PRESS RELEASES, DECLARATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Vienna, 25 October 2012
“New media contribute to democracy and advance the quality of communication, but they cannot substitute professional journalism which provides credibility to public information,” veteran Slovenian broadcast journalist and manager Boris Bergant said in his concluding speech to the VI South East Europe Media Forum (SEEMF).
Focusing on the challenges of journalism in the age of new media, panel discussions at the two-day event in Becici, Montenegro, this week centred on social media, blogging, digital games and the use of new media to combat corruption. A special session was devoted to the media in Montenegro, which offered the opportunity to tackle issues such as the role of the state, ownership structure, market forces and journalism.
The event, which took place from 22 to 23 October 2012, was organized by the Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO, in cooperation with the Trieste-based Central European Initiative (CEI) and the Media Program South East Europe of the German Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS).
“Today’s Forum is an excellent example of a joint cooperation among three influential partners for the benefit of the media of the region,” CEI Secretary General Gerhard Pfanzelter said in his opening speech.
Christian Spahr, director of the KAS Media Program, said in his keynote address: “It is meaningful that the South East Europe Media Forum focuses on the contribution of the Web to a pluralistic media landscape. It must be our common aim to support independent online media who can fill gaps in the free supply of information.”
Attended by 261 participants from 20 countries, the VI SEEMF was officially inaugurated by Montenegro’s president Filip Vujanovic, who praised the forum by saying that it “contributes to advance the freedom of expression, which is a priority in SEE countries”.
The VI SEEMF was also the occasion to present the CEI SEEMO Award for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism. The 2012 winners were Slovenian journalists Blaz Zgaga and Matej Surc, while a Special Investigative Diploma went to the Albanian journalist Telnis Skuqi and a Special Mention went to the Center for Investigative Journalism (CIN) based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The SEEMF aims to promote exchanges and networking among media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. Previous SEEMF events took place in Zagreb in 2007, in Sofia in 2008, in Tirana in 2009, in Budapest in 2010 and in Belgrade in 2011.
In addition to SEEMO, CEI, KAS the partners for the VI SEEMF are: the OSCE Mission to Montenegro; the OSCE Mission to Serbia, the South, East and Central Europe PR Organisation (SECEPRO), the International Media Center, Vijesti daily and Raiffeisen Bank International.
Vienna, 11 October 2012
The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), the Central European Initiative (CEI), Trieste, Italy, and Media Program South East Europe of the German Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung (KAS) announce that the VI South East Europe Media Forum (SEEMF) will take place in Budva/Becici, Montenegro, from 22 to 23 October 2012. This year’s forum will analyse multifaceted challenges of journalism in the age of new media. Special panel discussions will be dedicated to social media and blogging, digital games as well as the use of new media to combat corruption.
The conference will be inaugurated by Montenegro’s president Filip Vujanovic. His welcome speech will be followed by an interview.
During the two-day conference, to be attended by more than 150 participants from 20 countries, Slovenian journalists Blaz Zgaga and Matej Surc will be presented with the CEI SEEMO Award for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism 2012. The jury also awarded a Special Investigative Diploma to the Albanian journalist Telnis Skuqi, a correspondent for Albania’s Telegraphic News Agency (ATA) in the town of Gjirokastra and a Special Mention was given to CIN Sarajevo for their remarkable contribution to investigative journalism in the region.
The evening discussion on 22 October will focus on media in Montenegro: “The Role of the State, Ownership Structure, Market Forces and Journalism.”
On 23 October, there will be four panel discussions:1) Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, You tube, Apps – Future of Media;2) Bloggers – Journalists or not? ; 3) New Media, Web Portals, Media Market, and 4) Journalists and Citizens: Online partnership against corruption. In addition, Emre Kizilkaya, editor of the Turkish daily Hurriyet, will have a presentation on Digital Games / New Games and Influence on Media.
SEEMF aims to promote exchanges and networking among media executives and leading journalists in South East and Central Europe. Previous SEEMF events took place in Zagreb (2007); Sofia (2008); Tirana (2009); Budapest (2010) and Belgrade (2011).
“I am very happy that this year’s SEEMF is taking place in Montenegro, one of the youngest European states. We chose Montenegro in order to give clear support to the country’s media and press freedom, “said Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General.
