World Journalists Issue Report on Media, War and Terrorism

Praise for Media Coverage

Attempts to Manipulate Media

Threats to Civil Liberties

International Programme of Action

The world's largest journalists' group today issued a report condemning attempts to manipulate media in the aftermath of September 11 and warning governments over a "rush to legislate" against terrorism that may undermine civil liberties and press freedom.

The International Federation of Journalists issued its report Journalism, Civil Liberties And The War on Terrorism after a survey of media coverage in more than 20 countries. It concludes that journalists throughout the world generally responded well to the challenge of reporting the September 11 attacks, but events after the terrorism strikes and the military campaign in Afghanistan have led to new problems for media:

The 25-page report concludes:

"There have been numerous attempts to manipulate the media message by governments creating undue pressure on journalists that is potentially damaging to the quality of coverage of the conflict.

"Journalists must be free to work without being pressed into service in defence of governmental definitions of "patriotism" or "national interest".

The IFJ condemns governments that are moving too quickly to bring in counter-terrorism laws. "In Canada, the United States, Great Britain, Australia, France, Russia and within the European Union, there is a worrying rush to legislate on new rules over phone-tapping, police surveillance, encryption technology, detention of migrants, control of the Internet and freedom of movement."

These new laws are being drafted and processed too quickly for effective scrutiny by the public at large or by legislators says the IFJ which urges journalists groups to challenge the potential threats to press freedom and journalists rights.

"Journalists should be among the first to question politicians who make quick-fix promises in the name of security, particularly when our ability to collect and store information, to protect sources of information, to carry out legitimate inquiry, and to be independent of the policing and security services, are also at risk."

The IFJ world Executive Committee meeting in Stockholm at the weekend adopted a programme to focus on positive actions to support journalists including:

  • An international campaign to publicise useful material and guidelines for journalists and media covering the current crisis in order to promote better understanding of the issues involved and the need for professionalism.

  • To provide data on safety of journalists and health and safety matters and to promote risk awareness among media unions.

  • To promote the importance of tolerance and quality in journalism to counter prejudice and cultural misunderstanding through a range of initiatives during 2002 including the launch of five regional prizes for tolerance in journalism and by reinvigorating the International Media Working Group Against Racism and Xenophobia (IMRAX)

  • To promote international solidarity between journalists from all cultures and traditions in the current conflict, particularly by reaching out to colleagues from the Arab world and supporting their efforts to promote professionalism in journalism against the threat of fundamentalism and governmental interference.

  • To hold international and regional seminars and conferences on war, terrorism and the role of media with the support of appropriate international agencies and press freedom groups.
    The IFJ Executive Committee also expressed its full solidarity with its affiliate organisations in the US and with the American labour movement and agreed to hold its next meeting in the United States.

The full text of the Report is available from Media War and Terrorism