Introduction and general information

The South East Europe Media Organisation’s (SEEMO) guidelines on press freedom provide a concise, comprehensive and transparent guide on how SEEMO operates. It includes definitions on media freedom and media workers, defines the issues addressed by the organisation, explains how press freedom violation cases are evaluated and monitored, which methods are used to promote and protect press freedom, how and when SEEMO should be contacted as well as an explanation about the writing style and language used in its protests and letters.

Some definitions and descriptions for this report have been partially reproduced from other and older press freedom organisations, including the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) / European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), International Press Institute (IPI) and International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX). However, the texts are adapted to the specific socio-political circumstances of South East, Central, South and East Europe – the regions monitored by SEEMO. SEEMO monitors press freedom in: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of North Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan. Additional SEEMO is active in Austria, Italy, San Marino and Vatican, as countries with special status.

Most countries monitored by SEEMO are transition countries. Most countries where SEEMO works did not have democratic regimes from 1941 until 1989 or the early nineties. A group of them had never experienced democratic regimes. In addition, some countries have had limited historic experience of state building. In some countries we have today a serious violation of basic democratic standards.

In other words, building state institutions and establishing democracy had to be tackled at the same time. Thus, democratic ways and means have had to be learnt during the past two decades. This process is slow and ongoing.

The development of independent media and a healthy respect for press freedom are integral, if not essential, parts of the democratization process. In some countries there have been major steps forward, in others the process halted.

SEEMO believes that some countries are still in the process of transition even if they have joined the European Union. Media developments have showed that EU membership does not constitute a guarantee for democracy and press freedom. The process of constructing democracy and creating an environment in which media operate freely is a continuous challenge. This guideline is only a small contribution to this learning process.

Definitions and Press Freedom Concepts

Press freedom

Press freedom is the right to broadcast, publish and distribute information without government interference or prior censorship. UNESCO recognizes “freedom of expression and freedom of the press as a basic human right” that “fosters media independence and pluralism as prerequisites and major factors of democratization.”

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Paris 1948, art. 19).

How is press freedom violated?

Press freedom can be violated in many ways. A press freedom violation can be an assassin’s bullet aimed to kill an investigative journalist and to intimidate and silence his colleagues. It can be the knock on the door from the police, bringing in a reporter to question her on her sources, or putting a journalist in jail because someone doesn’t like his reporting. It can be a restrictive media law, which puts the power over editorial content into the hands of censors and press courts. Press freedom can be violated in many ways and the form differs from country to country. In established democracies, pressure tends to be subtle. In transition countries and dictatorships, it is brutal, often involving killings, beatings, incarcerations, threatening phone calls, public condemnations, etc. Pressures and harassment of journalists and media outlets stem from a variety of sources: Political, economic, business, criminal and religious leaders, to name a few.

Why is press freedom important?

Press freedom is an important human right. It ensures that all other parts of a society function. It is part of freedom of speech and freedom of expression. Freedom of speech is a multi-faceted right that includes not only the right to express, or disseminate, information and ideas, but also the right to seek, to receive and to impart information and ideas.

Freedom of expression includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium. In practice, the right to freedom of speech is not absolute in any country and the right is commonly subjected to limitations, as is the case of defamation, slander, assault, calumny, vilification, libel, obscenity and incitement to crime and violence. SEEMO advocates for decriminalisation of defamation and libel. The United Nations Commission on Human Rights ruled in 2012 that the criminalisation of libel violates freedom of expression. It is also inconsistent with Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which states that everyone “shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice”.

Does press freedom have limits?

The right to freedom of expression excludes the right to incite violence and discriminate, insult or disseminate hate-related materials.

“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Paris 1948, art. 2)

Who is a Journalist?

The concept of journalism has been changing with new technologies and the diversification of information sources. SEEMO define journalists as someone who collects and distributes news and other information, cultivates sources, conducts interviews and research, writes, and reports on information and works in print or broadcast media (radio, TV) or news agencies or new media. It includes both permanently employed staff and freelancers / stringers. SEEMO also includes those bloggers who comply with professional journalist ethics and standards of journalism and who disseminate news. The term “journalist” encompasses all forms of journalistic work: news presenters, editors, editors-in-chief, editorial writers, think tank journalism, online journalists, sub-editors, columnists, domestic and foreign correspondents, visual journalists and photojournalists, reporters and persons working for student/school media. SEEMO evaluates blogger-related press freedom problems on a case-by-case basis. The term media worker includes also technical or other staff in a media company and is directly supporting the work of journalists (including translators, fixer etc.).

SEEMO and Press Freedom

What is SEEMO?

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional, nongovernmental, non-profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations, news agencies and new media. SEEMO defends press freedom and protects journalists. It promotes quality journalism through education and training.

SEEMO was founded in October 2000 in Zagreb, Croatia and was the brain child of a group of leading editors-in-chief, media executives and professors of journalism and communications from South East Europe. Between 2000-2015 SEEMO was an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI) in Vienna, since 2016 SEEMO works independent.

SEEMO has over 2,800 individual members in the SEEMO region. Additional companies can have a status of a corporate member.

SEEMO actively cooperates with international, regional and national governmental and non-governmental institutions as well as with other international press freedom and media organisation s by supporting and participating in joint regional and international projects and activities.

Where does SEEMO work?

In Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of North Macedonia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan,  and  in four countries with special statuts: Austria, Italy, San Marino and Vatican.

What does SEEMO do?

SEEMO promotes press freedom by defending journalists who are harassed, persecuted and imprisoned.

SEEMO exposes state, political, economic, criminal and religious pressure on media and journalists.

SEEMO denounces laws and legislation that undermine press freedom and restrict public access to information.

SEEMO campaigns for: Decriminalization of defamation and libel; establishment of financial sanctions for defamation and libel in civil litigation in line with a country’s economic development; and access to Information Legislation.

How does SEEMO promote press freedom?

Information gathering

SEEMO compiles country reports on political, economic and media developments, including press freedom violations. SEEMO staff monitors national and international press, as well as numerous reports and academic studies. In addition, SEEMO´s multilingual staff tracks developments through independent research and maintains daily or weekly contacts with SEEMO members and other journalists and media experts in the field. The organisation ’s broad network of journalists and media experts provides for a quick update on press freedom violations. Sometimes, gathering information is not enough. When media related developments show signs of rapid deterioration and press freedom violations multiply, SEEMO organizes missions and visits to those countries impacted.

There are four types of country visits: Fact-finding missions, press freedom missions, follow-up visits and monitoring visits. Depending on the nature of the country visit, the composition and the size of a delegation can vary. In all cases, delegations are composed of experienced journalists and media experts. (SEE: Missions and Campaigns)

What does SEEMO do with information?

SEEMO staff documents thousands of attacks on the press each year. Each case identified as a violation of press freedom is corroborated by more than one source for factual accuracy, confirmation that the victims were journalists or news organisations and verification that intimidation – or silencing the messenger – was the probable motive. Each case must be verified by at least 3 independent sources. If violations are self-reported, additional 2 independent sources must verify the case. In the daily work SEEMO is using journalistic standards employed by BBC, Reuters and AP. The cases are then classified into several categories: Those that require immediate reaction (exposing the case through a public letter or press statement), delayed reaction (mediation through diplomacy that resolves the case without public exposure) or are marked for monitoring (periodic calls and control to evaluate the developments).

How does SEEMO evaluate information?

Cases are evaluated individually. Each situation is different and local, political and economic contexts vary to the degree that the same incident may be regarded as an isolated case in one country, and signalled out as a serious violation in another. Of course, violations like murder, kidnappings, physical attacks and similar are always serious, wherever they happen.

If SEEMO considers that a particular press freedom violation is especially troubling, like massive layoffs for political reasons, to give an example, it may join efforts with other press freedom organisation s, local or international, and send a joint protest in order to have a bigger impact. Several press freedom organisation s may decide to coordinate a joint mission to a country or send a jointly-signed letter to presidents and prime ministers. Knowing the local, political and economic contexts is as important as the identification of press freedom violations. In that respect, SEEMO’s network is essential. SEEMO staff counts on witness accounts and expertise to evaluate each case within its context.

What happens to the compiled information?

A) It is discarded as irrelevant because:

1. SEEMO’s mandate does not cover the issue at hand. (SEE: What SEEMO does not do)

2. Threat or harassment occurs as of result of activities not related to journalism and media (for example attack on a media owner because of his onwerhip in a hotel and not because of his ownership of a newspaper)

3. After fact-checking, it is established that data is not accurate.

B) The case is set aside to be monitored: Press freedom advisors consider, after fact-checking, that it is premature to write a protest and yet the situation is potentially dangerous for a journalist and media.

