Journalists Accuse Newspaper Bosses Over Media Quality and Reject “Absurd Scare Mongering” on Press Freedom

The International Federation of Journalists today accused newspaper employers of using press freedom as a “cynical shield” to cover up cuts in editorial spending that journalists say have eroded quality of news reporting around the world.

Speaking at a tripartite meeting of employers, media staff and governments to discuss quality of work in the Information Society, Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ said media employers were trying to avoid international scrutiny of the impact of industry cost-cutting in newsrooms.

“For years journalists have witnessed dramatic cuts in spending on jobs and budgets that have had a shocking impact on newsroom morale and editorial quality,” he said. “It is laughable that bosses guilty of creating the conditions for falling standards and particularly for trying to demolish the traditional wall between editorial and advertising in newspapers are now yelping about press freedom.”

The IFJ accused the World Association of Newspapers and the European Newspaper Publishers Association of “absurd scare mongering” in a protest over the meeting discussing editorial quality. “This is an unconvincing attempt to escape responsibility by using press freedom as a cynical shield,” said White.

The IFJ says employment policies, attacks on authors’ rights, and the creation of a vulnerable underclass of poorly paid freelance, have undermined the editorial independence of journalists.

“Press freedom and good journalism depends upon a confident, robust and vigorous newsroom,” said White. “But employers these days are constantly undermining ethical standards and editorial independence which damages morale and leads to excessive self censorship.”

The IFJ is calling on the tripartite meeting being held at the International Labour Organisation in Geneva to come up with proposals to halt the slide in standards and to support efforts by journalists’ groups and others to raise quality standards throughout media.

“Journalists around the world are fighting back and we hope that this meeting will give support to all media staff in all sectors of the media industry who are striving for higher quality and better working conditions,” said White. “No-one will take newspaper employer complaints seriously unless they, too, show a willingness to will put standards and quality back on the newsroom agenda.”

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The IFJ represents over 500,000 journalists in more than 100 countries.