Leaders of the European Federation of Journalists, Europe's largest journalists' group, today warned governments not to use media for war-mongering as the debate over a possible military strike against Iraq begins to dominate the news agenda.
"Since September 11 last year there have been attempts to interfere with media to promote coverage in favour of military action against terrorism," said Gustl Glattfelder, the Chairman of the EFJ Steering Committee, which met in Brussels at the weekend. "Governments must not apply undue pressure on media in the debate about military action over Iraq. There is a dangerous cocktail of intolerance and war propaganda at work which can compromise independent journalism."
The EFJ, which is a regional group of the International Federation of Journalists, says journalists should be on their guard against politicians trying to use media during the anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks on Washington and New York.
"In the past year some racist and right-wing groups have tried to stir up popular feeling against immigrants and people of different religions," said Glattfelder, "There have been attacks on some communities in Europe."
He said that the current debates require professionalism and high standards in journalism in order for people to be fully informed about the consequences of a new military campaign in the so-called "war on terrorism."
"Intolerant language or political opportunism should be exposed and government attempts to spin the media story should be resisted," said Glattfelder. "Journalists do not need to be told what to do by self-interested politicians, they should be left alone to do their job without pressure."
The International Federation of Journalists has prepared a report on how the September 11 events have affected journalism worldwide and has for a number of years campaigned against racism in media. See Journalism and War on Terrorism Report.