Journalistic Activities Excluded From Lockdown

Since Belgium officially went into a full lockdown yesterday, API has received questions from colleagues who want to know to what extent the restrictive measures also have an impact on their journalistic activities. Especially where journalists want to take to the streets to conduct interviews, make reports and do stand-ups.

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European Commission: Voluntary Registration of Journalists in Fight Against Coronavirus

The European Commission will start on Tuesday 10 March with voluntarily registering the names of journalists attending briefings and press conferences in the Berlaymont press room as part of its measures against the spread of the corona-virus.

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API Meeting With European Commission's Security Service

The API Bureau on Tuesday 3 March had a meeting with the heads of the European Commission's security service. We discussed a number of security issues, mainly related to the access to the Berlaymont for journalists.

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New Inter-Institutional Badges

As most of you you will know by now the European Commission's Security Office has launched a new format for the inter-institutional badges.

They are no longer yellow but white. The name of the media of the holder and the accreditation number are not mentioned anymore, only family name, surname and expiration date. API-IPA has been informed that all these changes were made for practical and security reasons.

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1. First experiences with the SPP of the new Von der Leyen Commission.
Remarks made:

  • Unfortunately the new SPP has maintained the 'cluster structure' introduced by the Juncker Commission, with no longer one spokesperson per commissioner. The description of the portfolios of the SP's is too vague. Now it is not always clear who to go to with specific questions. The quality of the SP's is OK.
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Today departing European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker made his last appearance in the Commission press room to say farewell to the European correspondents before handing over the Commission Presidency to Ursula von der Leyen. Also chief spokesperson Mina Andreeva and her deputy Natasha Bertaud said goodbye, as they will be leaving the spokespersons service. Hundreds of correspondents applauded President Juncker. On behalf of API and all correspondents, former API president en board-member Lorenzo Consoli said the following: 

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Martine Joos 40 Years of Service to API

On Thursday 24 October we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Martine Joos as secretary of the International Press Association. In October 1979 she started working for API-IPA, and in the four decades since Martine has been continuously at the center of the association. She has been and still is the most invaluable source of information for thousands of foreign correspondents in Brussels, who have passed by her office in the IPC to become a member of API, to get help with accreditations or advice on settling in Belgium and how to cope with the many institutions and local bureaucracies. 

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In Memoriam Willy Hélin - 1946-2019

Willy Hélin, who passed away on 11 October at the age of 73, was undoubtedly one of the most popular spokesmen ever in the pressroom of the European Commission. He was popular both with commissioners and colleagues AND with journalists. "Il fallait le faire – het moest gedaan worden", the son of a Walloon father and a Flemish mother born on the outskirts of Brussels could have said, actually in plenty of languages. Yes, he could even master the "langue de bois", the obscure newspeak so common in many press rooms. Of course, as a spokesman for competition commissioner Karel Van Miert, he didn´t sometimes have the choice. But even during those years, Willy managed to convey a clear message and information.

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On Thursday 3 October an API-delegation (president Katalin Halmai, SG Hans de Bruijn and Bureau-members Lorenzo Consoli and Michael Stabenow) had a first exchange of views with the leaders of the communication team of the upcoming von der Leyen Commission (VDL's executive communication adviser Jens Flosdorff, chief Commission spokesperson-designate Eric Mamer, and his deputy Dana Spinant).

Purpose of the meeting was to get acquainted and to discuss the many expectations, wishes and suggestions raised by correspondents in API's extraordinary assembly on September 24. For a summary of those issues see the report of this assembly distributed to all correspondents, and available on the API website

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API-IPA organised an extraordinary general assembly Tuesday 24 September for members and non-members alike to discuss expectations, wishes and suggestions for the new communication team of the Von der Leyen-Commission. API-IPA will now ask for a meeting with the new leadership of the spokespersons service (SPP) to discuss these and establish a good working relationship. Below is a summary of the issues raised. 

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API Looks Forward to Cooperate With VDL & Team

API-IPA congratulates the new president-elect of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.

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Summary of the Meeting of the API Council on Tuesday 25 June 2019

In the EU inter-institutional accreditation committee the question has been raised if the current accreditation criteria are still up-to-date, or that they need to be reviewed, taking into account all kinds of new media (bloggers, podcasters, influencers etc.) who can be expected to ask for accreditation. After the summer a special meeting will be dedicated to discuss this issue.

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API Protests Breach of EP Press Room Rules by New I&D-Group

API-IPA has protested the behaviour of members of the new 'Identity and Democray'-group in the European Parliament, during the press conference in the EP press room where they presented themselves last Thursday 13 June. At several instances supporters of the far-right group, who were seated among the journalists, applauded the speakers at the podium. To people watching the press conference on their screens, this gave the impression that journalists were showing support, which was of course not the case.

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Renowned Belgian EU-Affairs Journalist Michel Theys Dies at 67

Michel Theys, one of the most experienced Belgian journalistes covering European affairs for many years, died this week after a serious illness. Mr. Theys (67) has devoted most of his professional career to his two passions, journalism and Europe. He campaigned for a committed and independent press, and defended the project of a political, more democratic Europe, capable of liberating itself from excessive intergovernmentalism. 

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Irish Journalist Lyra McKee Killed While Reporting on Riots in Derry

Last week Irish journalist Lyra McKee was killed while she was reporting on riots in Derry, Northern Ireland. The International Press Association (API-IPA) extends to the partner and family of Lyra McKee and to all Irish journalists our deepest sympathies and condolences on the murder of one of the bravest and most original new voices of Irish journalism. 

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Foreign Correspondents Deplore Low News Value of Commission Briefings

In his farewell speech as president of API-IPA, Tom Weingärtner deplored the decreasing news value of the European Commission's daily journalists briefing and an unwillingness to provide real answers.
"The news value of daily briefings has plummeted compared to the previous commission when it had already reached an all time low," Weingärtner told API's general assembly.

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Katalin Halmai Elected New API-IPA President

The general assembly of the International Press Association API-IPA today unanimously elected Hungarian journalist Katalin Halmai as its new president.

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API Protest Against Arrest of Spanish Journalist in Brussels

Our colleague Alvaro Sánchez, who is a correspondent for El Pais in Brussels, was detained and kept in a police van during a demonstration for the climate on the evening of 24 March in front of the Federal Parliament, Rue de la Loi. Alvaro was handcuffed, behind his back, for half an hour, despite the fact that he visibly identified himself as a journalist. He showed an accreditation badge visibly on his neck and stated that he works for the Spanish newspaper.

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Election of an API President and Two Vice- Presidents

As their second and last two year term is coming to an end, API-president Tom Weingärtner and vice-president Kris Van Haver will have to step down. And when former vice-president Eric Maurice unexpectedly resigned last August, the API Council appointed its member Dafydd ab Iago as interim vice-president until the next assembly, conform art. 7.3a of the API-IPA statutes. This means that the 2019 General Assembly on Tuesday 2 April will have to elect a new president and two vice-presidents. 

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DO NOT PAY the Belgian €50 Journalist ‘Security Fee’!

 The International Press Association (API-IPA) is surprised and irritated about the fact that the Belgian authorities this week sent invoices, demanding a €50 payment, to several accredited foreign correspondents in Belgium. The fee supposedly covers (mandatory) security screening for obtaining accreditation to the October 2018 European summit held in Brussels.

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