Annual Report by the Partner Organisations to the Council of Europe

Platform to Promote the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists 2019

Press freedom in Europe is more fragile now than at any time since the end of the Cold War. Journalists increasingly face obstruction, hostility and violence as they investigate and report on behalf of the public. Urgent actions backed by a determined show of political will by Council of Europe member states are now required to improve the dire conditions for media freedom and to provide reliable protections for journalists in law and practice. Read more here.

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The War of Ideas – The Moroccan Experience in Fighting Violent Extremism

Violetta Teetor

(Helsinki, 12.2.2019) In a fact-by-fact account on ‘The War of Ideas’ and fighting radicalisation, Dr. Ahmed Abaddi from Rabita Mohammadia des Oulémas or Rabita Mohammadia of Scholars, presented arguments and solutions to a full house of academics, media and other interested parties. Rabita Mohammadia des Oulémas is an organization that pursues wisdom, noble values and moderate religious teachings of Islam.

It is no secret that trillions of dollars are spent on weapons and collateral business. Daesh, meaning ‘one who tramples underfoot, crushes’ as he prefers to call it, has been swallowed up by mercenaries and bandits who have employed more than just weapons to recruit followers. New tech in the shape of the dark web where anonymous parties are able to buy weaponry, is their domain. The believers and the recruits that have been lured by tweets, snapchat and other means of propaganda, are drawn by dreams that seem irresistible.

Disenfranchised youth get entrapped by the promise of:


  • Unity and how the Ottoman Empire existed before 1921
  • Dignity in the photos they see of proud soldiers in uniform, carrying rifles
  • Purity and how they can practice an ‘untarnished’ form of Islam
  • Salvation in these ‘apocalyptic’ days
  • Mastery in understanding this confused world where the magic formula is a simple binary system of good and evil, right and wrong

It is easy to understand why millennials and devout Muslims would be drawn in by such an ideology.

But what is the response to radicalization and how can this war of ideas be won? The good news is that we live in an age of IT, a world in which children excel and this is where the Rabita Mohammadia of Scholars has recognised an untapped resource. Dr. Abaddi knows that preaching, lecturing or teaching will not inspire the same way as gaming would. Instead of banning smart phones from schools, invite these tools in and get the youth to tell their own story based on superheroes like Batman and Superman that everyone recognises. Encourage them to make videos, draw their own cartoon series, write their own songs to give themselves a voice for the betterment of their society. This has proven to be a strong motivator for young people in Morocco. And if Daesh sends out 90 000 tweets a day, how much more can bodies of students and thinkers send out if they are committed to opposition with no budget necessary, just a will to do so?

Dr. Abaddi closed his presentation with an outline of what religion should mean to the individual: happiness, orientation, discernment, choices, living together safely and ethical and moral deeds. He also reminded us that the country that came first in a survey of the functions propagated by Sharia law i.e. preservation of:

  • Life
  • Ethics and morals
  • Dignity
  • Lineage and the continuation of the species
  • Reason
  • Property

… was Sweden

Violetta Teetor is a freelance journalist and President of the European Journalists Network, the Finnish section of the Association of European Journalists.

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AEJ demands action to stop adoption of intrusive Bulgarian data law

AEJ demands action to stop adoption of intrusive Bulgarian data law, sees serious threat to press freedom

The International AEJ issues an urgent appeal to Bulgarian politicians and to all European institutions committed to defending press freedom to speak out strongly against the ill-considered and unacceptable  proposals now before the Bulgarian parliament. Sweeping changes in the Law for Protection of Personal Data that were approved by parliament last month would remove vital safeguards for journalists and open the door to censorship, the AEJ says.  

The country’s president has responded once by exercising his veto, reflecting concerns about the overly broad nature of the powers being sought by the government in an amendment to the current law which the governments says is needed to comply with new EU regulations on data protection. The AEJ and other media and civil society organisations fear that the parliament may override the president’s veto by voting for the changes by adopting the amendment by an absolute majority when it comes back to parliament in the coming days.   

AEJ Bulgaria has made known its serious concerns and requested urgent consultations with ruling and opposition party leaders without delay. The International AEJ, an independent association of journalists active across Europe, urges Bulgarian politicians to heed these warnings and to revise the proposed legislative changes to provide for essential exceptions that would guarantee the protection of personal data for journalists and certain other professional groups. 

