In its campaign, the Federation has exposed the abuse of power, disinformation, internet shutdowns, self-censorship, harassment and violence as ongoing challenges facing journalists when reporting elections.
The campaign is calling on governments to ensure a safe working environment for journalists to allow them to report with full objectivity, impartiality and balance and on all politicians not to stigmatise media.
IFJ affiliates have been active in fighting for free and quality election coverage. AJI in Indonesia supported a fact-checking campaign during the elections in April; APU in Uruguay campaigns against misinformation through developing an “Ethical Pact” for political groups to sign; the NUJU in Ukraine campaigned for presidential candidates to endorse a Declaration of Free speech, and in the Democratic Republic of Congo IFJ affiliates SNPP and UNPC collaborated with the Belgian APJ and the IFJ to train journalists across the country on election reporting in November.
This year’s UN World Press Freedom Day‘s theme is “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation” and the IFJ will address ongoing challenges facing journalists in elections and the importance of reporting fully and freely for the public to make informed decisions at events across the world.
“Elections represent a test of political commitment to democracy, when the impulse to manipulate media and to control information is strongest among ruling parties and candidates running for office”, said IFJ President Philippe Leruth. “Too often, journalists are being put under huge and unnecessary pressure and we call on all governments to take specific precautions to allow journalists to report freely.”
To support its campaign, the IFJ has compiled a series of testimonials from union activists across the world whose countries have just been through or will run elections this year and where election coverage has been marred by self-censorship, disinformation and attacks on media and the right to report.
In the Philipines, Nonoy Espina, chairman of NUJP points at the incidence of harassment and threats that results in increased self-censorship among journalists. “This tends to detract greatly from the quality of coverage, both of the election process and of candidates, although shallow reporting has also been a perennial problem” he says.
“There is a cacophony of voices shouting everywhere. Disinformation is the biggest threat to any election process no matter how well the electoral framework is organized, and South Africa is no exception” says Tuwani Gumani, general secretary of Media Workers' Association of South Africa (MWASA).
“We noted a trend from politicians to systematically disqualify the work of journalists who publish information they don’t agree with », said Sophie Lejoly, deputy General Secretary at AJP, Belgium.
The IFJ's new tips on elections’ reporting combine professional ethics and safety tips to support journalists around the world.
“Raising standards in journalism to levels of public expectations during elections campaign is more relevant than ever before, in the current climate of fake news fuelling misinformation on increasingly influential social networks. At the same time, covering elections carries some safety risks, which journalists need to assess, prevent and reduce.” says Philippe Leruth.
The federation recalls that 15 journalists have been killed this year while carrying their jobs.