Archive for category Cross-border research

“Can privatization kill?”

“Can privatization kill” asked Thomas Gammeltoft-Hansen in an op-ed in the New York Times last year. Gammeltoft-Hansen is a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies DIIS and tomorrow will present a book about the migration industry and the commercialisation of international migration. 

A provocative question – particularly in times, where privatization is all over us from caretaking over education and even to security. Yet, aren’t provocative questions exactly what journalists and indeed academics should ask?

On today’s front page of the Euobserver is Luludja, a Bulgarian Roma woman migrated to France where she sells roses and her body to pay the debt to her traffickers. The story is documented by a team of journalists who did crossborder research from Germany, France and Bulgaria. They asked the obvious question about the illegal migration business, documenting heartbreakingly how Luludja’s hope to achieve a better situation for herself and her family was abused. The team observed the troubling problem of Roma migration in Europe and decided to not just observe but ask. They wanted to document. They fulfill their task in the chain of asking the right questions in a democratic system.

Gammeltoft-Hansen and his co-author Ninna Nyberg Sørensen – senior academics in the fields of law and sociology/anthropology – take the question one step further. They look into the systemic problems of migration business. Not only clandestine and illegal activity but the obvious too. Visible on state budgets and carried out in the name of democratic governments. “Migration has become big business, and international migration has become increasingly commercialized,” they write about their observations in the invitation to a seminar tomorrow. “Over the last few decades, a host of new commercial opportunities have emerged that capitalize both on the migrants’ desires to migrate and the struggle by governments to manage migration. From the rapid growth of specialized transportation and labour contracting companies, to multinational businesses managing detention centres or establishing border security, to the organized criminal networks profiting from human smuggling and trafficking.”

So now – what should be the next move? This is the provocative question into the so called European Public Sphere. How should Europe react to its serious problems? Some of the necessary questions have been asked and documented. Academic analysis allows to see a larger pattern. On the democratic to-do-list now are public debate and political action. 

 

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Cover Up Unveiled

The final volume of the trilogy In the Name of the State was published on 19 April 2012. Entitled ‘Prikrivanje’, Cover-up, it deals with the abuse of political and legal power of leading Slovene politicians around the time when the country gained its independence. Today’s guest blog by Rafael Njotea of Journalismfund.eu

Journalists Matej Šurc and Blaž Zgaga spent more than three years investigating and analysing more than 6000 pages of declassified official documents on the trade of arms in Slovenia during the Yugoslav Wars. They obtained the documents through the Slovene Freedom of Information Act. Journalists from six other countries cooperated in cross-border investigation. The research was co-financed by a Journalismfund.eu research grant.

The findings of the investigation are chronicled in the trilogy In the Name of the State, of which the last volume has now been completed. The first volume, published in June 2011, focused on the sale of arms and ammunition from the former Yugoslav People’s Army’s warehouses, which were seized during a ten-day military conflict in Slovenia in 1991. It was called ‘Odprodaja’ or Sell. The second volume, ‘Preprodaja’ or Resell, appeared in October 2011 and dealt with the purchase of arms abroad and subsequent resale to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the UN arms embargo.

The third and final volume, ‘Prikrivanje’ or Cover-up, describes how the arms smugglers managed to keep their activities largely concealed for the last twenty years. It starts by bringing to light the conflicts between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior after the Brnik scandal, in which 460 tons of arms, designated for resale in Bosnia and Herzegovina, arrived to Slovenia only to be stored at Brnik airport for months due to problems with the intended resale. Afterwards, the book examines the three parliamentary inquiries on the arms trades that were initiated over the years and the intrigues and obstacles that politicians put up to thwart them. The last of these parliamentary inquiries was triggered by the biggest arms deal in the history of Slovenia – a 278 million EUR purchase of the Finnish armoured vehicles Patria that was concluded in 2006. The Patria case is under investigation in Finland, Austria and Slovenia. Two dozens of suspects are on trial for bribery and industrial espionage, one of them being the former and current Prime Minister of Slovenia, former chairperson of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2008.