Here is the full Statement by AEJ Bulgaria published on 8 February:

On the 23rd of January 2019, the Bulgarian Parliament adopted amendments to the Law for Protection of Personal Data in its effort to comply with the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). However, some particular amendments raise serious concerns among journalists, artists, writers, bloggers and scientists. Which the Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria addressed back in May, when the Bulgarian Data Protection Committee and the Ministry of Interior first presented the new bill.

According to art. 85 of GDPR, Member States shall by law reconcile the right to protection of personal data pursuant to this Regulation with the right to freedom of expression and information, including data processing for journalistic, academic or artistic purposes and for the purposes of literary expression.

The Bulgarian effort to follow art. 85 is made by guaranteeing the right to use personal data for journalistic purposes and the purposes of academic, artistic or literary expression. However, an additional provision lists 10 criteria, which everyone who exercises this right and uses personal data for those purposes should comply with, according to the amendment “when they are applicable”. However, the criteria are so broad, they open the door for censorship by the power, vested with the new amendments in the Bulgarian Data Protection Committee. The Committee will have the authority to use the criteria “to judge the balance between the freedom of speech and the right to personal data protection, as applicable.”

The criteria include:

the nature of the data;

1.      the impact that public disclosure will have on a subject’s personal and private life and on their good name;

the circumstance under which the personal data was acquired;

2.      the nature of the statement through which the administrator will publish the personal data;

3.      the importance of the disclosure for the public interest;

4.      weather the subject contributed in any way through their actions for the awareness of the administrator of these data;

5.      whether the subject is a public figure or not;

6.      the goal, content, format and repercussions of the publication;

7.      the compliance with the statement made for the journalistic and other purposes with other fundamental civil rights;

other circumstances relevant to the particular case;

Instead of guaranteeing the freedom of expression by adopting an exception of the new regulation of the protection of personal data for journalists, writers, artists and scientists, the Bulgarian legislator adopts amendments, which limit the use of personal data for journalistic and other purposes. If the Bulgarian Data Protection Committee decides these criteria are not met, it can open administrative proceedings and impose a fine, which can be up to 5000 lv (2500 euro).

Although those criteria were taken from the practice of the European Court of Human Rights, listing all of them in a new law threatens the right balance between freedom of expression and data protection. The bill counters the spirit of the GDPR and fails to guarantee freedom of speech, as it breaches the constitutional freedom of the press and other mass information media in that they shall not be subjected to censorship (art. 40 of the Constitution of Republic of Bulgaria).

The Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria, along with some other organisations (the Access to Information Programme and the Union of the Bulgarian Journalists, The Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria) addressed their appeal to the President Roumen Radev, asking for a veto of the amendments. He vetoed the amendments on 4th of February 2019. According to the President these ten formulated criteria create unnecessary over-regulation, as they require journalists, scientists or writers to decide and prove lawful usage of personal data. According to his motives, the criteria concern the fundamental right to freedom of expression and information.

The parliament can override the veto by an absolute majority of votes, which means more than half of all deputes (121/240). So far, the Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria believes the odds are that the parliament will vote in favour and the amendments will be passed.

Therefore, we are strongly concerned that those amendments will allow the control over media and media outlets by the state and are direct violation of the idea and the guarantees made during the discussions for the adoption of the GDPR. We would like to address awareness on those problems and to attract some international pressure on this topic. We are strongly concerned that the Bulgarian legislator has not fully understand the purposes and the ideas of GDPR and the importance of finding the balance between freedom of expression and protection of personal data. Some statements of respected European organizations will help some awareness to be raised among the Members of Parliament.

READ HERE the item as it appeared on the AEJ-Bulgaria website:

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Assessing Energy Dependency in the Age of Hybrid Threats

“Because of the interconnected nature of energy infrastructure, Hybrid CoE member nations and allied organizations should consider adopting a common approach to assessing risk associated with energy dependencies in the age of hybrid threats.” – write Duane Verner, Agnia Grigas, and Frederic Petit from Argonne National Laboratory.

Many nations face significant challenges from hybrid threats involving the energy sector. Therefore, enhancing the protection and resilience of energy systems is an urgent goal—a goal made more challenging by the inherent dependencies and interdependencies within infrastructure systems and between energy-producing, -importing, and -transiting countries.

