On the 4th December 2019, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) launches its Press Freedom Police Codex at the Press Club Brussels Europe. The Codex formulates in eight clauses how the police and journalists can work amicably together. The clauses are based on research into areas of conflict between the two professions from all over Europe. It addresses issues of police violence, surveillance, accreditation, protection of sources and confiscation of journalistic materials. With the launch of the Codex, ECPMF aims to provide guidelines, establish and continue a dialogue between journalists and the police, to help the two professions work together more smoothly.
The Belgian representative of the European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP), Peter Smets, commented on the Codex adding this: “Due to the increase of violence in our society, journalists and police officers face the same challenges. This is a wake-up call for better communication. At the end of the day, we all want to come home safely.”
The Codex is a joint effort by ECPMF and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Index on Censorship, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT), Ossigeno per l’informazione (O2), and South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO). Together, they have pooled their research and experiences to produce eight guiding clauses that can inform the work of police and journalists. The points are as follows:
- Any violence by police staff against journalists is unacceptable;
- Journalists have the right to gather information and police should protect them from any illegal interference, especially at demonstrations;
- Journalists should have the right to identify individual police staff and to document and report on the work of the police forces;
- Police are not allowed to erase footage, nor to confiscate journalists’ equipment without a proper warrant;
- Journalists should not be criminalised, discriminated against nor blacklisted for their assumed political attitude;
- Journalists should not be targeted by police surveillance;
- If police harm, threaten or harass journalists, these actions must be condemned, investigated and made public by independent investigators;
- Police should be trained and regularly updated on journalists’ rights.
While ECPMF acknowledges that the relationship between journalists and the police is difficult, it is important to build a dialogue to encourage mutual respect, the upholding of human rights and an environment in which press and media freedom can thrive.
“Everywhere you look you find the same problem: in the turmoil of protests, journalists are hindered in their work. Sometimes they are even attacked. The Press Freedom Police Codex is designed to give police and media professionals a clear set of guidelines on how to safeguard press and media freedom,” said ECPMF’s Managing Director, Lutz Kinkel. “We hope the clarity and practical usefulness of the Codex will help to minimise inappropriate clashes between police and journalists.”