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CLUB RULES.

Intimidating journalists who disturb the powers that be is generally thought of as a practice worthy only of republics well below our standards. Unfortunately, though, liberticidal violence is also current in our lands.

We make this point in this special issue dedicated to the still too frequent barriers to freedom of the press, especially when these are grounded in national laws that undermine the European Union's credibility. Austria, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden (but also Iceland and Switzerland) are often described as star pupils. Others, and not just Hungary with its media law, maintain a patchwork of questionable arrangements that allow judicial remedies and enormous fines against journalists accused, for instance, of blasphemy when they simply denounce irregularities. The 27 are nevertheless part of a club that has rules in this respect, rules that are legally binding since 2007, namely the Charter of Fundamental Rights, of which a clear principle that underpins our democracies is recalled on the following page of this special edition. Unfortunately, it is just a principle that is interpreted in many different ways.

There is such a lack of points of reference that the European Commission, guardian of the treaties, is hesitant to admonish states that do as they please. The European Parliament, in a resolution that did not rally unanimous support, asked the Commission, on 10 March 2011, to propose a directive before the end of the year in order to set the "minimum essential standards that all member states must meet and respect" in their national legislation.

We dare to hope that the term minimum standards' does not mean the lowest common denominator. It would be reasonable for this directive to draw on the very concrete requests by NGOs that defend freedom of opinion, freedom of expression and freedom of the press, particularly in support of journalists' right not to disclose their sources of information. We would also like to suggest that it refrain from inventing further restrictions. What good would it be to have an area of justice, freedom and security if the club does not permit journalists to tell the truth, the whole truth, even when it disturbs?

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Publication:European Report
Date:Mar 30, 2011
Words:357
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