Dear Members of the European Parliament,
I was on a mission to write a reportage in Mosul, the Islamic State group's former capital in northern Iraq, about children returning to a school shut down for three years by the jihadists. I was thinking of how best to describe the joy of those children as they returned to their long-forbidden desks in that ruined city.
Sitting at a restaurant with the photographer, video journalist and AFP driver before heading back to Baghdad, I read on my laptop an article about the European debate on neighbouring rights and the plan to apply them to the press. It grabbed my attention but did not come as a shock.
After five years crossing a war-shattered Syria where on several occasions I narrowly escaped being killed by snipers' bullets or seasoned gunners' shells, I had just arrived in Iraq for the third time since the US invasion of 2003.
In more than 40 years of reporting, I have seen the number of journalists on the ground steadily diminish while the dangers relentlessly increase. We have become targets and our reporting missions cost more and more. Gone are the days when I could go to a war in a jacket, or in shirtsleeves, an ID card in my pocket, alongside a photographer or video journalist. Now you need bullet-proof jackets, armoured cars, sometimes bodyguards, and insurance. Who pays for these expenses? The media, and it is a heavy cost.
Yet, even though they pay for the content and send the journalists who will risk their lives to produce a reliable, complete, trustworthy and diverse news service, it is not they who reap the profits but the internet platforms, which help themselves without paying a cent. It is as if a stranger came along and shamelessly snatched the fruit of your labour. It is morally and democratically unjustifiable.
So many friends have stopped reporting because their media organization closed or could no longer pay them. Up until the day they put away their pens and cameras, we had shared the terrible fear of hiding behind a wall that trembled as intensely we did from the impact of the explosions; the indescribable joy when we succeeded, when we could tell the world the "truth" that we had seen with our own eyes; the extraordinary meetings with warlords and their heavily armed men who smiled as they toyed with their pistols or daggers and watched as we interviewed their bosses; the poignant sorrow when faced with dazed, trapped civilians, the women awkwardly protecting their children as bullets scraped the walls of the shelter in which they had found brief refuge.
The media have suffered a long time before reacting, struggling with the consequences rather than the cause. For lack of money, they have laid off staff almost to the point of the absurd: newspapers that are barely staffed with journalists. Now they are asking for their rights to be respected so they can carry on reporting the news. They are asking for the sales revenue to be shared with those who produce the content, whether they are media or artists. This is the meaning of "neighbouring rights".
We can no longer swallow the lie spread by Google and Facebook that a directive on "neighbouring rights" would threaten people's ability to access the internet for free. No. Free access to the web will endure because the internet giants, which now use editorial content for free, can reimburse the media without asking consumers to pay.
Difficult? Impossible? Not at all. Facebook made $16 billion in profits in 2017 and Google $12.7 billion. They simply have to pay their dues. That way the media will survive and the internet titans will be contributing to the diversity and freedom of the press they claim to support.
I am convinced that the members of parliament who have been misled by deceptive lobbying now understand that non-paying access to the internet is not at risk. At stake is the freedom of the press because when newspapers run out of journalists that freedom, which is supported by members of parliament from every political side, will be gone.
Countless times I have been face to face with people who were blockaded, isolated, and defenseless, who asked just one thing: "Tell people what you have seen. That way we have a chance of being saved." Should I reply: "No, do not raise your hopes. We are the last journalists. Soon there will be no more because we are disappearing for lack of money"?
Remember that Facebook and Google employ no journalists and produce no editorial content. But they get paid for the advertising linked to content that journalists produce.
Every day, journalists investigate all aspects of life so as to inform their fellow citizens. Every year, prizes are awarded the most courageous, intrepid, talented journalists. We cannot allow this fleecing of the media of their rightful revenue to culminate in a day without prizes, for lack of candidates with the means to report on the ground.
It is time to react. The European Parliament must vote massively in favour of "neighbouring rights" for the survival of democracy and one of its most remarkable symbols: journalism.
