ECPMF Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What can the ECPMF do?
A: It will organise solidarity with threatened journalists across Europe, promoting media freedom as a constitutive element for open and democratic societies. It will work - based on the European Charter for Press Freedom - as a registration office, and as contact point for organisations and individuals. Through its networks of lawyers and advocacy campaigns the ECPMF can also offer practical assistance. The Centre will coordinate and moderate activities of its members. It aims at influencing national and international legislation in favour of media freedom and independent journalistic work. The Centre will also host Journalists in Residence. The offer gives reporters, editors or documentary makers under threat in his or her own country the opportunity to work in a save surrounding Leipzig.
Q: Why is the ECPMF located in Leipzig, not Brussels for example?
A: Leipzig played a major role in the Peaceful Revolution in East Germany that led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. One of the key demands of the hundred thousands of protesters was freedom of media, thought and expression. Leipzig is the home of the Sparkasse Media Foundation, one of the main initiators of the ECPMF. The work of the foundation is based on the events of 1989 and media freedom.
Leipzig has experiences of a police state in the Soviet-backed German Democratic Republic as well as a proud free-thinking academic tradition as the university town where the world’s first newspaper was published.
Leipzig has always played a role in connecting Eastern and Western Europe. The ECPMF lives in that tradition and co-operates closely with international organisations and initiatives across Europe. Centrally located in the middle of Europe, it has excellent transport links and affordable accommodation and can host international meetings on a small budget with due regard for the environment.
Q: Why do we need a European Centre for Press and Media Freedom?
A: There are many campaigns, organisations, trades unions and media companies working in the field of media freedom. We - the members of the centre - believe that the media freedom community should work more closely together. The centre wants to coordinate activities. The aim is to reach higher visibility, public trust and awareness, help with funding, political backing, legal advice, technical kit and training and the kind of international support that comes from international cross-border co-operations.
Q: Surely as citizens of European democracies we already have a free press?
In spite of the laws, codes and charter that enshrine in law our rights as citizens, journalists, bloggers, cartoonists etc in many parts of Europe still have only partial press freedom. The Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index 2015 ranks Finland as the country with the best track record. But EU member state Italy is seventy-third, with journalists at severe risk from mafia murders and intimidation. Meanwhile Turkey, a candidate for EU accession, stands at number 149 in the Reporters Without Borders league table.
Q: Who pays for it?
The ECPMF is a co-operative owned by its members and registered under German and European law as a European Co-operative Society SCE. That means it is an independent non-profit body that qualifies for grants from charitable foundations, local, national and international bodies, philanthropists and commercial donors. Its launch in 2015 was facilitated by a grant from the European Commission, requiring six partner organisations to deliver a secretariat in Leipzig, a Media Freedom Resource Centre (online library), monitoring reports on journalists under threat and establishing criteria for assessing legal cases. In addition the ECPMF has received in-kind and financial support from the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig, from the City of Leipzig, the State of Saxony and the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany. The supporters and partners are fully described here.
Q: How can I become a member of the ECPMF?
A: You can be an individual member or represent an organisation by buying a share in the co-operative. Each share costs a one-fee of 100 Euros. It confers one vote on you as a person or on your organisation. The application will be approved by the Executive Board of the co-operative. Members must follow the ECPMF statute, our Code of Ethics and the European Charter on Freedom of the Press.
Q: What do you mean by press and media freedom?
Freedom of expression and Media Freedom constitutes one of the essential foundations of a democratic society. It is applicable not only to information or ideas that are favourably population received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that shock, criticise, control or disturb.
The freedom to research, report, publish, broadcast and disseminate news, comment on them and investigate hidden agendas without censorship or intimidation is a human right. Free speech is enshrined as Article 10 in the European Union Convention on Human Rights and the Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This fundamental right covers written, spoken and broadcasted words, still and moving pictures, data and visual images such as sketches or cartoons, online, on air or in print. Actions that infringe this right include verbal or physical threats and violence, intimidation, bullying and censorship.
Q: How do the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom and its partners help journalists?
We can put you in contact with legal and journalistic experts in your region who will take up your case if you or a colleague, friend or family member are being intimidated, blocked or censored. We organise international solidarity and monitor the situations in geographical Europe. And we are building an online Media Freedom Resource Centre, a searchable database and archive of cases, statistics, guidelines, training materials and media coverage about press and media freedom and freedom of expression. The Centre will also host Journalists in Residence. The offer gives reporters, editors or documentary makers under threat in his or her own country the opportunity to work in a save surrounding Leipzig. Beside these we organise our yearly European Media Freedom Conference.
Q: How does the ECPMF help lawyers and advocates?
The Centre includes as members legal defence networks and media law academics, who can help with research and cross-border co-operation. It publishes a regular newsletter highlighting key cases that affect press and media freedom, and the Media Freedom Resource Centre provides a valuable archive of case law and legal analysis.
Q: I am a journalist/blogger/broadcaster/human rights activist. What should I do? My employer/editor is trying to suppress or censor a story that I am researching.
You can contact the ECPMF. We will deal with every case individually, and we may start by putting you in contact with one of our partners in your region, if appropriate.
Q: I/my business would like to make a financial contribution to your work. Is it tax-deductable?
The ECPMF welcomes donations and will display your business logo on its website in return for your gift. To find out about the tax credits you may earn for the donation, please contact your local tax office or accountant, as the rules vary according to the location of your business address.
Q: I belong to a charity or non-governmental organisation that is active in the field of press and media freedom. How can I join the ECPMF Co-operative, or take part in its activities?
You should write to Dr Lutz Muekke, outlining your activities and explaining your work. Include links to your website and media coverage of your work, with names and addresses of your organisation’s management team. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org . The membership application will be approved by the Executive Board of the co-operative. Members must follow the statute, the ECPMF Code of Ethics and the European Charter on Freedom of the Press.