With the publication of this third volume of the trilogy, the research project has reached its final stages as one of the most significant investigations in Slovene history. It uncovered some of the country’s hidden chapters had been kept under veil the past two decades.

Read about the previous books in the series and reactions to them here.

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War profiteers unveiled

More than 130.000 people were killed during Yugoslav wars in the 1990ies. On the other side millions dollars of war profits have been earned with sending thousands tons of weapons and ammunition to the battlefields.

Last week the second book of the trilogy In the Name of the State was launched in the Slovene capital Ljubljana. It is called Resell and documents how the UN embargo against weapon sales during the Yugoslav wars was broken. The authors found leads to countries like Bulgaria, Poland, Ukraine, Romania and Russia as export countries, logistic headquarters in the Austrian capital Vienna, financial transactions via a Hungarian bank and transfers via off-shore haven Panama. Also the United Kingdom sent military equipment to then Yugoslav republics and provided loans for arms purchases, as did Germany, the authors found based upon studies of thousands of declassified documents and cooperation with journalists in several countries. The access was obtained through the Slovene freedom of information act.

It is a widely accepted theory that Balkan nations are responsible for the bloody disintegration of the Yugoslav federation. But evidence presented in the books indicates that some European countries may have been actively involved in the wars with supplying arms and ammunition to the warring parties. The books describe in detail and based upon port reports, cables, receipts and various other official documents the routes of the weapons and the money.

More than a dozen of ships loaded with contraband arms secretly arrived to the Slovene port of Koper in 1991 and 1992, where they were unloaded and cargo was quickly forwarded to battlefields in Croatia and Bosnia Herzegovina. Military and civil intelligence services appear to have been involved in the clandestine operations according to signed and stamped documents, cables and orders obtained by the team. Also Italian, Albanian and Russian Mafia seem to be linked to some actions.

Along with his colleague Matej Šurc, Slovene journalist Blaz Zgaga spent more than three years investigating and analysing thousands of declassified official documents, that were obtained through the Slovene Freedom of Information Act. Journalists from six other countries cooperated in cross-border investigation.
The work already has lead to the award of the special investigative journalism diploma by the CEI SEEMO Award to the Zgaga-Šurc team.

In the trilogy of books the team meticulously describes the routes of smuggling and money transfers [Link to journalismfund article] as found in the released documents. During the recent Global Investigative Journalism Conference in Kiev Zgaga provided further insights into research method and findings, many of which lead to other countries and invite to further research in those countries.

The first strategically important shipment arrived to Slovenia from Bulgaria in June 1991, only a week before the first military clashes in former Yugoslavia. The Danish vessel according to the information obtained appears to have been loaded with five thousand assault rifles, millions of rounds of ammunition, and the most important, anti-aircraft and anti-armour missiles, worth 7,8 million German marks. The shipper according to the documents obtained was Bulgarian and the middlemen an Austrian company. Almost simultaneously a British company sent modern military radio stations with encryption capabilities to Slovenia in a deal worth five million pounds, the team of journalists found.

After this success a main arms dealer stepped forward in the summer of 1991. The Greek citizen appears to have used a company registered in Panama with offices at Vienna airport as one of the main channels for smuggling arms to Yugoslav fronts. Debit-credit notes of a bank account opened at a bank in Budapest reveal the company received more than eighty million dollars revenues from Slovene, Croatian and Bosnian customers, according to the authors of the book.

The authors obtained documents that further link the arms trade during the embargo to a Polish state owned company, including the code name of the contact person and the alleged amounts of the transfers that indicate a Polish port as starting point for ex-Soviet army ammunition supplies’ journey to the Adriatic Sea.

The tale of the documents continues to focus on shipments from a Ukrainian port. The declassified documents reveal that the first two shipments passed through the Slovene port of Koper. The ship made two journeys and sailed 96 containers with arms in October and November 1992. All were transported to Croatia by roads. Debit-credit notes confirmed that 60 million dollars were paid by Croatian customers for arms obtained through this channel, and that about 40 millions dollars has been transferred further to sellers of arms.

