API held its 2018 Annual General Assembly on Tuesday 6 March 2018 in the Residence Palace, under the chairmanship of Tom Weingärtner, API's president. There were about twenty-five members present.
PHOTO:(from left to right: Hans de Bruijn, Secretary General,Tom Weingärtner, API-president, Nagayo Taniguchi & Kris Van Haver, Vice Presidents)
API's Activities: Secretary-general Hans de Bruijn gave a short overview of API's activities in 2017, as presented in the annual report sent to all members, with additional comments from president Tom Weingärtner. Main focus was as always on the relations with the European institutions. API regularly meets with the respective spokespersons services and attempts to improve their communication practices. Success is not guaranteed, however, said the president. There was again criticism of the access procedures to the European Parliament, which API will again address.
Elections: The assembly elected a new vice-preisident to succeed Nagayo Taniguchi, who had come to the end of his second and last two-year term. There were two candidates, Eric Maurice and Martin Alasor. The latter however withdrew his candidacy on the spot, after which Eric Maurice (editor-in-chief of EUObserver) was unanimously and by acclamation elected as vice-president. Nagayo Taniguchi will stay on as treasurer and member of the API Bureau. Thomas Friedrich was re-elected by show of hands for a new two-year term as a free elected member of the API Council, with fifteen votes for, three against and two abstentions. Three absent members voted by proxy. The assembly approved without a vote the decision by the API Council to create a seat on the Council for a representative of the Audio-Visual media, Belgian cameraman Olivier Vandersleyen.
Annual Accounts: The assembly approved the annual accounts for 2017 and the report by the commissioners (Hajo Friedrich, Raf Casert) who found no discrepancies in the presented documents and tables. Discharge was therefore given. The assembly also approved the draft budget for 2018. Treasurer Nagayo Taniguchi gave an overview of API's financial situation, which is sound. There was a deficit of € 5349,30 in 2017 compared to a surplus of € 4397,91 in 2016. This is due to a higher rental cost for the API office caused by a recalculation in 2017, while there was also a € 5500 write-off of expenses from the Solidarity Fund and an € 800 advance for the new API booklet. Due to this the API budget for 2018 is a little lower than that for last year, even with the remaining expenses foreseen for the API booklet and an earmark for the necessary re-design of the API website. So far 311 API-members have paid their membership fees, with 30+ still having to pay. API will check if contributions to the Solidarity Fund can be tax-deductible. There were remarks about the high management costs of the several bankaccounts. The Bureau was asked to look into lowering the banking costs. The API office will soon get a bankterminal for card payments.
The API membership fee is again confirmed at € 120 for fully employed members, and € 70 for freelancers and active pensioners.
Fake News: The assembly held a discussion about the recent developments around Fake News. The European Commission and the European Parliament have established task forces to study the phenomenon and measures that can be taken to counter it. It is not clear what role API can play in this discussion. The general feeling of the assembly is that API should stay clear of initiatives that seem to lead to European institutions judging what is 'real' news or not. There was criticism of the EU initiated website EUvsDISINFO which published a list of hundreds of perceived Fake News incidents, while it has already been established that many of those claims were incorrect, damaging the reputation of the media involved. There are already calls from member states and the EP to terminate this EuvsDISINFO site. API has a legitimate right to ask what criteria will be used by the task forces, and to be informed about any steps taken in the process by the European institutions. The procedure has to be transparent. In the meantime API should urge the various spokespersons services to refrain from using the term 'fake news' for reporting they don't like. Using this term as a gimmick is delegitimizing our work (EM).
Miscellanious points: On request of the European Commission there will be a discussion with the institutions about the accreditation criteria for bloggers. Their status is now unclear.