The FINANCIAL — European Federation of Journalists the largest media union in Europe has called IFJ (International Federation of Journalists) for a debate on an EFJ-IFJ cooperation agreement. EFJ leadership believes that EFJ must be distanced from IFJ as an independent organization and “to manage their members autonomously”. The call followed controversial and unprecedented decision by IFJ to accept a new IFJ affiliate in breakaway region Abkhazia and list it as a recognized state on the IFJ website.
Currently, only members of the IFJ can apply for membership to the European Federation of Journalists. Furthermore, only unions and associations in countries that are Council of Europe member countries can be considered for membership in the European Federation of Journalists.
Russia union which recently broadened its presence at IFJ management lobbied the membership of the organization from Abkhazia, a breakaway region in Georgia. The Security Council of the United Nations, OSCE, Council of Europe and EU in all their resolutions recognize Abkhazia as an integral part of Georgia and support its territorial integrity. But the IFJ Executive Committee decided to move against the international practice. The decision was announced by IFJ Vice-President presenting Russian Union at the Executive Committee on Facebook with the illustration of flags of Russia and the region occupied by Moscow since 1992.
“This was an unprofessional, unethical, politicized post, as well as the open support of separatism”, Zviad Pochkhua, President of The Independent Association of Georgian Journalists told The FINANCIAL. “Recent decision may destroy IFJ as the structure”, he said, claiming that the IFJ acted against its constitution, not having a consultation with IFJ members and granting membership to the organization that is not independent or based on democratic values.
IFJ President said allegations against IFJ Executive Committee are fallacious. But in letter to the IAGJ President, he promised to solve the problem.
Meanwhile, EFJ leadership backed IAGJ and pointed at “the need of a debate on an EFJ-IFJ cooperation agreement on membership”. If agreed, EFJ initiative will allow members to maintain membership at the European Federation while leaving IFJ. It’s expected that disagreement between IFJ members will be expanded due to the rising influence of Russia at IFJ.
Ukrainian Union and the Union from Azerbaijan joined IAGJ in protest against the decision of the IFJ Executive Committee. Some other unions expressed their support in letters sent to the President of Georgian Union.
“The Independent Association of Journalists of Georgia (IAJG) expressed its surprise that the IFJ has accepted a new IFJ affiliate in Abkhazia and presented Abkhazia as a recognized state on the IFJ website (contrary to the common practice of presenting affiliates in the disputed areas under the name of the UN-recognised state, as the IFJ does for Cyprus)”, EFJ said in today’s statement.
“IAGJ regrets not having been consulted beforehand. Our Georgian affiliate asked us to relay their disapproval to all EFJ affiliates”.
“We believe that this incident illustrates the need for our organizations to manage their members autonomously but in a spirit of cooperation. The EFJ does not have to comment on IFJ membership. Likewise the EFJ as an independent organization should also be able to accept its own affiliates, in accordance with the legal standards on freedom of association”.
“We believe that we need a debate on an EFJ-IFJ cooperation agreement on membership. Other trade union federations, such as EPSU (European Public Service Unions) and PSI (Public Service International), have cooperation agreements that allow each entity to be autonomous also in terms of membership, while at the same time consolidating the two entities”, Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, President of the EFJ said.