Delegates to the XXV World Congress of the IFJ meeting in Athens last week have agreed to support a world summit next year focusing on journalism and terrorism which is to be held in the Basque Country of Spain.
The Congress agreed to the initiative in response to growing concerns over how the so-called “war on terror” launched by the United States has led to a barrage of laws at national level that undermine civil liberties and are making life increasingly difficult for media and journalists.
A resolution unanimously adopted by Congress delegates endorsed the findings of two IFJ reports issued in the past two years that confirmed how some governments have been using the changed political and security landscape after the September 11 attacks on New York in 2001 to bring in new laws that increase surveillance of Internet communications, limit the freedom of movement of journalists and restrict media access to sources of information.
“Journalists are now under more scrutiny and more pressure than ever before,” said Christopher Warren, newly-elected President of the IFJ. “The balance between security concerns and free expression has been upset and it looks as though the people’s right to know is losing out.”
The IFJ says that throughout the world governments are using the threat of terrorism as an excuse to crackdown on media.
At the same time, IFJ delegates were concerned that in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks many western media failed to adequately respond to the challenge of the changes being demanded by their governments and to new policies.
“The months leading up to the Iraq war are a good example,” said Warren. “We saw how media in the United States, where journalists enjoy more constitutional freedom than anywhere else, utterly failed to put their government’s plans to go to war under proper scrutiny.” At the same time journalists were being targeted – over the granting of visas for example – in a way that severely restricted their capacity to work freely.
He said that in recent months the media in the US had bounced back with a more challenging approach to the policies of the Bush administration. Next year’s conference will review how journalists can join with other civil liberty groups to roll back some of the more restrictive laws, regulations and policies.
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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries