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Journalists Head to Spain for International Federation Journalists Debate on Actions to Confront Media Crisis
Journalists’ leaders from all corners of the globe are heading for Spain this weekend to join the Congress of the International Federation of Journalists, the world’s largest gathering of unions and associations representing reporters and editorial staff.
The Congress, which will be held in the historic centre of Cadiz, will confront a range of massive problems facing the media industry and journalists – including threats of violence, governmental interference in media, a crisis of confidence in traditional media markets hit by the impact of the Internet, and growing demands from within the community of journalists for action to defend ethical and professional standards.
“The theme of our Congress is Journalism in Touch with the Future,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary, “and that says everything about the growing determination within journalism to confront pessimism about the future of our craft.”
The IFJ Congress will receive a report on the future of journalism which outlines new strategies for unions to defend journalists’ rights, both in the workplace and in their professional role.
“Some traditional media have made savage cuts in the fabric of journalism and encouraged a betrayal of ethical norms,” said White. “Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost over the past three years. There is less informed coverage of public affairs at local and national level. If this decline goes unchecked democracy will suffer and corruption will grow.”
While the IFJ says the Internet and the wave of new players in the world of information is great news for free expression and democracy, more must be done to counter a quality deficit caused by the cuts in media output.
“People need informed analysis, commentary and information about current affairs based on values of transparency, credibility and accountability,” said White. “Only journalism can provide this. Blogging and twittering are good for hearing what people have got to say, but they are no substitute for genuine journalism.”
The Congress will debate organising strategies for unions. It will also confront the continuing crisis of violence against journalists in many parts of the world where war, crime and social dislocation have led to the killing of more than 1,000 reporters and editors over the past decade.
“The crisis of impunity in killings of journalists and the scandal of governmental neglect will be at the heart of the agenda,” said White. “Colleagues from Africa, Latin America and many parts of Asia will give first-hand accounts of the crisis for press freedom and make proposals on how to make journalism safe.”
The Congress will also discuss IFJ plans to strengthen its own regional networks, to provide more training and support for journalists and to bring about reforms within the organisation to meet the momentous challenges facing the industry.
“The IFJ will help unions build a new solidarity to address problems – both old and new,” said White. “Our regions are growing in confidence. There is a sense that journalism is on the march, even if some employers appear to be weaker in their defence of the values of journalism.”
The Congress in Spain coincides with celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of Cadiz, and the adoption of the first press freedom law in Spain adopted in 1810. It will be officially opened by the First Vice-President of the government of Spain, María Teresa Fernández de la Vega on May 25.