Sammy Ketz, AFP Bagdad Bureau Chief, Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Prize for War Reporters 2003, Albert Londres Prize 1988
Helmut Brandstätter, editor in chief of Kurier (Austria)
Nina Horaczek, chief reporter of the weekly magazine Falter (Austria), Concordia Press Award (2011), Prof. Claus Gatterer Press Award (2014). Prof. Karl Renner Press Award (2016)
Oscar Bronner, publisher, Der Standard
Majd Khalifeh, Belgian journalist and documentary filmmaker
Jean-Pierre Martin, reporter at large since 1984 for RTL Belgique . Has covered the main conflicts in the world during the last 30 years. He works more specifically on Middle East and Central Africa and the year he spent in 1994 in Rwanda left its mark on him.
Christophe Lamfalussy, senior Correspondent, La Libre Belgique; laureate of the ‘Prix Dexia du journalisme’. Co-author of ‘Molenbeek-sur-Djihad’.
Maroun Labaki, former head of world desk at Le Soir, president of Press Club Brussels Europe.
Alain Lallemand, reporter at large, Le Soir (Belgium), Lorenzo Natali Prize 2000, Sigma Delta Chi Awards 2002 and 2007. Co-founder and administrator, European Investigative Networks (EIC).
Pascal Weiss, editor-in-chief Het Nieuwsblad/De Gentenaar
Liesbeth Van Impe, editor-in-chief Het Nieuwsblad/De Gentenaar
Dorian de Meeûs, editor-in-Chief, La Libre Belgique
Jean-Marc Gheraille, editor-in-Chief, La Dernière Heure.
Georgi Mikov, special foreign correspondent of 24 chasa
Svetsolav Terziev, analyst for The Sega Daily, PhD in Journalism, professor in Journalism at the University of Sofia and the Institute of Economy of Sofia, shortlisted laureate for the European Press Prize 2015
Marios Demetriou, reporter for daily newspaper Simerini.
Chrysanthos Tsouroullis, editor-in-chief of Sigma TV and CEO of Dias group.
Katia Savva, editor, Politis Newspaper; winner of the Cyprus News Agency Award 2017; awarded an Honorary Distinction by the Cypriot NGO AWARE as part of its ‘Respect - Accept – Integrate' campaign on asylum, migration and integration.
Sasa Lekovic, free lance investigative reporter, editor and trainer & media consultant; Investigative Journalism Center president; EU Journalismfund.eu Advisory Board member
Radka Markova, editor-in-chief Czech News Agency (CTK), Journalist Quail 2003 (dedicated to outstanding Czech journalists below 33)
Jakub Szanto, Middle East reporter for Czech Television in 2013-2018, Ferdinand Peroutka Prize 2017
Lucie Vopalenska, Czech Radio journalist, Ferdinand Peroutka Prize 1998
Mads Nissen, documentary photographer and author of three books, awarded more than 60 international prizes including The World Press Photo of the Year (2015).
Christophe Ayad, reporter at large for Le Monde (France), Albert Londres Prize 2004, Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Prize for War Reporters 2004, European Initiative Prize for Journalism 2016
Alfred de Montesquiou, reporter at large for Paris Match (France), Albert Londres Prize 2012, French Press Prize 2014
Jean-Marc Gonin, reporter at large and editor in chief of Figaro Magazine (France)
Adrien Jaulmes, reporter at large for Le Figaro (France), Albert Londres Prize 2002, Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Prize for War Reporters 2007
Florence Aubenas, reporter at large for Le Monde. Awards: Prix Joseph Kessel (2010) , Prix Jean Amila-Meckert (2010), Globe de Cristal (2011) , Prix d'Académie (2015).
Annick Cojean, president of The Albert Londres Prize, the highest French journalism award
Pierre Barbancey , reporter at large for l’Humanité, Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Prize for War Reporters 2002
Rauli Virtanen, former foreign correspondent and visiting professor of journalism, documentary maker, author of seven books.
