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Coronavirus

Misuse of emergency measures
As many governments have introduced sweeping laws to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, the AEJ has joined other media freedom groups in two urgent calls to European leaders to protect media freedom. They have called for “determined actions” from the Council of Europe, the 47-nation treaty-based human rights organisation, to protect the free flow of information and journalists’ right to report amid fears of a potentially dangerous slide towards authoritarianism and police-state societies. In particular the open letter cites Hungary - where the prime minister has open-ended powers to rule by decree and journalists and others are subject to prison sentences for promoting alleged “false information” or impeding government orders – as well as Slovenia and the Czech Republic which have suspended usual press conferences open to questions from journalists.

“The present emergency situation represents a critical threat both to public health and to the civil and political rights of people across Europe,” said William Horsley, AEJ media freedom representative and AEJ UK chairman. “Now is the time for free and independent media and for all those who believe in basic democratic standards and open government, to combine forces and to uphold the free flow of information and the inalienable rights of everyone as guaranteed under the European Convention on Human Rights.” 
Please see the open letter here to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, and the current and next presidents of the Committee of Ministers, the organisation’s executive decision-making body.

It follows an urgent warning against misuse of emergency laws from the AEJ and partner organisations to the presidents of the European Commission, the European Council, and European Parliament. It emphasizes that the free flow of independent news is essential both to maintain accurate information to the public and to ensure public scrutiny and debate on emergency measures, and notes all such measures must be necessary, proportionate, temporary and strictly time-limited, and subject to regular scrutiny to ensure excessive powers do not undermine democratic balances, including the free press.

The urgent letter supports a joint statement from three global special rapporteurs on freedom of expression with the UN, OSCE and the OAS and is signed by:

AEJ
ARTICLE 19

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

Index on Censorship

International Federation of Journalists

International Press Institute (IPI)

Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

 

The open letter is also available here on the International Press Institute website.

 

Coronavirus coverage

There is a global study showing a majority of the public around the world get their information about coronavirus from mainstream media – yet journalists are their least trusted source. Please see this report in the UK Press Gazette and here for more on coronavirus coverage in the UK.
The AEJ International site has interesting links to EU coverage of the coronavirus story on its home page.

 

How personal data could contribute to a cure

 

EU response to Covid 19 – every government for itself

 

Virus cartoons

 

Five decisions the EU should make

 

Brexit

Musings on “mad Brexit disease”
It’s a sad day for Europe but a chance to reform the EU writes AEJ President and Austrian journalist Otmar Lahodynsky. He describes the UK’s exit from the EU as “slamming shut a door which is unlikely to re-open for at least a decade” - but it does allow the EU to shape its future without constant opposition from London.
And David Haworth, long-time correspondent in Brussels and a founding member and former president of the British section of AEJ, has these reflections on “mad Brexit disease” and the long and winding road of the UK to Europe and back.

 

Done?

The United Kingdom has officially left the European Union - at midnight Central European Time on January 31. For a range of news coverage and what it means please see these links:

https://apnews.com/e48bf51838ced94e2d92adba189b4944

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-51333314

https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/10858199/brexit-news-uk-live-eu-latest/

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/live/2020/feb/01/brexit-britain-wakes-up-to-uncertain-future-after-uk-leaves-eu-live-news-and-updates

https://inews.co.uk/news/politics/brexit/what-happens-after-brexit-day-uk-transition-period-when-leaving-eu-date-explained-1373410

https://edition.cnn.com/europe/live-news/brexit-day-uk-leaves-eu-gbr-intl/index.html

https://www.foxnews.com/category/world/world-regions/europe/brexit

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/01/brexit-uk-officially-leaves-european-union-200131211418625.html

https://www.gov.uk/transition

https://www.gov.uk/staying-uk-eu-citizen

 

Brexit and Quebec separatism
Nick Hopkinson, AEJ member and a former director of Wilton Park, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office policy forum, finds some striking parallels between the long campaign for independence in his native Quebec and Brexit in the UK. And in this article – first published in February 2020 in The New European - he argues the Quebec experience can provide some insights into how the Brexit process may unfold in the United Kingdom.

 

London central to UK future relations with EU?

Rory Stewart, former Conservative MP, cabinet minister, and contender for Conservative party leader, says London could have a "very, very central" part to play in Britain's future relations with the European Union. Now an independent candidate for London mayor in elections on May 7, he told an AEJ UK meeting on January 29 that London’s connections and contributions are crucial to the success of the rest of the UK and it could act as a bridge between Britain and the EU over the next 10 to 15 years in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology while still learning from policies in other European cities. For more on his argument and following discussion please see this report from former FT correspondent Peter Norman and this audio recording of the meeting.

