarch, Gagik Tsarukyan, who is also a member of parliament.
The editorial offices of The Fourth Estate newspaper were set on fire by unknown arsonists.

The power supply to the printing presses of the regional Syuniats Yerkir newspaper was cut following publication of criticisms of a power supply company.



The car of Souren Baghdasaryan, Editor-in-chief of the newspaper Football+ was twice set on fire.
David Jalavyan, a sports writer on the Haykakan zhamanak newspaper, was injured in a knife attack.
None of these cases of violence towards reporters has been clarified or led to convictions in court. The judicial authorities have shown reluctance in many cases to conduct active investigations, and in the few cases in which individuals have been found guilty of obstructing the work of journalists, only fines or other mild punishments have been meted out.

Case Study 2) Economic dependency
Armenia’s TV channels, all of them in reality controlled from the office of the President, provide the society with systematically biased information, which exclude all expressions of dissent. The written press is also hampered in what it can write by its heavy dependence on major business or political sponsors who exercise tight control over many newspapers by controlling the flow of funds from advertising.

Armenia has about 70 newspapers in all, representing various different interests and strands of opinion, but none can truly be said to provide objective information independently to its readers. According to Freedom House, they all depend on “private sponsors, often representing political and economic interests, which affect their objectivity”. The circulation of the printed newspapers is too small to have any significant impact on public opinion or to develop an independent financial base. Newspaper distribution is another factor limiting diversity. More than half of all Armenian newspapers are distributed by a single state-owned enterprise, Haymamul. In 2001 the government declared its intention to privatise Haymamul, but in fact it has sold off only franchises for news stands, allowing Haymamul to keep its effective monopoly on newspaper distribution. This monopoly has allowed the authorities to censor newspapers on some occasions even after they were published, by ensuring that they never physically reached their readers.

Case Study 3) A low level of professional ethics and professionalism
The state of professional ethics in journalism is poor. In general, media workers in both the print and broadcasting media lack any ethical code which can serve as a proper guide to professional standards. Professional conscience is all too often sacrificed to the partisan interests of financial sponsors or media owners. This has fostered a spirit of mutual antagonism and open insults among those in the media who represent rival political or business interests. That in turn is reflected in a low level of probity and integrity in public debate. As a consequence there is little solidarity or sense of community among journalists, and efforts to establish common standards of ethics, or to form a voluntary professional ethics council have been unsuccessful.
Conclusion and Future Action: In order to establish genuine media freedom Armenia needs better professional standards among journalists, measures to prevent politicians from gaining direct control of the media, and international help to assist Armenian journalists develop the strong institutions and practices required to make media freedom a reality.
AUSTRIA

By Otmar Lahodynsky

Overview
The general climate in Austria for media freedom has slightly improved. In the World Press Freedom Index 2006, published by Reporters Sans Frontières, Austria lies in 16th place together with Canada and Bolivia, which is much better than in past years. In 2003 Austria was ranked only 26th, mainly because of intrusions into media freedom under the then ruling coalition of the conservative People’s Party ÖVP with the far right FPÖ, the Freedom Party.

Since January 11 2007 Austria has been governed by a grand coalition made up of the Social Democrats (SPÖ) and the People’s Party (ÖVP). Before the national election a new CEO and directors of the still dominant Public Radio and TV Station ORF were nominated by its Stiftungsrat (Foundation Council) consisting of 35 representatives of different political parties. The ORF’s system of governance is laid down in the Rundfunk Gesetz (broadcasting law) which came into effect on January 1 2002. Journalists have long complained of systematic political interference in editorial policy decisions under governments of all political colours. Under the most recent government (led by the ÖVP), those complaints grew in intensity. The concerns focused above all on the effect of politically-motivated guidelines that determined which items of news and which press conferences should feature in prime time news coverage and which should not.

Under the new government there has so far been a marked decrease in complaints of this kind. Some ORF journalists have declared openly that there is a less fearful environment now. Since the summer of 2006 an internal ORF commission has also monitored allegations of discrimination in personnel and career matters.
In the written press the domination of one magazine-group, News-Verlag, remains pronounced. The company is owned and controlled mainly by two German publishers, Gruner + Jahr and WAZ and by one Austrian bank. News-Verlag owns several important Austrian magazine titles, including the weeklies profil and NEWS. In 2006 the Fellner brothers, who were formerly among the important shareholders in News-Verlag, sold most of their shares and founded their own daily newspaper called Österreich.

