EFJ President: Journalists must organize and meet the challenges collectively!

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 first interview from the series that we are publishing is the one with the President of the European Federation of Journalists Mogens Blicher Bjerregård.

What do you see as the biggest threat to journalism today?

This is a very difficult question as it depends on where you are coming from. In dictatorships such as Belarus, violation, harassment, and attacks conducted by the authorities is the biggest threat. Looking at semi-authoritarian regimes of which we unfortunately have some inside the EU, the political leaders are threatening journalism by demonising them and their work can bring the citizens’ trust in journalism in decline, and without trust journalism cannot thrive. Finally and in general the bad working conditions makes it very difficult for journalists to do their job.

What would be your advice to journalists when they face any kind of trouble, from safety, to working conditions, respect of their authors rights…?

First of all journalists must organize and cooperate and meet the challenges collectively. Furthermore, journalists regardless how you cooperate also have to reach out to other colleagues in the creative sector. Just to give a few examples: Regarding safety: Use the UN plan of action to make national action plans and force authorities to commit themselves to safeguard journalists and media and to understand that they also have a responsibility. It is also important to have an improved relationship with employers on this topic which in fact could lead to better relationships on other issues.

In November at the UNESCO general conference, Denmark, Netherlands and Austria will present a new report on how journalists, artists and scientists together can work for our freedom rights- This is a new but very interesting approach as we can strengthen each other. I am convinced that we need broader cooperation to create win-win situations. Finally on athors’ rights, where Croatian journalists have been very active, we also need more cooperation among the authors’ organisations. This will also strengthen the impact for journalists.

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

I expect that we can show European unity for journalists to be prepared for new European initiatives such as an anti-SLAPP directive; a new firm approach to the safety of journalists, and the idea of a European Freedom Act. Also, it is important to meet our colleague, the chair of the Belarusian Association of Journalists, to learn more about their situation and how we can be supportive in the best possible way. In many countries in Europe journalists are struggling facing big challenges. And to meet them we need to discuss, network and be innovative in our way to counter it. I believe it will be great to meet again in person which innovatively will have an impact. I am looking forward to that.

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