European Union “Not in the Business of Writing Ethics for Journalists” Says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists has criticised reports that the European Union may be preparing a code of conduct for media in the wake of the worldwide row over cartoons published in European newspapers that offended many Muslims.

“Reports that the European Union is getting into the business of trying to prepare an ethical code for journalists are plain wrong,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “We have already made it clear to Brussels officials that this will be unacceptable to everyone in media and they have agreed to encourage a professional dialogue but not to start drawing up codes or guidelines. That is the responsibility of media professionals alone.”

The IFJ met with European Union Commissioner Franco Frattini late last year to express concern over reports that Commission officials were considering some form of code for media.

“We have already made it abundantly clear that ethical issues must be left to media professionals without any political interference. As far as we are concerned this principle has been agreed,” said White. “Reports suggesting otherwise are wide of the mark.”

The IFJ’s regional organisation the European Federation of Journalists has encouraged the European Commission to support a professional dialogue among media professional groups. “We welcome the fact that Commissioner Frattini is doing just that,” said White.

He said that the EFJ would participate and support the industry dialogue and the Federation was hoping to have an early consultation among media organisations on how to deal with the issues arising out of the row arising from the publication of cartoons which many Muslims have found offensive.

The issue is also certain to be discussed at the forthcoming global summit of free press organisations to be held in Brussels at the end of February. The International Freedom of Expression Exchange, which brings together some 60 press freedom groups from around the world, will hold a four day conference at the IFJ headquarters, the Residence Palace International Press Centre in the heart of the city’s European quarter. Commissioner Frattini will be one of the key speakers at the event.

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 110 countries