Veteran War Correspondent Calls On MEPs To Support Publishers’ Right

A veteran war correspondent who has reported on conflicts across the globe has called on MEPs to support the publishers’ right, to prevent funding for high quality public interest journalism being siphoned off by the tech platforms.

Ahead of a key vote in the European Parliament next month, the News Media Association has been working with trade associations in Europe to highlight the clear benefits for the creative industries of a publishers’ right which would help publishers protect their investment in original journalism, and debunk a scaremongering campaign targeting MEPs.    

Organisations such as News Media Europe representing hundreds of news media titles across Europe have called for MEPs to back the publishers’ right ahead of the copyright vote in plenary scheduled for 12 September.  

In a statement, the associations said: “A publishers’ right gives press publishers a much-needed legal standing to be able to negotiate fair and workable terms of distribution of press content in the digital world; ensures a fair and proportionate distribution of revenue between publishers and journalists; and is essential in aiding the industry to secure the future of an independent, diverse and free press.”

And in a hard-hitting article supported by journalists at news media publications across Europe, AFP correspondent Sammy Ketz dismissed scaremongering around the publishers’ right and said the monetization of journalistic content by the tech giants was “morally and democratically unjustifiable.”

“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.”

In his article, Sammy added: “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.”