Media Blog

Certifying Journalists

One of the reasons I’ve long opposed “shield laws” for journalists is that they put some government commission in charge of deciding who is a journalist and who isn’t–thereby clearing the way to restrict the First Amendment rights of those who are not government-certified journalists. So the following from Bussels Journal is of interest to me:

Yesterday I received a copy of an open letter from Aidan White, the General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). And very odd it was. It talked about the idea of a new journalist registration system, with Mr White pointing out that such a thing already exists in the shape of the IFJ card.

I write on behalf of the International Federation of Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists concerning a current discussion within European Union circles over the issuing of a specific European Press Card.
You might like to know that there is already an accreditation in circulation which is recognised by the major organisations of journalists throughout the European Union – the International Press Card of the IFJ.
The IFJ International Press Card (IPC) is the world’s oldest and most reputable press accreditation and provides instant confirmation that the bearer is a working journalist. It is only issued to genuine journalists who are committed to ethical standards and solidarity between media professionals.

… The ramifications of this could be massive. It could mean that it would be the Commission which could decide which journalist were ‘proper’ journalists and which were not. I know personally of journalists who have been threatened and arrested on the say so of European officials. They are accused of publishing inaccuracies, they are told that ‘what they write does not represent the interests of their newspapers’. I know of newspapers that have had their advertisers phoned by the Commission’s legal team with suggestions about how the Commission is represented in the paper, and how it would be helpful if they were to have a quiet word with editorial team. I remember when Alessandro Buttice the lawyer who represents OLAF as its press spokesman sent out a 16 page document to the Brussels’ press corps advising them of how they should report EU news.
Access to Commissioners and officials could be restricted to those on the Commission list. … I cannot emphasise how serious this could be.

The Europeans have their own way of doing things, of course, but for the purposes of life in these United States I’d prefer that all are equally entitled to the same protections of speech and press, regardless of whether one collects a paycheck for one’s writing or possesses a credential.

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