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Grumbling in the ranks

Posted by Helen Sunday, July 31, 2005

The European journalists are not happy. This has little to do with their colleagues being persecuted in various countries, though there is a little stirring about Romania going on.

The European Federation of Journalists is protesting at the closure of a couple of Portuguese newspapers owned by a Spanish syndicate, apparently for purely commercial reasons.

Aidan White, General Secretary of the EFJ opined that

“It is vitally important to convince the management that these journals have a future and that they should invest in them. What is at stake is not just a matter of profit and loss; there are questions of culture, democracy and pluralism that must also be addressed.”
Well, I don’t know. Profit and loss do come into the newspaper business somewhere and, short of government subsidies there seems no solution to that. Government subsidy, on the other hand, as even the European Federation of Journalists must know, involves government control. Do they really want that?

But they do have a gripe against the British presidency as well. Apparently, each presidency sets its own rules for accreditation to various events, even though, as Mr White points out:
“Journalists already have accreditation at national and European level and this should be respected throughout the European Union.”
The British rules seem particularly bizarre. In order to have accreditation to the meeting of foreign ministers in Newport in early September, journalists, who have and are covering other events, have to fill in a completely separate form, which asks, among other essential pieces of information, the names of their parents. Understandably, the journalists are balking at this.

Whether they will balk far enough not to go to Newport (after all, they are not likely, on past record, to find out what is really agreed), remains to be seen. They should count themselves lucky they do not have to answer questions in English and in Welsh.

Aidan White also said:
“If the European Union wants to connect properly with citizens it must at the very least get its approach to working journalists right and not oblige them to follow rules that are bizarre and inexplicable.”
Well yes, one of the aims the Commission keeps setting in its never ending battle for the hearts and minds of the people of Europe is to work closely with journalists. On the other hand, finding out what it is like to have to follow rules that are bizarre and inexplicable is surely good for the hacks. This will give them a much better understanding of the European project.