Reporting forbidden?

“Media and politics – the tension between freedom of the press and personal rights in print media and the internet”. Monday November 9th, 18.30, Residence Palace, Brussels – se invitation at the bottom of this blog entry.

Can only Norwegian media report about the British parliament? For one absurd day exactly that appears to have been the case last month, when the Guardian was gagged to report about a certain company by a court injunction. Norwegians colleagues were threatened with legal steps but published in Norway and online about the story.  A unique cross-border coopearation of colleagues from the Guardian, BBC, Volkskrant and NRK.

Earlier this year in Brussels a German liberal member of the European Parliament, who wanted to be re-elected, systematically approached media with threats to withhold one certain information: Her attendance figures in the previous period. What caused the politician to act, as she did, is not known. But her lawyer did get a temporary injunction against the important German daily FAZ, she tried to stop parts of an interview in German public service tv ARD, she tried to stop Brussels journalist and blogger Hajo Friedrich and she tried to stop German journalist and blogger David Schraven of Ruhrbarone. Her various actions were reported by German media magazine Zapp.

In Italy sueing journalists appears to be near normal. According to Italian MEP Mario Mauro from the first of January 1994 till 2009 6.745 penal and civil cases have been announced against press and tv. The average is 449 yearly, more than one a day.

Slovenia has accused Finnish journalist Magnus Berglund, who researched and aired a story about alleged corruption in an arms deal between Finnish company Patria and Slovenia. Finnish police is currently investigating the case.

Going furhter south from Slovenia to EU applicant countries in the Balkans, the situation gets even worse. Croatian journalist Hrvoje Appelt – currently under police protection  – has started to gather information about assaults against journalists in his own country and the neighbouring countries. Do run his overview over assaults against journalists through Google translate – it is saddening reading.

When Reporters Sans Frontieres recently published its annual index of press freedom, the conclusion read “Europe continues to recede”.

“Europe should be setting an example as regards civil liberties. How can you condemn human rights violations abroad if you do not behave irreproachably at home?” Thus reads the text of the press freedom watchers.

Coming Monday one step is taken to address at least one of the aspects. Journalists have invited politicians and lawyers to talk about the issue with each other in Brussels.

„Media and politics – the tension between freedom of the press and personal rights in print media and the internet“

Experts on the panel and in the audience discuss in German and English (simultaneous translation provided)

in the Residence Palace, Brussels, Rue de la Loi 155, Room Polak

on Monday 9 November 2009,

18.30 Welcome drinks

19.00 – 20.30 Panel discussion

On the Panel:

Philippe Leruth (Vice-President of the European Federation of Journalists, EFJ), Klaus-Heiner Lehne (MEP (PPE) and Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee in the European Parliament), David Schraven (Freelance Jounalist and Blogger of the German website „Ruhrbarone“), Martin Huff (Journalist and Lawyer, Director of the Local Bar of Cologne), Eberhard Kempf (Lawyer, German Bar Association) and Gregor Kreuzhuber (Partner, GPlus-Communications Consultancy; Brussels)


Hajo Friedrich (freelance journalist).

Manifold are the tensions between media and the people in the focus of media coverage. More and more often political reporting in print media and the internet is subject to – often costly – litigation in court. According to the Italian MEP Mario Mauro politicians in Italy have brought 6745 civil and criminal proceedings against media coverage since 1994. Also German MEPs have in the past filed law suits against the press.

In most cases there is a conflict between freedom of the press and personal rights, between journalists who investigate and politicians who feel pilloried. A new development seems to be that top politicians and other prominent figures take legal action against media reports even beyond national borders as with the World Wide Web print media have increased their sphere of influence enormously. In this regard the „internal market“ of the World Wide Web already has difficulties to respond to the question which national law and which court of jurisdiction are applicable.

Beyond identifying the essential issues in view of the above-mentioned tensions the panellists – together with the audience – will seek to find morals, answers and compromise solutions. For the first time the panel discussion will bring together representatives of almost all involved parties in Brussels: journalists and their lobbyists, lawyers, politicians, media and public affairs consultants.

The discussion will be in English and German (simultaneous translation German/English and vice versa will be available). Drinks & Snacks will be provided.

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