Jussi Eronen, managing editor of Suomen Kuvalehti, shortlisted candidate for the European Journalist of the Year (Prix Europa, outstanding achievement) 2017, Journalism Prize of Association of Finnish Executive Editors (investigative TV programme 45 minutes) 2011, The Finnish Prize of Investigative Journalism 2010, The Finnish Grand Prize of Journalism 2009
Wolfgang Bauer, reporter of the Chief Editor of Die Zeit (Germany), Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Prize for War Reporters in 2013, 2015 (Special Prize Prix Ouest-France Jean-Marin) and 2016, Nannen Prize for the Best Documentary 2016, Liberty Award 2016, Catholic Media Prize 2012
Fiona Ehlers, War and Crisis Reporter for Der Spiegel, ex foreign correspondent in Italy, Liberty Award 2008, EMMA award, Children’s Rights Award
Antonia Rados, chief foreign correspondent of RTL-TV (Germany), German Television award 2003, Romy- award for best TV Documentary 2003 and Hanns- Joachim Friedrichs- award, Special mention of the Jury for a documentary at the Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Prize. Dr. Rainer Hildebrandt Medal 2011, Hildegard von Bingen Award 2012. Emmy nomination 2013 and several other awards, including twice the Bavarian TV- award and twice the Austrian Romy-award for documentaries.
Christoph Reuter, Middle East correspondent for Der Spiegel (Germany), Reporter of the Year awarded by Medium Magazine in 2012, best non-fiction book in 2015 (awarded by NDR, the broadcasting corporation), Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Prize for War Reporters 2015.
Katrin Sandmann, former Reporter at large for N24/Welt, now partner and CEO of TV production company Kobalt Documentary.
Carsten Stormer, reporter at large based in Manilla, member of the association of reporters “Zeitenspiegel”, covering Cambodia, Myanmar, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan. He has written several books.
Caroline Fetscher, reporter and columnist for Der Tagesspiegel, Germany. She has covered among other issues the Kosovo war of 1999 and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague
Ludwig Ring-Eifel: editor in chief of Katholische Nachrichten-Agentur GmbH
Nikos Konstantaras, editor, I Kathimerini (Greece)
Michalis Psilos, president & CEO of Athens - Macedonian Press Agency (ANA-MPA)
Will Vassilopoulos, freelance video journalist. Primarily working for Agence France-Presse (AFP), he went behind the camera in 2011 and has since covered topics such as Greece’s economic crisis, political unrest in Egypt, Turkey and Romania, the conflict in Ukraine and most recently the migration crisis in Europe. He is the recipient of the 2016 Rory Peck Award for News for his film "Fear and Desperation: Refugees and Migrants Pour into Greece”
Alexis Papachelas, Executive Director at I Kathimerini
Geraldine Kennedy, former editor of The Irish Times (Ireland) 2002-2011, the first woman editor in the newspaper's history and the first woman editor of a national daily in Western Europe.
Lara Marlowe, France Correspondent, The Irish Times. As a foreign correspondent for The Irish Times since 1996, Lara Marlowe has covered France, Barack Obama’s first term in office and a dozen wars including former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan. She has won three press awards.
Giampaolo Cadalanu, War Reporter and Defense Correspondent for La Repubblica - FAO Boerma International Award for Food security issues coverage
Rosalba Castelletti, former Russia correspondent, La Repubblica
Pietro Del Re, foreign reporter, La Repubblica, winner of "Premio Lucchetta" Award in 2016
Enrico Franceschini, London correspondent for La Repubblica, previously based in New York, Washington, Moscow and Jerusalem. Winner of the Premiolino prize for his reportage on the attempted coup in Moscow in 1993
Giuliano Foschini, La Repubblica
Anais Ginori, Paris, France correspondent, La Repubblica
Tonia Mastrobuoni, Berlin, Germany correspondent, La Repubblica
Daniele Mastrogiacomo, war and foreign reporter, La Repubblica
Vincenzo Nigro, La Repubblica
Federico Rampini, New York, US correspondent, La Repubblica
Lorenzo Cremonesi, reporter at large for Corriere della Sera (Italy). He covered conflicts from the Israeli-Palestinians to Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and Ukraine. He got numerous awards, the most recent “Il Premiolino” in Milan.
