“In the online world, there is no need to reinvent the wheel” - this was the opinion shared by all panelists in a special session on regulation, sustainable self-regulation and professional standards, organised by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) to mark World Press Freedom Day on 3 May in Riga.
The debate, moderated by IFJ Honorary Treasurer Wolfgang Mayer, was part of the programme ”Let Journalism Thrive! Towards better reporting, gender equality and media safety in the digital era” led by UNESCO and the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the EU to celebrate World Press Freedom.
“Journalists should be aware that they cannot use everything that is available on the internet. For instance, rumours shall not be circulated without concrete evidence and there should be a careful use of facebook posts,” explained Mayer who is a member of the German Press Council.
Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, President of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) supported media self-regulation stressing that : “Self-regulation is key to combat censorship and offers a sound basis for democracy and freedom of speech”. Wolfgang Mayer warned that “technological developments have created new opportunities for collecting and distributing information and there has been an increasing call for regulation”. “However, these developments can be misused by politicians to limit press freedom or to keep press freedom limited - which must be defeated,” he added.
Other speakers included Anda Rozukalne, Chair of the Latvian Association of Journalists; Anthonia Ifeyinwa Omwole, President of the Nigerian Association of Women Journalists; Dominique Pradalié, General Secretary of the National Union of French Journalists (SNJ); Ninok Leksono Dermawan, member of Press Council of Indonesia; Jamal Eddine Naji, General Director of Marocain Haute Autorité de la Communication Audiovisuelle (HACA) and Jordan journalist Yahia Shukkeir, Consultant of Blanquerna School of Communication.
Anda Rozukalne underlined the importance of transparency in media ownership. Speakers condemned politicians who own and use media for campaigning and for their own political interests. The increase of media surveillance was also heavily criticised.
The debate stressed the importance of a dialogue between journalists and editors in different Press Councils in order to strengthen ethical standards, citing as models the cases of Denmark and Germany. A favorable legislative environment, free access to information, media education and a specialised and independent judicial system were amongst the conditions listed for a free press. The panelists insisted on journalist’s responsibility towards citizens and the importance of reporting the truth.
The debate concluded on a call for more training for journalists to meet digital challenges and enable them to make adequate use of new technologies.
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