Strengthening Trade Unions and organizing workers – the path to free journalism

On Monday, September 30th, the Grand Hall of the Press Room hosted a panel discussion “We don’t give up on journalism – how much and for how much do we work?”.

The panel was organized by the Croatian Journalists ‘Association, the 1Croatian Journalists’ Union and the Society for the Protection of Journalistic Copyright, and the guest of the panel was President of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, who arrived in Zagreb as part of the project “Managing Changes in the Media”. He is a long-standing Danish trade unionist, among other experts in collective bargaining.

In an introduction, the president of the Croatian Journalists Union Maja Sever recalled that the situation with the protection of workers’ rights is very bad. A few years ago, there were 11 collective agreements in force, and today only two are fair, with one being in court and one being extended over a number of annexes. It is worrying, however, how well journalists are unaware of all the legitimate rights available to them.

The Labor Law provides for the possibility of collective bargaining and the adoption of a collective agreement. A prerequisite for participating in this process is unionization, after workers who strengthen the union have to ask the Ministry of Labor for a representativeness assessment and with confirmation of representativeness they become an important factor in company decision-making, ie a collective bargaining partner, so management cannot make important decisions without union opinion.

Sever reminded colleagues that they frequently report about violations of the Labor Code, workers’ problems in the fight for a collective bargaining, strikes that workers decide precisely because of a breach of a collective bargaining agreement or a deadlock in the collective bargaining process, and are not aware that their rights have been violated. Because a bad collective agreement is better than the rulebook that most media professionals in Croatia work with today.

“Of course, employers, publishers and managers hope that journalists and media professionals will not require collective bargaining because collective bargaining has the force of law, and current agreements with employees can always be unilaterally terminated. That is why we must organize ourselves and take advantage of the opportunities that are provided for us by the law in the protection of our labor rights, because when we ensure our existence and work safety, we will also strengthen the freedom of the media”, said Maja Sever.

EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård stressed that it is important for a journalist to be able to work in safe conditions so that he does not have to look for other jobs because of existential problems, because then he cannot devote himself to investigative work and journalism.

“Working conditions of journalists are especially important. Unless there are good working conditions and if journalists cannot live off their work, it is difficult to talk about good journalism. It is of utmost importance for the whole society to promote journalistic rights, and the joint participation of journalists in collective bargaining and the conclusion of collective agreements in journalism is needed. In addition, publishers and media owners need to be convinced that it is in their interest to have journalists who can do the job professionally and have peace in their organisations”, said Bjerregård.

HND President Hrvoje Zovko warned that an organized campaign against journalists and the media is ongoing in the country, which will soon take over the six-month EU presidency. There are increasing pressures. Journalists are found guilty of everything. In a country where corruption and crime are booming, our colleagues are labeled enemies of the state, which speaks to the profound disruption of the society in which we live, the HND president warned.

He added, however, that journalists and the media are tough, and he wondered what it would be like for this sad society not to have, for example, investigative journalists, journalists and their stories that exposed numerous illegals and malfeasances of people in power. In addition, he cited the judicial prosecution of journalists as a form of pressure, and recalled the HND’s information on at least 1,163 court proceedings against journalists and the media in Croatia. He also pointed out that ignoring the provisions of the Media Act and violating editorial statutes in the print media was a problem that the journalistic profession faces. “We will soon be launching a campaign to raise awareness of this problem,” concluded the HND president.

“Pirating our content; texts, photos, videos, we get less for our work. We are more materially impaired and more resistant to pressure and more prone to self-censorship. The Copyright Directive in the EU’s Digital Single Market, if properly implemented in our law, gives us the opportunity to participate in the revenue that generates our work, to materially empower and thereby improve our social status as a basis for resisting pressure. Do not get caught up in the stories that the Copyright Directive restricts access to information, interferes with the use of memes and gifs, or quotes for satire, criticism and education. All this is exempted from it, its sole purpose is the participation of our authors in making online platforms from advertising on our content and the responsibility for the dissemination of content by users.

Because we are very much responsible for them, to the level of verbal tort, but worse: they sue us when we write the truth because the feelings of those we reveal are hurt so much that it can only console them to pay for it”, the president of the Society for the Protection of Journalists copyright (DZNAP) Valentina Wiesner said and added that DZNAP was licensed last year to collectively protect the rights of photojournalists. So far, the press clipping agencies have not even paid a fee for sharing their photos! “We are just starting negotiations to change this, so that my fellow photojournalists are finally enjoying collective protection,” concluded Valentina Wiesner.

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