Alberto Negri (Italy), International prize for Journalism "Maria Grazia Cutuli" 2009
Maurizio Molinari, editor in chief, La Stampa
Marco Zatterin, deputy editor in chief, La Stampa
Francesco Bei, chief of the Roman bureau, La Stampa
Paolo Mastrolilli, US correspondent, La Stampa
Marco Bresolin, Brussels correspondent, La Stampa
Marco Sodano, chief of the Digital Desk, La Stampa
Beniamino Pagliaro, deputy chief Digital Desk, La Stampa
Alberto Abburrà, deputy chief Digital Desk, La Stampa
Christian Rocca, columnist, La Stampa
Massimo Righi, editor in chief, Il Secolo XIX
Mauro Barberis, columnist, Il Secolo XIX
Ferdinando Boeri, columnist, Il Secolo XIX
Omar Monestier, editor in chief Messaggero Veneto
Enzo D’Antona, editor in chief Il Piccolo
Paolo Possamai, editor in chief Mattino di Padova
Stefano Scansani, editor in chief Gazzetta di Reggio
Luigi Vicinanza, editor in chief Il Tirreno
Alberto Bollis, deputy editor Il Tirreno
Angelo Di Marino, deputy editor Glocal Unit GNN
Paolo Boldrini, editor in chief Gazzetta di Mantova
Paolo Cagnan, deputy editor in chief Mattino di Padova
Enrico Grazioli. Editor in Chief Gazzetta di Modena
Andrea Filippi, deputy chief editor GNN group
Luca Traini, editor in chief La Nuova Ferrara
Dovydas Pancerovas, Šarūnas Černiauskas and Birutė Davidonytė, team of investigative reporters for TV programme “15min Investigative Unit” (Lithuania), winners of the International Peter Greste Freedom Of Speech Award 2017, Shortlisted at European Press Prize 2017; winners of the Lithuanian Journalists' Union Vytautas Gedgaudas Prize for Journalism 2018, winners of the Investigative Journalism Award of Vilnius University Institute of Journalism 2017 and 2018.
Dhiraj Sabharwal, editor-in-chief of Tageblatt (Luxembourg), European Newspaper of the Year 2018 (European Newspaper Awards / Category: Local Newspaper)
Ray Bugeja, Editor Times of Malta
Wojciech Bojanowski, reporter for TVN (Poland), Journalist of the Year 2017 and Prize in Investigative Journalism awarded by Polish media
Wojciech Jagielski, formerly reporter at Gazeta Wyborcza and the PAP agency, currently reporter for Tygodnik Powszechny. Winner of several awards, including the Tischner Prize, the Fikus Prize and le Prix Spécial Grand Press 2011.
Paweł Pieniążek, free-lance, reporter for Gazeta.pl and Tygodnik Powszechny. Nominated for the MediaTory Prize in 2014, the Beata Pawlak Prize 2017 and as Ambasador Nowej Europy (New Europe Ambassador) 2018.
Bud Wichers, reporter at large (Netherlands), reporting since 2002 from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Gaza and other MENA countries, as well as other high-risk countries such as Ukraine, Colombia and Venezuela. Produced short documentaries such as Voices from Israel and Palestine, Unspoken Truth, Innocence Interrupted, In search of Al-Qaeda, and Searching for ISIS.
Thomas Verfuss, representative in the Hague of Journalists For Justice.
Thomas Erdbrink, Bureau Chief of the New York Times in Tehran and reporter for De Volkskrant. His TV series “Our man in Tehran” won the top tv and journalism awards in the Netherlands in 2016, the Zilveren Nipkov award and two Tegel awards.
Ovidiu Nahoi, editor in chief RFI Romania, since 2015 producer of TV programme “Geopolitics”, permanent contributor to “Dilema Veche” magazine, Special Prize for the Promotion of Democracy by the Romanian Press Club 1999, Prize for Excellence in the Promotion of European Values, Romanian European Institute 2014, Special Prize for TV documentary “To the East of Europe” by the Union of Professional Journalists 2015, Prize for Excellence in Journalism by the Romanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry 2015.