 

Gambling on the future -2

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson won his bet on the future of Britain in a snap election on December 12. Voters woke up on Friday the 13th to a thumping Conservative majority, the resignations of both main opposition party leaders – Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn and the Liberal Democrats’ Jo Swinson, and a resurgent Scottish National Party seeking the independence of Scotland. Johnson’s Conservatives won the biggest Conservative majority – 80 seats - since Margaret Thatcher in 1987 despite taking less than 44% of the national vote and a mandate to deliver its simple election message of “Get Brexit Done”. But their promise to leave the EU on January 31 followed by EU trade negotiations with a deadline in December is only one of a raft of questions facing the government – some fairly obvious from the election campaign but others with deeper and longer-term significance as outlined here by Trisha de Borchgrave, artist and daughter of prominent long-time U.S. journalist Arnaud de Borchgrave. This includes the possible fragmentation of the United Kingdom as Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon seeks a new referendum on independence and leads the SNP as the third largest party in the UK Parliament with 48 seats - all but eight of Scotland’s 56 seats. On the other hand, rumblings about increasing support for a united Ireland leaving the UK may be on hold as Northern Ireland’s voters seem to be supporting middle-ground politicians. Meanwhile the Labour party faces a wrenching period of soul searching and infighting over both their leadership and political direction and the Liberal Democrats look for their fifth leader in less than 10 years.
Please also see here for:
Election result numbers

How Johnson’s Conservatives won:
https://www.ft.com/content/ab3692b0-2317-11ea-92da-f0c92e957a96

https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/uk/how-boris-johnson-became-britain-s-most-powerful-prime-minister-since-tony-blair-1.4120281

European Parliament lookahead
Just days before British voters gave Boris Johnson's Conservatives a green light to exit the European Union, delegates to the AEJ’s 2019 Congress in Paris were treated to an assessment of the impact of the new European Parliament from its Secretary-General, Klaus Welle. At Jean Monnet House outside Paris – a complex devoted to the life and work of one of the fathers of the EU – Mr. Welle analysed the May 2019 European Parliament elections held at the height of talks with the UK about Brexit and after open resistance to EU policies on migration and the rule of law in the four Visegrad states of central Europe. He said the election results were mixed: fragmentation of the vote into more separate party groupings meant that at least three party groupings will be required to pass legislation. But he also claimed the new parliament has increased democratic legitimacy because the elections reversed a long-term downward trend in voter turnout. For more on this presentation please see this report from Charles Jenkins, AEJ UK member and former Western Europe editor of the Economist Intelligence Unit.
And AEJ UK member and former RTE journalist Brian O’Connell has this report on the prospective agendas of the newly-elected political groupings, with Brexit colouring debate but by no means dominating it.

 

The future after Brexit

Britain’s role in the world will require a new national strategy if Brexit happens - and that needs a lot more attention says one of Britain’s top diplomats. Lord Peter Ricketts, former UK National Security Adviser and head of the diplomatic service, told an AEJ lunch on November 20th 2019 that’s just one of the multiple challenges facing the UK in a post Brexit world. For more on his presentation please see this report from former FT correspondent Peter Norman and this audio transcript.

 

See here for more Brexit news

 


 

 

Lunchtime meetings

Coronavirus stops AEJ UK meetings
Regent’s University has provisionally suspended all events and gatherings at their campus including those with the AEJ until the end of April - pending further advice from the university and the UK government about public health risks. Updates will be available by email and on this site.

AEJ UK meetings usually start at 12:30 and are open to journalists, academics and Europe specialists and guests. Pre-registration is necessary by email to cas.jenkins@gmail.com. A fee of £25 is charged to cover the cost of refreshments - £10 for under-25s and free admission may be extended to students on a discretionary basis.

11 May – pending further advice on coronavirus

Venue: Herringham Hall, Regent’s University, Inner Circle Regent’s Park 1230-1430

Lord Patten of Barnes, Chancellor of Oxford University, former Conservative cabinet minister, governor of Hong Kong, and European Commissioner for External Affairs. He will examine Europe in a turbulent world.

 

For a list of our recent lunchtime guests see Events.

 
AEJ UK meetings were kindly hosted at Europe House, the London home of the EU Commission and European Parliament, for many years. Please see their UK website for EU events and information.


Recent AEJ UK guests

China and Asia
China will bounce back from the coronavirus disruption, probably without any major long-term geopolitical impact. But, says Asia and China scholar Jeff Kingston, the consequences for President Xi Jinping might be less clear. Kingston - writer, columnist and Director of Asian Studies at Temple University Tokyo – briefed an AEJ UK meeting on March 9 2020 on China’s relationships in Asia. Please see this report on the meeting from former FT correspondent Peter Norman and this audio recording.

