Governments urged to protect press freedom

Governments urged to protect press freedom

ISTANBUL - Forty-eight journalists from 19 countries, including Turkey, sign a charter on the role of governments in ensuring and protecting freedom of the press and the ability of journalists to perform their jobs without obstruction. The charter on press freedoms has been created over a period of two years and has been applauded by EU officials.

A charter has been created by some Europe-based journalists on the role of governments in ensuring and protecting freedom of the press and has received the backing of European Union officials.

The charter, the idea of which emerged in 2007, was signed on May 25 by 48 journalists from 19 countries, including some from Turkey. The charter formulates the main values that authorities should respect when dealing with journalists and is said to be the first European charter of its kind.

"We are very grateful to Viviane Reding [EU commissioner for Information Society and Media] for supporting unreservedly from the outset the idea of a European charter on freedom of the press. We therefore assume that the commission will itself comply with this charter and will contribute actively to ensuring its recognition throughout Europe. At the same time, we expect recognition of the charter to be made a condition for candidate countries in future accession negotiations. The charter's main concern is at last to unify Europe journalistically and to enable all our colleagues to invoke its principles if press freedom is violated," said Hans-Ulrich Jörges, editor-in-chief of the German magazine Stern and initiator of the charter.

10 articles

The charter's 10 articles outline basic principles that governments must respect when dealing with journalists.

The articles are as follows:

1. Freedom of the press is essential to a democratic society. All governments should uphold, protect and respect the diversity of journalistic media in all its forms and its political, social and cultural missions.

2. Censorship must be absolutely prohibited. There must be a guarantee that independent journalism in all media is free of persecution, repression and of political or regulatory interference by government. Press and online media should not be subject to state licensing.

3. The right of journalists and media to gather and disseminate information and opinions must not be threatened, restricted or be made subject to punishment.

4. The protection of journalistic sources shall be strictly upheld. Searches of newsrooms and other premises of journalists and the surveillance or interception of journalists' communications with the aim of identifying sources of information or infringing on editorial confidentiality are unacceptable.

5. All states must ensure that the media enjoys the full protection of an independent judiciary system and the authorities while carrying out their role. This applies in particular to defending journalists and their staff from physical attack and harassment. Violations of these rights and any threats to violate these rights must be carefully investigated and punished by the judiciary.

6. The economic livelihood and independence of the media must not be endangered by the state, by state-controlled institutions or other organizations. The threat of economic sanctions is unacceptable. Private enterprise has to respect the independence of the media and refrain from exercising pressure and from trying to blur the lines between advertising and editorial content.

7. The state and state-controlled institutions shall not hinder the freedom of access of journalists and the media to information. They are obliged to support them in their mandate to provide information.

8. Media and journalists have a right to unimpeded access to all news and information sources, including those from abroad. For their reporting, foreign journalists must be provided with visas, accreditation and other required documents without delay.

9. The public of any state shall be granted free access to all national and foreign media and sources of information.

10. The state shall not restrict entry into the profession of journalism.

The European Charter on Freedom of the Press and the list of its signatories can be accessed at www.pressfreedom.eu
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