Speech at the European Parliament Prize for Journalism 2011
"It is my honour and pleasure to welcome you all to the European Parliament.
Today, for the fourth time, we will award the European Parliament Prize for Journalism. And what a year it has been, with the unforeseen Arab Spring and the fight against the economic crisis.
We are here to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of the journalists present. After all, whoever wins the European prizes today, you are all already national winners!
As a politician, I must say loud and clear: journalists and politicians cannot live without each other.
Our relationship - sometimes quite relaxed, sometimes rather tense - is in constant symbiosis. This is the way it should remain. Politicians complaining about the media are like farmers complaining about the weather or sailors being angry against the sea!
Having said that, please allow me to congratulate all of you for what you have accomplished. Your articles, printed or uploaded on the web, your TV and radio programmes, have deservedly been chosen in your countries as competitors for the 2011 Prize.
I should also like to extend a special welcome to our Young Journalists who are taking part in the workshop entitled "Nothing is impossible: Reporting on Human Rights and International Conflicts"
The figures for 2011 provided by Reporters Without Borders are indeed shocking:
42 journalists killed, 3 media assistants killed, 160 journalists imprisoned, 12 media assistants imprisoned and 123 "netizens" imprisoned
We must remember and pay tribute to all the journalists who have died or who have been jailed for their commitment to providing the public with speedy, accurate information from the troubled areas of the world. Their work merits our highest praise and recognition.
I wish you every success in discussing this topic.
By its decision to create this Prize, the European Parliament has chosen to promote critical and impartial journalism as well as the creation of a common European public space.
And you, with your participation, have contributed to these efforts.
The European Parliament Prize for Journalism is awarded to journalists who have covered major European issues or promoted better understanding of the EU institutions and/or EU policies.
I know how difficult a task it can be to explain Europe, its policies and its decisions. "Promoting a better understanding" of the EU is sometimes hard and complicated.
But it is vital. We are some 500 million Europeans and we are all concerned.
Some politicians tend to criticize or even blame journalists for the lack of information, for the gap between the Parliament and European issues on the one hand and the citizens of Europe on the other.
I disagree with this view. I come from a country where, for almost fifty years, journalists were not allowed to publish what they saw, to write what they thought and to speak out about what they felt.
I know how precious these values - these common European values - are. What you and your colleagues have been doing for Europe is very important.
I have always believed that it is even more important to speak to those who vote "no" or who are critical. They provide a check and force us to explain our policies better, and sometimes they help point out errors we may have committed.
Before we move on to the awarding of the Prize, let me first thank all those who have contributed to its success. That is, first of all, you, the journalists in the EU Member States, who have taken part and sent in their contributions.
My special thanks go to the members of both the national juries and the award jury in Brussels, who have read, watched, listened and evaluated thoroughly and carefully all the entries in their spare time.
My thanks go to:
Vice-President Rodi Kratsa-Tsagaropoulou, for having chaired the award jury.
My colleagues Silvia Costa and Morten Løkkegaard who were members of the jury.
The journalists of the award jury, the President of the "International Press Association" and to the European Parliament's own DG Communication.
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European Parliament Prize for Journalism 2011
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