CEI Secretary General Gerhard Pfanzelter stated: “Freedom of expression and of the media is one of the fundamental elements of our democracies and the European Union. Accurate and reliable information is vital in our societies, especially in the phase undergoing political and economic transformation. This is why the CEI supports activities such as the SEEMF and the Award for Outstanding Merits in Investigative Journalism, which highly contribute to protecting and enhancing freedom of the media.”
Christian Spahr, head of the Media Program South East Europe of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, stated: “The Internet is a strong challenge for all journalists and publishers. It continues to change our media landscape rapidly, which brings new opportunities and risks for quality journalism. It is meaningful that the South East Europe Media Forum focuses on the contribution of the Web to a free and pluralistic media landscape. One of the aims of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Media Program is to support independent online journalism.”
In addition to SEEMO, CEI, KAS the partners for the VI SEEMF are: the OSCE Mission to Montenegro; the OSCE Mission to Serbia, the South, East and Central Europe PR Organisation (SECEPRO), the International Media Center, Vijesti daily and Raiffeisen Bank International.
For more details, see: http://www.seemf.org/
Journalists interested in following SEEMF panel discussions can register at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Vienna, 22 May 2012
The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), with the financial support of the Austrian Development Cooperation agency, and in cooperation with the European Association of Regional Television (CIRCOM) and the Chisinau-based daily Ziarul de Garda, announces its annual conference dedicated to investigative reporting: The III South, East and Central Europe Investigative Journalism Days, to be held in Chisinau, Moldova, from May 23-25, 2012.
The conference, focusing on different aspects of reporting on corruption and crime, will be inaugurated by Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat. The opening ceremony will also include: SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic; CIRCOM Regional Training Project Manager Karol Cioma; Boris Bergant from the European Broadcasting Union-Special Assistance Project (EBU-SAP); Alina Radu, director of Ziarul de Garda; Gerhard Schaumberger, from the Austrian Development Agency; and Claudio Cappon, vice-president of the EBU.
Renowned international speakers, experts in investigative reporting, will cover a series of topics, including technology and advanced investigative techniques in the coverage of corruption and organised crime, as well as editorial policies on investigations into crime and corruption.
Paul Christian Radu, executive director of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project from Bucharest, Romania, will hold a panel on technology and advanced investigative techniques related to reporting on corruption and organised crime. Tony O’ Schaughnessy, an experienced international journalist and trainer, who served as a Current Affairs Series Editor for the BBC and is currently involved with CIRCOM’s video journalism and documentary courses, will focus on “Approaching investigative journalism within a current affairs program series-the editorial decisions to be made.” Marek Wollner, head and host of the investigative program Reporteri CT, broadcast by the Pubic RTV in Czech Republic, will hold a panel on investigative reporting on public television. Finally, Blaz Zgaga, a freelance reporter from Slovenia and a co-author of the three-part investigative trilogy, “In the Name of the State”, focusing on arms smuggling during the 1990s Balkan conflicts, will speak about his investigation.
More than 100 national and international journalists are expected to attend.
The III South, East and Central Europe Investigative Journalism Days will be inaugurated at 18.00 on May 23, 2012, in the Codru Conference Halls, Chisinau, Moldova.
The I South, East and Central Europe Investigative Journalism Days took place in Budva, Montenegro (2010), and the second in Belgrade, Serbia (2011).
For more information please contact Lyudmila Handzhiyska: email@example.com.
Vienna, 26 April 2012
The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) conducted a mission to Sofia, Bulgaria, from April 1 to 4, 2012 in order to assess the latest media developments in the light of changed media ownership and reports of pressure on media. The delegation met Bulgaria’s deputy prime minister and minister of interior, Tzvetan Tzvetanov, as well as over 25 editors-in-chief, leading journalists, media experts and NGO representatives.