C) Facts indicate that action is required: Depending on the type of pressfreedom violation, different actions can be taken.

1. A press statement describes the case, denounces the press freedom violation and urges authorities to undertake specific measures. Press statements can deal with a particular case, refer to a series of cases that indicate a press freedom violation pattern or deal with laws and legislation. Press statements are distributed to government officials, multilateral organisation s, NGOs, media outlets, academic institutions, press associations and press freedom organisation s around the world. The impact is international.

SEEMO’s statements are distributed to more than 70,000 addresses, including leading international news agencies, international and national print and electronic media and web-portals, governments, international organisations, NGOs.

2. Public letters are addressed to a country’s president, prime minister, or a specific minister who could solve a particular problem (for example, minister of justice, minister of internal affairs), or a high level religious representative. In other words, letters are addressed to the individual or individuals who can solve a specific issue.

3. E-advocacy, including the use of Internet-based technologies, like special SEEMO web-pages as well as newsletters, blogging, emails, online petitions, SMS (over mobile phone) alerts, Twitter, Facebook and other social media groups including You. SEEMO also shares its releases and letters with other organisations who may also post the information on their website or through their social media tools. The results of using these systems are covered by Analytics monitor systems, like Google Analytics monitor, alerts (like Google alerts), press clippings by professional companies, studies, feedbacks from members, reader surveys.

4. Mediation missions: Sometimes it is more effective to travel to specific locations where violations occur and solve the problem through mediation. Public exposure is not always the best way to solve a problem. Every case is different and local perceptions and sensitivities are important to know. SEEMO´s goal is to solve the problem and/or eliminate the source of the threat and help journalists, always in cooperation with local journalists and other media staff.

5. Public fora: Victims of press freedom violations are invited to SEEMO organised events and asked to speak about their experiences or the situation in their media outlet or their country. In this case, SEEMO covers their expenses. In some cases, SEEMO does not pay all the expenses. For example, if a speaker is already visiting the country for another reason or is being sponsored by a grant. Usually SEEMO does not pay an honorarium.

6. Missions: If the information indicates continuous and sustained press freedom violations, a mission or a visit is planned. There are different types of missions and visits:

a) Monitoring visits involve interviews on the spot with different stakeholders in order to acquire in-depth knowledge of the situation and decide future activities, including getting information for a protest letter/press release. These missions are conducted by one high-level SEEMO representative.

b) Fact-finding missions consist of two to three member delegations. They meet diverse local stakeholders – journalists, professional associations, media watchdogs, academics, politicians – who provide an overall view of the media landscape.

c) Press freedom missions consist of larger delegations: five to 10 members. In addition to meeting an array of local media representatives who provide a detailed account of media situation, these visits include interviews with presidents or prime ministers, as well as selected ministers. The purpose of these visits is to gather information and express concern regarding specific press freedom violation topics.

d) Follow up missions: A short visit, usually after a longer mission, conducted in order to check if specific issues were addressed, as previously promised. (SEE: Annex on How To Plan a Mission)

e) Standard country visit – is a visit by 2-3 high level SEEMO representatives to one coutnry. During the visit SEEMO representatives meet journalists, editors, media owners and politician. After the vistit SEEMO publish a statment about the media and press freedom situation in the country.

Information from the monitoring and additional work SEEMO is using for:
1. Annual statistic / data of imprisoned journalists. Additional SEEMO is documenting details of imprisoned media support workers.

2. Annual statistic / data of criminal court cases against journalists. Additional SEEMO is documenting criminal court cases against media support workers.

3. Annual statistic / data of killed journalists. Additional SEEMO is documenting the deaths of media support workers.

4. Annual statistic / data of physical attacks on journalists. Additional SEEMO is documenting the physical attacks on media support workers.

5. Annual statistic / data of missing journalists

6. Annual statistic / data of media ownership

7. Annual statistic / data of hate speech

8. Annual statistic / data of changes of editors under political pressure

9. Annual statistic / data of monthly payment of journalists

10. Annual statistic / data of staff numbers in media companies

11. Annual database / data of media contacts

12. Annual statistic / data of gender structure in media
For receiving additional information about media situation and landscape SEEMO developed questionnaires for members and partners, as also general questionnaires for journalists / other media professionals/ lawyers / media companies / politicians / university professors / students / public persons in one or several countries coved by SEEMO.

The online map, offers a visual overview of the situation in each country, however for the scientific work we suggest the use of numbers / individual news / individual reports.

SEEMO is not regularly publishing in the public results of the annual ranking of countries, all information are used internal, however results of the SEEMO work and a ranking can be presented in the public by SEEMO staff during an event or in a statement for media or in a research document.

Why is the case-by-case analysis necessary?

Killing or beating a journalist is an obvious and brutal way of silencing free media. In those cases, there is no need to verify the local context. It suffices to prove that a killing and/or beating occurred as result of journalistic work.

However, political, economic, business, criminal or religious pressure differs from country to country and within the same country the situation may vary from one region to another.

Political pressure: While in established democracies political pressure on media tends to be subtle, in former communist countries it can consist of a threatening phone call, changed legislation, forced closure of media, legal amendments, etc. In established democracies, civil society organisation s react promptly; in emerging democracies, civil society organisation s lack the political and media clout to have the same impact.

Economic pressure can take numerous forms. Again, in countries with well-established institutions, economic rules and market mechanisms, economic pressure can be subtle and indirect, using sophisticated mechanisms; in new democracies it is direct: removing licenses, withdrawing state-sponsored advertising (often the main source of income for small media in small countries), inexplicable tax increases, etc. Business pressure can be done through subtle or not so subtle advertorials or through direct threats and bribes. In many cases, business pressure uses mafia-like techniques.

Religious leaders can exercise pressure on media everywhere. In established democracies, there are instruments and mechanisms that help to prevent them from exerting public influence beyond their professional sphere. In many former communist countries, ethnic identity is often linked to religious belonging. Thus, religious figures exert disproportional influence. Therefore, their threats to media can have serious consequences.

For all of the above mentioned reasons, and many others, since pressure on media is diverse, evaluating every case within a particular political, economic and social context is essential. Even the same words or concepts can be perceived differently from one place to another.

In conclusion, having the in-depth knowledge of diverse realities and counting on the well-developed network of ground contacts that have profound knowledge of their environments is absolutely essential in order to evaluate situations and make the right choices in terms of press freedom actions. Even silence and inaction can be a form of action. Does SEEMO defend all media and journalists?

In some very specific cases, SEEMO may choose not to defend those who incite hatred, racism, fascism or propagate discrimination. (SEE: UN Human Rights Charter). SEEMO makes a clear differentiation between journalists who respect professional standards and those who call themselves journalists, but write propaganda-like articles that do not respect professional standards.

What SEEMO does not do

SEEMO does not interfere in labour-related disputes unless they are the consequence of press freedom violations. Journalists can address their labour issues to other international NGOs that specialize in this field. International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) / European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is one of them. However SEEMO is collecting all labour-related information for different media landscape reports produced by SEEMO.

SEEMO abstains from publicly criticizing media outlets by name. However, criticizing media outlets or individual journalists is possible by a SEEMO representative in an individual statement. SEEMO strongly believes that all media should subscribe to codes of ethics and follow internationally recognized professional standards. (SEE: International Federation of Journalists, Code of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists).

SEEMO does not provide lawyers for trials, unless a case is supported by an external financial source, granted to SEEMO.

SEEMO does not make political statements. The organisation maintains its political independence by: a) addressing only the issues within its mandate; b) using the internationally recognized names of towns, countries and territories; c) choosing neutral and nonoffensive language in its communication, d) abstaining from opinions in political disputes unrelated to press-freedom.

Who can contact SEEMO?

Individual journalists can contact SEEMO independently whether or not they are a member of SEEMO. SEEMO evaluates each case and decides on the steps to be taken. In some cases, international action is necessary; in others, the intervention of local NGOs or professional associations can be more effective. Each case is different and there is not a pre-established pattern.

Journalists’ associations: SEEMO maintains contacts with numerous journalists’ association in all countries and territories covered. They provide SEEMO with information and analyses. In certain cases, SEEMO publicly supports their demands and protests. Joint statements and action are also possible.

Media owners contact SEEMO when they are concerned with specific policies and/or laws and when they are subjected to threats.

NGOs – local, national and international – contact SEEMO for a variety of reasons: To provide information, share information, consult about a specific case,and suggest joint action.

Multilateral organisation s contact SEEMO in order to share information, ask for expert opinion on a specific subject, comment on a particular issue or suggest a protest.

Governments and state officials contact SEEMO in order to share information, ask for expert opinion on a specific subject, comment on a particular issue

Any individual or company can contact SEEMO in order to report a press freedom violation.

