Journalists’ leaders are calling for a sea change in newsroom attitudes to increase diversity and tolerance in media. Delegates to the International Federation of Journalists congress in Moscow today called on media unions and employers to join forces to improve coverage of other cultures, particularly reporting on foreign affairs and ethnic and religious minorities.
The IFJ discussion on Tuesday on the “Intercultural Dialogue in the Struggle for Peace, Tolerance and Justice” revealed fierce criticism of how media are lending their support to a tendency towards race hate and intolerance.
“We need to ask ourselves some very difficult questions about our role in a world marked by increasing inter-cultural hostility, especially between the West and Islam,” said Shada Islam, a well-known Brussels-based journalist from Pakistan. “This is especially important because this hostility between cultures and peoples affects us directly and is making our professional lives even more hazardous and difficult.”
Mufid Al-Jazairi, former Iraqi Minister of Culture and now the Chairman of the Iraqi Parliament’s Media, Culture and Tourism Committee said intolerance of independent media within Iraq is the country’s main problem.
“In the heat of war, silencing noisy journalists doesn’t cost more than an unheard bullet in the middle of a stormy war,” he said. “When terrorists responsible for daily blood baths in Iraqi streets manage to escape punishment, it is not difficult for a “small crime” with one victim or more to go unpunished, even when the victim is a journalist.”
Abdalluh Al-Bakkli, the deputy general secretary of the Federation of Arab Journalists, said there needs to be a desire for cooperation for press freedom and equality between all journalists, regardless of their sex or cultural belief. He asked journalists to support Muslims in their fight against a “small minority of extremists.”
Soren Wormslev, a Danish journalist and senior vice president of the IFJ, said that journalists and their unions should come up with practical ideas—like quoting a wide variety of sources—to increase tolerance and understanding. He said that unions should organise conferences, as had been done by the Norwegian Union, to do training on this major subject.
In Latin America, intolerance has increased for journalist unions, said Manuel Méndez, president of the Press Association of Uruguay and the Federation of Journalists of Latin America and the Caribbean (FEPALC).
He said that journalists’ unions need to form regional blocks such as MERCOSUR are needed to confront globalisation.
“Information is not a business and therefore unions need to be united across Latin America and the Caribbean to confront the law of the market place,” he said. “In the region, working conditions and quality of journalism are declining. It weakens journalists and the society as a whole.”
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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide.