Bahrain Journalists Engage with IFJ in a Trade Union Development Programme

© Abdulrasool Hujairy / Al AyamThe International Federation of Journalists organised today, in cooperation with the Bahrain Journalists Association and the Danish Union of Journalists, a workshop on trade union development and professional ethics in the country capital Manama. A group of 30 journalists, representing a large spectrum of media outlets, attended this event, which was organised in the framework of a programme organised with and supported by International Media Support and the Danish government.

“One of the IFJ objectives is to enhance the solidarity and exchanges of experiences between the journalists’ unions”, said Bertrand Ginet, IFJ Programme Officer. “This event builds on a comprehensive assessment of the current social, professional and legal status of journalists in Bahrain, which was conducted with the BJA during the last six-months. This inception phase should lead to a long-term framework of cooperation”.

The purpose of the workshop was to engage the participants in discussions on deontological issues and to provide concrete suggestions for the role BJA can/shall play. Bodil Rahbek, an experienced journalist and member of the Danish Union, orchestrated the workshop further to a presentation on the legal framework of journalists’ work in Denmark and the Press Complaints Commission - a self-regulatory body monitoring and addressing ethical issues and complaints.

In groups of four persons the participants elaborated on the following questions:

• Definition of the ethical principles of journalism?

• Is there a common understanding among the BJA members of the ethical principles of the press? Does this correspond with the public concept of these principles?

• Does BJA carry a responsibility for the members’ knowledge and practice of high ethical standards of the press?

• How do you ensure the ethical standards in your workplace?

• Who should monitor the ethics of the press in Bahrain?

• How should unethical journalism be sanctioned and by whom?

A number of recommendations were adopted by the participants. Obstacles include the lack of an adequate number of good, thorough and professional journalists capable of handling the new political and social developments. Another problem that journalists face in Bahrain is the absence of a professional trade union. With the promise of the authorities to allow trade unionism, the BJA has plans to transform into a union and play a more important role in the struggle for social and professional rights of its members.

“Journalists in Bahrain face enormous challenges in establishing independent quality journalism” said Isa Al Shaiji, President of the Bahrain Journalists Association. “Paradoxically, the challenges are less to do with the state control of the media than with the lack of experience and competence of the journalists. The BJA and IFJ have opened up a constructive dialogue to confront these difficulties”.

The Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) was formed on August 30, 2000, as an effort by several journalists to set up an independent body to look after the interests of the profession. The first board was elected at the first meeting in September 2000. Nine members, including one woman, were elected by the general assembly. The BJA joined the International Federation in 2003. It now represents more than 200 members.

The IFJ and BJA representatives agreed on a national action plan for reform and union development, which will be jointly implemented in the upcoming two years.

Survey by Bahrain Journalists Association (BJA) (word doc)

Recommendations Adopted during one-day workshop organized by IFJ on 30/09/2005 at BJA premises (word doc)

Capacity-Building of Journalists’ Unions and Associations in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf region (word doc)

Ethics and Media Liability (powerpoint presentation)

For more information please contact: Bertrand Ginet (+32 2 235 22 06).

The IFJ represents more than 500.000 journalists in 110 countries