The biggest Austrian tabloid Kronen-Zeitung (with about 2.8 million readers) has faced new competition from a new free-press daily called Heute. But Rubina Möhring, the head of the Austrian section of Reporters Sans Frontières, says that while the overall situation of media freedom in Austria has improved, the concentration of ownership in the print media is still a matter of significant concern.


Case Study: The media and Austria’s laws against Holocaust denial
Since September 2006 the issue of media freedom has been raised in several high-profile cases related to the reporting of commentaries about Nazi crimes by public figures:-

On August 23 2007 a convicted Austrian neo-Nazi writer and propagandist who had escaped from custody, Gerd Honsik, was arrested in Spain through the use of the European arrest warrant. Honsik was originally sentenced in Austria in 1992 to one and a half years in jail for denying Nazi crimes in his own publications, including the magazine Halt and his 1988 book “Freispruch für Hitler” (Acquittal for Hitler). He fled to Spain, where for some years he continued to publish right-wing material exculpating Hitler for distribution in many countries.

During that time the Spanish authorities declined to extradite him because Spain did not itself have any laws banning extremist right-wing writings, including denials of the Holocaust. Even when, in 1996, Spain introduced its own law making Holocaust denial a crime, Gerd Honsik could not be extradited because the new Spanish law was introduced after his conviction. However, Spain’s new legislation appears to have made Honsik more cautious in propagating his views. The Vienna public prosecutor’s office was able to make use of a European arrest warrant to effect his arrest in Spain, because offences related to racism and xenophobia are included among those for which the European warrant may be used. On October 4 2007 Mr Honsik was finally extradited to Austria. He is expected to have to serve his previous 18 month prison sentence, and Austrian prosecutors are also preparing a new case against him over many other alleged acts of Holocaust denial and spreading Nazi propaganda.
It should be noted that the British historian David Irving was released prematurely from an Austrian prison in December 2006. Irving was convicted by an Austrian judge to a sentence of three years imprisonment in February 2006 after he denied the existence of gas chambers in Nazi concentration camps in public lectures in Austria in 1989. It was profil which reported on the lectures and published comments from an interview with him. Mr Irving announced after his release that he would sue the Austrian government and continue to give lectures about Hitler’s regime in which he declared that he would reveal “the truth”.

In another landmark case the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights last year finally ruled on a case involving the author of this AEJ Report on Austria, who is a senior editor of the news magazine profil and also the president of the Austrian section of AEJ. The then FPÖ-leader Jörg Haider sued profil over an article in which the journalist criticised Haider for trivialising the reality of Nazi concentration camps by describing them as “punishment camps”. In the Austrian courts Haider won against the magazine in two instances, with the result that in 2000 the magazine had to pay a fine to Mr. Haider. Later, profil appealed the case to the European Court in Strasbourg, which in 2006 ruled in its favour. The judges said that it was fair for the journalist to criticise Haider as he had done, and the Republic of Austria was found to have been at fault because its courts had unlawfully imposed a fine on the magazine.


Conclusion and Future Action: The media must remain free to report and comment on the behaviour of those who espouse extremist ideas or who seek to distort the established record about the Holocaust in the Nazi era. These recent episodes and court cases demonstrate the vital importance for democratic societies of maintaining vigilance in defence of free speech and media freedom.

BELGIUM



By Michel Theys

Overview
Is freedom of the press compatible with the growing precariousness of working conditions for journalists? That troubling question now faces journalists and the media in Belgium, and is the focus of the Case Study below.
Belgian journalists are fortunate in being able to practise their profession without threats to their personal security. Journalists here are not dying for what they have written or for the TV programmes they have broadcast; no Belgian journalist is languishing in jail because he gave offence to those in power.
So is all well? Not at all. Constant vigilance is required. In July 2003 the European Court of Human Rights found the Belgian government guilty of conducting illegal searches to identify the informants of journalists. In 2005 Belgium passed a law on the protection of information sources which was upheld at the time as an example to the whole world. However that did not prevent the Belgian authorities from bringing criminal charges against a journalist on a Flemish-speaking magazine, Humo, for refusing to disclose the name of his informants.

