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Week ending September 8, 2012

EBU urges Portuguese PM to shelve "reckless" plans for RTP - September 5 2012
from Michelle Roverelli/EBU

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) has urged the Portuguese government to abandon plans to put management of RTP, the country’s public broadcaster, into private hands.

Last week, the government announced that one of the possible ways to reduce the costs incurred by RTP could be a temporary transfer to private hands. In reaction to this, RTP’s Board has resigned.

"You cannot treat a public broadcaster like an electricity company or a staff canteen", said EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre. The EBU represents public service broadcasters in 56 countries in and around Europe, including Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP). "Such a reckless move would add to the strain on Portuguese society during this time of crisis, and put at risk a public institution that has served Portugal well since the Salazar dictatorship".

"The citizens of Portugal should be worried. Editorial independence and pluralism will be endangered. Citizens could lose a trusted reference point forever, " added Deltenre.

In an open letter sent today to Portuguese Prime Minister Pedro Manuel Passos Coelho, the EBU condemns the proposed privatization as an unprecedented step that may end public broadcasting in Portugal. Never has such a model worked out.

The proposal would lead to unresolved legal questions with regard to competition law and European expectations based on the Amsterdam protocol and the recommendations of the Council of Europe.

“EBU Members, including RTP, share a set of common values: working for citizens, not shareholders; and for democracy, not for profit. This is what sets us apart from commercial media.” said EBU President, Jean-Paul Philippot. “The privatization of RTP could have a significant impact on future generation’s understanding of Portuguese culture,” he concluded.

A decision to privatize RTP would not solve Portugal’s current financial crisis, in fact Portugal is one of the EU countries that provides the least amount of funding for its public broadcaster. Moreover, RTP's current Board has already submitted a radical plan to reduce the already severely cut annual budget by €55 million to just €180 million, as requested by the government.

The EBU has offered the Portuguese government its in-depth knowledge of the various public media systems in Europe to provide the advice, assistance and expertise necessary to preserve RTP as a true public broadcaster in the European tradition.

WAN IFRA - Golden Pen of Freedom Awarded to Mexican Journalist - September 3, 2012
from Larry Kilman/WAN IFRA

Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández was been awarded the Golden Pen of Freedom, the annual press freedom prize of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA).

Ms. Hernández was honoured for her commitment and dedication to investigative reporting that revealed corruption at the highest levels of Mexican society and has placed her life in danger.

“Personally, this award is a light that shines on my dark path, a light in the lonely and unequal struggle between a journalist and a whole apparatus of corruption,” said Ms Hernández, accepting the award during the opening ceremony of the 64th World Newspaper Congress and 19th World Editors Forum Monday in Kiev, Ukraine.

“As a Mexican journalist, receiving the Golden Pen of Freedom tells me WAN-IFRA and its members refuse to remain indifferent to the slaughter of journalists and freedom of expression in Mexico, and that their joint denunciation will pressure the international community to stop this from continuing,” she said to an audience of more than 1,000 publishers, chief editors and other senior newspaper executives from around the world.

WAN-IFRA has presented the Golden Pen of Freedom since 1961 to recognise the outstanding action, in writing or deed, of an individual, group or institution in the cause of press freedom.

Ms Hernández is a Mexican journalist who has worked for several important national dailies, and was driven to become an investigative journalist after the kidnapping and murder of her father in Mexico City in 2000. Her recent book, ‘Los Señores del Narco / The Drug Lords’, details the complicities between organised crime and high-ranking authorities, from government officials to the police, military and prominent businessmen. As a result, she has made herself the target of death threats from both state and non-state actors.

“In presenting this award, WAN-IFRA recognises the unyielding stance Anabel Hernández has taken, at great personal risk, against drug cartels, organised crime and corrupt officials,” said Erik Bjerager, President of the World Editors Forum, who presented the award. “Her actions have helped ensure the development of high quality, unrestricted investigative journalism in the region, and by presenting her with the Golden Pen of Freedom we express our solidarity with all Mexican journalists who remain defiant in the face of constant threats and horrendous violence.”

WAN-IFRA again called on the Mexican authorities, and in particular in-coming President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, to take urgent measures to end the violence against journalists.

WAN-IFRA has recorded 44 journalist deaths in Mexico since 2006; five have been killed this year, three in the state of Veracruz in the span of a single week. These figures make the country one of the most deadly beats in the world for media professionals.

“Upholding international standards of freedom of expression and freedom of the press is the responsibility the state; the people of Mexico deserve nothing less,” said Mr Bjerager.

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