The last ship of eight was halted by the NATO fleet in Adriatic in 1994, then a trial in Italian city of Turin followed, but all were later acquitted at the court. The obtained documents show that the person, whom the Turin prosecutor assumed to be the leader of the group, sold hundreds of Russian anti-aircraft and anti-armour missiles worth 33,3 million dollars to Slovenia in 1991 and 1992. He offered even modern mobile anti-aircraft system SA-8 Gecko in January 1992, but this deal was cancelled. Several other Russian connections surfaced in the documents.

The first book in the trilogy was published by the Sanje publishing house in June 2011, the 2nd last week and the last will be published in the winter.

The book has been widely debated in Slovene media, where arms deals also surfaced on the political agenda involving the then prime minister as late as 2009.

A selection of the Slovene media picking up the story:
RTV SLO

Delo

Primorske

Dnevnik

Delo

RTV SLO

Slovenske Novice

Also EU-applicant neighbouring countries there was significant media coverage, including reports about new revelations in EU-candidate countries. Read more on the website of Journalismfund.eu.

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Cross-border story quoted widely

Two journalists, one story – but how to achieve impact? In the story about the Latvian Brides, cooperation of journalists from two countries led to research so thorough, that the story was quoted in various European countries.

Aleksandra Jolkina from Latvia and Jamie Smyth from Ireland have been researching the story of sham marriages in each their end of the EU. Latvian women were lured into marriages with non-EU males, in order to get them residence permits – possible under Irish and EU legislation. Some of the women experienced appalling abuse.

Last year they decided to cooperate. With the help of a research grant from Journalismfund.eu they could cover the necessary travelling and other costs, to do the research.

“Working together enabled both of us to identify contacts in each other countries that would have been difficult or impossible to source while working on our own,” Jamie Smyth said about the cooperation, when he published the common research for an Irish target group in the Irish Times, where he is a staff writer.

The first publication was done for an Irish target group in the Irish Times in October, the second publication was done in book format for a Latvian target group recently.

Publication in Ireland:
Irish Times: Irelands sham marriage scam, Trapped in a sham marriage, Couple go to High Court with sham marriage decision, Comment: Ireland must take action to stop sham marriages

Publication in Latvia:
Book: Misis Eiropa, Pismieta Misis Eiropa (e-book), Misis Eiropa (order)

Book launch and book reviews in Latvia:
Latvian News Agency LETA,Newspaper Latvijas Avize, TV5 (in Russian), Newspaper Diena

Quotations of the story in other countries

Austria: ORF 

Poland: Rzeczpospolita

United Kingdom: BBC – Uncovering the Baltic Brides Sham, BBC – Latvia calls on Ireland to tackle sham marriagesJournalism.co.uk

Germany: Süddeutsche Zeitung, Badische Zeitung, Eurasisches Magazin, Berliner Zeitung

Europe: EUobserver.com

Canada: CBC Radio

USA: Center for Investigative Reporting  

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€ 1.5 million postponed

The European Parliament allocated € 1,5 million to investigative journalism research grants in 2010 and 2011. However last week the money has been withdrawn following a long struggle about editorial independence and editorial confidentiality. But the MEPs behind the project vow to continue the work in 2011.
Read the rest of this entry »

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EU-money to the mafia, the tobacco industry and multinationals?

Journalists have dug out the beneficiaries of EU-farmsubsidies for citizens to see them at Farmsubsidy.org.

Now a new team of journalists has dug out the recipients of the other large lump on the EU-budget: The regional funding. In a unique cooperation and 8 months research the new London Bureau for Investigative Journalism and the Financial Times have cooperated and followed the money – resulting in important stories.
The team behind has made accessible the underlying database for everyone to search.

Today the Watchdog Blog is happy to present a guest comment by Annamarie Cumiskey, senior journalist at the London Bureau and highly experienced in European affairs.

