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World Press Freedom Day also needed in Europe, deplores IFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - 2 May 2011 - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), marks World Press Freedom Day by focusing on the severe threats to press freedom in the heart of Europe.

"Europe, and in particular the European Union, has to protect and enforce press freedom. But this is not what we have always seen in the past year," said EFJ President Arne König. "Unfortunately World Press Freedom Day is also cruelly needed in Europe."

The Hungarian media law continues to impose undue political control over journalists despite the minor changes requested by the European Commission; the Italian Prime Minister still controls a media and advertisement empire that affects editorial independence of journalists; in Romania, journalists have to challenge a "national security strategy" that considers journalists a threat to the state; in Bulgaria and other countries of the Western Balkan, investigative journalists are threatened and sometimes physically assaulted; protection of sources is put at risk; an increasing number of journalists is forced to work with freelance contracts or no contract at all and all over Europe journalists' working conditions are becoming ever more precarious as the combined consequences of the austerity measures and the deregulation of long-term working relations take effect.

"Press freedom is never granted," said König. "The duty of journalists as watchdogs of democracy requires national or European authorities to take their responsibilities for the enforcement of press freedom standards as fundamental rights."

The EFJ also offers special support to journalists in Belarus who are suffering from the terrible repression against independent media since the elections in December 2010 and to the hundreds of journalists in Turkey who face trials and jail sentences. More than 60 journalists are currently in jail in Turkey, and the EFJ affiliate the Turkish Union of Journalists, TGS, is leading a Freedom Coalition for their liberation and for the respect of the rule of law.

There will be a special discussion on press freedom in Europe at the upcoming EFJ Annual Meeting to take place this year on 15-17 June in Belgrade.

The EFJ also recalls the legacy of the September 11th terrorist attacks in the US as well as in the UK and Spain, whose impact still affects press freedom through anti-terrorism laws and attacks on civil liberties. Ten years after the attacks in New York and Washington, journalists across Europe still suffer the consequences of the excessive security measures limiting the ability to work, to access information, to protect sources and to hold government to account. "In 2009, member countries of the Council of Europe committed to review the impact of their anti-terrorism legislation on press freedom and we now ask for results," says the EFJ.

Around Europe and around the world, journalists' organisations are planning to highlight other pressing issues in their communities, countries and regions during the annual celebration of press freedom.

Please find below information about events which are taking place across the globe organised by journalists and their unions: http://www.ifj.org/en/pages/ifj-global-world-press-freedom-day-2011

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