EFJ Director: Without media freedom and independent journalism there is no real democracy

On the eve of the annual meeting of the European Federation of Journalists, which will be held this Friday and Saturday at the Press House in Zagreb, we publish short interviews with the EFJ leadership about the current situation in journalism and everything that will be discussed in Zagreb for two days.

The second interview from the series that we are publishing is the one with the Director of the European Federation of Journalists Renate Schroeder.

On what areas of work is EFJ focused these days, what do you see as the biggest problems?

EFJ is focusing not only on the financial “survival” of journalism worth its name but on a number of issues which are attacking our fundamentals of independent journalism as a public good. Priorities of our work are the safety of journalists and meaningful implementation of the recent safety of journalists recommendation adopted and published by the European Commission.

We are also working on a solution on SLAPP suits, which are harming not only Croatian journalism, cause self-censorship and add to financial damages. Our focus are working conditions of all but in particular of freelance journalists. The EFJ is fighting for the right of unions to negotiate collective agreements also on behalf of self employed journalists and media workers.

We are trying to work around the Digital service Act and make efforts to keep editorial content in the control of media and journalists (self-regulation) and not in the control of big platforms.

We are also advocating for a European media Freedom Act which will allow the Commission to act as a legal enforcer of media freedom, independence of public service media and strengthening of independent regulators.

You are, among other, focused on safety of journalists and their working conditions. Do you see a true will inside EU member states and institutions to improve safety and working conditions of journalists? What more needs to be done?

While we start seeing a commitment on the side of the European Commision and the European Parliament to protect and promote journalists and journalism, we do not see that at member states level, especially regarding Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, and yes, Croatia. But there have also been big deterioration in France, Germany and more, and there have even been two murders this year, in the Netherlands and in Greece.

We need a clear commitment from member states to realise that without media freedom and independent journalism there is no real democracy. And media freedom is a fundamental right which is closely linked to the rule of law.

What are your expectations from European Federation of Journalists Annual Meeting 2021. that is going to be held in Zagreb in a few days?

I expect gathering for networking, exchange and solidarity in a difficult (post) pandemic situation after two years of no International meetings; strong mobilisation against SLAPP and solidarity for Croatian journalists under great attack, continued strong solidarity and support for journalistsin Belarus and starting advocacy for a strong EU media Freedom Act.

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