Journalists from 80 Countries Join Information Age Debate at IFJ World Congress in Korea

JOURNALISTS’ leaders from 80 countries around the globe are converging on Korea for next week’s 24th World Congress of the International Federation of Journalists, the world’s largest organisation of journalists.

The IFJ Congress, Journalism in the Information Age, is being held in Asia for the first time, and comes at a “turning point” for journalists says IFJ President Christopher Warren. “We start a new century on the threshold of a new age of journalism, but we face a profound and growing sense of unease and crisis in media.

“Optimism over new technologies and the opportunities of the Internet is giving way to uncertainty in the face of cynical exploitation by media owners, many of whom show no respect for professional values and social rights.

“Governments, too, even in the democratic world, are not doing enough to sustain and nurture press freedom.

“In Seoul we shall put democracy, press freedom and social justice on the agenda for globalisation. We will spell out the need for better quality media, for more public spirit in journalism and for equality and decency in employment.”

The Congress, hosted by the Korean Association of Journalists and the Korean Federation of Press Unions, will be opened by Korean President Kim Dae-Jung on June 11th. There will be 250 delegates and observers for what is billed as the most representative conference of journalists’ leaders ever held. More than 400,000 journalists will be represented at the event and more than 40 per cent of the delegates will be women.

Journalists from media hot spots such as Colombia, Sierra Leone, Russia, Indonesia and Palestine will be among delegates as well as leaders of the world’s major unions and associations of journalists.

“The Congress comes at a critical moment for journalists everywhere,” says Christopher Warren. “The scale of corporate influence in media and continuing governmental pressure on journalism means we have to focus our efforts on a number of clear objectives.”

He said the IFJ Congress would target five issues:

  • Media and Globalisation: A strategy will be drawn up to combat media concentration with demands for global social dialogue on journalists’ rights and for transparency and public service values in international trade talks;

  • Safety and human rights: The IFJ says more than 1,000 journalists and media staff were killed in the past ten years. Proposals calling for more action by media owners and public authorities to reduce risks will be adopted.

  • Quality in journalism: A campaign will be launched against “dumbing down” and for editorial independence, ethical standards and for genuinely public service media, particularly, in broadcasting;

  • Women’s Rights: A special conference on women in media before the congress opens will prepare a global charter setting out demands for equality in media.

  • Secure employment rights: A new strategy will be agreed to combat exploitation and to encourage trade union action to improve working conditions.

  • The Congress will hear country reports from all around the world outlining the problems and challenges journalists face.

    “The Information Age should be about liberating people from the tyranny of ignorance and uncertainty and should encourage tolerance and democratic development,” said Christopher Warren. “But the story so far is dominated by corporate strategies for increasing margins of profit and political influence.

    “In Korea we shall discuss how to shift the balance in favour of people’s right to know and we shall underscore the need for high quality media run by well-trained and independent journalists.”