There are other signs of encroachments on media freedom in Belgium. The General Association of Professional Journalists of Belgium has sent a Memorandum to the Belgian authorities complaining that some police investigation methods – for example, identifying mobile phone connections to establish if a journalist was called from a particular phone – contradict the spirit or letter of the law. Belgian law clearly states that no investigation or search of premises may be carried out in pursuit of data related to the information sources of journalists. It appears likely that in the coming months the journalists who now benefit from the law on the protection of sources will be obliged to mobilise themselves to prevent the national intelligence and security services from bypassing that law in the name of the struggle against terrorism.

Case Study: Poor pay and conditions destroy independence
Journalists in Belgium would still count as privileged if it were not for a more insidious threat. The issue is that of preserving the conditions needed to maintain the quality and professional standards of journalism, at a time when “packaged” messages and information of all kinds are increasingly pervasive and influential in shaping the climate of public opinion. Significant investment is needed on the part of media owners and managers to transform this raw flow of communications into reliable information and articles through the work of journalists.
The problem can be simply stated: journalists cost money. While creative advertising executives and marketing managers are naturally judged by their ability to generate profits, journalists unavoidably cost money. The essential work of the conscientious journalist involves digging deeper, scrutinising and checking bland statements and evasions, and cross-referencing the information gleaned from various sources. All these things take time, and time is money.
Jean-François Dumont, in his eye-opening “Black Book of the Freelance Journalists” published by the Association of Professional Journalists, delivered this grim analysis:-
Behind the prestigious façade of the big French-speaking Media of Belgium there is an intellectual proletariat developing, and the public at large is ignorant of the incredible working conditions they endure, and the effects they have on the quality of information. Earnings below the minimex [the minimum guaranteed income], non-existent pay scales or pay fixed ad hoc by editors, unbridled competition, delays or non-payment of fees, absolute submission to the employer’s requirements, texts ordered and never published…that is the fate shared by more and more freelance journalists, whether they be editors, radio and television freelancers, photographers or cameramen.

More by necessity than by choice, one quarter of Belgian professional journalists are now freelancers. They can be used and discarded at will. The journalists’ unions, the Belgian Association of Journalists (AGJPB) and the Association des Journalistes Professionnels (AJP), have published their own research, which found that a news report may sometimes be paid as little as 35€ gross, and a whole page as little as 70€. That pay scale spells misery. Such derisory pay rates mean that this large number of freelance journalists is obliged to grub for work wherever they can find it, usually in a rush, relying on a short article here and a news item there to get by. And below them exists yet another category, of young people doing internships or filling time after their studies, who compete for even less reward. Marc Chamut, President of the AJP, describes the situation like this:-

It is that army of unhappy freelancers, trainees and jobbing journalists, outside any pay structure or conventions, many of them make-believe “freelance journalists” who are usable and squeezable at will and without a safety net, which sets the tone for the profession. Not only to their work. To all the profession. Through the unforgiving law of demand and supply.

Conclusion and Future Action: In Belgium, the freedom of press thus lives under the very real threat of being reduced to an ever more precarious and uncertain condition. Such precarious conditions of work can hardly be called real freedom. Owners and publishers should be made to fulfil their responsibilities to provide decent working conditions. Trade unions, professional bodies and media watchdogs within Belgium and at European level should be aware of the danger that media freedom may fail as a result of economic pressures and social neglect.
CROATIA

By Zdenko Duka

Overview
The media in Croatia have developed greatly in terms of quality and diversity in recent years. Although the circulation of most individual newspapers has gone down, the number of newspapers is growing steadily, and with it the total number of readers. Croatian Radio and Television (HRT) have kept their dominant position. Two new commercial TV stations have not yet fulfilled their market potential.
Yet it is apparent that the Croatian media are going through a serious crisis regarding their professional and ethical standards. Sensationalist journalism has become commonplace, with reporters often abandoning any pretence of objectivity or truthfulness in their pursuit of headlines and big audiences.

Overt political influence still casts a shadow over the media scene, although it is much less pronounced than it was before the sweeping reforms of the year 2000, which took national TV and a handful of large newspapers out of the hands of a handful of powerful political figures. However, private media ownership is now highly concentrated instead in the hands of two very large companies which dominate the newspaper market: Europa Press Holding, which is 50% owned by the German WAZ (Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung) group and the Austrian publisher Styria.

