The International Federation of Journalists today warned that the World Summit on the Information Society, which opens tomorrow in Geneva, will be a failure unless there is new momentum to confront the crisis of media globalisation.
“This Summit is only the first half of a process that must confront the challenges of globalisation,” said the IFJ in a statement on the eve of the summit.
The IFJ says that although there are references to existing international free expression rights, the role of traditional media in developing the information society and the need for diversity of ownership in media, the Summit has failed to tackle head-on the problem of media concentration, the defence of public broadcasting and the need for enhanced authors’ rights protection for content creators.
“We fear that this much-trumpeted summit could end up with a commitment to existing international policy and, apart from a few banalities, not much else,” said the IFJ statement. The IFJ is particularly concerned at the failure to confront the growing power of global media conglomerates.
However, the IFJ welcomes references in the action plan to use of traditional media to “bridge the knowledge divide” and to facilitate the flow of cultural content.
“Anything that will diminish the gulf between the information-rich societies and poorer regions is most welcome,” says the IFJ, “but this will not happen unless steps are taken to prevent concentration of media ownership at national and global level and to preserve public service values in media.”
The IFJ is calling for concrete proposals to bridge the “digital divide.” The Federation says that this must not be an area where “gesture politics” is substituted for well-resourced programmes of training and media development.
“Words must be matched by deeds and a commitment to practical and realistic steps to give people everywhere a chance to have their voice heard in the information society.” The IFJ itself is a partner in one project, which aims to stimulate new media activities in a number of least developed countries.
The IFJ also welcomes the decision not to press for the definition of new rights at the summit, but instead to concentrate on achieving wider recognition of existing rights, such as Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“Many of the countries taking part in the debate this week in Geneva are themselves guilty of violating free expression and journalists’ rights, “ says the IFJ. “More must be done to free media from the atmosphere of intimidation and corruption that surrounds journalism in many parts of the world.”
The IFJ says Summit organisers have also failed to confront the employment crisis in the use of new information technologies.
“There are millions of workers whose jobs are unprotected and who are grossly exploited in the information society,” says the IFJ. “But the commitment to a secure, safe and healthy working environment with respect for fairness and gender equality set out in the draft texts is weakened by a failure to recognise the importance of core labour standards as set out in existing declarations of the International Labour Organisation.”
The IFJ will be participating in a number of activities at the Summit including a side meeting organised by the ILO, sessions organised by the World Electronic Forum and UNESCO and in a major round table of the Summit on Diversity in Cyberspace.
During the summit the IFJ will be holding daily briefings for journalists and carrying out a series of interviews with Summit personalities on the issues being discussed at Geneva.
For further information Contact: Pamela Morinière. +32 497 549976
The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries