Press passes in Europe: Providers. Facts. Alternatives.

Many things in Europe are standardised or unified, but there is no unified press pass. The distribution of press passes is not regulated legally in Europe or in the individual member states. This means that different passes are issued, depending on the country and the association. In many countries, the situation for the distribution of passes is similar: the public sector recognition of the press pass arises from the basis of constitutional law, whereby there are not official or state press passes. Press passes are generally issued instead by professional or industry associations or agencies. The pass is usually issued in a credit card format and is valid for the calendar year printed on the pass.

Freelance journalists, reader reporter and citizen journalism

For members of the press the press pass is an important working tool. Yet many of the national associations accept only full-time professional journalists – only they receive the much-desired press pass. In cooperation with the European Chamber of Journalists e.V., the market for press passes was researched and a number of lesser known alternatives for part-time journalists were demonstrated.

As well as the associations there are also many publishers and news agencies that issue special press passes for newspapers, TV stations, or magazines, as well as editorial passes. These passes often make the work of journalists (contact with political institutions, the public prosecutor, the police or private companies, visits to press conferences, etc.) just as easy as a conventional press pass might.


Some of the national organisations claim – wrongly – an exclusive right to distribute press passes or pretend to issue official press passes. What is wrong with that? With only a few exceptions, the right to distribute press passes in democratic countries is not the sole preserve of one particular association. Rather, many associations are equally entitled to issue press passes. Furthermore: press passes from associations with a trade union background are not always the best option. There are top-class alternatives from independent organisations, which a) act in a neutral manner, b) create much fewer administrative obstacles in issuing press passes and c) also accept part-time journalists.

Are freelancers welcomed by journalists’ trade unions?

Well, the dominance of trade union-run associations can be felt. The associations know how to use this strong position, with the result that there are difficult obstacles: only those who earn their money as full-time professional journalists receive a press pass. Why? Because the trade unions can only implement their tariff policies with fixed contract journalists. It is not possible to engage in tariff politics with freelancers who act commercially as journalists.

As far as the European journalists’ associations are concerned there are large differences between the costs, whether monthly or annual. If the job situation is poor, many freelance journalists cannot afford the annual membership fees, which are often very high. Therefore, in deciding which association to join, the financial aspect should also be taken into account.


A national press pass is only suitable for use outside Europe to a certain extent. It is recommended to obtain mainly international press pass versions, or a press passport (similar to a passport for travelling). These valuable press documents should be obtained from neutral organisations (less bureaucracy, open to part-time journalists). Press documents from independent associations are ideally suited for worldwide use. In many case the acceptance is greater due to the appearance and characteristics of these documents.

Due to the lack of uniform country-based regulations, acceptance is generally available, and the provision of a special permit, e.g. for press photographs, can be obtained by these means. Irrespective of whether Sri Lanka, Malta, France, Monaco, London or Slovenia: if an international press pass, a press passport or an International Press Card is presented, many professional or private objectives can be achieved more effectively and cheaply (from attending press conferences or trade fairs to visiting museums, gaining access to concerts, etc.).