IFJ Backs Indian Calls for "Peace and Tolerance" in Media Reports of Religious Dispute

The International Federation of Journalists

(IFJ) today called for journalists to play their part in keeping the peace in

India where there are fears of community violence in a long-running religious

dispute.

Some 200,000 Indian army and security

personnel have been put on alert with fears of violence between Hindus and

Muslims over a court decision on a holy site in the pilgrim town of Ayodhya,

Uttar Pradesh, which is claimed by both communities.

"Journalists and media must play their part in

resisting the forces of violence by deploying the highest standards of

tolerance and ethics in reporting this issue," said Aidan White, IFJ General

Secretary. "This is no time for ill-judged and hateful commentary but for good

reporting and reflection on ways of building better understanding between the

communities."

Journalists and media workers unions from 25

countries, represented by the IFJ and Union Network International, attending a

regional meeting in Bali, Indonesia, also added their voices to calls for peace

in the region.

"Indian media must lead the demands for

tolerant and peaceful means to resolve this dispute," said Suresh Akhouri, President

of the Indian Journalists' Union.  "My

country has suffered enough from internal violence. Journalists must help build

the peace and avoid provocation by maintaining professional balance."

Akhouri also called on the IFJ to organise a

meeting on ethical responsibility of journalists in Delhi as soon as possible.

"This is a serious moment and we must alert journalists to the dangers of media

taking sides," he said.

The Allahabad High Court has ruled on

ownership of land where Hindu mobs tore down a 16th Century mosque in 1992,

some of them claiming that the site is the birthplace of their God, Ram. Hindu

leaders say they want to build a temple there.

But the destruction of the mosque prompted

some of the worst rioting between Hindus and Muslims since the division of

India in 1947 and led to violence in which thousands of people on both sides of

the religious divide were killed.

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The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 125 countries