Rome Foreign Press club "set to disappear?"

Comic Roberto Benigni in front of press club logo

ROME – Italy’s august Foreign Press Association is set to disappear unless it re-discovers its lost sense of solidarity, a candidate for the club presidency says. Yossi Bar, a correspondent for kol-Israel Radio, in an open letter to club members says “I feel the need to transform the Association from the cold azienda (business) that it is at the moment to a meeting place for professional journalists who share the same interests and objectives. Recently I have noticed with sadness that the Association lost its identity and the familiarity between colleagues and above all it has lost its sense of solidarity.” Mr Bar previously served as president of the century-old club on the via dell’Umilta in 2007. Also standing for a second term in the club elections as president is Dutch journalist Maarten van Aalderen, respected correspondent for De Telegraaf newspaper, facing a fierce challenge from rival candidate Dundar Kesapli of Turkey’s STAR newspaper, the dynamic founder of the Association of Mediterranean Journalists, and the popular Swedish reporter Kristina Kappelin of Dagens Industri. Bar, who also has been club secretary several times, added that veteran members are unable to relate sufficiently to new colleagues and more needs to be done to welcome newcomers. “It is time to change course. It is time to extend our relations and to open our Association also to Italian journalists.” The candidate continued “I know that our profession is going through a very difficult moment, but if we don’t remain united I fear that our beautiful association is destined to disappear. This is why I ask your vote.” Outgoing president Tobias Piller of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung has won wide support for attracting extensive commercial sponsorship for the Association. But critics claim privately that part of his team has lost touch with the grassroots needs of members, many of them struggling to survive in the current recession affecting news budgets, and that club membership dues in Rome are too expensive when compared to those of the Milan branch of the association.

Dundar, founder of the association of Mediterranean Journalists