World Journalists and Arab Media Leaders Demand 'Fresh Start' For Journalism in Iraq

The leaders of the world's largest journalists' group, the International Federation of Journalists, and the Federation of Arab Journalists, bringing together journalists from 17 Arab states, ended a media summit meeting in Rabat, Morocco, yesterday with a unanimous demand for the creation of a new media order in Iraq that "must reflect the highest standards of pluralism, press freedom and editorial independence."

The meeting pledged the full co-operation of Arab journalists in a detailed inquiry into the attacks on media and killings of journalists during the war demanded by the IFJ on behalf of journalists' groups throughout the world last week.

There was also agreement on the need to establish a completely new "unified and vigorous" association of journalists, which must be "committed to defence of social and professional rights for all Iraqi journalists."

The IFJ, which already has a number of leading Arab journalists' unions in membership, says that the meeting signals a turning point in relations between Arab journalists and their colleagues around the world.

Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, said: "There is unanimous agreement that the authentic voice of press freedom in the region must be heard in discussions about a fresh start for Iraqi media.

"Building peace and democracy means creating media structures and a culture of journalism that is independent of all political interests - whether it is home grown political manipulation or prejudices imposed from outside."

The Arab Federation of Journalists has also voiced its support for the new International News Safety Institute, a global coalition of media groups being launched to promote safety in journalism on May 3rd, World Press Freedom Day.

The meeting also agreed a programme of action to promote reform and debate about professional values in journalism. "Despite anger over the war in Iraq and much bitterness caused by the suffering of Palestinian journalists, there is the will to create a new international solidarity in which Arab journalists are fully engaged," said White.

"Everyone agrees that in many Arab countries there needs to be more effort to challenge censorship and state interference in the work of journalists," said White. The two groups agreed to set up a joint commission to prepare a joint meeting on press freedom issues in Cairo later this year and to establish a training programme for Arab journalists on social and professional demands.

Further Information from: The Rabat Declaration

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