By Annamarie Cumiskey

It’s a myth that the Italian mafia puts a horses head in your bed if it doesn’t like you. They put a dead dogs’ head in front of your door instead.

And, I know this because while working with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, www.tbij.com in London, in collaboration with the Financial Times, I had chance to meet Colonnello Pierone, the man whose job it is to put mafia bosses behind bars in Southern Italy.

We met to talk about EU structural funds, as part of an eight month long investigation that is being rolled out this week, when the dead dogs’ head came up.

The dead dog was found in our new online database, not literally, but through one of the many ways the Italian mafia has found to get its dirty hands on European taxpayers money.

We brought together all the lists of beneficiaries of the ERDF and ESF under the current €347bn spending round – over 650,000 projects.
One project, the modernisation of the Salerno – Reggio Calabria highway in Southern Italy, has been allocated €400,000, and since then the local mafia have been putting dead dog heads in front of construction workers doors to frighten them into paying extortion money.

Some of the gang members are more sophisticated white-collar criminals, and they really have collared EU grant aid – €1.2bn in recent years according to a report by the Italian financial police.

Don’t worry they can always seek repentence for their sins at the EU grant aided Church of Madonna di Polsi nearby that also happens to be their spiritual home.

The Italian mafia makes it look so easy, and that’s the problem it is.
The Italian mafia, fortunately, is an extreme case of how EU funds are abused, but it shows how impotent the EU institutions are to stop this.  And, this will stay the same due to the inherent nature of the EU – 80% of its budget is spent at national level, and the EU can’t control what happens there.

Al Jazeera, BBC Radio 4 File-on-Four, BBC World Service and France 2 will also broadcast programmes based on our research.

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1,1 million euro to journalists

Journalists with a good idea for an investigative story with a European angle can now apply for research grants from the European Union. 1,1 million Euro will be distributed in two rounds of applications. The first deadline is on January 15th 2011.

The EU offers research grants for investigative stories, which involve two or more EU countries. Journalists with a good idea for a European or a cross-border story must team up with a colleague from at least one other EU country, find ¼ of the funding for their project and then they can apply.

The independence of the money will be safeguarded by an external “Assistance Body”. It will appoint a jury, maintain a website, administrate the grants and make sure that the experience from the projects is gathered.

A jury of “5-7 independent, reputed experts in journalism, investigative journalism and/or edition in those fields” will decide the awarding of the grants, following predefined rules.

The first round of applications has to be sent to the Commission, while the Assistance body is selected in a call for public tender. However the envelopes with the applications will not be opened by the Commission itself but handed over to the jury via the Assistance body once it is established.

The 1,1 million Euro were granted by the European Parliament as a pilot project, which is now scheduled to run until late 2011.  Among the involved MEPs behind the initiative were German green Helga Trüpel, Danish liberal Anne E. Jensen and since his election last year Danish liberal Morten Løkkegaard.

Read more on Journalismfund.eu.

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Follow the subsidy-money

Do we really want to transfer million-euro subsidies to individual recipients in the agro-industry? The latest publication of who got what from the EU farmsubsidies proved that the number of subsidy-millionaires has risen significantly. And right now is the perfect time to talk about it, because right now the future of this money-transfer is being debated.

Each year tax-payers send about €55 billion of to the farming industry, to rural areas and to price-correcting measures for food prices. It is called the Common Agricultural Policy, and it is one of the core businesses of the EU. The reform of this policy has to be finalised before the new budget period decision 2013, so major steps are prepared right now.

Do we, journalists, support the idea of an informed public debate? If yes, we should try to contribute by giving information about this money to the public. And as European public debate goes, we should network amongst each other and then address each our target group.

The current farmsubsidy beneficiaries will – logically – try to keep getting money. New players may try to get hold of money for their purposes. Big landowners and agro-business unite to promote food security and the environment. The commissioner of the environments wants to “green” the policy. Green organisations argue for water protection, development organisations and liberalists against dumping of EU dairy products. And so on – a good auld political debate. Fine.

And even much more important to know, how the money is distributed now.

