Centre for Press Freedom: "The strength lies in the pan-European network"

Press release on the occasion of the Deutscher StiftungsTag in Leipzig and of Medientreffpunkt Mitteldeutschland

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (founded in 2015) receives more funding from EU Commission

Leipzig, 10 Mai, 2016. This year's May, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, decisively initiated and developed by the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig, celebrates its first anniversary. With the foundation of the ECPMF, press and media freedom in Europe has got a strong voice based in Leipzig. Core objective of the Centre is to link European initiatives and actors on media freedom and to assist in the coordination of their activities in order to jointly strengthen the freedom of press in Europe. "The Centre's strength lies in the pan-European network and in the cooperation of highly qualified partners", says Stephan Seeger, Managing Director of Media Foundation and member of the Board of ECPMF.

Since its foundation in 2015, ECPMF has initiated and realised numerous projects. "Through its successful work the Centre has established itself", Jane Whyatt, Project Manager of ECPMF, assesses. "Among many other activities, we have, for example, performed several studies on the situation of press freedom in Hungary, Germany and Poland. And we do not just leave it at only observe the situation: In April, we addressed the Hungarian government via their embassies with a Europe-wide letter campaign. And during the following weeks we will discuss the developments in Poland with experts from Wroclaw and Paris." In the course of his investigations on the "Lügenpresse-Bewegung" ("lying press movement") and attacks on journalists in Germany, Martin Hoffmann, member of ECPMF staff and scholarship holder of Media Foundation, was invited as an expert for technical discussions at the Committee of Culture and Media of the German Bundestag and Bundesverband Deutscher Zeitungsverleger (Federation of German Newspaper Publishers).

During the first project year, ECPMF was also able to establish the so called "Resource Centre". It is a steadily growing online database which connects and classifies content about issues of media freedom and which should become a contact point for everyone who is interested in the situation of press freedom in Europe (Resource Centre can be found here).

ECPMF gives special attention to the commitment for threatened journalists: "Our 'Journalist in Residence' program which gives refuge to media professionals in danger, has now started", says Jane Whyatt. Additionally representatives of ECPMF supported endangered journalists and partners in Turkey. On the occasion of the "World Press Freedom Day", ECPMF staff members presented the Centre at UNESCO World Conference in Helsinki. The successful commitment of ECMPF in the first year of its existence led to the decision of the EU Commission from beginning 2016 to keep on funding the Centre.

Long running-up for the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom
The beginnings of the ECPMF date back into the year 2010. At the Leipzig Media Congress, held by the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation on the 10th award ceremony of its "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media", Hans-Ulrich Jörges, Co-Editor of STERN magazine and Editor in Chief for Special Affairs of Gruner + Jahr, introduced the idea of creating a European Centre for the Freedom of the Press in Leipzig. His idea was immediately adopted by the Media Foundation: "Leipzig as the heart of the Peaceful Revolution in Eastern Germany seemed to be the perfect place: our Foundation has already promoted press freedom for years", says Stephan Seeger, Managing Director of Media Foundation.

In 2011, the working on a concept to serve as the basis for a search for new project supporters began. Main tasks included identifying the legal entity that would guarantee the Centre the maximum degree of independence and manoeuvrability. The law firm CMS Hasche Sigle, which worked with the project pro bono until its official foundation, found the European Cooperative Society (SCE) model to be the most suitable legal form for the project. "Once all the conditions for registration of the cooperative into the German register of cooperative societies, the legal ownership passes over from the Media Foundation of Sparkasse on the cooperative," says Stephan Seeger.

Support from many sides
To win the support of EU institutions in order to establish the project as a European initiative was the most important step. Hans-Ulrich Jörges; Christoph Keese (Senior Vice President for Investor Relations and Public Affairs at Axel Springer SE); and Stephan Seeger for the Sparkasse Leipzig Media Foundation found an extraordinary advocate in Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament and other members of the European Parliament including Vice President Alexander Graf Lambsdorff and Elmar Brok, Head of the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

On the condition that the project would receive EU funding, the Free State of Saxony and the City of Leipzig also declared their willingness to provide financial support. With the additional financial commitment of the Media Foundation, all of the necessary steps could be taken. Ultimately, we were able to create a detailed project plan that would allow us to submit an application to the European Commission and to seek the support of European journalistic organizations, institutions, and associations that promote issues concerning the freedom of the press. In addition to other supporters, the German Federal Foreign Ministry also contributed to the project.

Funding approval by the EU Commission
In March 2015, the European Commission in Brussels approved that the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig had won the bid and had been selected as leading partner, together with partners from three other European countries (Journalismfund.eu from Belgium; the Institute for European Media Law from Germany; Ossigeno per l’Informazione and Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, both from Italy; and the South East Europe Media Organization, or SEEMO, from Austria), to form the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom. Henrik Kaufholz, head of the Board of ECPMF, journalist of the Danish daily Politiken and cofounder of the investigative network SCOOP about the establishment of the Centre: "The work on our project has shown that there is a real need for our idea: to unite the actors of media freedom throughout Europe".

The establishment was completed on 24 Juni, 2015, in Leipzig. Among the Board and the Supervisory Board of the ECMPF are representatives from more than 20 European publishing companies, journalists' organisations and universities. The work of the Centre will be coordinated at its seat at Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig's Media Campus Villa Ida.

About the Foundation
Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig is committed to the memory of the Peaceful Revolution that took place in East Germany in 1989. Freedom of speech and unrestricted gathering of information through a free and independent press were key demands of the civil rights activists and demonstrators during the Leipzig Monday demonstrations at that time. Through the annual awarding of the "Prize for the Freedom and Future of the Media", the Media Foundation of Sparkasse Leipzig supports the freedom of press and with it the memento of the events of 1989. Among the laureates are Seymour Hersh, Anna Politkovskaya, The Guardian and many more. (More about the laureates can be found here). Beside other awards, Media Foundation supports young media professionals through scholarships or the part-time Master courses at its Leipzig School of Media (LSoM). All Foundations of Sparkasse Leipzig (Media Foundation, Leipziger Land Culture and Environment Foundation, Sparkasse Foundation for the Torgau-Oschatz region) as well as LSoM and ECPMF are based at the Media Campus Villa Ida in Leipzig's district of Gohlis.

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