'Scandalous disregard' for safety of freelances

White: accused ENPA of putting profit before safety

The European Federation of Journalists has accused newspaper employers of showing a "callous and unacceptable disregard for the safety of freelance staff" by opposing European Union plans to improve the health and safety rights of freelance workers.

"It is a scandal that, in an industry that relies daily on freelance journalists who may take risks to deliver the news and pictures, employers are not prepared to take their responsibilities seriously," said EFJ general secretary Aidan White.

The federation alleges that opposition from the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association to amendments on the European Council’s recommendation on health and safety of self-employed workers is putting "profits before safety" and ignoring the contribution made by an increasing pool of freelance journalism that serves the European newspaper industry.

"Each day we record incidents of violence against journalists in many parts of the world, including Europe, and freelance reporters and camera staff, whether covering conflicts or reporting on local events, are particularly at risk," said White. "It is inexcusable for newspaper employers to ignore their responsibilities in this area."

The EFJ notes that although some major news agencies and television networks have developed safety guidelines for reporters on dangerous assignments, newspaper companies have been "conspicuously absent" from efforts to improve safety of journalists within the industry. In recent years, according to the EFJ, 32 freelance journalists working in the print sector alone have been killed during or because of their work.

"Now we have the unappetising sight of an employers’ association trying to wash its hands of responsibility for the people who provide an increasing share of the news material for their newspapers," said White.

"Most freelance journalists will find it laughable. Many young freelance staff in Europe barely have the means to live off their miserable income from journalism and few of them have the money to spare to pay for provision of health and safety costs."

The EFJ is supporting amendments to strengthen health and safety rights coming from the rapporteur Manuel P?rez Alvarez of the Committee on Employment and Social Affairs. However, the ENPA, opposing these moves, claims freelance journalists "benefit from a great freedom of organisation, flexibility and tax advantages".

By Jon Slattery

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