Sunday

8th Dec 2019

Emergency call on EU to save journalism

Day after day, cascading reports of some of the biggest names in journalism succumbing to the crisis strike fear in newsrooms around the globe.

In response, the European Federation of Journalists, (EFJ) has made an emergency call to the heads of all the political groupings in the European Parliament, warning that if the EU does nothing to save journalism, the sector is doomed.

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  • The crash has hit journalism, a sector already in crisis. (Photo: EUobserver)

Arne Koenig, the president of the EFJ and Aidan White, the federation's general secretary, wrote to the parties on Friday (20 March), requesting they put the survival of journalism at the heart of their electoral campaigns and, after the June elections, ensure that whoever is nominated for the next European Commission be grilled to exact commitments from the EU executive body to protect journalism.

In the letter, seen by EUobserver, the journalist chiefs argue that the sector is "a cornerstone of European democracy," and as such has as much, if not more of a need to be protected as the banks and car companies that have received billions.

"Democracy requires the provision of reliable, accurate and useful information as a public good. This implies that we need people and resources to produce and circulate it. We believe that journalism and media professionalism, which is the creative heart of European media, must be protected, nourished and encouraged to develop."

They argue that the EU has been asleep at the wheel as economic disaster has engulfed the sector.

"When is the European Union going to wake up to the crisis facing media in Europe?" reads the letter.

"Over the past few months, the decline of journalism and media has been dramatically accelerating as a result of the recent economic downturn," the two journalists' leaders continue.

They note that the US sector has been hit particularly hard. Recently, giants from the Los Angeles Times to the Chicago Tribune, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and the Christian Science Monitor have announced they are either bankrupt, merged with distant sister papers or ended their print editions entirely.

Europe has yet to be hit with the staggering losses that have hit the US newspaper industry, which is why the EU needs to act now, Messrs Koenig and White demand.

They want the new commission and the newly-elected parliament to launch a public debate at national and European level, about the future of media in Europe, focussing not only on communications policy or media convergence.

The journalism chiefs said that instead the inquiry must delve into how the commission itself can act and how it is to guide member states in defence of the sector.

"We must examine how the architecture of European politics and the structure of the European Commission do not permit a proper and integrated examination of media policy and a mechanism for developing new initiatives that will guide member states in their navigation of the uncertainties created by the media crisis."

The EFJ has yet to receive a response from the leaders.

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