European Press Freedom Centre Launches Codex on Police and Journalists Working Amicably

Henrik Kaufholz, Chair of the ECPMF
Henrik Kaufholz, Chair of the ECPMF

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) on December 4, 2019 launched its Press Freedom Police Codex, which formulates in eight clauses how the police and journalists can work amicably together.

The clauses of the Codex are based on research carried out into areas of conflict between the two professions from all over Europe. Among others, it addresses issues of police violence, surveillance, accreditation, protection of sources and confiscation of journalistic materials.

ECPMF aims to provide guidelines, establish and continue a dialogue between journalists and the police, to help the two professions work together more smoothly with the launch of the Codex.

Commenting on the Codex, Peter Smets, the Belgian representative of the European Confederation of Police (EuroCOP), said: “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 the outcome of the collaborative efforts of ECPMF and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Index on Censorship, Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT), Ossigeno per l’informazione (O2), and southeast Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), who pooled their research and experiences together to produce eight guiding clauses that can inform the work of police and journalists.

The eight clause of the Codex are as follows:

  1. Any violence by police staff against journalists is unacceptable;
  2. Journalists have the right to gather information and police should protect them from any illegal interference, especially at demonstrations;
  3. Journalists should have the right to identify individual police staff and to document and report on the work of the police forces;
  4. Police are not allowed to erase footage, nor to confiscate journalists’ equipment without a proper warrant;
  5. Journalists should not be criminalised, discriminated against nor blacklisted for their assumed political attitude;
  6. Journalists should not be targeted by police surveillance;
  7. If police harm, threaten or harass journalists, these actions must be condemned, investigated and made public by independent investigators;
  8. Police should be trained and regularly updated on journalists’ rights.

While acknowledging that the relationship between journalists and the police is difficult, ECPMF emphasized that it is important to build a dialogue to encourage mutual respect, and uphold human rights to nurture an environment in which press and media freedom can thrive.

ECPMF’s Managing Director, Lutz Kinkel said “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,” adding “We hope the clarity and practical usefulness of the Codex will help to minimise inappropriate clashes between police and journalists.”

EFJ Director Renate Schroeder said: “The public, including the media and in particular journalists needs to have confidence in its police. This is only possible when there is an open and collaborative relationship between the police and the media.  Dialogue and training between both groups about its respective role is ever more urgent. Therefore we welcome the code and we welcome the dialogue with the police, and in particular with the police union, Euro-Cop.”