Roberta Knoll

04 December 2020

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New faces at the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom

By Jane Whyatt

It’s been an extraordinary year for the European media freedom community. Coronavirus travel restrictions, emergency laws and an increasingly hostile atmosphere have made life difficult for media workers and human rights defenders. They also made it necessary to change the ground rules for holding Annual General Meetings.

At the first-ever online Annual General Meeting of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), new faces were elected to steer its governing bodies through the challenges to come and enrich the organisation with their specialist skills and networks.


New faces

Yannis Kotsifos

The new Chair of the Executive Board is Yannis Kotsifos, a journalists’ trade union leader from Greece who has been an elected member of the Steering Committee of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) since 2013. Long-standing supporters of media freedom will recall that Yannis Kotsifos’s union branch in Thessaloniki helped to host one of ECPMF’s most successful events to date, a training workshop in 2016 on new economic models for journalism in crisis. It was three times over-subscribed! Kotsifos has worked as a journalist in newspapers and radio, and he also has an academic career, teaching an Introduction to Journalism course at the American College of Thessaloniki (ACT) and studying for a Master’s degree in Digital Media at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki.

Rebecca Harms - Foto Dickfeitzen

Rebecca Harms

Also joining the Executive Board is another long-standing supporter of ECPMF’s work, Rebecca Harms. Harms is well known to all who value press freedom in Europe. As a former Member of the European Parliament, she has championed the cause for many years. In focussing on democratic reforms, anti- corruption policies and human rights issues with special attention to the peaceful resolution of the so-called frozen conflicts.

To take just one example, Harms’s advocacy for jailed journalist Afgan Mukhtarli was tireless both in public and behind the scenes. And it helped to produce the right result: Mukhtarli was freed after serving two and a half years of the six-year term handed down at his show trial in Azerbaijan. Additionally, at the end of her parliamentary mandate, the first thing she did was to travel to Turkey to monitor the trial of Osman Kavala and Can Atalay with a team of international human rights observers.

Changing places

Mogens Blicher Bjerregård

Mogens Blicher Bjerregaåd

Trade union president Mogens Blicher Bjerregaåd of the EFJ moves from ECPMF’s Executive Board to join the Supervisory Board. In addition to his active involvement in ECPMF fact-finding missions and advocacy actions, Bjerregaård brings his years of negotiating experience as the head of the 300,000-strong federation that represents most of Europe’s journalists.

Nora Wehofsits

In another change of role, former ECPMF staff member Nora Wehofsits has become a new Member of the ECPMF cooperative. As the Centre’s first Advocacy Officer 2016-2020, she was equally active at leading all advocacy activities of ECPMF and coordinating events such as “Newsocracy” or expert talks in the corridors of power in Brussels. Wehofsits brings her strong commitment to the cause of media freedom and a wealth of knowledge which will inform and enhance the General Meetings. Nora is presently employed as International Advocacy Officer with the Norwegian Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF).

Pavel Antonov

Represented at the General Meeting by its founder and director, Pavel Antonov, the Blue Link Foundation becomes a new organistional member of ECPMF. Blue Link is based in the Hungarian capital Budapest and supports public interest journalism and democracy in a country where they are constantly under threat. Pavel Antonov is a former editor-in-chief of the Nova TV channel. He was a speaker at ECPMF’s 2019 NEWSOCRACY conference in Budapest, and appeared on a panel with CEO Lutz Kinkel at the Leipzig Festival of Lights, commemorating the Peaceful Revolution which started in Leipzig and led directly to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.

Thank you and goodbye

The members, boards and staff said a huge “Thank you and goodbye,” in November 2020 to Henrik Kaufholz, former Chair of the Executive Board. He retired from the position after leading ECPMF from its foundation in June 2015. In his final speech, Kaufholz recalled the many challenges he had faced – including a crisis that required his attention during a holiday in the South of France. The staff thanked him for his unfailing commitment with a small socially-distanced farewell party and he remains a member of ECPMF, contributing to the General Meetings.

ECPMF is a registered European Co-operative (SCE) organised along democratic lines with a one-member, one vote system assuring fair representation. It has 42 members from 20 countries.

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