When should SEEMO be contacted?

Whenever there is a press freedom violation and international support is needed. In some cases, SEEMO is contacted when a particular incident takes place; in others, it should be contacted beforehand, especially when certain legislation that is a threat to the media is announced. When SEEMO support is need to avert announced legal changes, the organisation should learn about it ahead of time in order to coordinate a campaign.

It should be kept in mind that international support is not always the best way to fight for press-freedom. In some cases, local NGO’s actions can be more effective. However in some cases international support can be very important additional support to a local support. International support is not a substitute for local NGOs: It simply provides additional leverage and pressure on those who can solve a particular issue.

How to contact SEEMO?

SEEMO can be contacted by telephone, email or by post. SEEMO’s office telephone number is on its website – Although a phone call is more personal than an email message, it is suggested to send SEEMO first an email with details or that a phone call should be followed by an email message. Since SEEMO receives many phone calls, it is easier to keep track of all the cases if they arrive in a written format. Use of languages: English is the official language – so please contact us in English; however, SEEMO staff use also all languages from the SEEMO region.

SEEMO can be contacted also over the web-form on

Is SEEMO effective?

SEEMO has a record of real achievement. Individual journalists and journalists´ associations have noted that in many instances, SEEMO’s pressure was essential in solving problems – from police intervention in a village to a change in media law.


Press releases/statements and letters are written in a similar way: Focused, short, factual, unambiguous and demanding an action. The difference lies in the severity of the violation and the distribution. If a journalist is murdered, imprisoned or severely beaten, and thus badly injured, or if legislation should be stopped or amended, a personalized protest letter is written. It is addressed to the head of state, prime minister, president of the parliament or a minister of interior. Specific action is demanded. In some cases a letter could be sent to a religious representative, sports star, a famous singer, a business leader, an academic, a judge or military commanders or other any person with directly responsible for human rights and press freedom violations. The rest of the press violation cases require a press statement that are distributed to thousands of targeted addresses over the SEEMO network: individual journalists, state representatives, international organisation s, NGOs, media outlets, press associations, academics etc. In addition, every press statement is sent out to International Freedom of Expression Exchange (IFEX).

Protest letters are also sent out as press releases after the personalized delivery to its addressees.

SEEMO encourage all of its members, journalists and media to report on press freedom violations and informs local and international nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) as a way of providing moral support and encouragement. SEEMO supports journalists in prison and their relatives, if the journalist is imprisoned due to his/her professional work or because of writing a book or some other form of publication.


Typical press release has the following format:

Date when the release is sent. A title containing the most salient new development(s), for example: SEEMO condemns political pressure on … The first paragraph usually repeats the SEEMO reaction to a particular press freedom violation and explains it in more details: place, date and time of the violation. It includes the names of individuals, publications or other targets and identifies who is responsible for the violation, if this information is available.

The second paragraph provides additional details related to the incident and describes context to the incident, as well as a more detailed description of the violation and motive, if it is known. It may include quotes from the victim or the authorities. When sources are not at risk, they are mentioned.

Both paragraphs are written in such a way that readers around the world can understand it: clear factual and geographic explanations as well as full names of all institutions.

The third paragraph explains the nature of the press freedom violation and its implications.

The fourth paragraph specifies the stance of the organisation and includes a quote by SEEMO Secretary General.

Clarity about the sender:

Releases include information about SEEMO: e-mail address, postal address, website address, phone number and contact. People should have an easy and direct access if they want to seek additional information or respond.


Releases have to have full dates: day, month and year. It applies to both the day when a release is issued as to the dates of when particular events happened. Even if an alert appears to have become outdated and faded away, it can stay in someone’s mailbox for months or years and then suddenly get a new life as the mailbox’s owner forwards it to a new set of lists. A reader should be able to understand fast when and where something had occurred. Ambivalence should be avoided.

Self-contained texts

SEEMO audience is varied: one cannot assume that readers know much about the places or circumstances where a particular press-freedom violation took place. Thus, it is important to define the terms and provide background information. Even short messages should contain a sentence that sets the context. All names of countries, political organisations or movements, government bodies, professional associations and other institution should be written in full, with acronyms only in brackets. In some cases, the local acronym is given instead of an English one because it is better known than the English translation.

When writing about an ongoing case- for example an unsolved murder or attack-it is useful to remind the reader of both general background and basic information about the previous protests related to the same case.

Easy to understand and easy to read

The most effective way to begin a text is by writing a clear headline that summarizes the issue and the recommended action. Plain language, not jargon, is the easiest to read and understand. The spelling should be correct-incorrect spelling undermines the trustworthiness of the information-; the sentences should be short, the grammar used should be simple and gender-neutral. Since many readers have a basic commend of English, texts should be written in such a way that most readers can understand them. Thus, the choice of words is important: local expressions should be avoided.

Facts have to be correct

Facts have to be checked and double checked. Even a small mistake can make it easy to dismiss an alert as “rumours” or “exaggerations.” Once the mistake is discovered, it is difficult to issue a correction. A mistake in one alert can undermine the credibility of future alerts.

Right choice of words is important. Since both the title and the opening sentence usually express the organisation ’s statement in relation to a particular event, it is essential to use appropriate words. Killing a journalist is not the same as exerting economic pressure on a media to write in a particular way. While both constitute a press-freedom violation, they are not comparable. Thus, the choice of words has to be appropriate: for example, SEEMO would be alarmed or outraged by a killing, while it would condemn economic pressure. That is, SEEMO´s reaction has be commensurate with the offence. Exaggerating can backfire. If one is alarmed by a minor offence-an isolated insult, for example-what would one state in case of a murder. While there is not a clear verb to express the reaction to very type of violation-due to their variety it is impossible to establish the exact usage of words-the word choice is important. Exaggeration can undermine credibility.

Never sentence before a court ruling

SEEMO often reacts before there is a court ruling related to a particular offence. While there can be credible evidence that a particular person committed a particular press-freedom violation, SEEMO cannot issue a sentence before a court does it. Thus, the word “alleged” is often used when attributing press violation incidents to a person or an institution. That way SEEMO does not prejudge a case. For the same reason, SEEMO might not mention names of offenders, unless the police announce them, but also in that case not always. SEEMO uses quoted sentences only in certain cases, when the source asks to be quoted and there is no danger of misunderstanding. Written statement is easy to quote. But those obtained during a phone conversation or during a meeting can be more problematic, and are usually not published.

Use of Geographical Terms

SEEMO covers countries and territories that have unsettled issues: internationally recognized names, disputed borders, partially recognized statehoods, ethically divided societies. SEEMO does its best to abstain from any political judgments as to the future solutions of these disputes. Thus, when designing certain geographic or political entities, the organisation uses internationally recognized names or definitions that have been devised to denominate a particular territory or entity. In places where ethnic and political conflicts prevail,

In areas with political conflicts or multinationl areas SEEMO would use two or more names in order to name a city or a village: for example, Peje/Peć (in Kosovo).

Usually SEEMO present a member in connection with the city from where she / he is, and is not using the name of the country.

The most common usage of names:


On 12 June 2018 an agreement was reached between Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras and his counterpart from Skopje Zoran Zaev, where the Republic of Macedonia / FYROM could be renamed the Republic of North Macedonia. The deal includes recognition of the Macedonian language in the United Nations. The agreement stipulates the removal of the Vergina Sun from public use in the Republic of Macedonia / FYROM and the formation of a committee for the review of school textbooks and maps in both countries. The agreement was signed at Lake Prespa. As result of the agreement Skopje decided changing the license plates of its vehicles from MK to NMK. In July 2018 the Prespa agreement was ratified by the parliament in Skopje with 69 MPs voting in favor of it. On 30 September citizens of Republic of Macedonia / FYROM took to the polls to vote yes or no to the question: “Do you support EU and NATO membership by accepting the deal between Macedonia and Greece?”. Referendum turnout was about 36%, short of the 50% required to make the decision binding on parliament. On 19 October 2018 the parliament in Skopje voted to start the process of renaming the country North Macedonia, after a total of 80 deputies in the 120-seat parliament voted in favor of the constitutional changes. On 1 November 2018, Greece resumed air travel to Macedonia. The first flight was an Olympic Air flight from Athens to Skopje, which included the Macedonian deputy prime minister Bujar Osmani, who was returning from talks in Greece.

As result of the long year conflict between Athens and Skopje, SEEMO used till 2019 the following internationally established denomination:


The word Macedonia was always used when it was part of a proper name. For example: Macedonian Radio-Television or XXX Macedonian Association.

In order to avoid using the long name several times in a text, SEEMO used also when referring to authorities or ministries or media in the capital: Skopje based.