Sabina Fati, Radio Free Europe correspondent and deputy editor-in-chief of Revista 22 weekly. Former deputy editor-in-chief of Romania Libera daily. Romania’s “Women of Courage” prize awarded by the US Embassy, 2017
Javier Bauluz, Independent War Reporter and Photographer, Pulitzer Prize in Journalism in 1995
Ignacio Cembrero, Independent reporter (Spain), Former foreign correspondent of El País
Ángeles Espinosa, reporter at large for El Pais, Prize Ortega y Gasset for war reporting in Afghanistan 2001 and Irak 2003, Prize Víctor de la Serna for foreign correspondents 2011
Javier Espinosa, reporter at large for El Mundo (Spain), Bayeux Calvados-Normandy Prize for War Reporters 1999, 2005 2006 and 2012, International Journalism Prize "King of Spain" 2000
José M. Seage, Independent journalist, former Bagdad Bureau chief of Agencia EFE
Ramón Pérez-Maura, ABC deputy director, former correspondent in Cairo and former head of international news service of the daily
Andrej Ban, staff reporter of Dennik N (Slovakia) and conflict areas photographer, eight times Best Journalist in Slovakia
Novica Mihajlovic, editor at Novica Mihajlovic at Delo daily newspaper
Patrick Cockburn, reporter at large for The Independent (United-Kingdom), 2014 Foreign Reporter of the Year (The Press Awards), 2014 Foreign Affairs Journalist of the Year (British Journalism Awards UK Press Gazette), 2013 Foreign Commentator of the Year (Editorial Intelligence Comment Awards), 2010 International Media Awards Peace Through Media Award, 2009 Orwell Prize, 2006 James Cameron Prize, 2005 Martha Gellhorn Prize.
Martin Chulov, Middle East correspondent for The Guardian (United-Kingdom), Orwell Prize 2015, Journalist of the year by the Foreign Press Association (FPA) 2015.
Jason Burke, senior correspondent, Guardian News & Media; best-selling author.
Christina Lamb, chief foreign correspondent Sunday Times; winner of 14 awards including Prix Bayeux and 5 times UK Foreign Correspondent of the Year, author of 8 books.
Anthony Loyd, war correspondent for the Time of London; one of Britain's most decorated war reporters (15 awards), among his awards are: the Ischia international award, Bayeux Calvados, Amnesty International, UK press awards lifetime achievement, British press awards Foreign correspondent (twice) and Brit press awards feature writer once; David Blundy award 1993; and several Foreign Press Awards.
Tim Butcher, bestselling author and former Daily Telegraph Middle East Correspondent and African Bureau Chief. Awards: 2003 winner UK Press Gazette Team Reporting Award; 2007 shortlisted Foreign Press Association’s Foreign Correspondent of the Year; 2010 winner Honorary Doctorate for journalism University of Northampton; 2013 winner Mungo Park explorer medal, Royal Scottish Geographical Society.
Sofia Lorena, reporter for Público (Portugal), Gazeta Prize for reporting in Iraq 2011, Finalist Gabriel García Márquez Journalism Award (coverage) for war reporting in Syria and reporting on Syrian refugees in Turkey and Jordan 2014
Paulo Moura, independent journalist, former Reporter at large for Publico (Portugal), Gazeta Prize for reporting in Egypt and Libya in 2012
Cândida Pinto, reporter at large for SIC television and Expresso weekly (Portugal), Gazeta Prize 2005 and 2012.
Uldis Dreiblats, investigative journalist and publisher, winner of the Bonnier Prize (1998) and Excellence Award of the Latvian Journalists' Union (2007).
Tamás Richárd Bodoky, investigative journalist and editor, and non-profit executive based in Budapest, Hungary. Bodoky has won the Gőbölyös Soma Prize for investigative journalism in 2008 for his articles on Hungary's 2006 unrest and police brutality. Bodoky has won the Iustitia Regnorum Fundamentum and the Hungarian Pulitzer Memorial Prize for his investigative articles and freedom of information lawsuits on high level political corruption cases. Bodoky is Marshall Memorial Fellowship alumni, and member of international investigative journalism networks. In 2011 Bodoky co-founded Hungarian watchdog NGO and investigative journalism center atlatszo.hu, where he serves as editor and director.
Richard Myrenberg, correspondent of Swedish public radio Sveriges Radio in Africa (2013 – 2017), covered numerous conflicts from Afghanistan to Burundi
Paul Hansen, acclaimed photographer for Swedish leading daily newspaper Dagens Nyheter.
Winner of World Press Photo 2012, second place in "General News" by World Press Photo 2016. Paul has covered many conflicts and disasters all over the world, in Gaza, Egypt, Gaza, Bosnia, Pakistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Myanmar, Bahrain, the Philippines, Thailand, etc.
Jonas Eriksson, CEO and director of editorial for the Swedish press agency TT
If you are a journalist and you wish to support the appeal for signatures, could you please send us a mini biography and your contact details at the following address : Supportemail@example.com