Media independence is also under severe attack from a number of big commercial companies which emerged in the early 1990s as vehicles to advance the fortunes of certain influential figures from the political world. These figures now enjoy a dominant position within the economy, and have begun to use it to promote their own interests in the media. They exercise a significant degree of control over certain newspapers through their ability to grant or withdraw the advertising contracts which many publications rely on for their financial survival. For example, the large insurance company Osiguranje broke off its long-term advertising contract with Jutarnji list, a daily newspaper, following critical articles which appeared about the company’s activities.
In these circumstances it is extremely hard for journalists to seek to act as the “conscience” of the society, since they are often under pressure to set aside the public interest in favour of the narrow commercial interests of media owners. That leads naturally to job insecurity and the habit of self-censorship.

The situation in Croatia’s local media, especially local radio stations, is especially troubling, since many of them are effectively run by local political interests. As a consequence these stations have failed to develop any real editorial independence and the journalists who work there are often pressured to conform to blatant political bias. Partisan reporting was especially evident in the blanket coverage of the illness of Ivica Račan, a Croatian opposition leader and former prime minister, who died in May after three months of treatment. One radio station and one website even announced his death three weeks before he died.

The Croatian media have obtained a new degree of freedom from direct governmental and political party influence, thanks to the fact that most print media are now in private hands, as are two nation-wide TV channels: RTL Television and Nova TV. However, the state still owns Vjesnik, a low circulation daily; it is responsible for appointments to Croatian Public Television (HRT); and it exercises effective control over HINA, the Croatian News Agency.

The problem of excessive party political influence on the media is especially serious in the case of the national news agency, HINA, which is examined here in more detail.


Case Study: HINA, Croatia’s National News Agency
Last year the situation in HINA provoked expressions of concern from many quarters, including the Croatian Journalists’ Association, the OSCE and European Federation of Journalists. The European Commission also identified the management of HINA as a political problem in its Report on Croatia on November 8 2006. That Report concluded that “the procedure of appointing HINA Managing Council members had many deficiencies”. HINA is the sole national news agency and so exerts considerable influence on other Croatian media.
According to the law on HINA, the Government must propose to Parliament four members for the HINA Managing Council, and a fifth member should be chosen from among the journalist employees of HINA. All five nominees must then be confirmed by the Parliament. The Managing Council should in turn elect HINA’s director and Editor in chief.

In 2006 the Government took a series of steps which ignored both the spirit and the letter of these formal procedures. In July its four nominations to HINA’s Managing Council were accepted by parliament; but the figures nominated faced accusations of conflict of interest, and some were seen as unqualified for the job because they lacked relevant experience. Critics said they were chosen in preference to other candidates who were clearly more competent and respected. For example, instead of appointing the former president of the Constitutional Court, Jadranko Crnić, the Parliament decided on a man, Dražen Jović, who had completed Law School only two years earlier.

The government’s non-transparent behaviour brought a storm of protest from all the opposition parties as well as the Croatian Journalists’ Association, who alleged that little-known and incompetent persons had been appointed simply in order to allow the ruling party easily to control the actions of the HINA director and editor in chief. But the Government and ruling party politicians rejected all appeals against their decisions. The Government, citing what appeared to be flimsy technical arguments, refused to implement the rules laid down by law for the selection of a fifth Council member, and proceeded to let the four-member Managing Council act for several months as though it was properly constituted.

Of crucial importance was the decision of this four-member Council, despite all the questions about its legitimacy, to appoint a new HINA general manager, effective from January 1, 2007.
The newly-elected general manager was a woman, Smilja Škugor Hrnčević, who had been well known as a prominent editor in the Tuđman era, when the media was forced to work under strict government controls. It was public knowledge that the President of the Republic, Stjepan Mesić, opposed her appointment. And the very next day the Government announced it would dismiss the HINA Council, citing the very arguments of its critics – that the Council was incomplete without its fifth member, the employees’ representative.
The end result was exactly what the opposition and the CJA had warned against: the Government had achieved its goal of having its preferred candidate as HINA general manager appointed, and it took steps to dissolve the improperly-constituted HINA Council after the event.
A new HINA Managing Council was appointed in February 2007, one month after the new general manager took up active duty. This time the Council also included the representative of HINA employees. But the new Council did not question the appointment of the general manager by the previous Council. All the politicking and confusion led to a long delay in the process of selecting an Editor in chief for HINA. The US State Department’s 2006 report on Human Rights in Croatia recorded that government officials “attempted to influence national television”. It also quoted s statement of protest by the Croatian Journalists Association, that freedom of the media “was jeopardised by the vague wording of the law on public media”.