When referring to the region in Northern Greece, that also carries the name of Macedonia, the denomination should be: Macedonia and Thrace in Northern Greece. To make clear that a legal subject with the name of Macedonia is in Greece and to avoid confusions, like with Thessaloniki-based daily Macedonia, one should always add the name of the town in Greece where it is based (for example Thessaloniki) or name of the country (Greece).


Kosovo declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008. Serbia did not recognise the move and considers Kosovo as a United Nations – governed entity that forms an integral part of Serbia. As of 27 February 2017, 115 countries, including the United States and most European Union member countries, in addition to most neighbouring states, recognised the new state. 111 out of 193 UN member states recognised Kosovo.

Kosovo is not a member of the United Nations and is awaiting membership of some other international organisations and agencies. However, in 2009, the Republic of Kosovo became the 186th member of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and joined five World Bank institutions, including the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). Kosovo is also a full member of the International Olympic Committee and the European Olympic Committees (EOC). FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) admitted Kosovo as its 210th member. The IAAF (International Association of Athletics Federations) admitted Kosovo as a member in 2015 after a vote, with 187 in favour and 13 against. Currently, 2017, Kosovo is a full member of 25 international sport federations, a provisional member of four international sport federations, and an associated member of one international sport federatios. It is also a member of five European sport federations and associations.

SEEMO refers to the Pristina-based authorities or ministries or authorities. It uses terms political representatives of Kosovo, including term Prime Minister of Kosovo, President of Kosovo, President of the Kosovo parliament etc.

If necessary, SEEMO can use the current international denomination for Kosovo, based on the 24 February 2012 agreement between Pristina and Belgrade: 1. Both parties confirm their commitment to effective, inclusive and representative regional cooperation. 2. To this effect ‘Kosovo*’ is the only denomination to be used within the framework of regional cooperation. 3. The footnote to be applied to the asterisk in para 2 above will read “This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSC 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.” 4. ‘Kosovo*’ participates on its own account and speaks for itself at all regional meetings. 5. Where new agreements are to be initialled and/or signed, a representative of ‘Kosovo*’ will sign under the designation in paras 2 and 3 above. 6. As concerns modifications to existing agreements signed by UNMIK, nothing in these conclusions will be interpreted as prejudicial to UNMIK’s legal rights. A representative of the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) will bi invited to meetings organised within the framework of arrangements for which it is a signatory. It is for UNMIK to decide whether to attend any particular meeting. 7. Hosts of meetings will be encouraged to avoid the display of national symbols except for their own and those of the EU, taking into account the statutes of relevant organisations. 8. The EU as Facilitator will inform relevant regional organisations and entities of these arrangements for denomination, representation and signiture. They should be reflected in the practical organisation of regional meetings. The EU will monitor the implementation of these arrangements. 9. Both parties and the EU will urge partners to support these arrangements and to assist in their implementation. 10. The regional organisations referred to in these conclusions are existing and future intergovernmental organisations or arrangements whose aim is to promote cooperation or integration in the Balkan region. “Regional meetings” includes meetings of these organisations and also ad-hoc or informal meetings with similar aims. It also includes meetings with EU institutions in the context of the European agenda. 11. These arrangements are adopted on

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) advisory opinion of July 22, 2010 states: “The Court finds that the declaration of independence of Kosovo adopted on 17 February 2008 did not violate international law.”


As of today the northern 37% is under Turkish control while the southern 63% under the control of the Republic of Cyprus. Until the final settlement is reached on the divided island of Cyprus, SEEMO will be using the following denominations for the north of the country:

Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus or Northern Cyprus or self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus

Since the Turkish-controlled part of Cyprus does not enjoy international recognition, when SEEMO refers to the local authorities or writes letters to ministries, the common denomination is to use the name of the capital Lefkosa without mentioning the country.


There are two self-proclaimed territories in Moldova: Gagauzia and Transnistria.

When referring to Gagauzia, the denomination is: Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia in the Republic of Moldova.

As for Transnistria, currently not under the control of the government of Moldova, the denomination includes the name of the capital: Tirsapol. However, one can say in a press release self-proclaimed territory Transnistria. If a protest letter or reaction is addressed to the authorities in Tiraspol, than it is written Tiraspol, with no additional geographical details.

SERBIA When referring to Serbia´s region of Vojvodina, it is mentioned that it is located in Serbia.

TÜRKIYE / TURKEY In June 2022 the officials in Ankara have sent a letter to the United Nations formally requesting that it be referred to as Türkiye. President Erdoğan ordered the use of Türkiye in 2021 to better represent Turkish culture and values.

CZECHIA AND CZECH REPUBLIC – In 2016, the Czech Republic officially registered its short-form name, Czechia. The Czech name is Čechy.

UKRAINE Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine are areas of Ukraine that are currently controlled by Russia. In Ukrainian law, they are defined as the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine- ”

KYIV OR KIEV – Kyiv, also spelled Kiev. Ukrainians call their capital Kyiv a transliteration of the Ukrainian Київ. Most international organisations and governments officially adapted on-the-air pronunciation of Kyiv, to sound closer to the way it’s said in Ukrainian language.

OTHER TERRITORIAL DISPUTES OVER LANDS In the SEEMO region are also other disputes over lands, like Crimea, Sea of Azov, Nagorno-Karabakh region, Artsvashen exclave of Gegharkunik province, David Gareja monastery complex etc. SEEMO presents always all views about the status of a specific territory.

Ethnic belonging

SEEMO covers ethnically complex countries. Some of them have been through ethnic wars. Unless a press freedom violation is a result of the ethnic conflict, SEEMO will not mention the ethnic origin of journalists. However, in order to describe a specific media outlet in a multilingual environment, the organisation would mention the language used by a particular medium or if it is a minority media details about the minority / ethnic group or if it is important also the ethic origin of the journalist.

Gender Perspective

SEEMO takes gender issues into account. This includes addressing how a violation has differing effects on men and women journalists. Certain types of violations, such as sexual abuse, have gender implications. It is crucial to clarify why a particular offense is both a freedom of expression violation and a gender violation.

Gender / Sexual orientation / options (terms):

Non Conforming
Trans / Transgender
Transsexual (no longer commonly used)
Gender neutral
Non-binary – Genderqueer
Q: Queer
Pangender / Pansexual
Third gender
L: Lesbian
G: Gay
B: Bisexual / Biromantic
Questioning person
Gender Dysphoria
Combination of these from the list.
Homosexual is no longer commonly used in English language. See “gay” and “lesbian”.

Gender – Titles






Diversity / Sexual diversity 

SEEMO takes care about media coverage of diversity in the society, including the reporting of media for diversity groups and media representing sexual diversities. SEEMO suppots the work of LGBT media and also work of LGBT journalists.

Persons with Disabilities

According to WHO Around 15 per cent of the world’s population, or estimated 1 billion people, live with disabilities. They are the world’s largest minority. SEEMO is supporting the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the daily work of media and regular reporting in media about persons with disabilities. In this activity SEEMO is working in cooperation with International Academy in Belgrade and International Institute – International Media Center in Vienna.

Protest Letters

Protest letters have the following format:

The upper left corner of the letter contains: names and full title of the addressees, street address, email address and fax number.

One letter can contain a maximum of three addresses. A copy of the letter can be sent to a maximum of four politicians. All letters are signed by Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General. Letters are sent by fax and by email (a scanned in pdf).

All letters start with: Your Excellency or Your Excellences. In some cases it could be also Dear Mr. President or Madame President. Letters are short and concise. They explain the case and demand a concrete action. Letters could be open letters (distributed 1:1 by SEEMO) or personal letter (when SEEMO informs the public that a letter was sent) or very personal letters.

Definition of frequently used terms

Attacks: physical attacks against the journalists or the editorial offices (hitting, confiscating or destroying the recording equipment, tapes or cameras, sequestrating the journalist, devastating the editorial office etc.).

Threats: death threats, threats that put the physical integrity of the journalist and his family at risk, using trivial language when addressing to the journalist.

Death / murder / killing of a journalist: journalist killed

Injury: Journalist injured

Family, friends or staff targets: Threats made to family members, friends or staff of a journalist

Civil Charges: Journalist sued in a civil process as a result of work

Criminal Charges: Journalist charged in connection with their work

Attack to Property: Technical equipment damaged

Arrest or Detention: Journalists arrested or detained

Online attacks including trolling: Journalists harassed online

Intimidation: Journalists menaced as a result of the work

Interrogation: Journalists questioned by police, intelligent service or other authorities

Psychological Abuse: Verbal harassment

Sexual Harassment: Journalists targeted for gender

Pressures of authorities: pressures made on the journalists and media institutions by state institutions (investigations carried out by the Police, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Financial Guard or other state institutions and aimed at intimidating the press, arresting or detaining journalists for investigations, pressures from investigators to disclose confidential sources, confiscating or copying computer data, confiscating or copying documents, intercepting communications, passing pieces of legislation that are unfavourable to the press or refusing to amend such pieces of legislations, etc.).