Dependencies influence all components of risk: threat, vulnerability, resilience, and consequence. They can themselves be a threat, affect the resilience and protection of critical infrastructure, and lead to cascading and escalating failures.  Growing dependencies across infrastructure systems, particularly reliance on information and communications technologies, have increased the potential vulnerabilities to physical and cyber threats and potential consequences resulting from the compromise of underlying systems or networks. In an increasingly interconnected world, where energy infrastructure crosses national borders and global supply chains, the potential impacts increase with these dependencies and the ability of adversaries to exploit them.

In addition, the geopolitics of energy, including global market and security considerations, is becoming more complex, which underscores the need to analyze and understand energy dependencies. Based on these factors, it is essential to integrate energy dependency considerations into hybrid threat, risk, and resilience assessments and strategies.

The goal of this paper is to enhance Hybrid COE member nations’ and allied organizations’ understanding of energy dependencies in the context of today’s hybrid threat security environment. The report provides an overview of dependency-related policies and initiatives, explains the geopolitics of energy dependencies, describes the classes of dependencies, and presents a general approach and recommendations for integrating energy dependency considerations into hybrid threat analysis and resilience assessments and strategies. -Press release 5.2.2019

The report can be downloaded from the Hybrid CoE website:




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Annual General Meeting And the Ambassador of Romania to Finland

On 9th of January, after the AGM board meeting we had as speaker His Excellency Ambassador of Romania, Mr. Răzvan Rotundu. He talked about the EU Presidency held by Romania until July, when it will then be passed on to Finland. Although some media speculated that both the government and the president face judicial issues on corruption, His Excellency assured that EU matters are taken care of at institutional levels and will not be affected. Romania will be organizing the meetings regarding the European agenda as scheduled. Romania has also been working with the past presidency of Austria, Finland, and Czech Republic to ensure continuous work and collaboration on European matters.

At the meeting both His Excellency Răzvan Rotundu and his political counsellor, Eugen Ciocoiu – also a former journalist and speaker of Foreign Affairs Ministry – answered questions.

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Brexit at a standstill after May’s Commons defeat, says Barnier


Michel Barnier has said Brexit is at a standstill after the crushing rejection of Theresa May’s deal by MPs but offered to return to the negotiating table if parliament forces Theresa May to shift her “red lines”.

The motivations of the MPs who delivered the rebuff – a defeat by 230 votes, the largest ever for a sitting government – were described by the EU’s chief negotiator as “contradictory”.

Barnier said parliament had failed to offer an alternative vision on Tuesday evening, warning May that nothing could progress until she found a Commons majority for a deal.

His comments were echoed by the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, who said there was still time to negotiate, but “we believe it is up to the British side, as the prime minister has announced, to tell us what happens next.”

Barnier told the European parliament in Strasbourg that statements from MPs during the Commons debate had “mad us sad”. He added: “Objectively speaking, this vote is not a clear manifestation of a positive majority which would define an alternative project, and an alternative to the proposal on the table today,” Barnier said.

“So, in this context, it is up to the British authorities today or tomorrow to assess the outcome of this vote and up to the British government to find how we are to take things forward on 29 March towards an orderly withdrawal.”

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The Coming Convulsion of the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Source: (White House Chronicle)

Written by Llewellyn King

It isn’t starting with a bang, but don’t be deceived: The Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is underway, and companies and institutions that ignore it will be overwhelmed by it. Individuals will adapt to it as best we can, as we always have.

In short 4IR is the fusing of the digital, physical and biological spheres. It’s the interconnection of everything, bringing change in companies, jobs, schools and eventually government. Government won’t to be able to stand idly by when it sees traditional businesses upended and huge changes in how we work and study, and where.

As 4IR moves ahead one can reasonably contemplate a time when body parts will be printed, robots will prepare restaurant food and drone taxis will take us to the airport, where departures will be handled without human intervention — because you were verified through facial recognition when you bought your ticket on your smartphone, you won’t need to do anything but walk through security and onto a plane, which has a cabin crew to look after you but no pilots.

Behind and driving the revolution is artificial intelligence, commanding everything from farms, where tractors will start themselves and plow or reap without a human in sight, to street lights that turn off when nothing is moving and back on as needed, to manufacturing that will be dominated by 3D printing, better referred to as additive manufacturing.

