Director’s Letter: June 2014

Dear Friends,

The EJN has been busy in Egypt this year and with good reason. Journalism in Cairo has been under intense government pressure over the past year since the expulsion of President Morsi and the crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

Critics of the government and anyone in media suspected of supporting the Brotherhood has been isolated and removed, creating an unprecedented atmosphere of intimidation for independent journalism. Much of the international focus has been on the plight of Al Jazeera journalists who were found guilty on terrorism charges on June 23. The EJN analysis of the case can be read here.

Despite all of this, independent journalism is fighting back. On June 16 the EJN Director joined more than 100 editors and executives in Cairo at a ground-breaking meeting to launch the independent Egyptian Editors Association. This group brings together some of the leading journalists and media and has been working in partnership with EJN and the Global Editors Network.

The new group is focused on trying to modernise newsrooms in a country where media have for decades been mired in systems of bureaucratic and official control. The latest controversy adds to concerns that independent journalism is threatened by undue political influence.

In an effort to strengthen links with the new association a delegation of EJN media leaders from Norway will visit to Cairo in September. They will meet with local journalists and editors and will raise with the authorities questions over the prosecution and jailing of media staff.

The EJN Director attended the Al Jazeera Forum in Qatar on May 26-28. Arising from this meeting there are plans to organise joint actions with the Al Jazeera Media Network to support the global media ethics campaign and to strengthen ethical standards across the group.

As part of this co-operation Sami El Haj, the head of the network’s human rights department and a former journalist detained for six years in Guantanamo without charge has been nominated to join the EJN Board.

During June, the EJN took part in a series of events in Europe (the World Editors Forum at the World Newspaper Congress in Turin; the Global Editors Network summit in Barcelona; and the summer school of the European University Institute Centre for Media and Pluralism in Florence).

The crisis of ethical journalism in the Western Balkans and Turkey was a central theme of the conference organised by the South East European Media Observatory held in Tirana on June 12 and 13 where the EJN made a keynote intervention. The meeting saw the launch of a new book – Media Integrity Matters – which provides a forensic analysis of the crisis for journalism in Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia and Serbia. It can be found here.

The EJN is supporting the European Federation of Journalists which is co-operating with the Organisation for Security and Cop-operation in Europe to promote dialogues between journalists’ unions in Ukraine and Russia. A second meeting between groups from both countries was held in Vienna on June 17. The EJN is working with EFJ and others to expand this dialogue in the coming months.

Also this month the EJN has been putting a focus on good governance and ethical journalism as a benchmark for the media market.

Preparations are well in hand for the African Media Leaders Forum which will be held in November in Johannesburg where the EJN campaign for tolerance in journalism Turning the Page on Hate will provide the background theme for African editors and media owners aiming to make quality journalism a key part of their business strategy.

And EJN has been contacted by international investment managers to provide advice on how commitment to good governance principles and ethical journalism can be assessed to encourage more investment in journalism and media organisations. This work, which could open up further debate on the need for media organisations to strengthen their commitment to good corporate governance, will be further discussed within the EJN membership in the coming months.

As usual, keep up to date with EJN activity on the website and by subscribing to our newsletter. Follow us on Twitter (@EJNetwork). More information on all of topics set out here is available from me at [email protected].