Political pressure: pressures upon journalists and media institutions made by politicians or parties (systemic pressures made exclusively for protecting the political interests of some parties or politicians; including the use of state institutions in this respect).

Economic and business pressures: pressures upon journalists and media institutions made by companies or businessmen (offering advertising contracts, cancelling advertising contracts, asking for certain information not to be published or for certain journalists to be laid off in order to maintain the advertising contracts etc.).

Religious Pressure: Public condemnation of journalists and media by religious leaders who call for reprisals.

Access to public interest information: denial of state institutions or other institutions using public funds of granting access to public interest information to journalists; withdrawal or denial of accreditations for journalists.

Censorship: forbidding the publication, confiscating all the copies, abusive suspension of the broadcasting license.

Self-censorship: journalists refraining from publishing public interest information as a consequence of indirect pressures made by the owners or the editorial chiefs.

Soft (indirect) censorship: influencing coverage in media by applying financial pressure on critical media / rewarding media outlets and individual journalists who are seen as friendly to the state/government. Also actions intended to influence reporting in media, legal and other bans, direct censorship of specific content, or physical attacks on journalists or media outlets. Practice of soft censorship includes:

– State advertising: use of public money for tenders or to announce public information, or for campaigns to promote in media outlets government / state policies or service.
– Bribery and direct “on hand” payments: journalists, editors and media are offered direct payments or other compensation (gifts/donations/in kind support) to shape or slant the reporting.
– Paid News and Reports: paid, often non transparent way of payment, to promote a biased coverage of certain issues.
– Subsidies: assistance to a specific media company or outlet provided by the state or a publicly funded institution/organisation. Special form is a non-transparent hidden subsidy (financial assistance to selected media with public money that is not officially defined and registered as a subsidy).
– Other pressures: imports restrictions, licenses, visit of audits or tax authorities.

Legislation: pieces of legislation affecting the legal environment in which media functions and limiting the journalistic freedom of speech.

Style and Font

SEEMO letters, press releases and other publications are written in the UK English. However, if proper names use non-UK spelling, original version should is kept.

Press Release Headings

All nouns, adjectives and verbs are capitalised. Particles (and, of, for, with, to, etc.) are not to be capitalised. The font is Arial, size 12.

Main text:
The font used is Arial: size 12. Text is justified with no initial indentation, except where noted otherwise (see Citations and Referencing).

Single spacing is used in a block form

The names of publications, television and radio programmes, and websites are written in italics.

Names of media outlets, companies, foundations or other organisations are written in normal font without italics, bold, punctuation, or any other indicators to set them off in the text.

Hyperlinks should be removed from the text.


English punctuation is used.

Cardinal numbers smaller than ten are spelled out fully: one, two, three, etc. Cardinal numbers 11 and greater are written using numerals. For numbers where place-keeping is required, a comma (and not a space or full stop) should be used. (i.e., 1,000,000 or 1,000 NOT 1 000 000 or 1.000.000). If we have an amount less than 1 it should be written in form 0.57 or 1.40 – with a point.

Where the exact amount is uncertain, it is acceptable to spell out even large numbers: for example, the population of Canada is about 32 million. Or: There are around two hundred thousand people in Newfoundland.

For ordinal numbers, the numbers are spelled: first, second, third, fourth). Roman numerals are used when there is convention: historic events, nobility, and certain sporting events. For example: World War II, King Henry XIII or the I Conference or the II Forum.

Per cent should generally be spelled out. The British standard is that per cent is two words. A % sign is also used.

Dates are written in the day-month-year format, with the month spelled out: 10 November 2008.

Events happening regularly on a specific date should be given using ordinal numbers (i.e., New Year’s Day is on 1st January). Years are to be given in numerals: 1877 or 1999.

Currency denominations are written according to the ISO currency code. Short symbols – $, £, € – should be avoided. Common ISO currency codes are USD for United States Dollars, GBP for British Pounds and EUR for Euros. The code follows the numeric amount: 1,000 EUR.

Non-English Languages and Letters

Non-English text is used where it is necessary for clarification or precision. For example, the names of companies, people, or national holidays could be given in the native language.

If possible, SEEMO will use additional the alphabet of the source language. For example, Greek should be given in the Greek alphabet, or if it something is in Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Serbian, Bulgarian or Macedonian (in ROM-FYROM) in Cyrillic alphabet.

Name of a city, company or person should be written in English and if possible additional in local language / with local letters.

SEEMO will in all reports preserve all accents and diacritical marks where these are standard in the source language. Do not add accents where they are only used in teaching the language or other specialist use. In some cases, if it will help not to have mistakes, SEEMO will not use the accents and diacritical marks, like for example if SEEMO will distribute a statement over its own email system – as in some cases because of the software of the user, he / she can get instead of accents and diacritical marks some symbols (like $, X, ?, #).

Quotations, Citations and Referencing

Quotations of no more than 50 words are embedded in the text.They are indicated by double closed quotation marks (inverted commas, “”). The final word of original text before the quotation should be separated with a comma. The first word of the quotation should be capitalised. Any punctuation following the quotation should be within the closing quotation marks.

For example: I am about to quote text, “And now I am quoting it.” Quotations are not written in italics, bold, or any other typesetting. Where more than three short quotations are used in one page, they should rather be set off from the text as for a long quotation.

Legal Issues:

The quotation should be accurately reproduced and preserve the exact wording, tense, punctuation, and meaning of the original source. It is not legal to use another person’s words or ideas without giving credit. Plagiarism and is a serious offence.

It is not legal to quote or otherwise reproduce in published text more than 5% of a specific document. One can also not reproduce more than 10% of the entire works of a specific author. Exceptions are possible in special cases.

This does not apply to institutional authors (for example, government, UN, or NGO reports). Acts of Parliament, Criminal Codes, Statutory Instruments, and court judgments can be reproduced in full.

Missions and Visits:

There are four different types of missions and visits to a country. Independently of the type of a mission, SEEMO keeps written records and, in some cases, video and audio documentation as to the composition of the delegations and the list of interlocutors. Most of this documents are internal and can be used only by SEEMO staff and presented to SEEMO board members. Only in agreement with a particular person, the material can be publicly distributed.

Fact-finding mission: composed of three to five members, an international delegation visits a country in order to learn as much as possible about the situation through direct contacts with different stakeholders: journalists, media watchdogs, academics, union leaders, international organisation s present on the ground, NGOs, etc.

Press-freedom mission: Composed of a five to ten member delegation this type of mission combines two objectives: a) investigation and b) transmitting a message or concern regarding particular issues to decisionmakers. It can be an advocacy mission to campaign for a law change or to raise concerns regarding a deteriorated media environment. This mission involves meetings with presidents, prime ministers and ministers.

Follow-up Mission: After a press freedom mission is organized in order to raise specific concerns – for example, a constant press-freedom violation or a harmful legislation – an additional mission can be planned after an established period of time, in order to evaluate if any changes had taken place. The delegation usually meets the same people who they had encountered during the press freedom mission.

Monitoring visit: The SEEMO Secretary General visits media outlets affected by a specific problem, also meetings with leading politial representatives and foreign diplomats are possible. He identifies the origin of the problem and attempts to solve it through dialogue with the concerned parties. Whatever the nature of the mission, it is preceded by detailed preparation. The following considerations are applicable to all missions and visits.

Defining a mission

Considering the multiple levels of engagement that missions can offer, it is important to determine what type of mission or visit would be most suitable in terms of the objectives to be achieved – fact-finding, press freedom, monitoring visit or a follow up mission – and then start detailed preparation. There could be one or several objectives: Gather hands-on information on current freedom of expression conditions that may be difficult to find in other ways.

Build relationships between local and international media, free expression activists and other civil society groups.

Communicate concerns and recommendations directly to local authorities. Draw the attention of national or international media and general public to situations of concern. A mission could include all or just some of these objectives.

Political and cultural context

The political-cultural context of where the mission is to take place has to be well understood: who makes the decisions, how the decisions are made, what is the media landscape, what are the general media concerns, who owns the media, which laws are applied, which are the most salient cases of press-freedom violation, what are the local perceptions regarding media, do media abide ethical standards, etc.

A mission must be tailored to address the specific political-cultural context.


To ensure success, SEEMO consults its local partners in order to ensure: a) the proper definition of the objectives and b) stakeholders ownership of those objectives. In other words, the beneficiaries have to agree with the set-out objectives.

