Press freedom in Europe means welcoming exiled journalists, says MediaWise Report

31 October 2005 – The media, press freedom organisations, refugee groups and governments across Europe could do more to protect journalists who flee persecution, says a new report from the media ethics charity MediaWise.

Exiled Journalists in Europe, edited by journalists Rich Cookson, Mike Jempson and Forward Maisokwadzo, describes some of the ground-breaking work being done to help colleagues re-establish themselves, and highlights gaps in provision.

In her Foreword to the Report, Ms Bemma Donkoh, UK Representative for UNHCR comments: “The strength of this study is in its acknowledgement that creating opportunities for journalists in exile is not the sole interest of those working with refugees and the media. It should be a matter of significant concern to any society that claims to value the democratic principle of freedom of the press.”

The Report examines the situation in 11 countries – Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK – with statistics and stories about what is being done by non-governmental organisations and media unions. It also contains recommendations about how media organisations, voluntary groups and government agencies could make a difference.

Much of the research was carried out by exiled journalists with direct experience of projects designed to assist them. Coming from different parts of the world, some have been threatened, beaten, imprisoned or tortured simply for doing their job.

“Increasing numbers of those facing oppression and persecution have no option but to seek asylum in a safer country,” says MediaWise Director Mike Jempson. “There are no precise figures for the number of journalists forced into exile around the world, but we have set up a network with 156 members in the UK alone, and RSF is in touch with at least 73 journalists who have sought asylum in France.”

According to Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) more than 50 media workers were killed in 2004, and on 1 January 2005, 107 media professionals were in prison across the world. Thousands more are subjected to physical attack, intimidation, arbitrary arrest and harassment every year.

MediaWise hopes the Report, funded by the Open Society Foundation, will generate fresh partnerships and funding across Europe to ensure that journalists receive the support and assistance they deserve for risking their lives to keep the public informed.

The report’s recommendations include:

* The establishment of a hostels to provide short-term accommodation and support for newly-arrived media professionals, in the main centres of media production in Europe where there is a significant need;

* Skills-assessment and training schemes across Europe to enable exiled journalists to find work appropriate to their skills;

* Work-placements in the local or national print and broadcast media co-ordinated by employers’ organisations in each European country, to help exiled journalists restart their careers;

* Bursaries for exiled journalists to undertake research, write up their experiences or undertake degree courses that would enhance their skills and employment prospects.

* Opportunities for exiled journalists to work with media unions and campaigning groups to highlight the special problems faced by media professionals and to promote press freedom around the world.

For more information or interviews please call Forward Maisokwadzo (MediaWise RAM Project Communications Officer): 0117 941 5889

Copies of the report are available at here.

(Bulletin No 114)

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