The CJA has since continued to call urgently for new and transparent procedures for electing all the members of the HINA Managing Council to make it more public, democratic and transparent.


Conclusion and Future Action: The only way to safeguard media freedom in Croatia in the face of the political interventions described here is to remove the Government’s power to control any of them, including the national news agency HINA. Responsibility for internal regulation and editorial matters should be left to the media’s Managing Councils, which should be completely independent. The law needs to be revised to ensure that democratic standards are applied in their selection. The Government must not be allowed to make use of ambiguities in the law and conventions in this field for its own purposes.
CYPRUS
Part One by Kyriakos Pierides

Part Two by Hasan Kahvecioglu
In view of the political division of the island of Cyprus, this Report consists of two parts, written by a Greek Cypriot and a Turkish Cypriot journalist who have set an example to others by collaborating across the divide.
PART ONE by Kyriakos Pierides
Overview
I and Hasan Kahvecioglu have collaborated professionally for almost ten years. For the last two years we have jointly produced and broadcast a bilingual radio programme transmitted to both the Greek Cypriot and the Turkish Cypriot communities.
Media freedom is formally guaranteed by law in the Republic of Cyprus (among Greek Cypriots) and some of their newspapers make vigorous use of their right to criticise the government. But pro-government political and commercial pressures are a constant factor inhibiting the work of the media there. In northern Cyprus (the self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus), too, there are formal assurances of press freedom, but the enduring influence of the Turkish army continues to inhibit media coverage of political and military issues.

In reality, media freedom on the island as a whole is severely constrained and weakened by its division. The Cyprus media have also in effect been divided since before the end of British colonial rule in the 1950s. They have been used relentlessly as a tool of political power. Indeed, both the Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot media can be said to have played a negative role in this troubled period of history. They have contributed to the raising of tensions and the climate of mutual antagonism.

Two special factors affect the media environment in Cyprus, making it a unique case within Europe. One is the presence of some 30,000 Turkish troops in the northern part. The other is the huge political change represented by the accession of the Republic of Cyprus to the European Union in May 2004, without an overall political settlement being found to end the island’s division. So EU laws remain suspended in the area inhabited by the Turkish Cypriots, which remains outside the administrative control of the Republic of Cyprus government. As long as there are no serious negotiations under UN auspices for a comprehensive settlement to reunify the island, the EU’s hopes of acting as a catalyst for a solution remain barren.
The accession of Cyprus into the EU and the subsequent relaxation of restrictions on the crossings between the two parts of the island have brought benefits in terms of economic opportunities and cross-border movements. Yet the lack of any significant development in the political field has blocked the potential for any easing of the underlying tensions, including in the media field. 
Many journalists on both sides have allowed themselves to become tools in a sterile and often heated propaganda war. Media workers generally belong to the elites on both sides, and identify themselves closely with their own side in the persistent confrontation between the two communities. In the absence of any structured political dialogue between the two communities, or any realistic prospect of an overall settlement, the media on the two sides have been unable to establish any institutional relationship between journalists’ unions or other professional media bodies across the communal divide.

Thus, in the Greek Cypriot media, there is a constant focus on concerns regarding the presence of the Turkish troops in the northern part of the island, and on the importance of denying any form of international political recognition to the Turkish Cypriot authorities. In the Turkish Cypriot media, reporting is strongly coloured by the population’s fear that the Greek Cypriot majority may succeed in incorporating them against their will into a Greek-Cypriot dominated state. Both these perspectives closely reflect the prevailing political stance of the political representatives of the rival communities.

