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Letter: Developments Concerning the Membership of the Russian and the Ukrainian Press Councils

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The following is a statement of the Coordination Committee of the Alliance of Independent Press Councils of Europe (AIPCE) on the decision not to suspend the Russian Public Press Complaints Collegium from its (associated) membership.

The AIPCE stands with Ukraine and is in resolute opposition to Russia's ongoing war against Ukraine and its people. We condemn the continuation of Russia's refusal to protect the rights and freedoms of its citizens and all those under its jurisdiction. We are deeply concerned about ongoing state interference into the independence of the media, the regulation of media and threats to its practitioners. AIPCE members should uphold the ethics of journalism and free access to and distribution of information as well as promote freedom of expression; we recognise the challenging conditions that our colleagues face in Russia and Ukraine and wish to do our best to support press councils to operate despite such adverse conditions.

In April 2022, the Ukrainian Commission on Journalism Ethics tabled an extraordinary motion to expel the Russian Collegium from the AIPCE; the Ukrainian CJE stated that it would not continue to be a member while the Russian collegium was affiliated with the AIPCE. After a hearing with representatives from the Russian Collegium the request by some Press Councils to have an Extraordinary General Assembly to address the motion did not receive the two thirds of the votes, it was decided to table the motion at the General Assembly of the AIPCE held in October 2022.

On 21 October, at the General Assembly, the Russian Collegium elected to become an Associate member. Associate members do not have any of the rights of full AIPCE members. The original motion was therefore withdrawn, and an alternative motion was tabled to temporarily suspend the Associate membership of the Russian Collegium, subject to review.

A transparent and democratic vote was held in accordance with the regulations of the AIPCE. At another hearing no evidence of a serious violation of ethics by the Russian Collegium could be asserted. After an intense discussion the motion was voted on: there were 14 votes for the motion, 10 against, and one abstention. Motions must be carried by two thirds of the full AIPCE members of the AIPCE and are anonymous. The motion therefore did not pass, and the Russian Collegium remained an Associate member of the AIPCE. The Ukrainian CJE subsequently elected to resign from the AIPCE. Following that decision, the AIPCE resolved to review its bylaws regarding the criteria of membership at an Extraordinary General Assembly on 21 November. The Russian Collegium contacted the Coordination Committee of the AIPCE on 27 October to inform them that they would suspend membership until the Extraordinary General Assembly. In the days following, nine further press councils then elected to suspend their membership to the AIPCE (Armenia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Ireland, Moldova, Norway and Sweden) in order to support the position of the Ukrainian CJE.

The AIPCE deeply regrets the departure of the CJE, and the announcement of the nine further councils. The purposes of the AIPCE are best fulfilled through the coordination and cooperation of its membership and by upholding shared values of self-regulation, independence and press freedom.

AIPCE will of course welcome the return of the CJE and any other member which suspended its membership. We intend to invite observers into the Extraordinary General Assembly, as we seek to improve our regulations, their democratic exercise and foster unity amongst all press councils in Europe.

In the meantime, we will continue to monitor international developments and reserve the right to end the membership of any AIPCE members that harm the good standing of the AIPCE or no longer fulfil the criteria for being a member.

The Coordination Committee of the AIPCE

  • Lexie Kirkconnel-Kawana
  • Alexander Warzilek
  • Christos Christophides