Since every situation is unique, local stakeholders and degree of their involvement may differ a great deal from country to country. Again, knowing the local political and social context is essential in choosing the right partners.

Local ownership and involvement in missions is also important because often these campaigns require ongoing, invested, grassroots support in order to have a lasting impact on a freedom of expression environment.

Security concerns

Speaking to the local journalists and media representatives is an essential part of a mission. Yet, in some countries local authorities might disapprove of contacts with foreigners. In that case, one has to elaborate other ways to acquire information since the security of local journalists, NGO representatives and others should never be endangered because of their cooperation.


Missions take a lot of planning and the preparation period starts several months ahead of a trip. Missions last several days so all the meetings have to be scheduled during that period. Some trips-like press freedom missions-include meetings with presidents and prime ministers. In those cases, early preparation is even more necessary. Decision-makers are contacted three months ahead of time in order to set up meetings. Since their agendas are full, they are the first ones to be contacted in order to set out the mission dates.

In addition, it is important to choose a centrally-located hotel, easy to reach, so that many meetings, especially with local journalists, can take place there. Logistics is an important aspect of a mission: one has to organize many meetings in a short period of time. Thus, it is important to avoid unnecessary transportation, especially in big cities, and save on transportation time. Decision-makers are usually met in their office, while meetings with journalists can be scheduled in a hotel lobbies or conference rooms. Of course, one has to be flexible and adjust to the local circumstances.

Knowing the local political and social context is always crucial: for example, one should make sure not to schedule missions during important state or religious holidays, or some other days of special importance to a country or an ethnic group within a country. Knowing local holidays is a sign of respect.

Talking points

Members of the delegation are provided with a short information kit on the country where the mission takes place. The information contains basic political and economic data, and a list of the major media related issues. That way, they are prepared to speak to all the interlocutors. Local representatives prefer to speak to those delegations who are well informed beforehand.

Members of a delegation are also prepared as to local cultural norms and practices to ensure smooth and successful meetings and effective communications.

It is useful to make sure that international delegates are aware of local sensitivities. The reasoning is the following: missions have to be focused only the issues they should tackle.

Variety of stakeholders

Mission delegations should be perceived as neutral parties: in many countries political polarization is reflected in the perception of the freedom of expression and divides journalists and journalists´ organisation s. At the same time, various groups can have different interests at stake when it comes to free expression (e.g. media owners and editors).

It is important for missions to include a broad range of actors, including journalists, editors and owners, as well as local and international press freedom advocacy groups, human rights organisation s, and other NGOs around the free expression issues and questions they are facing. Missions should not express political preferences regarding media. The only way to be perceived as neutral is by meeting the representatives of different political views. If diverse groups can come together in support of press freedom and free expression, this will maximize the impact and potentially offer opportunities for building new alliances.

Government officials

Presidents, prime ministers and ministers are included in all pressfreedom missions. Their involvement is essential because they can, if there is political will, address specific problems and issues. Normally it is not easy to schedule meetings with prime ministers, but SEEMO has been successful in that respect: most of them know about the organisation and its activities.

Reporting and media

Mission findings are published in a report which typically includes a clear analysis of the free expression situation, indicating trends where applicable. The report draws attention to the mission’s specific recommendations. Reports do not include names of journalists in order to maintain their privacy. It is more important to document what journalists and other local actors have to say than to write their names.

Names of the politicians can be mentioned and listed. Reports can be for internal or external use. Most SEEMO mission reports are distributed and publicised. In some cases they are intended for a better understanding of a particular situation. It depends on the type of the mission and its objectives.

Some visits are preceded by a press release announcing the purpose of the mission. During certain missions, interviews are given to local media in order to raise certain concerns. In other cases, the mission has a private character. It is always important to decide beforehand the nature of the mission. Then, media strategy is elaborated: Low profile, high profile or none.

Press clippings and media coverage that the mission receives both locally and internationally have to be collected as they indicate what type of message a mission has transmitted.

Monitor, evaluate and follow up

Lessons learned and further steps to take-follow up missions and/or monitoring visits-should are decided by the delegation after the trip while the impressions are still fresh.

All mission contacts are kept and people should be occasionally contacted so that they feel part of the joint efforts.

SEEMO and other international press freedom organisations

SEEMO cooperates with other major international press-freedom organisations that are active in South East Europe. This cooperation has many forms including joint conferences, joint campaigns and joint missions. One for of a cooperation with partners is also a joint memorandum of understanding (MOU).

When there is a particularly severe press freedom violation, usually a deteriorating overall situation in one particular country due to legislation, policies or practices, joint action may be necessary because it has a stronger impact on the ground. One should never forget that the basic objective is to achieve a free environment for the media to function. When decision makers are immune to pressure from one single organisation from abroad, they react to a broader campaign. In addition, when there is an obviously deteriorating media environment, several organisation s may schedule missions. In order to avoid overlapping and to maximize the impact, joint missions are organized.

Joint Public Letters

When several organisation s join efforts it means that press freedom violations go beyond isolated cases. These types of situations usually require public letters addressed to presidents and prime ministers. After a previous agreement, one of the organisations drafts a letter, then it is circulated to everyone for feedback, and once the agreement is reached, presidents and secretaries general of all the organisation s sign it. This way, the impact is maximized.

Joint missions

The structure of the joint press freedom missions are the same as SEEMO organised ones. In this case, however, the final report is agreed by several delegations and therefore its final impact is multiplied because important organisation s share the same view and they distribute their findings to an even wider array of interested parties. That means, in practical terms, that if the opinion of one NGO does not have an impact on a government or in intergovernmental organisations, like the European Union or the Council of Europe, a joint statement does reach the desired audiences. If a country or an important European institution ignores the findings of one organisation, they do not ignore the opinion of several of them. These joint reports are used to shape policies that do matter to the politicians on the ground.

Joint Conferences

While it is not common for SEEMO to organise joint conferences with other organisations, it is common to invite their representatives to SEEMO conferences either as speakers or as participants. It is always an opportunity to share information, experiences and plan future actions. SEEMO regularly attends the conferences organized by other organisations. In general SEEMO representatives only participate in an event organised by other organisation, if the host organisation covers hotel and travel costs for a SEEMO representative. In some specific cases SEEMO can organise joint conferences with other organisations.

SEEMO Cooperation with Regional and National Organisations: SEEMO actively cooperates with regional and national organisations. Regional organisations can mean two things: Regional NGO or regional representations of international NGOs or intergovernmental organisations and regional representations of international foundations. This cooperation can have many facets, including organizing conferences, sharing information or supporting specific actions, projects and campaigns.

SEEMO actively cooperates with national NGOs, press-freedom or journalists’ organisation s. This cooperation has many forms: Joint public statements in support of specific campaigns, both to denounce press freedom violations and to praise positive steps; participation in conferences and workshops, exchanging know-how and creating networks.

Conferences and Public Speaking

SEEMO Conferences

SEEMO organises several conferences each year. They take place in different countries and deal with the latest media issue and with regionspecific media challenges. These conferences are an occasion to promote SEEMO work, activities and campaigns; raise the organisation ´s profile, create new networks and initiate new collaboration agreements. It is also an occasion to organize numerous face-to-face meetings to learn about the daily concerns of journalists in relation to press freedom. A typical SEEMO conference lasts two days and is attended by 100 to 200 participants, if it is a biggter conference by more than 400 participants. Opening or closing speeches are typically done by presidents or prime ministers of the host countries, but there is no other influence by the politicians on SEEMO. SEEMO does not pay to the conference partcipants or speakers a honorarium or speaker fee. SEEMO can, if there is money in the budget refund the hotel and travel costs of a conference speaker or participant.

SEEMO conferences are also attended by the representatives of other press freedom organisation s: They either participate as speakers or they follow the proceedings. Many projects came about as the result of the meetings during conferences.

Regular SEEMO conferences are South East Europe Media Forum (each year in one other contry in the SEEMO region, new topic); Commission on Meida Policy, Istanbul Media Days, Pristina Media Days, Investigative Journalism Days, SEEMO Dialogue, Press Freedom Summit, Montenegrin Media Days, Bled Media Summit, Media and Diversity. Regular conferences by SEEMO partners were SEEMO has a partner role are Media and Persons with Disabilities, Media and Politics and Media and Democracy, Media and Business, Media and PR.

SEEMO attends conferences

The SEEMO Secretary General or SEEMO board member or SEEMO member participate as speaker, moderator, key note speaker or trainer at different conferences as SEEMO representative. A SEEMO representative can only particpate if the hotel and travel costs are covered by the organiser of the event. SEEMO budget can only be used for the basic work of SEEMO and SEEMO press freedom work, but not for travel and hotel costs to a conferece where a SEEMO representative participates.

