Founding Statement for European Centre for Press Freedom in Leipzig signed - Press release panel discussion 13 October, 2011

More rights and protection for journalists

Founding statement in Leipzig: International journalists and Media Foundation Leipzig make progress with European Centre for Press Freedom

LEIPZIG. Today, 13 October, renowned journalists and Google Germany have signed a founding statement for a European Centre for Press Freedom in Leipzig. The statement was initiated by Hans-Ulrich Jörges, member of the editorship of Stern magazine, at the end of a panel discussion of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse. The Foundation has already assured its support by providing its infrastructure.

This year’s laureates of the "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media" have vividly portrayed the necessity of such an independent point of contact, which supports the rights of journalists: Tunisian television journalist Fahem Boukaddous, Russian investigative journalist Oleg Kashin and Stefan Buchen, reporter of the ARD (First German Television) have received the prize of the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig for their courageous, authentic and dedicated reporting. They have experienced oppression and intimidation firsthand. Fahem Boukaddous was put into jail and Oleg Kashin brutally beaten. Michael Rediske, spokesman of the CEO of Reporter without Borders Germany and participant in the panel discussion, also reported of severe reprisals against colleagues. During the panel discussion, Ivan Montik, journalist from Belarus, complained that there is in fact no free media movement in his country after the recent elections.

Kay Oberbeck, corporate spokesman of Google Germany, confirmed the trend towards more censorship - also in Western Europe. The requests by governments and authorities for the handing over of user names and the blocking of web-sites are accumulating, said Oberbeck.

The panel discussion titled "Let the prizes be followed by deeds - a Centre for Press Freedom" results from a proposal by Hans-Ulrich Jörges, who invented the idea of an European Centre for Press Freedom in the last year. He is engaged in a more intensive protection of colleagues since a long time. In 2009, he initiated an European Charter for Press Freedom, which has been decided and signed by 47 editors in chief and senior journalists from 34 countries. The Charter with ten principles for the freedom of the media against government intervention has been submitted to the Commission of the European Union in Brussels as well as to the Council of Europe in Luxemburg. What is missing is an authority that monitors and enforces these principles: a Centre for Press Freedom. For Hans-Ulrich Jörges, the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig represents a unique organisation, which is exemplarily committed to the freedom of the media. To him, Leipzig as a city of freedom would be an ideal location, because it is aligned both to the East and the West. However, such a centre needs a strong network with strong partners.

After the revolution this spring, Fahem Boukaddous has already founded a national Centre for Press Freedom in Tunisia. He pursues three objectives: First, to observe politics closely; second, a professional education of journalists and third, to promote laws that would enable journalists to work freely. Moderator Hans-Ulrich Jörges praised this project as an example for Europe.

At the end of the panel discussion, the moderator summarised the conclusion: all participants consider a European Centre for Press Freedom as necessary. They defined three key tasks and one requirement.

The Centre should
1. mobilise politics, so that freedom of press gains a higher importance in international relations.
2. create a well-protected network of journalists, in which they can exchange ideas and take care of each other without fearing threats
3. cooperate closely with existing organisations in order to concentrate all the energy and strength

The participants also agreed that a precondition for such a centre would be a sustainable financial concept.

The participants announced the following founding statement: "We, the laureates and guests of the panel discussion 2011 of the Leipzig Media Foundation, call up in occasion of the 11th awarding of the 'Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media' for the foundation of an European Centre for Press Freedom (ECP), which should be dedicated to the task of protecting journalists of the continent against censorship and threats of any kind. As a city of freedom and the media, Leipzig would be the ideal location."

Note: Photos of the award ceremony 2011 can be found here.