 

UK cyber security

How is the UK dealing with threats to cyber security and defending against them? As Brexit looms and debate continues about potential cyber threats such as the involvement of China’s Huawei in 5G telecommunications and Russian or other state interference in democratic processes in the UK and elsewhere, Nicola Hudson, Director of Policy and Communications at the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), explained the role of her young agency. She told the AEJ on February 20 2020 the NCSC, formed only 3 years ago, functions in two very different worlds:
– as an operational division of GCHQ, the UK's signals intelligence agency
- and at a public level seeking ways of raising awareness of fast growing cyber threats and devising innovative ways of developing the population's cyber security skills for the future.
For more on her presentation please see this report from former FT correspondent Peter Norman and this audio recording.

 

London central to UK future relations with EU?
Rory Stewart, former Conservative MP, cabinet minister, and contender for Conservative party leader, says London could have a "very, very central" part to play in Britain's future relations with the European Union. Now an independent candidate for London mayor in elections scheduled for May 7 2020 but postponed for a year, he told an AEJ UK meeting on January 29 that London’s connections and contributions are crucial to the success of the rest of the UK and it could act as a bridge between Britain and the EU over the next 10 to 15 years in areas such as artificial intelligence, robotics and nanotechnology while still learning from policies in other European cities. For more on his argument and following discussion please see this report from former FT correspondent Peter Norman and this audio recording of the meeting.

See here for more AEJ UK guest speakers


AEJ Media Freedom Project

The AEJ works to protect freedom of expression and independent journalism by bringing issues to the attention of governments and advising inter-governmental organisations on behalf of our members. The AEJ's Media Freedom Representative and Vice President is William Horsley, a former BBC foreign correspondent and the current chairman of the UK section.
Since the 
AEJ Media Freedom Survey in 2007 (Goodbye to Freedom?), the AEJ has published Europe-wide surveys and reports that reveal the erosion of press freedom through physical assaults, wrongful imprisonment, oppressive laws, and unacceptable political and commercial pressures.
The AEJ is an observer at the 
Council of Europe. Since 2 April 2015, it has been one of the eight partners in the Council's online platform for early warning of and rapid response to attacks on the media. For more information, see Media Freedom.
The AEJ actively supports the ongoing efforts of UNESCO, the UN Agency with a mandate to safeguard media freedom, to implement the UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity. The AEJ Media Freedom Representative authored the OSCE's Safety of Journalists Guidebook setting out the obligations of participating states to protect the security of journalists, including those using the Internet.
Our campaigns and activities can also be tracked on the
Media Freedom and News pages of the international AEJ website, www.aej.org


AEJ and the Council of Europe

The AEJ takes part in the policy work of the Council of Europe (CoE) on key issues of media freedom as a participant in the steering committee on Media and Information Society and the Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and the Safety of Journalists. It works on behalf of its members across Europe to hold the CoE and its 47 member states to their commitments on media freedom and freedom of expression.

To read further, please go to Media Freedom.


Media visits to the European Parliament

The EP's London Office has a small budget to offset some of the travel and hotel costs incurred by journalists when visiting the European Parliament. Only a limited number can be helped in this way, so you must first be invited by the UK Office before seeking reimbursement (see EP website).

 


Briefings

A selection of AEJ-related writings and activities

AEJ member Charles Jenkins, former Western Europe editor of the Economist Intelligence Unit, blogs on Europe at https://eupriorities.ideasoneurope.eu/

Firdevs Robinson’s writing is now accessible on FirdevsTalkTurkey.com

William Horsley blogs on BBC Academy

Long-time AEJ member – and journalist, author and politician – Jonathan Fryer is the Liberal Democrat Brexit spokesman for London. Please see his blog here.
 

 

News

Urgent call to stop violent attacks against journalists covering migrants’ arrival in Greece
The AEJ has joined an appeal to safeguard journalists reporting on migrants trying to seek safety in Greece.

 

European Parliament struggles to reach budget agreement
Is the ghost of Margaret Thatcher’s “We want our money back!” holding back agreement on the EU’s financial future? Members of the European Parliament are struggling over the EU’s budget for 2021 to 2027. And in a faint echo of the UK’s long-running debate over Europe, some are focussed on how to weigh each member state’s net contributions against their benefits while others want to concentrate on furthering the all-important priorities of the EU in its domestic and external strategy for the next seven years. These issues were highlighted in an AEJ seminar in Brussels on February 18 and 19 as this report by AEJ UK’s Secretary Charles Jenkins explains.