SEEMO Media and Communication Strategy


SEEMO works for the media and with the media. Press freedom organisations, promote its campaigns, denounce abuses and raise consciousness on press freedom by using the media. Unlike other NGOs that have to invest extra effort in finding the right media partners, SEEMO has its members’ network and knows its target audience: General news media outlets with influence on decision makers. Depending on the case, the target could be local, national or international decision makers. And as a subsidiary of the world’s oldest international press freedom organization, SEEMO has the benefit of a wider audience for its protests.

However, new networks and partnerships are constantly developed. Why are they necessary if SEEMO members are among the most influential media outlets in South East Europe? The reply is simple: Some campaigns or abuses have to be broadcast to wider audiences since decision makers ignore local pressure. For example, SEEMO wants to influence a government to change its media policy because all critical news outlets have been closed due to its policy. Obviously, it is not enough that local and regional media reproduce SEEMO’s analysis. The government in question does not pay attention to them but it does react to the international pressure SEEMO media strategy is a plan that guides how the organization interacts with the media. It helps ensure that messaging is consistent, organized and targeted.

SEEMO has a short, medium and long-term media strategy. The shortterm strategy involves its daily work and press-statement distributions. The mid-term strategy includes SEEMO’s coverage of missions, campaigns, conferences and projects. The long-term strategy is about branding SEEMO as a press freedom reference organization in and for South East Europe.

Short-term strategy: Distribution of press statements

SEEMO press statements are distributed to all major international general news media outlets. However, some press statements are distributed to a more restricted list of media outlets. Why? Because some issues have a strictly regional and local character and sending them out to the international media would not influence the local situation. In addition, it is important to keep in mind that too few releases and too many of them can be harmful for the organization: In case of the former, it would appear that SEEMO is not active; in case of the latter, journalists would be overburdened with news that are not of their immediate interest. Thus, it is important to find the right balance and to target only those media outlets that are specifically relevant.

SEEMO keeps of all of its press statements that are reproduced in media in order to evaluate their content and assess the impact.


The SEEMO Secretary General or a SEEMO board member gives media interviews in the name of SEEMO. Some deal with general tendencies in the region while others relate to specific countries, issues and conferences.

Missions and campaigns

Most SEEMO missions are treated as high-profile visits and require media coverage. Prior to every mission, media are alerted on the nature of the mission and its objectives. Mission findings are also publicized.

While mission announcements and findings are distributed internationally, interviews during missions are usually given to the local media. In these cases, the consistence of the message is important: Nature of the mission, problems to be addressed, expected results. SEEMO abstains from political pronouncements and declarations.

Project-specific media coverage

SEEMO organizes numerous international conferences. These deal with the most salient issues affecting regional and international media. All conferences are attended by the international press. Frequently, they are inaugurated by presidents and prime ministers.

The conferences are the occasion for four types of media coverage: a) Local media cover political speeches of local politicians and indirectly promote a topic of SEEMO concern. b) Local media cover the conference topics and thus raise the awareness about them. c) International attendees write on conference topics and thus disseminate the message. d) SEEMO’s Secretary General gives numerous interviews, to both local and international media outlets, and thereby raises the profile of the organization.

Conferences are excellent occasions for branding: First, SEEMO promotes it activities; second, the organization is linked to the contemporary media related topics; and third, SEEMO uses the occasion to underline its mission.

Internet / Mobile phone

SEEMO manages several websites. The organisation has its web portal with updated information on press statements, public letters, conferences, awards and events calendar.

In addition, SEEMO manages project-specific websites: a) Conference websites b) Network websites c) Country specific press freedom websites.

SEEMO is also using social media for communication like Facebook (, Twitter (, Instagram (, Linkedin ( etc, as also communication via WhatsApp and Viber

For distribution of information SEEMO has also a system of distribution via newsletter for subscribers.

Public speaking

The SEEMO Secretary General or a board member participates in over 100 conferences each year as a key note speaker or a moderator in the name of SEEMO.


SEEMO has two regular publications: South, East and Central Europe Media Handbook (SMH) and DeScripto magazine.

The handbook contains comprehensive political, economic and media related information on Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia (Republic of Macedonia / FYROM), Malta, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan.

De Scripto magazine is published four times a year. Each issues focuses on another country/ region and counts on the collaboration with a local university. It covers Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Vatican.

SEEMO Awards

Dr. Erhard Busek SEEMO Award for Better Understanding: Sponsored since 2002 by former Austrian Vice-Chancellor Dr. Erhard Busek, who was also special coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe, coordinator of the Southeast European Cooperative Initiative (SECI), and chairman of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe. The 3,000 EUR prize is awarded to a journalist, editor, media executive, media expert, press freedom fighter or a journalist trainer in South East and Central Europe, who, through the media, has promoted better understanding among peoples in the region and worked towards solving minority-related problems and fighting against ethnic discrimination, racism, and xenophobia, among others.

SEEMO CEI Investigative Journalism Award: The Central European Initiative (CEI) is an intergovernmental forum with its headquarters in Trieste, Italy, composed of 18 member states. The CEI has traditionally paid attention to the areas of information and media and encouraged the role of independent media in its member states. This by CEI supported with 5000 EUR award promotes investigative journalism.

SEEMO Human Rights Award: An annual SEEMO human rights award since 2002 dedicated to World Human Rights Day, held on 10 December.

SEEMO Photo Human Rights Award: Between 2008 and 2012, SEEMO has presented the SEEMO Photo Human Rights Award in cooperation with Beta News Agency Award for best photo in SEE and CEE, and since 2013 it is an independent award by SEEMO for best human rightgs photo in SEE and CEE.

SEEMO Award for Lifetime Achievement is a special SEEMO award for journalists and media workers with more than 35 years of working experience.

SEEMO and the Code of Ethics

SEEMO does not criticize media outlets by name, nor does it take part in disputes among and between media owners and outlets, unless they are related to press freedom.

The organization believes in self-regulation and the respect of the media Code of Ethics. Generally, most countries have elaborated their own codes, although some universal ones, like those provided by the International Federation of Journalists and the Council of Europe constitute the basis for most.

SEEMO members are expected to respect national and international Codes of Ethics. While the organization will not criticize them when they breach those codes, SEEMO may be reluctant to publicly provide support when they need it.

SEEMO expects all of it members to abide by clear ethical standards. Serious violations may result in the expulsion from membership in the organization.

Annexed are the most widely accepted Codes of Ethics in Europe. The IFJ Code of Conduct, first adopted in 1954, provides a code of ethics adopted by all national representative journalists’ organisations in Europe. Therefore, the IFJ Code of Conduct provides the basis for a common understanding on ethical issues through voluntary adoption of journalists and publishers. In this area IFJ sees no active role for national governments.

IFJ Code of Principles on the Conduct of Journalism (Adopted by 1954 World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists.)

This Declaration is proclaimed as a standard of professional conduct for journalists engaged in gathering, transmitting, disseminating and commenting on news and information in describing events. One: Respect for truth and for the right of the public to truth is the first duty of the journalist.

Two: In pursuance of this duty, the journalist shall at all times defend the principles of freedom in the honest collection and publication of news, and of the right of fair comment and criticism. Three: The journalist shall report only in accordance with facts of which he/she knows the origin. The journalist shall not suppress essential information or falsify documents. Four: The journalist shall use only fair methods to obtain news, photographs and documents.

Five: The journalist shall do the utmost to rectify any published information which is found to be harmfully inaccurate. Six: The journalist shall observe professional secrecy regarding the source of information obtained in confidence.

Seven: The journalist shall be aware of the danger of discrimination being furthered by the media, and shall do the utmost to avoid facilitating such discrimination based on, among other things, race, sex, sexual orientation, language, religion, political or other opinions, and national or social origins.

Eight: The journalist shall regard as grave professional offences the following: plagiarism; malicious misrepresentation; calumny, slander, libel, and unfounded accusations; acceptance of a bribe in any form in consideration of publication or suppression.

Nine: Journalists worthy of the name shall deem it their duty to observe faithfully the principles stated above. Within the general law of each country the journalist shall recognise in professional matters the jurisdiction of colleagues only, to the exclusion of every kind of interference by governments or others.

RESOLUTION 1003 (1993)[1]on the ethics of journalism The Assembly affirms the following ethical principles for journalism and believes that they should be applied by the profession throughout Europe.

