The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) is a non-profit organisation that was founded in Leipzig, Germany, 2015. It operates on the basis of the European Charter on Freedom of the Press and the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
The vision of the Centre is a society where media freedom enables open discourse and everyone can seek, receive and impart information.
ECPMF’s mission is to promote, preserve and defend media freedom. We do this by monitoring violations, providing practical support and engaging diverse stakeholders across Europe.
The history of the centre can be told in four steps.
In 2009 Hans-Ulrich Jörges, then chief editior of the stern magazine, initiated the European Charter on Freedom of the Press. It defines in ten paragraphs what is required in order to protect a democratic public sphere. The document was signed by 48 editors-in-chief and leading journalists from all over Europe.
The text of the Charter and the names of the signatories were publicised in several languages on a dedicated website: www.pressfreedom.eu. The signed documents were handed over to the European Commission in Brussels on and to the Council of Europe in Luxembourg. The goal was was to assert the Charter’s validity across Europe and to make its adoption a pre-condition in EU accession negotiations.
To safeguard the Charter’s effectiveness the initiators seeked to found a watchdog institute. In the European Parliament former president Martin Schulz (Socialists and Democrats), Elmar Brok (European People’s Parties) and Alexander Graf Lambsdorff (ALDE, the Liberal group) gave their political backing to the idea. The Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig agreed to provide startup funding and steer the development of such an organisation. Eventually supporters from across Europe – academics, trades unions, investigative journalism organisations, media industry leaders, campaigning and aid organisations – gathered in Leipzig and founded the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom as a European Co-operative (SCE)
The initial financing of the ECPMF was provided by the European Commission, the Free State of Saxony, the City of Leipzig and the Media Foundation of the Sparkasse Leipzig. Still today the European Commission is the main funder. Meanwhile the Co-operative has 39 members and roughly a dozen staff members. The Centre is embedded in a pan-European network of freedom of expression organisations and together they undertake major projects such as the Rapid Response Mechanism and the IJ4EU grant.