 

Concerns about UK government media management
The AEJ has joined widespread criticism of the new UK government’s attempts to control and manage media access, tactics that echo Donald Trump. And it’s called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government to end at once its restrictive and partisan media policies.
“The UK government has laid itself open to the charge of hypocrisy,” said William Horsley, the AEJ’s Media Freedom Representative and AEJ UK chair, “by seeking to evade the robust media scrutiny of its actions by independent media that is essential in an open society, while it also claims to be acting as a champion of media freedom to the rest of the world.”
More than 60,000 people have signed an online petition urging the government to stop blocking media scrutiny.

On Feb. 3 - the first working day after the UK officially left the EU – all British political journalists at an official briefing arranged at the Downing Street residence of the prime minister walked out to protest the government’s decision to separate and exclude critical media on an arbitrary basis. The prime minister’s staff had invited selected political journalists to a “technical briefing” on Boris Johnson’s plans for a trade deal with the EU. When other members of the Westminster “lobby” – full-time political journalists based in the Houses of Parliament – showed up as well, the group was told only those invited could go in and the rest should leave. All the journalists present including those specifically invited then walked out. The prime minister’s aides claimed favoured journalists are routinely being granted special access to some press briefings a part of an “inner lobby” while others, essentially those considered opponents of the government, are excluded. That even included Press Association, the UK’s national news agency.
“We reserve the right to brief whoever we like, whenever we like”, said Lee Cain, the prime minister’s communications director.

The political editor of Fleet Street tabloid Daily Mirror,  Pippa Crerar, called the exclusion “sinister and sad”.

Answering questions in the House of Commons the prime minister claimed he loved journalism – he was once sacked from a reporting job at The Times for making up a quote.
Please see here for more on this.

 

Justice for Daphne?

Malta has a new prime minister and the country’s police chief has resigned in the ongoing scandal over the killing of investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. But there are still many questions for the long-running and repeated calls for justice in the killing. Aljazeera has this report and AEJ UK member and former BBC journalist Firdevs Robinson has this look at breaks in the story. On Nov. 20 2019 one of the country’s richest men, gambling and property entrepreneur Yorgen Fenech, was arrested and in court two weeks later accused of being the brains behind the killing. He’s denied the charges and blamed allies of the prime minister. Two of them resigned and in the face of major street protests Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said he would resign. His government spent two years stonewalling any genuine investigation and far longer rejecting accusations of widespread money laundering, political corruption and cronyism. The AEJ has joined a call to closely monitor a public inquiry into her assassination which opened on Dec. 6 2019.

 

AEJ conference and call for media freedom
The international Association of European Journalists opened its annual conference on Friday Dec. 6 in Paris. Europe is no longer a completely safe place for journalists or media freedom and panel discussions highlighted the acute threats and the vital role of the media in the democratic process with conclusions and recommendations from the meeting to be communicated to the relevant authorities in UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the European Union. For one example of the issues being faced please see this presentation on failing media freedoms in Poland from Krzysztof Bobinski of the AEJ Poland. The conference also led a call to respect press freedom and journalistic independence from all the national sections of the AEJ, Reporters Without Borders, the European Federation of Journalists, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, and the South East Europe Media Organisation.
Please see this AEJ  newsletter for more on the conference.

 

AEJ co-signs Open Letter for upgraded efforts to protect media freedom
The AEJ has co-signed a letter to the new Council of Europe Secretary-General for upgraded measures to stop criminalizing and demonising journalists, counter the toxic atmosphere of hostility to the media, and stamp out impunity. For more please see here 


AEJ joins call for new European Commission President to prioritize press freedom
The AEJ joined the Committee to Protect Journalists and others to ask the new President of the European Commission to make key media issues a policy priority for the EU. The AEJ is among 20 media and press freedom organisations urging Ursula von der Leyen to take action on media freedom, journalists’ safety and access to public information. For more please see this on the AEJ International website.

See here for more news

 

 

About the AEJ
The AEJ is an independent network of journalists, writers and specialists active across Europe, a 
Europe-wide network of national sections with the goal of advancing knowledge and debate on European affairs and upholding media freedom. In the UK we host regular meetings for journalists providing a forum for open-minded exchanges with public figures of all backgrounds to promote informed debate on European and international affairs. Our lunchtime meetings are open to bona fide journalists and visiting members of other AEJ sections; an entry fee must be paid to cover the costs of food and drink and pre-registration is essential. Journalists, writers and specialists in European affairs may also apply to join the Association of European Journalists – please see here for more about the benefits of membership or contact the AEJ UK Secretary.
You can also follow us on our
Facebook page.
We are independent of any institutional or political group and are recognised by the Council of Europe, the OSCE and UNESCO.

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