 


The latest UN Security Council Resolution 1758, of June 15 2007, refers to the climate of mistrust and lack of constructive inter-communal dialogue. The Security Council expressed concern that “opportunities for constructive public debate about the future of the island, within and between the communities, are becoming fewer, and that this atmosphere is hampering, in particular, efforts to foster bi-communal activities intended to benefit all Cypriots, and to promote reconciliation and build trust in order to facilitate a comprehensive settlement.”


The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, in his own Report to the UN Security Council this year, deplored the continuing mistrust between the two sides on Cyprus since the 2004 referendum, in which the Greek Cypriots voted by a large majority against a UN plan for a political settlement while the Turkish Cypriots voted, as the international community had urged them to, in favour of the plan.
The Secretary-General also called on the political leaders on both sides to end their mutual recriminations. This should also be seen as a challenge to the media, which represent the mouthpiece through which those recriminations are delivered. Until now journalists on both sides, with certain notable exceptions, have often served to exacerbate tensions through partisan and sometimes intemperate reports and commentaries.

The media are caught up directly in this fevered political climate, as one can see from the way in which newspapers that criticize the policy of the President come under fire from his political supporters, who present them as “serving enemy interests.” One example is the recent attack by Archbishop Chrystostomos against the Politis newspaper, describing it as a “Greek-speaking Turkish newspaper”. Likewise, two years ago President Papadopoulos himself accused the main opposition party. The Democratic rally, of presenting the Turkish viewpoint on the Cyprus issue, because of its support for the UN’s “Annan plan” for a political settlement.

It should also be noted that during 2007 the President of Cyprus, Tassos Papadopoulos, personally intervened to force the dismissal of the press attaché at the Cyprus High Commission in London, Soteris Georgallis, over an issue related to free opinion and debate. Mr Papadopoulos made his displeasure known forcefully after the press attaché attended a book presentation at the London School of Economics which was addressed by a critic of the President, the writer Takis Hadjidemetriou. The Cyprus Mail commented that the episode had exposed the “autocratic style” of the President.
The media should play an important part in the détente which the UN is calling for. But the contents and tone of the media output on both sides shows that in reality the political deadlock is blocking any significant moves of that kind. Among the main obstacles are:-
Political pressures: journalists on both sides remain under strong pressure from their own employers to reflect the demands of the political leaders of their own community. The goal of the Greek Cypriot leaders is to pressure Turkey into unconditionally recognising the Republic of Cyprus as one of the 27 member states of the EU with which Turkey is negotiating her own future accession. For Turkish Cypriots the overriding goals are to end the international isolation of the northern part of the island and establish themselves as political equals of the Greek Cypriot authorities which are now the only internationally-recognised government on the island.

The language divide: Since the media of the two communities use different languages, Greek and Turkish, to do their work and transmit their articles or broadcasts, different versions of the same events can become established inside the two communities. Political pressures also mean that items of news about daily life in the two communities, or “human stories” that would naturally be of interest to people on both sides, rarely appear on TV, radio or in newspapers.

Despite all these difficulties many journalists from both communities have developed individual contacts and cooperation. Following a violent incident between youths from the two communities at the “English School” in Nicosia, where Greek and Turkish Cypriot pupils study together, the moderate press on both sides cooperated in a way which helped to defuse the tensions. Our bilingual radio programme, “Talk of the Island”, also worked towards this goal by talking on air with pupils from both side at the school. Many media outlets from both sides, especially the Greek Cypriot newspaper Politis, working with Turkish Cypriot journalists, have done much to inform people on both sides about missing persons from the bloody events of the past. But such episodes have generally been short-lived. Journalists have been unable to surmount the problems arising from the political deadlock.
Conclusion and Future Action: The European Union, in view of its pro-active role in encouraging Cyprus’ accession despite the political stalemate between the two communities, bears a special responsibility for improving the situation. That applies in particular to standards of media professionalism and other aspects of inter-communal understanding.

 

In parallel with the UN efforts, the European Union should be more active in seeking progress towards a long-term political settlement. EU norms and standards could provide common ground, and the media could act as an effective tool to break down barriers and build up inter-communal trust and institutions. Concrete examples could include:-




  1. With the imminent entry of the Republic of Cyprus into the EU’s Economic and Monetary Union on January 1 2008, Euro-zone economic policies could be explained and eventually shared with the Turkish Cypriots.
  2. Both communities could be asked to collaborate in favour of EU policies in areas such as Energy, Environment and the Lisbon Strategy for economic reform.