The Bulgarian media scene has been profoundly transformed during the past three years, since the German-based media group Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) retreated from the country’s market in 2010. Media Group Bulgaria Holding has bought WAZ publications. On the other hand, the New Bulgarian Media Group began acquiring numerous publications in 2007. Both groups own numerous media outlets and control a large share of the print market. While the former appears to be associated with the pharmaceutical industry, among other business interests, the latter is reportedly related to one government-trusted bank. These two media conglomerates fight for the market and for influence. According to some interlocutors, the country’s top political leadership had to intervene in order to stop their public war. When asked about the missions or ideology of the two media groups, interviewees responded unequivocally: “There is no ideology. It is about business and personal interests.” Their rivalry split the publishers union. Currently there are two publishers’ unions.
Respecting the business interests of media owners and silencing any information that may be interpreted as harmful is widely accepted by most reporters as a way of doing journalism. Even independent media, valued for their intellectual content, and unrelated to the above-mentioned groups, abstain from addressing those economic areas where their owners are active. For example, if an owner is in the oil business, one abstains from writing in-depth articles about energy.
Foreign media ownership is perceived as advantageous for media outlets and journalists. Foreign owners are perceived as credible, long-term thinking and generally absent from day to day editorial decisions.
Bulgarian media owners, on the other hand, with less than two decades of capitalist experience, are perceived as investors with short-term vision who strive for immediate profits.
This business model has influenced the quality of media: most dailies have become tabloids.
Business and personal interests determine what journalists can write or how they can deal with specific issues or political figures. One editor said: “A journalist who came to work for us from another newspaper asked me if we should write good or bad things about a particular politician. He told me that his previous employer had strict instructions regarding politicians. You were not allowed to write anything about certain politicians. About others you had to write only positive stories. As for the third group, negative coverage was advised.”
This perception of media freedom and journalism implies that readers (and viewers) cannot rely on one specific media outlet to acquire information in the public interest. They are required to read different papers, watch different TV channels and switch between the only two radio stations (one private and one public) that produce news and programs, or opt for online media.
“Corporate journalism” as it is called in Bulgaria undermines the credibility of most media and creates distrust among journalists (perceived as followers of a particular media group). The economic crisis coupled with diminishing advertisement expenditures has affected most outlets. However, the two big media groups can keep covering losses in their media outlets since they generate profits in other business. Those who live off media business face serious challenges. In fact, reporters leave small quality publications for the better paid corporate journalism posts.
Last but not least, SEEMO has observed that Bulgarian journalists fail to address certain topics related to diversity: gender and gender violence, homophobia, ethnic and religious minorities, to mention several. These issues are addressed occasionally, if there is a particular incident, generally negative, that triggers coverage. Bulgarian society and the political arena have not started debating these social topics, which top the EU’s policy agenda in other countries.
Vienna, 25 April 2012
The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), on Wednesday released its report on the media situation in Kosovo. A SEEMO-led press freedom mission delegation visited Pristina, Kosovo’s capital, from November 23 to 25 2011.
The delegation met: President Atifete Jahjaga; Prime Minister Hashim Thaci; International Civilian Representative Pieter Feith; Head of the OSCE Mission Werner Almhofer and more than 50 media representatives, including owners, directors, editors-in-chief, journalists, media experts, media NGO representatives, and other professionals.
The objective of the press freedom mission was to assess media developments in Kosovo, following reports of pressure on media. The Kosovo media landscape has changed dramatically during the past 20 years. As part of former Yugoslavia, Kosovo had only a few state-sponsored media and one state television. After the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the Kosovo media market expanded exponentially: numerous newspapers and television and radio channels have been created. They are currently competing to survive in the crisis-stricken market of 1, 8 million people.
The SEEMO Report Concludes:
The Kosovo media market is crowded with numerous print and electronic media that may not survive economic challenges.
Albanian and Serbian-language media reflect the divisions between Pristina and Belgrade related to the unresolved political status of Kosovo. Media communities have not contributed to reconciling Albanians and Serbs: with some exceptions, they usually address parallel issues of parallel societies. Most abstain from hate speech.
According to most interviewees, media outlets are subject to political and business pressure. In the case of the Albanian-language media, pressure stems from different sources, mainly the government and political parties, but also from business leaders and some international representatives. In the case of the Serbian-language media, pressures are divided: some stem from internal struggles, while others come from Belgrade political representatives. Serbian- language media that try to overcome these divisions are also partially isolated from mainstream society: most Serbian journalists do not speak Albanian.
