On April 15-16 Tbilisi Marriott Hotel hosted a regional conference on Safeguarding Media Freedom in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine organised by the Council of Europe, in the framework of the 2009-2010 Swiss chairmanship of its Committee of Ministers. Following a conference a press conference was held. In the course of the press conference the organizers assessed the results of a two-day work.
According to Ivan Koejikov, Head of the CoE Information Department the situation in CoE
member states has worsened in terms of protection of media freedom. It was revealed in the course of the conference too.
Journalists face governments' resistance with obtaining information as well as with the dissemination process, Ivan Koejikov pointed out. "Problems are of course everywhere but their level and scale varies according to the countries. Through the conference, held with the participation of the authorities of five countries and the civil sector and media representatives, media-government relations has turned out to be the top challenge. Media complains about government's meddling while the authorities are rather often concerned about media being non-constructive and unqualified," said Ivan Koejikov.
Working in the OSCE area is sometimes physically dangerous for journalists, the conference participants stressed. The conference organizers once again reminded the state officials the journalists shouldn't been disappearing in democracies and they shouldn't be jailed or killed or threatened. In addition, they said, the whole responsibility lies on the governments whose top duty is the protection of journalists' safety.
Speaking at the conference William Horsley, Chairman of the UK Section and Media Freedom Representative of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) said a democratic society and the state faces a serious challenge such as the protection of freedom of expression, and unless this fundamental right is safeguarded any county is going to experience difficulty with being a strong democracy. According to Horsley in order to have journalists' rights properly protected good rules shall be adopted and adhered afterwards. "Very often journalists find themselves as victims of various attacks which is of course inadmissible. To avoid it the state shall take care of making a journalist feeling secure to perform his/her professional duty. It is noteworthy that disobedience to laws is the main issue, provided this issue is arranged the problems are to be gradually solved," William Horsley stressed.
In response to the journalists' question what sanctions should be expected if any of the states fail to adhere to the CoE requirements on protection of freedom of media Ivan Koejikov said they have no particular mechanism of pressure and the Council is neither obliged to exert pressure on any country. According to him the CoE is just reminding all the countries of their commitments.
In the course of the conference Ivan Koejikov mentioned journalists' liabilities too. "The journalist shall be ethical, adherent to standards, competitive and constructive when censuring the authorities. It's going to be hard for any high official to exert pressure or level threats against highly qualified journalist well performing his/her duties.
Dunja Mijatovic, recently appointed OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, also took part in the event. She pledged to do her best, within her competence, to have journalists' rights and security protected in the OSCE member states.