The International Federation of Journalists says that a global programme of action involving journalists and media groups is needed to support free expression and counter concerns over conflict and rising intolerance in society.
Speaking to an audience of leading journalists from 50 countries at the inaugural Global Inter-Media Dialogue, sponsored by the governments of Indonesia and Norway, in Bali at the weekend the IFJ General Secretary Aidan White warned: “The world is becoming an increasingly dangerous place as communities are set against each other by unscrupulous political groups who exploit public anxiety over the growth of terrorism and migration.”
He said the only antidote to racist attitudes which fuel much of the growing fearfulness was informed, ethical and professional journalism which could form the basis for dialogue between communities. He proposed the creation of a coalition of journalists, editors, publishers, broadcasters and media experts dedicated to raising awareness within media over religious, ethnic and cultural divisions without compromising commitments to free expression.
The meeting was a response to the bitter confrontation earlier this year when the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed in a number of European newspapers sparked demonstrations and outrage in many Muslim countries and led to riots in which more than 100 people died.
The role of media in this dispute has placed a responsibility on journalists to improve levels of awareness within the profession on the background, traditions views and values of different groups in society.
“Media are more powerful today then they have ever been,” said White. “We need more reporting in context by informed, well-trained professionals and less of an obsession with the commercial objectives of circulation and audience reach,” he said, referring to the intense competition within media which is leading to cuts in spending on editorial training and investigative journalism.
White told the audience that the IFJ was proposing to create a professional partnership with other groups to launch a global campaign – the Ethical Journalism Initiative – supporting practical work to improve standards and levels of ethical journalism and reinforcing the cause of free expression.
He said that governments and political groups had a role to play in this work, not just to remove obstacles to press freedom, but to be held accountable for their role in creating the atmosphere of hostility between different groups that leads to intolerance and instability.
For more information contact the IFJ at +32 2 235 2200
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries worldwide