‘Journalism & the Challenge of Intolerance’ conference in Brussels Print

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Published: 7 May 2012

Region: EU

The Media Diversity Institute together with European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and ARTICLE 19 hosted a two day ‘Journalism & the Challenge of Intolerance’ conference in Brussels on 3 & 4 May 2012.

The conference brought together more than 40 journalists, NGO activists and European policy makers to highlight the challenges facing journalists, to share good practices and to develop new strategies to combat intolerance and violations of journalists’ rights.

The conference endorsed the recommendations to journalists, editors, civil society organisations, universities and journalists’ unions in the report ‘Getting the Facts Right: Reporting Ethnicity & Religion launched at the conference and produced by the MDI in collaboration with EFJ/IFJ & ARTICLE 19, together with journalists unions from Lithuania, Greece and Slovakia.

Participants at the conference agreed on the following statement:

We believe that journalists should be alert to the danger of discrimination being furthered by media, and shall do the utmost to avoid facilitating such discrimination based on such grounds as, gender, racial or ethnic origin, religion or belief, disability, age,  or sexual orientation.

We recognise that freedom of expression carries with it certain responsibilities and duties and may be legitimately limited in certain circumstances such as to protect against hate speech.

We highlight the impact of the financial crisis facing the media industry on ethical standards. The slashing of editorial budgets, resources, time allocation and general cutting of journalists’ working conditions dramatically damages the capacity of media to maintain the level of professionalism which ensures the ethical standards and provide accurate and fair reporting on ethnicity and religion;

We are concerned that the lack of investment in training and investigative journalism due to the crisis will further reduce quality in journalism leading to poorer reporting of vulnerable and minority groups and the danger of increased intolerance in society;

BXL_3We recognise the need and benefit of building coalitions between journalists unions, editors and employers’ organisations, civil society groups and journalism schools in order to improve the capacity of journalists to defend ethical standards that underpin an inclusive society;

We recognise that ethics are the foundation of accountable journalism that serves the public interest and holds the authorities to account; that campaigning for journalism ethics should go hand in hand with campaigns for the rights of journalists by journalists’ unions;

We recognise that while journalists’ unions have to manage the use of resources for competing priorities, campaigns on ethics and anti-discrimination should also be seen as an opportunity for unions to engage with their members on issues central to their professional identity.

We call on journalists’ unions and associations to better enforce and promote the ethical code for journalists. Where necessary the journalistic community should consider reviewing its codes to take account of new guidelines regarding reporting diversity and, in doing so, engage their full membership in the debate;

We call on publishers and media owners to be accountable for the ethical standards in journalism; to develop social dialogues with journalists’ unions in enforcing these standards, promote diversity and gender, create a culture of equality and respect within the newsroom. We further call for publishers to commit to greater transparency in ownership, internal governance and editorial policies.

We call for the recognition and enforcement of the conscious clause in collective bargaining agreement for journalists across Europe. The right to refuse assignments that breach our codes of ethics is a working right central to our professional identity.

We call for reform or examination of current self-regulatory framework or press council to ensure the representation of members of the journalists, editors, publishers and the public in its decision-making; and enforcement of such decisions. Self-regulatory systems need to be properly funded, independent and effective in order to uphold standards and avoid the threat of restrictive legislation.

This conference was co-funded by the European Federation of journalists, Media Diversity Institute, ARTICLE 19 and the European Union's Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme.

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