Erhard Busek, President of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe, Vienna (2010) to SEEMO

Southeast Europe is currently still under construction. This construction is not only dependent on the different Southeast European countries, or even better to say the people living there, but it is also a European challenge. As made evident this year, I would say that Europe owes a lot to Southeast Europe. Not only European integration but also no visa regime must happen and. this is a responsibility for democracy and for the media.

We can congratulate both the journalists and the media owners who have developed in the right direction. But nothing and no one is perfect. This is also true for the media in South East Europe. So far, SEEMO has expressed numerous concerns about the way in which journalists and media are treated in public, within the political arena and also concerning the security for the journalists. Within Europe, it is a common responsibility to guarantee freedom of expression. I am very optimistic that this could happen, but a lot has to be done to create a normal situation in which you can trust that the important role of the media can be carried out in the best way possible for democracy.

My congratulations to SEEMO are connected to the request that the organisation continues on in this same way.

Erhard Busek Jean Monnet Professor ad personam President of the Institute for the Danube Region and Central Europe Coordinator of SECI – Southeast European Cooperative Initiative Former Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe

Gerhard Pfanzelter, Secretary General, Central European Initiative -CEI (2010) to SEEMO

The Central European Initiative (CEI), whose headquarters are based in Trieste, is the oldest and largest regional organisation in Europe. Established in 1989, over the years the CEI has offered a unique framework to foster cooperation among its 18 Member States. Moreover, it has facilitated the dialogue with the European Union, in order to assist the non-EU Member States in moving towards the EU. The CEI is a trusted and respected partner in the region, fully engaged and committed to provide significant, project-oriented contributions to strengthen the political, economic and social systems of its Member States.

Cooperation in the field of the media is a top CEI priority. Initiatives are promoted to encourage experience sharing and awareness raising with the aim to endorse media pluralism, transparency and independence. Among these activities, the CEI Journalists’ Forum stands out. The Forum offers a platform for promoting professional contacts throughout the region in order to improve the quality of the media as pillars of democratic development.

The fruitful cooperation with the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) has led to the creation of the Award for Outstanding Merits in Journalism. Recipients are journalists who excel in objective reporting despite the difficult conditions under which they often have to operate.

Because of its commitment to the freedom of the media, the CEI also supports the South East and Central Europe Media Handbook. The Handbook represents a unique instrument not only as a comprehensive database of media organisations and institutions, but also as a source of objective information about media legislation, media ownership and minority media.

We are proud to be partner of SEEMO for its remarkable commitment to protecting and enhancing press freedom.

Gerhard Pfanzelter
Secretary General
Central European Initiative (CEI)

The number of journalists who fall victim to attacks, arbitrary detentions and even murder has increased substantially around the globe. Austria thus supports the protection and safety of journalists at international level and speaks out in international fora against increasing restrictions on freedom of the press. Only recently, Austria’s commitment to promoting the safety of journalists has met.

This resolution calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all arbitrarily detained and arrested journalists and condemns attacks on media companies in the strongest possible terms. The text particularly highlights the special risks faced by journalists in the digital age and draws attention to the special problems faced by female journalists. This resolution is by far the strongest text that the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly have ever adopted on this topic. The fact that it was co-sponsored by more than 80 states and adopted by consensus underlines its significance and adds to its importance.

After this latest success, we will remain committed to supporting the safety of journalists as well as the protection of the freedom of the media and the press, and particularly in the context of Austria’s Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2017. In the context of the related efforts, we also seek to establish a link between a long-standing geographical priority of Austrian foreign policy, the Western Balkans, and substantive issues on Austria’s thematic agenda. In 2017 and in cooperation with the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatović, we therefore plan to host a conference on the safety of journalists in the Western Balkan countries.

One of the most important NGOs active in promoting freedom of the press in the Western Balkans and in Central Europe is the South East European Media Organisation (SEEMO). Since its inception, this organisation has launched numerous initiatives that have succeeded in supporting journalists in the free exercise of their profession. This makes SEEMO a particularly important partner of the Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs in the region. I am very pleased that SEEMO is continuing its valuable efforts and remains committed to promoting a free media landscape and wish the organisation every success for the future.

Sebastian Kurz , Minister for Foreign Affairs and Integration of Austria