News and opinions

1. In addition to the legal rights and obligations set forth in the relevant legal norms, the media have an ethical responsibility towards citizens and society which must be underlined at the present time, when information and communication play a very important role in the formation of citizens’ personal attitudes and the development of society and democratic life.
2. The journalist’s profession comprises rights and obligations, freedoms and responsibilities.
3. The basic principle of any ethical consideration of journalism is that a clear distinction must be drawn between news and opinions, making it impossible to confuse them. News is information about facts and data, while opinions convey thoughts, ideas, beliefs or value judgments on the part of media companies, publishers or journalists.
4. News broadcasting should be based on truthfulness, ensured by the appropriate means of verification and proof, and impartiality in presentation, description and narration. Rumour must not be confused with news. News headlines and summaries must reflect as closely as possible the substance of the facts and data presented.
5. Expression of opinions may entail thoughts or comments on general ideas or remarks on news relating to actual events. Although opinions are necessarily subjective and therefore cannot and should not be made subject to the criterion of truthfulness, we must ensure that opinions are expressed honestly and ethically.
6. Opinions taking the form of comments on events or actions relating to individuals or institutions should not attempt to deny or conceal the reality of the facts or data.
The right to information as a fundamental human right – Publishers, proprietors and journalists 7. The media’s work is one of “mediation”, providing an information service, and the rights which they own in connection with freedom of information depends on its addressees, that is the citizens.
8. Information is a fundamental right which has been highlighted by the case-law of the European Commission and Court of Human Rights relating to Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and recognised under Article 9 of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television, as well as in all democratic constitutions. The owner of the right is the citizen, who also has the related right to demand that the information supplied by journalists be conveyed truthfully, in the case of news, and honestly, in the case of opinions, without outside interference by either the public authorities or the private sector.
9. The public authorities must not consider that they own information. The representativeness of such authorities provides the legal basis for efforts to guarantee and extend pluralism in the media and to ensure that the necessary conditions are created for exercising freedom of expression and the right to information and precluding censorship. Moreover, the Committee of Ministers is aware of this fact, as demonstrated by its Declaration on the Freedom of Expression and Information adopted on 29 April 1982.
10. When dealing with journalism it must be borne in mind that it relies on the media, which are part of a corporate structure within which a distinction must be made between publishers, proprietors and journalists. To that end, in addition to safeguarding the freedom of the media, freedom within the media must also be protected and internal pressures guarded against.
11. News organisations must consider themselves as special socioeconomic agencies whose entrepreneurial objectives have to be limited by the conditions for providing access to a fundamental right.
12. News organisations must show transparency in matters of media ownership and management, enabling citizens to ascertain clearly the identity of proprietors and the extent of their economic interest in the media.
13. Inside the news organisation, publishers and journalists must coexist, bearing in mind that the legitimate respect for publishers’ and owners’ ideological orientations is limited by the absolute requirements on truthful news reporting and ethical opinions. This is essential if we are to respect the citizens’ fundamental right to information.
14. These requirements are such that we must reinforce the safeguards of the journalist’s freedom of expression, for they must in the last instance operate as the ultimate sources of information. In this connection we must legally expand and clarify the nature of the conscience clause and professional secrecy vis-à-vis confidential sources, harmonising national provisions on this matter so that they can be implemented in the wider context of democratic Europe. >
15. Neither publishers and proprietors nor journalists should consider that they own the news. News organisations must treat information not as a commodity but as a fundamental right of the citizen. To that end, the media should exploit neither the quality nor the substance of the news or opinions for purposes of boosting readership or audience figures in order to increase advertising revenue.
16. If we are to ensure that information is treated ethically, its target audience must be considered as individuals and not as a mass. The function of journalism and its ethical activity
17. Information and communication as conveyed by journalism through the media, with powerful support from the new technologies, has decisive importance for the development of the individual and society. It is indispensable for democratic life, since if democracy is to develop fully it must guarantee citizens participation in public affairs. Suffice it to say that such participation would be impossible if the citizens were not in receipt of the information on public affairs which they need and which must be provided by the media.
18. The importance of information, especially radio and television news, for culture and education was highlighted in Assembly Recommendation 1067. Its effects on public opinion are obvious.
19. It would be wrong to infer from the importance of this role that the media actually represent public opinion or that they should replace the specific functions of the public authorities or institutions of an educational or cultural character such as schools.
20. This would amount to transforming the media and journalism into authorities or counter-authorities (“mediocracy”), even though they would not be representative of the citizens or subject to the same democratic controls as the public authorities, and would not possess the specialist knowledge of the corresponding cultural or educational institutions.
21. Therefore journalism should not alter truthful, impartial information or honest opinions, or exploit them for media purposes, in an attempt to create or shape public opinion, since its legitimacy rests on effective respect for the citizen’s fundamental right to information as part of respect for democratic values. To that end, legitimate investigative journalism is limited by the veracity and honesty of information and opinions and is incompatible with journalistic campaigns conducted on the basis of previously adopted positions and special interests.
22. In journalism, information and opinions must respect the presumption of innocence, in particular in cases which are still sub judice, and must refrain from making judgments.
23. The right of individuals to privacy must be respected. Persons holding office in public life are entitled to protection for their privacy except in those cases where their private life may have an effect on their public life. The fact that a person holds a public post does not deprive him of the right to respect for his privacy.
24. The attempt to strike a balance between the right to respect for private life, enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and the freedom of expression set forth in Article 10, is well documented in the recent case-law of the European Commission and Court of Human Rights.
25. In the journalist’s profession the end does not justify the means; therefore information must be obtained by legal and ethical means. 26. At the request of the persons concerned, the news media must correct, automatically and speedily, and with all relevant information provided, any news item or opinion conveyed by them which is false or erroneous. National legislation should provide for appropriate sanctions and, where applicable, compensation.
27. In order to harmonise the application and exercise of this right in the member states of the Council of Europe, we must implement Resolution (74) 26 on the right of reply _ Position of the individual in relation to the press, adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 2 July 1974, and also the relevant provisions of the European Convention on Transfrontier Television.
28. In order to ensure high-quality work and independence on the part of journalists, they must be guaranteed decent pay and proper working conditions and facilities.
29. In the relations which the journalist must maintain in the course of his duties with the public authorities or the various economic sectors, care should be taken to avoid any kind of connivance liable to affect the independence and impartiality of journalism.
30. In journalism, controversial or sensational items must not be confused with subjects on which it is important to provide information. The journalist must not exploit his duties for the principal purpose of acquiring prestige or personal influence.
31. In view of the complexity of the process of providing information, which is increasingly based on the use of new technologies, speed and conciseness, journalists must be required to have appropriate professional training. Rules governing editorial staff
32. Within the newspaper business, publishers, proprietors and journalists must live side by side. To that end, rules must be drawn up for editorial staff in order to regulate professional relations between the journalists and the publishers and proprietors within the media, separately from the normal requirements of labour relations. Such rules might provide for the setting up of editorial boards. Situations of conflict and cases of special protection
33. In society, situations of tension and conflict sometimes arise under the pressure of factors such as terrorism, discrimination against minorities, xenophobia or war. In such circumstances the media have a moral obligation to defend democratic values: respect for human dignity, solving problems by peaceful, tolerant means, and consequently to oppose violence and the language of hatred and confrontation and to reject all discrimination based on culture, sex or religion.
34. No-one should remain neutral vis-à-vis the defence of democratic values. To that end the media must play a major role in preventing tension and must encourage mutual understanding, tolerance and trust between the various communities in regions where conflict prevails, as the Secretary General of the Council of Europe has set out to do with her confidence-building measures in the former Yugoslavia.
35. Having regard to the very specific influence of the media, notably television, on the attitudes of children and young people, care must be taken not to broadcast programmes, messages or images glorifying violence, exploiting sex and consumerism or using deliberately unsuitable language. Ethics and self-regulation in journalism
36. Having regard to the requisite conditions and basic principles enumerated above, the media must undertake to submit to firm ethical principles guaranteeing freedom of expression and the fundamental right of citizens to receive truthful information and honest opinions. 37. In order to supervise the implementation of these principles, selfregulatory bodies or mechanisms must be set up comprising publishers, journalists, media users’ associations, experts from the academic world and judges; they will be responsible for issuing resolutions on respect for ethical precepts in journalism, with prior commitment on the part of the media to publish the relevant resolutions. This will help the citizen, who has the right to information, to pass either positive or negative judgment on the journalist’s work and credibility.
38. The self-regulatory bodies or mechanisms, the media users’ associations and the relevant university departments could publish each year the research done a posteriori on the truthfulness of the information broadcast by the media, comparing the news with the actual facts. This would serve as a barometer of credibility which citizens could use as a guide to the ethical standard achieved by each medium or each section of the media, or even each individual journalist. The relevant corrective mechanisms might simultaneously help improve the manner in which the profession of media journalism is pursued.

[1] Assembly debate on 1 July 1993 (42nd Sitting) (see Doc.6854, report of the Committee on Culture and Education, Rapporteur: Mr Núñez Encabo).

Text adopted by the Assembly on 1July 1993 (42nd Sitting).