European Rules Turned Against Press Freedom p.10

By: Mark fitzgerald The continent that gave birth to the concept of a free press
has become a laboratory for creation of a modern form of press control

Turkey desperately wants to enter the European Union. So how does the Turkish government justify imprisoning scores of journalists on such vague charges as "insulting the judiciary" or threatening "the interests of public safety?"
It says it is only following European press and human rights laws. That's what Turkish government officials told Toronto Globe and Mail publisher Roger Parkinson and other free press advocates when they asked for the release of 77 Turkish journalists.
"They cited Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights," Parkinson recalled during the World Press Freedom Committee's biennial meeting in Dallas April 19.
Indeed, WPFC and other free press organizations say that increasing numbers of oppressive governments are using the European Convention as a tool to bludgeon the press.

Perverse Result
In "Perverse Result," a report prepared for the WPFC, Dana Bullen and Rosalind Stark document nearly 1,200 instances in 109 countries from 1992-96 in which the ideas in Article 10 were used to justify prosecuting or jailing journalists. Section 2 of the article says that free expression can be regulated for eight reasons ranging from "national security" to "territorial integrity."
"When Europeans say it's OK to restrict the press, it's not surprising that somebody in Tanzania says, 'Well, if the Europeans say it's all right, it must be,' " Bullen said.
Europe, the continent that gave birth to the free press, is becoming a sort of intellectual author for press oppression in much the same way authoritarian Asian governments such as Singapore or Malaysia justify muzzling journalists, the WPFC says. "We have all heard of 'Asian values' and seen how they have become a danger to . . . press freedom," said Ronald Koven, WPFC's European representative. "We now see emerging a justification based . . . on what could be called 'European values.'"
Just as in Asia, some Europeans in and out of government are arguing that America's view of press freedom is too broad, too chaotic. For instance, Albania's new press law ? as sweeping and terse as the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment ? is criticized even by some local journalists as "too American," Koven said.
At its meeting, in conjunction with the Newspaper Association of America convention, the WPFC agreed to write and campaign for a resolution urging the European Parliament to repeal Section 2 of Article 10. Past suggestions, however, have been met with a cold shoulder ? and worse. "The fact is they are quite insulted even by our undertaking a study of the effects of Article 10," said James H. Ottaway Jr., chairman of the WPFC and Dow Jones' Ottaway Newspapers.
"We have been making some efforts, but it is really very hard," said Jayme Sirotsky, the Brazilian newspaper publisher who chairs the World Association of Newspapers.
In addition, said WPFC executive director Marilyn Greene, "There is some fear that if you open up the issue ? which will never happen ? but if you open it up you could end up with something worse." Europeans see no reason to change the human rights convention, which was adopted in 1950, because they have a free press and a court system that protects against abuses.
"We understand that," Ottaway said. "We've got to point out that when it gets translated into Albanian ? people get their heads cut off. . . .This is not a matter of words. This has real human consequences."
Article 10
European Convention On Human Rights

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and
to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring
the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such
formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interest of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the
protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

?(E&P Web Site: http://www.mediainfo. com) [Caption]
?(copyright: Editor & Publisher April 25, 1998) [Caption]


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