The common features of Kosovo journalism are low professional standards, high turnover, economic challenges, an absence of investigative reporting and a silencing of sensitive issues. Low wages and a frequent absence of regular contracts undermine reporters’ independence.
The lack of democratic traditions, as well as the lack of understanding of the role of independent media, combined with general fear of expressing one’s opinion, curtail the efforts of those reporters who try to conduct professional investigations.
Some attacks on journalists occur because of the lack of understanding of their role. In that respect, government and its institutions have failed to communicate properly, and/or train different officials as to the rights of access to information.
On the other hand, different international agencies that have played a crucial role in fostering the establishment of the legal basis for the functioning of independent media, are presently perceived as supporters of institutions rather than promoters of freedom of expression.
The process of democratisation is a long-term project and international pressure and influence cannot be substitute for the political will of the local authorities to transform their democratic rhetoric into concrete actions.
The SEEMO report recommends:
To Kosovo Media Professionals: Strengthen professional organisations capable of defending and promoting journalists’ rights; encourage journalists’ training and workshops; support investigative and quality reporting; respect professional standards and promote multiculturalism and diversity.
To Kosovo Authorities: Guarantee freedom of expression through actions rather than declarations; implement the law on public broadcasting and ensure that Radio Television Kosovo ( RTK) functions as a public rather than a state broadcaster; decriminalise defamation and libel; improve and professionalise the communication departments of ministries and other public institutions; organise capacity building for civil servants and explain the role of media in democratic societies; implement and respect all media-related laws; and abstain from pressuring the media, directly or indirectly.
To the International Community: Monitor and ensure that government fulfils all of its obligations related to respect for freedom of expression and media freedom; monitor and ensure that all media-related laws are implemented; abstain from pressuring the media, and organise training and workshops for journalists as a long-term project, respecting local necessities.
Link to the full report: https://seemo.org/files/Report%20on%20SEEMO%20Mission%20to%20Kosovo%202011.pdf
Vienna, 25 March 2012
The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), will visit Bulgaria from 2 to 3 April 2012.
The purpose of the visit to is to acquire a better understanding of the media situation in the country. In recent years, SEEMO has received complaints regarding pressure on media outlets. In addition, as SEEMO has reported, there have been physical attacks on journalists and media property.
SEEMO, a leading regional media organisation of editors-in-chief, media owners, media CEOs and prominent journalists in South, East and Central Europe, defends press freedom and promotes quality journalism.
The seven-member delegation will meet Minister of the Interior Tzvetan Tzvetanov and more than 25 media representatives including owners, directors, editors-in chief, journalists, media experts, NGO representatives, and other professionals.
The head of the mission is Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General.
Vienna, 28 Februar 2012
The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), released on 28 February 2012 a report on the media situation in Montenegro. SEEMO conducted a press freedom mission to Podgorica, the country’s capital, from 8 to 10 November 2011.
The delegation met Prime Minister Igor Luksic, Deputy Minister of Culture Zeljko Rutovic; Director of the Police Department Veselin Veljovic; Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro Ambassador Leopold Maurer and Press and Media Officer Dragan Mugosa; Head of the Political and Public Information Unit, OSCE Mission to Montenegro, Alyn Roberts and Media Programme Manager Radka Betcheva; and more than 30 media representatives including owners, directors, editors-in-chief, journalists, media experts, media NGO representatives, and other professionals.
The objective of the press freedom mission was to assess the media situation in Montenegro following several developments: a) the introduction of new media-related laws, including decriminalisation of defamation and libel; b) follow-up of the activities related to attacks on journalists, including the 2004 assassination of Dusko Jovanovic, editor-in-chief of the daily Dan; c) fact-finding about pressures on media; and e) evaluation of the steps taken towards the establishment of self-regulatory bodies.
Until December 2010, when Igor Luksic was appointed prime minister, Milo Djukanovic defined both the political and the media scene in Montenegro: media supported or criticised him; he publicly spoke of media he disliked. The current prime minister has adopted friendlier rhetoric. During the meeting with the SEEMO delegation, he expressed full commitment to respecting media freedom.
