Safety of Journalists, Media Globalisation and Regional Solidarity Take Centre Stage At The IFJ World Congress

The XXV World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists ended in Athens on Saturday with a rallying call for action on a range of issues that are worrying journalists world-wide.

The newly-elected Executive Committee of the IFJ, has a new face at the top with Danish journalist Søren Wormslev taking over as Senior Vice President, joining Australian President Christopher Warren, and Vice Presidents Linda Foley from the United States and Osvaldo Urriolabeitia from Argentina along with Treasurer Jim Boumelha from Great Britain who were all re-elected to senior office. New faces on the 23-member Committee include Khady Cisse from Senegal, Mituro Samura from Japan, Uli Remmel from Germany, Naim Tobassi from Palestine, Paolo Serventi Longhi from Italy and Nikos Megrelis from Greece.

Among the 44 resolutions and policy statements adopted were several covering common themes that will become priorities for the new leadership. Among them are:

Safety: The Congress urged new work to promote the International News Safety Institute, formed last year at the instigation of the IFJ General Secretary and a clutch of IFJ unions. Fresh activities are also planned to assist journalists in Iraq, to take safety training to all regions of the world and to demand that international law is changed to ensure independent investigation of killings of journalists on the battlefield.

Media Globalisation: Congress adopted a series of resolutions on the need to curb global media concentration, to strengthen public broadcasting, to reinforce trade union rights and core labour standards, and to campaign for quality in journalism. One key resolution has called for a world-wide survey of the social and professional conditions in which journalists work

An overwhelming view of the Congress was that excessive commercialisation of media was turning journalists into mere “content providers” at the expense of quality journalism. An extensive declaration was adopted demanding cultural protections in international trade policy.

Regional Solidarity: Delegates also agreed that existing IFJ networks in Africa, Latin America and Asia should be strengthened to focus on the needs of local journalists’ groups. There are plans to establish new sub-regional co-operation in the Middle East and eastern and central Europe.

“The Congress ends on a high note of solidarity and goodwill,” said President Christopher Warren. “We have an extensive policy programme that includes new challenges, but we have reaffirmed our support for those of our colleagues most in need.”

He said the IFJ International Safety Fund, which provides material support and assistance for journalists who are the victims of violence and legal pressure, had been relaunched and would grow in importance in the years to come.

Congress delegates heard from journalists in Liberia and Indonesia who had benefited from the Fund and new pledges to the fund worth more than 150,000 Euro were received from IFJ unions.

“When we talk of solidarity there is no better example then when journalists are helping one another through the Safety Fund. At all levels, we are set fair for the future,” said Warren.

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The IFJ represents more than 500,000 journalists in over 110 countries