Violence against media staff and the "insidious agenda" of global media corporations pose twin threats to press freedom in the new millennium says the International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' group.
In the ten years since the United Nations declared May 3rd as World Press Freedom Day more than 1,000 journalists and media workers have been killed or suffered violent deaths in the exercise of their profession, says the Federation in its statement today to mark World Press Freedom Day 2001.
"After a decade of democratic reforms, journalists are still routinely subject to brutal intimidation and independent media continue to be censored. In many parts of the world journalism remains a desperately dangerous business," says the IFJ, which has carried out an extensive review of killings since 1991 and found that the number of media casualties has been underestimated.
"The truth is far worse than we care to imagine. Months and years after the event, new evidence of killings and violence against journalists has come to light." The Federation plans to publish a ten-year dossier on the killings of journalists and media staff for its Congress in Korea next month.
The IFJ praises governments and media organisations that have made efforts to reduce the dangers to media staff. "We welcome the fact that leading media now recognise that minimum standards of protection, insurance and training must be given to journalists and media staff," says the IFJ. "But more pressure must be put on governments to end the culture of impunity which means many of those responsible for killing journalists are getting away with murder. We must have zero tolerance of violence against press freedom."
The IFJ warns that media concentration, globalisation and a culture of greed within media pose a range of new threats to freedom of expression. "Today a handful of media conglomerates control much of the information across the globe. They pose a significant threat to quality journalism, they undermine standards of media pluralism and they operate outside the orbit of democratic accountability," says the IFJ.
"These companies invest millions in lobbying in Brussels and Washington for deregulation aimed at killing off public service media, wrenching control of authors' rights away from creators and converting the public information space into a cash cow for advertisers and sponsors," says the IFJ.
The IFJ says that at the same time media owners impose poor working conditions, job insecurity, and have less respect for ethical standards. "The quality of media is rock-bottom and some employers want to take it lower."
"The future of journalism and democracy is in the balance when media organisations lose their sense of public mission and follow an agenda based exclusively upon the commercial exploitation of information," says the IFJ.
The IFJ plans to campaign vigorously for quality in media and will launch new initiatives to promote public service broadcasting, editorial independence, and rights at work at its 24th World Congress in Seoul from June 11-16th.