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Media freedom needs "political rights, courage and solidarity"

It was stormy – inside and out – at ECPMF’s Leipzig conference “Defending journalists under threat”. As Hurricane Xavier blasted through Germany, almost 100 participants from all over Europe discussed the gap between Europe’s high expectations of media freedom and the dismal reality.

It was stormy – inside and out – at ECPMF’s Leipzig conference “Defending journalists under threat”. As Hurricane Xavier blasted through Germany, almost 100 participants from all over Europe discussed the gap between Europe’s high expectations of media fr (for more photos please see below)

“Open debate improves the quality of governments,” said keynote speaker Harlem Désir, OSCE’s new Representative on the Freedom of the Media in his powerful speech. “Attacks on journalists are attacks on our freedom and the whole society. We urgently need a very broad coalition to protect freedom of the media.”

A gleam of hope: Hamza Yalçın, the Turkish-Swedish journalist sent a letter to the conference. We were expecting it to come from his jail cell in Spain. But instead he was back home in Halmstad, after a successful campaign by the media freedom community to get him released. Yalçin faced extradition to Turkey for allegedly “insulting President Erdoğan“ and “supporting terrorism“. “Three main factors are important for media freedom,” he wrote “Political rights, courage and solidarity.”

High-powered panels debated daily threats ranging from sexist and racist social media harassment to the murders of journalist contacts. There was urgent call for legal protection for whistleblowers and editors who work with them. It was noted that, unlike Serbia, Germany has no whistleblower protection law.

Positive solutions were also presented:  the relocation of threatened journalists and therapy for trauma and ’moral injury’ EU politician Benedek Javor and Urska Umek from the Council of Europe agreed that they need to push governments to collaborate.

As Georgia Nash of the human rights campaign Article 19 said in her summing-up: “This is an ongoing challenge.”

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