By Zuliana Lainez
Mr. Mohamed Al-Araimi, President of the Oman Journalists Association (OJA),
Mr. President of the Arab Federation of Journalists (AFJ), Moaied Allami,
My dear friends from the IFJ unions,
My dear colleagues from all over the world,
First of all, I send you the apologies of our President, Younes Mjahed, who is ill. He is in quarantine in Paris, after being infected with Covid-19, which prevents him from being with us tonight.
In these first words I would like to express our affection for Younes, our gratitude for his work these three years at the head of the IFJ and our wishes for a speedy and good recovery.
On behalf of the IFJ, as Senior Vice-President, as the 31st World Congress opens today in Muscat, I would like to begin by giving my sincere thanks to our Omani affiliate, the Oman Journalists Association, which has worked hard for almost a year to host our World Congress.
Organising an IFJ congress is no easy task: we have delegates travelling from all over the world and, despite the difficulties, I am glad to see that they have all arrived. We can only have words of thanks for our colleagues in Oman, for the work done in advance, for the welcome, for making us feel at home no matter how far or how close we are to home.
Thank you very much for everything. This first congress in the Middle East in the history of the IFJ is already making history. History that should also remember the more than 50 activists who are here to help us and facilitate our work.
I cannot open this ceremony without thinking of all the journalists and media workers who have been killed in the last three years, since our last congress in Tunis in 2019. For all those men and women journalists killed in pandemics. For the former, our commitment to ensure that these crimes do not go unpunished. For the latter, our permanent homage.
I am also thinking of all the families of these victims who are grieving today and will probably always be grieving.
Finally, a thought for all the journalists and trade unionists who are in prison for the sole "crime" of being journalists.
I would like us to stand and observe a minute's silence in their memory.
I also want to dedicate a special thought to all the women journalists who have been targeted for doing their job, like Shireen a few days ago in Palestine, for all the women media workers who are harassed, threatened, and killed because they are journalists, of course, but also because they are women.
Our world still has a long way to go to make gender equality a reality everywhere, in all our countries, in our unions and even in our global federation.
There can be no hope for a better world if equality between women and men is denied, if gender equality is ignored, if equality between peoples, cultures and languages is not respected.
There can be no freedom of the press without freedom.
Friends, colleagues for almost 100 years the IFJ has been a global voice of journalists. An indispensable voice. We are all media workers here, whatever region we come from, whatever language we speak. The citizens of our countries, the members of our unions, need more than ever an International Federation, plural, diverse, strong, rooted in the field with all its 600,000 members.
As an elected member of the Administrative Committee, I must tell you that the term of office that ends tonight has been particularly difficult and challenging. Like all of you, we have been particularly affected by the Covid-19 crisis, which has also torn apart the families of our trade unions, which has paralysed the entire planet and which, unfortunately, has allowed certain politicians to considerably reduce freedoms and unscrupulous employers to sack journalists. Fewer journalists means fewer freedoms for citizens.
But these have also been three years in which our organisations have become resilient, where for many they have been the only refuge from the voracity of business and the indifference of many governments.
Fortunately, in the early days of the world crisis
- the whole trade union world stood up;
- The IFJ stood up and proposed the Global Platform for Quality Journalism;
- Our unions stood up and collectively achieved excellent results in negotiations with governments to ensure that quality journalism survives the crisis;
- This is also due to the unfailing support of our General Secretariat and all staff in Brussels, but also our staff in the regional offices. It has been complicated also for them and I must tell you that they have always been there for us as members of the IFJ Administrative and Executive Committees, but also for our unions in the regions. Thank you to them who are here with us today.
Comrades, the pandemic has reaffirmed that the union is the best instrument we have to fight for better living and working conditions.
The Muscat Congress will go down in history as the one that precedes our centenary.
The Muscat Congress has a very full programme, with many guests, many debates and each of us will return home with more strength, more ideas and the desire to continue with the tasks we have as leaders of our national unions.
I am sure that during this week in Oman, we will be able to live up to the missions entrusted to us by our members.
I would especially like to address the families of journalists killed in France, Peru, Palestine and Sri Lanka, who are with us: The fight against impunity is at the heart of the IFJ. At the heart and in action. These deaths pain us, so be convinced of our unflagging commitment to stand with you to see that justice is done.
Mr President of the Oman Journalists Association,
Mr. President of the Arab Federation of Journalists,
My dear friends and comrades,
I declare the 31st IFJ Congress officially opened in Muscat and I will now hand over the IFJ leadership to the General Secretary and the Presidium, which will be installed tomorrow morning.
I wish all of you, colleagues, friends of the IFJ, colleagues of the Oman Association, President Dr Mohammed Al-Araimi, a good evening, fruitful discussions, and an excellent Congress.
The collective struggle, comrades, is more alive than ever. It is more necessary than ever.
Thank you and long live our International Federation of Journalists!
IFJ Senior Vice-President