This week a team of journalists and computer programmers from many European countries met on the initiative of the team behind www.farmsubsidy.org. We ‘locked’ ourselves into a room in Brussels for almost two days. Loads of coffee, tea, sandwiches – and of course wireless internet. The common aim: To analyse the data to find stories for each our readers and viewers. And more importantly: to network in order to find the European or cross-border aspects of the material.

For a start we could present the annual list of top-recipients. Predictably dominated by sugar companies, who are still receiving large amounts because of the latest CAP reform on sugar.

We also have a preliminary list of farmsubsidy millionaires.

Then we have the usual list of anecdotes, including money to an accordion club in Sweden, a skating club in the Netherlands and a billiard club in Denmark. Did anyone mention farmsubsidies? For more details see the harvest-festival-press-release by the Farmsubsidy.org team of May 4th.

So in other words: Back to the old saying of English language journalists: Follow the money. After all: € 55 billion per year is worth journalistic coverage. And a public debate.

Articles:

April 26th, DPA/Spiegel, Germany, Weapon Industry receives farmsubsidies from the EU (full DPA text quoted by Greenpeace)

May 3rd, Euobserver, Brussels, UK delays publication of EU farm subsidy details till post-election

May 3rd, Maskinbladet, Denmark, Sugar barons reap farmsubsidies

May 4th, Vest.si, Slovenia, The list of 100 largest recipients of farm subsidies

May 4th, Guardian, Britain, EU sugar and dairy companies largest recipients of farm subsidies

May 4th, Landbrugsavisen, Denmark, Prince Joachim and Mærsk get EU subsidies

May 4th, Die Presse.com, Austria, 178 million for French sugar corporation

May 5th, Euobserver, Brussels, Bulgarian minister’s daughter, accordion club get EU farm aid

May 5th, Trud, Bulgaria, 1,5 million EU farmsubsidies to daughter of a former Deputy Minister

May 5th, 24 Casa, Bulgaria, Daughter of former deputy minister gets EU farmsubsidy

May 5th, Politiken, Denmark, Prince Joachim gets 1,9 million Danish Crowns from the EU

May 5th, N-TV, Germany, For dead Swedes and surf schools – strange farmsubsidies

May 5th, Bild.de, Germany, Bavaria gets most EU farmsubsidies

May 5th, Agrarheute.com, Germany/Britain Farmsubsidy legt Analyse der europäischen Zahlungsempfänger vor

May 5th, Farmers Guardian, Britain, Civil servants criticised for withholding CAP data

May 5th, Finfacts, Ireland, Number of EU Agricultural Policy mmillionaires raises by 20 % in 2009

May 5th, Guardian, Britain, Who received EU farm subsidies last year? Whitehall won’t say

May 5th, Financial Times, Britain, EU pays subsidies to sugar groups

May 5th, Euractiv.de, Germany, EU-Farm-money: Topincome, lacking transparency, corruption

May 5th, N24.de, Germany, Farmsubsidies for billiardclubs, footballplayers and the death

May 5th, Telegraph, Britain, Accordion players and ice skaters get EU farm subsidies

May 5th, Journalul.ro, Romania, Bizarre beneficiaries of EU agricultural funds

May 5th, Ervhervsbladet, Denmark, The Prince and Mærsk get million-crown subsidies

May 5th, Nordjyske, Denmark, Joachim and Mærsk get their share

May 6th, Týden, Czech Republic, Farmsubsidies to the daughter of the minister and ice skating

May 7th, Die Welt, Germany, Blessed are those who receive

May 7th, Eesti Ekspress, Estonia, EU bought for 85 million kruuda butter and skimmed milk

May 9th, Danish Radio P1/European Magazine, Who’s become a millionaire on EU farmsubsidies

May 9th, Agrar Hirek, Hungary, Hungary ranked first in transparency rating of NGO

May 10th, 24 hours, Bulgaria, More farmsubsidies – 1.6 million to the wife of the deputy minister

May 10th, Trud, Bulgaria, And the wife of deputy minister gets 1,6 million farmsubsidies