The troubadour of 4IR is Klaus Schwab who created the World Economic Forum back in 1971, the world’s most important ideas mart known as Davos, after Davos-Klosters the Swiss resort where the forum meets every year. This year Davos kicks off on Jan. 22 and will be devoted to what Schwab, 80, a German economist and engineer, has called “Globalization 4.0”.

The first forum to look at 4IR was in 2016. Schwab has written two books on the subject — the “The Fourth Industrial Revolution” and “Shaping the Future of the Fourth Industrial Revolution” — and has been ceaseless in promoting the future while warning of it. He told Gerard Baker, the former executive editor of The Wall Street Journal, in a TV interview that enumerating the challenges wasn’t enough, there need to be solutions as well.

A note: Don’t think you can join the 3,000 participants this year. It’s by invitation only. And if you get one, Davos hotel rooms — plain vanilla rooms – can cost $900 a night and suites can go for $5,000 a night. When I checked, there were few vacancies. The movers and shakers start early.

The three past industrial revolutions are listed by Schwab as the replacement of animal power by water and then steam power, the latter at the beginning of the 18th century; the deployment of electricity, starting in the late 19th century; and the digital revolution of the last part of the 20th century.

The Davos meeting will examine the upheaval besetting the world with 4IR and how it’ll be managed. It’s what Schwab calls Globalization 4.0. “We must develop a comprehensive and globally shared view of how technology is affecting our lives and reshaping our economic, social, cultural, and human environments. There has never been a time of greater promise, or greater peril,” he says.

Andre Kudelski, a Silicon Valley veteran, now head of the eponymous Swiss high-tech company that bears his name, says, “A skilled engineer can take control remotely of any connected ‘thing.’ Society has not yet realized the incredible scenarios this capability creates.”

Says Robert Shiller, a Yale University economics professor and 2013 Nobel Prize winner, “We cannot wait until there are massive dislocations in our society to prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Others dream of a cleaner, safer and healthier world. Dileep George, an artificial intelligence and neuroscience researcher, quoted by the forum, says, “Imagine a robot capable of treating Ebola patients or cleaning up nuclear waste.”

Leon Trotsky, a veteran of the Russian Revolution, said, “You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you.” He might well be paraphrased to say, “We may not be interested in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but it is interested in us.”

(Read more at (White House Chronicle))

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By Otmar Lahodynsky, Europe Editor, profil, Vienna, and newly re-elected President of the European Association of Journalists.

“The future is Europe“ reads a giant poster in Brussels’ European quarter in Brussels. Paid for by a businessman, it seems a little desperate against the backdrop of the EU’s current situation. For the first time in its history the EU is poised to lose a member, the United Kingdom, the third largest economy in the EU, a permanent member in the UN Security council, and a nuclear power. It is at best unlikely that the deal between the EU and UK, manifestly worse than existing arrangements, will pass parliament in London this week. A hard Brexit, as in the worst kind of expensive divorce, still looms, with consequences for all of us.

My ex-colleague as Brussels correspondent, Boris Johnson, continues to recite the mantra (though more vaguely now) awaiting the shiny future “Global Britain” once freed from the shackles of the EU. And some of the more deluded Brexiteers such as Nadine Dorries MP go so far as to vilify Mrs May’s deal on the basis that there will then be no British Commissioner or MEPs. Pity Michel Barnier and admire his patience. This is simply crazy. You leave a tennis club and expect free hours on the courts and snacks and a well-paid seat on the management committee?

Centrifugal forces weaken the Union. Right-wing governments as in Italy, Hungary, and Poland pretend that the nation state can handle current problems better than a Union of 28 countries. A child can see that even Germany, the largest and most powerful Member State, is on its own weak going on helpless in the face of mass-migration, climate change, terrorism, noxious targeted disinformation, not to mention Russian nerve-gas attacks and the looming trade conflicts with Trump’s USA or China.

The EU is also being weakened by several Member States refusing to respect common, agreed rules to guarantee the functioning of a Union with (for most of them) a common currency, a common foreign and security policy, and closer cooperation in justice and home affairs. The Italian government apparently doesn’t care a fig about agreed limits to national debt, and simply ignores the verdict of the Commission. Hungary and Poland have refused to accept a quota to settle migrants from Italy or Greece in all EU countries so as to relieve the burden on the few.

