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European Parliament's decision not to publish audit report "shows contempt for transparency," says EFJ

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a media release from the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), an IFJ regional group:

European Journalists Accuse the European Parliament of "Shameful Cover-Up"

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European regional organization of the International Federation of Journalists, today responded angrily to the decision by the European Parliament (EP) not to publish the details of an audit report into the expenses of its members, accusing the Parliament of giving a devastating blow to democratic accountability within the EU.

"This is shameful behaviour and an unacceptable cover-up," said EFJ Chair Arne König. "In one stroke the Parliament has shown contempt for transparency within the EU."

The EFJ, which represents journalists in all European countries, has campaigned for more than 15 years for the highest level of disclosure at all levels within the EU. The Federation says the EP has damaged its credibility in the eyes of citizens.

Yesterday the European Parliament adopted the 2006 budget discharge, presented by Socialist MEP Dan Jørgensen, by 582 votes in favour, 77 against and 18 abstentions. An amendment presented by the Green MEP Bart Staes asking to publish the report of the Court of Auditors was rejected, even though the Parliamentary report refers to irregularities pointed out by the Court of Auditors.

The Court of Auditors has highlighted "insufficiencies in the regulatory framework . . . concerning the payment of parliamentary assistance allowances as well as in the resultant implementation" and it also pointed out that "the Bureau has not ensured that the rules concerning the payment of parliamentary assistance allowances requiring the submission of adequate supporting documentation have been implemented effectively."

The EFJ rejects as "unjustified" arguments that the reports of the Court of Auditors are not normally made public. The Federation says that in this case, with public confidence in the political administration on the line, the principle of openness and full disclosure should have been followed.

"Even now we hope for a change of heart," said König. "People who profit out of politics by claiming bogus expenses may not have broken the law, but their morality is called into question. That is why they should face public scrutiny."

The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in over 30 countries.

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