May 11th, Vest.si, Slovenia, Agricultural subsidies for the Red Cross Slovenia, the Ljubljana Archdiocese and Caritas

May 12th, Farmers Guardian, Britain, More farm subsidy millionaires than ever

May 12th, Farmers Weekly Interactive, Britain, RPA payments create 27 subsidy millionaires

May 13th, Trud, Bulgaria, Prosecutors investigating Peythevs daughter

May 13th, Trud, Bulgaria, Investigate the daughter of former deputy minister

May 14th, Time Magazine, USA, Even in Hard Times, E.U. Agricultural Subsidies Roll On

May 15th, Yorkshire Post, United Kingdom, Exclusive: £1,700 bureaucracy bill to get 1p subsidy cheque to farmers

May 19th, Vest.si, Slovenia, Analysis of EU farmsubsidies distributed in Slovenia

May 29th, Agencia Latino Americana de Informacion, Stiglitz’s lesson regarding the FTA with the European Union

May 21st, Capital Weekly, Bulgaria, Problems in agricultural programs and regulations – and morality

May 30th, Euro.cz, Czech Republic, Who eats an EU grant

June 1st, Mayo News, Ireland, Mayo receives €119m from CAP

June 17th, Guardian Comment, United Kingdom, CAP provides another bumper payout for landowners

July 5th, Guardian Editorial, Common agricultural policy: rotten but here to stay

Find links about Farmsubsidy.org in the news on Farmsubsidy-Delicious.

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Truly European journalism

Slave workers in Europe. Personal tragedies, evil masterminds, fear, violence  and threats to journalists. And European questions. All elements for a good story are there. Yet it took Adrian Mogos from Romania two years before he had finally published the story, he already had heard rumours about so long ago. The reason: There was no money for travelling, communication and the extra time that is necessary to do cross-border research.

Now at last the story is documented: Workers from Moldova are trafficked to the Czech Republic, where they work under slave like conditions, in this case picking asparagus. The organised crime structures behind appear to have caused  a trail of fear, which was what the team of journalists found whereever they looked.

Adrian Mogos decided to follow the story – across borders and against all obstacles – including the economic ones.  The research could finally be done in the course of 2009, because Mogos and his team got a research grant from the newly founded Journalismfund.eu, which aims at supporting exactly this type of cross-border research.

Mogos and his team are not the only journalists, who face such problems. Even editors who support investigative and research intensive stories are often not willing (or do not have the budget) to pay for trips abroad, translations, long-distance calls and so on. While European integration has been evolving over the past decades, media still very much stick to their national focus.

Focusing on a national target group is crucial because of our different media traditions. Our readers simply are used to have their stories presented in one way,  that’s what they like. So that’s what they should get.

Yet the research should not be limited to stay within the national frontiers. When stories cross borders – like traffickers and their victims do, and like the vegetables do, that have been picked by the slave workers – then journalists must cooperate with colleagues across borders or travel themselves. Oftentimes networking is necessary because of the knowledge of each national situation. But networking ultimately also gives added value to the editors and publishers. If a team of reporters gathers good evidence each in the field or country, they know best, each of the editors will get more information through the added research to present to the readers. If the story then is published in several countries  around the same time, we are heading towards truly European journalism.

Time to get inspired to develop it further! Journalismfund.eu tries to do that by making possible stories like the one about labour trafficking through research grants. The grants are distributed according to a set of criteria by an anonymous jury – in order to maintain full journalistic indepence, avoid interference and heighten credibility. The jury consists of highly estimated colleagues, whose identity will be disclosed after their term is over – and when there will be no more interest in trying to influence them one way or the other.

The funding so far has been granted by the freedom of speach foundation Fritt Ord in Norway and by the Media Programme of the Open Society Institute. The Network of European Foundations has kindly supported the idea. Journalismfund.eu is a project by the Belgian Pascal
Decroos Fond.

Read more about the slave workers as well as the journalists’ report on how it was done.

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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)

Chair:

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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