Hungary and Poland face a procedure of Article 7 of the EU Treaty because of unacceptable restrictions on the independent judiciary. An infectious revolt. It is an irony that the Polish government rejects the notion of solidarity when the first free trade union in the Communist bloc was founded in Poland back in 1980 and was called Solidarnosc. Some countries seem to mistake the EU for a kind of ATM which distributes huge subsidies but never needs to be filled up, not anyway by them.

A union with members acting like this plainly cannot function. “Unity in diversity“ is a guiding principle of the EU. It is being used to justify a kind of blind selfishness.

Next May’s European elections, perhaps the most significant since direct elections started in 1979, will see a stark choice between pro- and those which are anti-European parties. Some surveys predict strong support for anti-European candidates, with the American Steve Bannon seeking to unify the far right. But what do these forces have in common except being anti-EU, and as nationalists not having much time for each other? There is and can be no international movement of national forces.

We have seen in the past how quickly such a group dissolves. Out of the blue, a Romanian fascist was at war with a pro-Mussolini MEP who wanted to expel all Romanians from Italian soil. And French Le Pen supporter really has little in common with a German neo-Nazi except bad temper. But of course they are all openly or secretly supported by Russia, where Vladimir Putin has as little interest as Trump in a united European Union, and has played a shadowy role in the Brexit imbroglio with his army of Internet trolls.

Yes, I agree with the lone businessman in Brussels. Our future really is Europe – but one that is united and as strong as we can make it. The alternatives, if looked at at all closely, are as unappetising as a “Global Britain” with a collapsed currency and without friends, even Trump, daydreaming of becoming an offshore Singapore. Do we want to imitate the US model? Individual freedom without social rights and a steadily wealthier top tier of plutocrats, while – outside Silicon Valley and Wall Street – nearly everyone else sees falling or stagnant pay, and fragile, insecure MacJobs? Or perhaps the Chinese model of capitalism with tanks appeals? What about the Russian way? Life under a dictatorial President who knows what’s best for you, sends his critics and rivals to jail, or worse, and presides over an economy based on selling natural resources?

I can only hope that the European voter is intelligent or at least prudent enough to rediscover the values of European civilisation and solidarity, to recognise there is no other realistic or hopeful way forward. In May next year the extremists and fantasts should stay where they have been for the last few decades: a noisy minority in the European Parliament.

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Father Christmas’s winter wonderland homes are hotting up


Many towns claiming to be the birthplace of Santa Claus have seen unseasonal temperatures.

After a year in which the climate has been far more naughty than nice, even Father Christmas – in his various guises – is feeling the heat, according to the towns that claim to be his birthplace.

From Alaska to Finland, half a dozen Arctic towns have staked a claim to be the home of Santa Claus or whatever other name he is locally known as. And almost without exception, these winter wonderlands are hotting up.

In Sweden, festive tourists flock to Mora, which boasts a Santa headquarters known as Tomteland that follows local traditions dating back to the Viking era. But the effects of global warming are becoming harder to ignore.

Reindeers are becoming confused by unseasonal temperatures, according to the indigenous Sami. This spring, there were bad floods, and in summer, nearby woodland was destroyed by wildfires that swept through many areas in Sweden.

“I have consulted Mr Santa – or ‘Tomten’ which is his real Swedish name – and he is very concerned about climate change,” Anders Rosén, Mora’s communications manager, told the Guardian. “He has a very strong message to the decision makers of the world: ‘Please take climate change seriously and make decisions in order to save the planet.’“”

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EJN Christmas Party and 20th Anniversary

13 December 2018 — Helsinki, Finland

It was an honour to host the Irish Ambassador, Her Excellency Maeve Collins at such a timely moment in history. While her talk and our discussion was off the record, most of us will agree that whatever was said could change within 24 hours and hence, any report would no longer be applicable or trustworthy. She was not only gracious but astute in her observations regarding Brexit.

The party was held at Nomad Cellars, a private wine club in the heart of Helsinki. Since most of us would be indulging in Finnish Christmas at a later stage, Indian food was served with samosas as starters, curry chicken and dhal as a main course and a chocolate-mascarpone cake for dessert which Bilal Dalklic, a board member, generously donated.

Thanks to André and Bilal for helping with transportation and setting up. Here’s wishing you all a merry Christmas and a very happy New Year.

Violetta Teetor


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