  3. Ways should be found to apply the lessons learned from the historical experiences of other EU member states, and copy successful examples of inter-communal reconciliation and tolerance. The examples of the Northern Ireland peace process in the UK as well as Franco-German post-war reconciliation may have valuable lessons for Cyprus.

CYPRUS

PART TWO by Hasan Kahvecioglu

Overview
The “Cyprus problem” – the de facto political division of the island – is the determining factor for the work of the media on both sides, as in every area of life. Both Turkish Cypriot and Greek Cypriot journalists have become conditioned in effect to represent the political stance of their own administrations, or face exclusion or rejection as “traitors”.
In northern Cyprus those who dare to express non-mainstream views in the media have in the past faced fierce verbal attacks by nationalist forces associated with the Turkish army and some parts of the administration such as the Civil Defence Organisation and the Civil Affairs Ministry. In such a climate objectivity and openness is very hard to achieve. However the climate has grown considerably better since 2003, when a new government was elected which has cooperated with the Turkish Cypriot journalists association to ease the previous restrictions on freedom of access, movement and coverage.
These are the main practical obstacles to media freedom and independence within the Turkish Cypriot community:-

Ownership and editorial control of the media: Owners of media companies feel a strong need to align themselves with the government because of its pervasive economic control. The state is the biggest customer for advertising in the media, and the main source of their revenue. The state-owned news agency TAK (Turk Ajansi Kibris), dominates the media in northern Cyprus. It accounts for as much as 85 percent of the articles that appear in the written media, leading to systematic distortions in news coverage which reaches the population.

Northern Cyprus, with a population of about 260,000, has twelve daily newspapers, apparently offering a wide choice to readers. But most are controlled by businesses with close ties to the government. Kibris, which has the biggest circulation (13,000), is known to have close financial links with the government. Such close relations between government and the press mean that many issues are effectively “off limits” for probing by the media. The influential private TV station Genc TV receives direct government funding. Recently the station stopped the broadcast of the “Time to Talk” programme presented by the journalist Dogan Harman.
Those who control the editorial policies of the leading media have recently demonstrated a rigidly nationalist stance on what may and may not be publicised and debated. After the state-owned TV station BRT showed the film “Our Wall”, a bi-communal documentary which made the case for a united Cyprus, the director of BRT was criticised by army officials and forced to resign.

Turkish troops: Turkish Cypriots have shared their territory with Turkish troops since 1974. Recently the Turkish army has openly criticised some newspapers and TV stations, including Genc TV, BRT and Kibris, and has barred their journalists from access to military exercises and other activities. The army operates an effective blacklist of journalists and news media of which it disapproves, including journalists on Afrika daily and Radio May. Turkey is commonly described in the media as in daily life as the “motherland”, and Turkish troops are called “peace forces”. It is effectively taboo to question the use of these officially-sanctioned terms.

The police in northern Cyprus are an integral part of the army and local authorities have no control over their behaviour. A recent TV discussion programme produced by Kartal Harman on the role of the police (“Say the Truth” on a private TV station, Canal T) was blocked from going to air only minutes before its scheduled transmission.


Legal protection: Since the TRNC or Northern Cyprus is not internationally recognised there is no effective outside monitoring or control on the administration of justice or police power. Safeguards for the physical safety and legal protection of journalists are weak or non-existent.
Professional and labour standards: Because of the relatively small size of the Turkish Cypriot community, media organisations suffer from persistent financial difficulties. There are few opportunities for training and inadequate funds to promote new projects and increase circulation. Journalists generally suffer from the lack of job security. No trade union for private sector journalists has been able to set itself up. And plans for a law protecting the labour rights of journalists, which was passed by parliament in May, had still not been implemented by early autumn 2007.


Conclusion and Future Action: International organisations and sister media bodies from other parts of Europe and beyond could help to relieve the acute and deep-seated problems which now constrain media freedom in Cyprus. Two of the most urgent tasks are to relieve inter-communal tensions, especially the social and economic disadvantages suffered by the Turkish Cypriot community, and to promote cross-border media contacts, as well as professional media training along with other aspects of civil society-building.
CZECH REPUBLIC

By Tomas Vrba



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