On 8 and 9 October 2015, UNESCO sponsored the participation of representatives from press councils in South-East Europe to the annual meeting of the Alliance of Independent Press Councils in Europe (AIPCE), a European network of self-regulatory bodies for press and broadcast media.
The conference was organized this year in Vienna where the Austrian Press Council, the Presserat, is celebrating its 5th anniversary. One of the main objectives of this year’s event was to discuss the membership criteria for belonging to this Alliance.
The press councils in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Serbia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Kosovo (under UNSCR 1244) are all members of the Alliance. Their annual participation to this event has proven to be an essential opportunity for them to enhance cooperation and exchange information with European peers on ethical dilemmas they face in their daily work adjudicating complaints on potential breaches of their codes of ethics. A number of working groups were organized to discuss ethical issues such as native advertising and commercial collaboration or the way that the refugee crisis is handled in the media.
During the conference, Catherine Speller, author of the recent UNESCO needs-assessment report about media councils in South East Europe presented the idea of extending the summary tables about the operations of the councils (included in the report to introduce each council) to all members of the Alliance, as an information-sharing resource.
The sponsoring of South East Europe representatives to Vienna was arranged as one of the final activities taking place in the framework of the EU-UNESCO project: “Media Accountability in South East Europe”, which started in January 2013. This project aims to strengthen press councils in the region as they have proven to be essential safeguards of media freedom. By ensuring respect for codes of ethics and by dealing with readers and viewers’ complaints, press councils demonstrated that they help media professionals to better protect themselves from informal economic and political pressures while winning the confidence of media consumers.