Different media-related laws have been adopted, in line with international standards, the government has assisted media survival by directly or indirectly bailing out both electronic and print media, and respect for media freedom is high on the agenda. However, media laws have to be properly implemented, institutional capacities have to be built, and above all, the government needs to make an extra effort in order to gain credibility among media representatives. Last but not least, access to information has to be improved: sometimes it is too slow.
Most journalists and editors interviewed by the SEEMO delegation consider that political and business pressure is a major threat to media freedom.
In a country with 620,000 inhabitants and with one media unit per 4,700 inhabitants, economic survival of media outlets is not easy: some depend on government or municipal subsidies, others on government – sponsored advertisements and on dwindling commercial advertising.
Survival is not guaranteed and competition is fierce. In order to gain market share, media outlets attack other media outlets by publishing allegedly incriminating information that is often difficult to substantiate, including personal attacks exchanged publicly by media owners and representatives. Investigative reporting is scarce, information is not always checked, and many journalists lack steady jobs. There is no censorship, but content is determined by financiers, media owners and their business interests and/or political views, powerful individuals or fear of reprisals.
The number of major media players in Montenegro is not as elevated as the number of officially registered media outlets. Owners, editors and journalists know each other well: their personal relations, rivalries and animosities influence the media environment. Editors and journalists have been unable to form credible professional institutions: self-regulatory bodies, unions and associations.
Quality journalism is scarce: virtually all SEEMO interlocutors agreed that professional standards were low and the ethical code was frequently breached. The right of the public to receive fair, well-checked and reliable information has not been respected.
1. Laws should be fairly and impartially implemented;
2. Political pressure on the media should stop;
3. The Government and its institutions must gain credibility. If most media professionals perceive political pressure as a major threat to free media, authorities on all levels must step up efforts to gain confidence. The media must do its part to gain credibility, as well.
4. All outstanding cases of attacks against journalists and media property must be resolved. By finding and prosecuting all the perpetrators, the Government would be demonstrating that it cares about media freedom and that it is committed to respecting a free media environment. In other words, it would demonstrate that democratic rhetoric is not a facade that camouflages political practices of the past.
To Media and Media Professionals in Montenegro:
1. Media and individual journalists should cease their public wars, mutual accusations and finger-pointing. By breaching ethical codes of conduct, they undermine their own credibility. Market share should not be acquired through unethical practices and violation of professional standards. They should place the public’s right to information above their right to insult each other.
2. Creation of a self-regulatory body would be a step in the right direction, although it is not clear if the establishment of parallel regulatory bodies would overcome the current divisions.
3. Professional training and the education of journalists must be strengthened at all levels: the public deserves credible and verified information.
To the European Commission and the OSCE:
The international community must keep up the pressure on Podgorica. Montenegro aspires to join the EU and must therefore abide by the rules. The international community should use all of its instruments in order to ensure that laws are not only changed but also implemented. It should engage in further capacity building of different institutions. After all, learning democratic procedures is a process.
REPORT ON THE SEEMO PRESS FREEDOM MISSION TO MONTENEGRO
Vienna, 27 Februar 2012
The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), will, in cooperation with different partners, expand a number of press freedom websites dedicated to monitoring media developments in specific countries. Currently, SEEMO runs websites on press freedom issues in Belarus, Hungary, Macedonia and Turkey.
Due to the success of the already-existing websites, SEEMO will create press freedom websites dedicated to Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Cyprus, Greece, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia and Ukraine. SEEMO, together with IPI, monitors media developments in all the above-mentioned countries and territories. The web project is expected to be completed by September 2012.
Country-specific websites contain an array of information sources in English: news, exclusive monthly reports, legal and political analyses, and local and international initiatives in support of press freedom. They follow political events and debates in each country and include links to information and analysis from governments, as well as human rights organisations specialised in press freedom. Further, they include links to media coverage, expert opinions, press-freedom mission reports and other updated information drawn up by SEEMO, governments, and multilateral, professional and human rights organisations focused on press freedom.
SEEMO’s country-specific websites are designed for specialists and a public at large interested in acquiring updated and in-depth knowledge of media issues and press freedom.
“I am happy that the SEEMO websites have generated such high interest, said SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic. “This indicates that there is a need to have comprehensive information in one place.”