Friday, June 01, 2007

Propagandist or Journalist? You decide

If the EU is to be our government then it is imperative that there is a free and independent press. A press that citizens can trust to give them full information with clear, accurate and honest reporting. Of course there can be an editorial line, but as a citizen I should be able to know what that line is and to judge the source accordingly. The problem is, is that the system is corrupted by incompetence self selection and dishonesty.

Take the example of Enrico Mayrhofer. Enrico is a nice enough chap, I have been on nodding acquaintance with him for a number of years. But to be frank I was disgusted to discover that he is a fraud. I was handed a copy of dire free glossy advertising puff magazine 'Together' as I wandered into work. In it we learn in a dribblingly cringemaking interview that he is a,
"Italian journalist who has been living in Brussels for nine years, working as a correspondent for an Italian regional TV channel and as Press Officer of the Conference of Peripheral Maritime Regions"(in fact he is the Director of their Brussels Office) .
The CPMR is a large lobbying organisation in Brussels, constantly trying to direct Commission funding towards its members. It even holds contracts, (pg 6) with the Commission.
However, what are we told the day in the life of Enrico includes?

"10.30…He has to meet an MEP involved in maritime issues, who wants to be briefed before a speech. "Sometimes we're ghostwriters"
12.00 Press Conference in the Berlyamont, headquarters of the European Commission. President Barroso is presenting the EU budget to Member States. This topic cannot be missed by Enrico's TV channel…
Afternoon… Press release to prepare, speeches to translate, newsletter to edit, articles to write, position paper to circulate."

How can somebody boast about writing a politician's speech in one breath be expected to report on it in the next? This is a clear conflict of interest. Does his audience have a clue? I doubt it. How can he ask serious questions about the EU budget when he is getting wages from an organisation that needs funds from the budget. There is no way that he can produce anything other than propaganda, but his audience is utterly unaware. In the register of accredited journalists to the European Institutions he uses a yahoo email address, as a lobbyist he uses I note that his phone number is the same for both. I wonder which organisation pays for it, Antennasud or the CPMR? Or maybe both?

The awful thing is that Enrico is not alone, there are hundreds of journalists in Brussels, many of whom moonlight as lobbyists, or should I say that there are hundreds of lobbyists in Brussels moonlighting as journalists. It is a cosy existence, the Commission has much of the media in its pocket and they get dual wages. The only loser is the citizen who gets propaganda instead of news. This is a festering scandal , but who in this town would dare try to expose it? Not only that but he is a member of the International Press Association . The IPA was involved in the Developement of a Code of Conduct (in April 2004) along with the International Federation of Journalists and others which states clearly,

"The growth of new media services also provides a welcome opportunity to restate and reaffirm the values of independent journalism in a city where lobbying interests and political policymakers compete for influence.

All journalists groups and media working from and based in Brussels should,


• Their commitment to maintaining the highest standards of journalism, freedom of the press and pluralism;...
• That the credibility of news and information depends on the highest ethical standards in the gathering, presentation and circulation of news material.

They should,

5. Implement internal standards for monitoring the personal interests of employees and owners that may compromise editorial independence and which must be made known to the Editor in Chief;

6. Make available information on the external interests and ownership profile of the organisation;

7. Make available information regarding any benefits providing a pecuniary advantage provided by public authorities, including information on engagement in projects or activities funded by international organisations;

Oh yes and the title of the column, featuring Enrico? "EU Worker", well quite.

1 comment:

Enrico said...

Dear Elaib (???),

I am really sorry that you think that I am fraud although you say that I was a nice enough chap…

I am afraid there is a miss understanding from your side! The article was just a try to describe Brussels in a not too serious and boring way…

I did my best to look funny!

I can tell you that I am extremely honest and ethical.

The organization that I represent (unfortunately, I am not the director of the Brussels office) is not the typical lobby, because our members are politicians, we do not represent any industries or other unethical stuff, but just elected people from peripheral regions… our topics are based on environment, energy, regional development, maritime safety…and moreover it is an independent organization which does not receive any money from the EU.

Since I am a journalist and I have a passion for this job, I also work occasionally for a really small regional Italian TV.

My work consists in diffusing European news connected to my region. I think I am one of the few regional journalists in Brussels, contributing to better communicating what the EU does for our territories. You must know that my region, Puglia, is 2000km far from Brussels, and it is one of the poorest of the EU and I can tell you that it is not one of the most informed regions of Europe…

Seriously, I cannot see any conflict of interest in these two activities!

Which policymaker do you think I influence informing some citizens that live really far about EU activities?

Why do you think that my articles are not independent? Independent from who or what?

During your "investigation", did not you ever think that if there was a real conflict of interest I would have tried to hide it, instead of diffusing the information so openly in an article???

I do hope you will again think that I am a nice enough chap, and please stop me next time we meet in the street because I do not know who you are!

Enrico Mayrhofer

Just a suggestion:
during your next accourate "scoop" try to be more polite; it is never elegant to offend or diffamate somebody you do not know...