Breaking the strangle-hold that some governments still have on key media is a key to creating an independent and democratic media culture around the Mediterranean, the International Federation of Journalists told a round table meeting of experts in Cairo at the weekend.
"Some governments insist on keeping media – particularly the national broadcasting systems – under a tight rein and this demoralizes journalists and restricts the capacity for independent reporting" said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, at the meeting called to discuss practical ways of promoting co-operation between media in European Union countries and states bordering the Mediterranean.
“The development of credible and effective programmes depends on creating an enabling environment in which journalists can work safely and professionally without interference,” said White. “And that means breaking the link that binds media to forms of governmental control and undue influence.”
He said that some governments, such as Tunisia which has a notorious record of putting pressure on journalists and media, were making it impossible for journalists to work freely without facing official intimidation.
He also argued for more action to improve the safety and security of journalists and said that programmes for training journalists to cope with dangerous situations, including reporting on violent demonstrations as well as war reporting, would build confidence and win support among journalists. He said the International News Safety Institute, the coalition of media employers and journalists groups, was a crucial supporter of such work.
He also sought support for the launching of a new framework for dialogue between journalists and media around the Mediterranean to combat the rise of intolerance in reporting of issues related to migration and asylum policy.
The meeting of journalists, media experts and academics looked at ways to promote professionalism and co-operation as part of the new phase of work for media in developing the European Union neighbourhood policy of co-operation between EU states and southern Mediterranean countries, which was launched at a conference in Barcelona in November. The programme, under the title Euromed and the Media, allows key international journalists to examine how the media helps shape the multi-faceted relationships between countries in the Euromed region which includes European Union member states plus countries on the southern Mediterranean coast - Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine Authority, Syria, Tunisia and Turkey.
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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 100 countries