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Journalists in Brussels today launched a code of conduct for media as part of an effort to strengthen independent journalism in a city where political and commercial interests jostle for influence in a rapidly-expanding media landscape.
The guidelines aim to help media avoid conflicts of interest, improve transparency and strengthen the quality of independent journalism in one of the world's leading news centres. It will lead to talks about how the European Union deals with media in the city.
"The code opens the door to a debate about the role of media and relations with political and commercial institutions that is long overdue," says Aidan White, representing the alliance of journalists' groups, Journalists @ Your Service, behind the code.
He said the code had emerged after months of debate and discussion within Brussels journalism and media circles. He stressed that the aim was to strengthen quality journalism - not focus on problems with particular media.
"I have been quoted a number of times by media and almost always in unhelpful ways that suggest the problems are just caused by specific media organisations - such as EurActiv, EUpolitix and EUreporter," said White. "That's a pity, because this not about particular media, but about changing the culture of attitudes to journalism in Brussels.
Ironically, said White, these titles, recently named in an extensive report in The Message, a German media magazine, were among those Brussels media backing the code.
"If what has been reported has offended these colleagues then I apologise for my part in it, because all three of these organisations, and more besides, have taken up the challenge of the code of conduct and support its objectives," he said. "By playing an active role in Brussels discussions on the code, news organisations show that they see these principles as providing important benchmarks for quality to be followed by all media, not just in Brussels but all over Europe."
"Journalists in Brussels now challenge lobbying groups and the European Union to come clean about how they are manipulating and trying use media," said White. "The beneficiaries will be journalists themselves, whose editorial independence will be strengthened, and the public who will gain tremendously from the democratic benefits of more reliable, independent and quality journalism from Brussels."
"Journalists @ Your Service" is the Brussels media help centre at the International Press Centre, Résidence Palace, sponsored by the International Federation of Journalists, the European Journalism Centre, the International Foreign Correspondents Association (API) and the Belgian journalists Union (AGJPB/AVBB).
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