Ethical Journalism, Human Rights and New Vision of Media Needed, Says EFJ

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) today launched a call for a

wide-ranging debate about ethical journalism, human rights protection and a new

vision of media regulation to strengthen democracy in Europe.

The call was made by the EFJ General Secretary, Aidan White, in a

lecture on Ethical Journalism and Human Rights organised by Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner

of Human Rights of the Council of Europe

Referring to the economic and structural crisis in media which threatens

to overwhelm journalism in Europe, White told an audience at the European

Parliament that journalism as a public good was a theme being taken up by

journalists' groups across the continent.

"It is time for a new narrative that will place moral values in media

and ethical journalism at the heart of strategies for embracing the information

revolution," he said. "Governments must keep their hands off media and must

respect human rights while journalists must rise to the challenge of putting

their own house in order."

In a wide-ranging talk White argued that journalism as a public good

involves reporting stories based on principles of truth-telling, accuracy and

fairness. He said governments should provide more access to public information

and should lift the burden on journalism of repressive laws such as those

covering criminal defamation, blasphemy and national security.

He particularly targeted the threat to press freedom from attacks on the

confidentiality of journalists' sources and the hounding of journalists by

governments both in the courts and through covert surveillance.

"There is no place for discipline of dissent in a democracy," said

White. "Weak legal protection of journalists stifles legitimate scrutiny of

people in power and has a chilling effect on independent reporting." He

welcomed the support of the European Court of Human Rights in preserving the

anonymity of sources but he warned the Court not to stray into areas of

journalism by passing judgment on the editorial choice that journalists make

and their behavior.

"When judges move from testing rights and the law and start casting

their eyes over headlines, pictures and stories alarm bells ring in the halls

of journalism," he said.  

Introducing the lecture, Thomas Hammarberg, urged governments to use the

law to enhance human rights protection and not to hinder journalists. "Public

transparency and access to information are necessary for independent

journalism," he said. He welcomed the Ethical Journalism Initiative of the IFJ

and said the lecture was the first in a series he has commissioned on

journalism and human rights.

The paper is

available at:

For more

information, please contact EFJ on + 32 2 235 22 00
The EFJ represents more than

250.000 members in over 30 countries