Brussels, 9 June 2009
Commissioner Reding welcomes New European Charter on Freedom of the Press
Commissioner Viviane Reding met today Mr Hans-Ulrich J örges, editor-in-chief of the German magazine Stern and initiator of the European Charter on Freedom of the Press. The Charter was signed on 25 May by 48 European journalists from 19 countries to protect the press from government interference and ensure journalists' access to sources of information. The Charter, which formulates the main values that public authorities should respect when dealing with journalists, was presented and handed over by Mr J örges today to Commissioner Viviane Reding who welcomed journalists' adoption of this first European Charter of Freedom of the Press.
"The Charter on Freedom of the Press initiated by the European journalist community is an important reaffirmation of the basic values, including media pluralism, freedom of expression and information that underpin Europe's democratic traditions and are enshrined in fundamental legal texts. It is also a reminder that in order to have effective freedom of the press, public authorities have a role to play: they must be ready to protect freedom of expression and foster its development," said Viviane Reding, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media. "The Charter is therefore an important step towards reinforcing these basic values and rights allowing journalists to invoke them against governments or public authorities whenever they feel the freedom of their work is unjustifiably threatened."
Mr Hans-Ulrich J örges, editor-in-chief of the German magazine Stern and initiator of the Charter added: “We are very grateful to Viviane Reding 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”.
T he Charter's ten articles outline basic principles that governments must respect when dealing with journalists, such as prohibition of censorship, free access to national and foreign media sources and freedom to gather and disseminate information. The Charter also emphasises the protection of journalists from being spied on and calls for an effective judiciary system safeguarding the rights of journalists (full text of the Charter in the Annex). So far, the Charter exists in eight languages (English, French, German, Danish, Croatian, Russian, Polish and Romanian) and is available online where interested journalists can sign it.
The idea of the Charter on Freedom of the Press was born in 2007, during a meeting between Commissioner Reding, Mr J örges and other editors-in-chief of European newspapers ( ). Such high-level dialogues between the written press and the Commission have been organised since 2005 on a yearly basis on a range of different topics (see also , and ) by the , responsible for screening all Commission output so as to make sure that Commission initiatives do not unintentionally damage the editorial or commercial freedom of the printed press. The Charter on the Freedom of the press is a concrete outcome of these fruitful discussions between various media and the European Commission.
European Charter on Freedom of the Press
Freedom of the press is essential to a democratic society. To uphold and protect it, and to respect its diversity and its political, social and cultural missions, is the mandate of all governments.
Censorship is impermissible. Independent journalism in all media is free of persecution and repression, without a guarantee of political or regulatory interference by government. Press and online media shall not be subject to state licensing.
The right of journalists and media to gather and disseminate information and opinions must not be threatened, restricted or made subject to punishment.
The protection of journalistic sources shall be strictly upheld. Surveillance of, electronic eavesdropping on or searches of newsrooms, private rooms or journalists’ computers with the aim of identifying sources of information or infringing on editorial confidentiality are unacceptable.
All states must ensure that the media have the full protection of the law and the authorities while carrying out their role. This applies in particular to defending journalists and their employees from harassment and/or physical attack. Threats to or violations of these rights must be carefully investigated and punished by the judiciary.
The economic livelihood of the media must not be endangered by the state or by state-controlled institutions. The threat of economic sanctions is also unacceptable. Private-sector companies must respect the journalistic freedom of the media. They shall neither exert pressure on journalistic content nor attempt to mix commercial content with journalistic content.
State or state-controlled institutions shall not hinder the freedom of access of the media and journalists to information. They have a duty to support them in their mandate to provide information.
Media and journalists have a right to unimpeded access to all news and information sources, including those from abroad. For their reporting, foreign journalists should be provided with visas, accreditation and other required documents without delay.
The public of any state shall be granted free access to all national and foreign media and sources of information.
The government shall not restrict entry into the profession of journalism.