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Quality journalism 'public good' for democracy, says IFJ

Quality journalism 'public good' for democracy, says IFJ

Nearly 300 delegates from journalist unions from over 100 countries joined in Cadiz, Spain Tuesday to begin discussions on the future of news freedom and ethical journalism in an era of rapid change and deep economic crisis in a congress organized by the International Federation of Journalism.
The IFJ, which is a global federation of journalist unions with over 600,000 members, is holding its triennial congress in Cadiz, a port city on the southwestern coast of Spain, which is both one of the oldest inhabited cities in western Europe and the birthplace of both Spanish liberal democracy and news freedom nearly two centuries ago.
In her keynote address, Deputy Premier Teresa Fernandez de la Vega of the governing Spanish Socialist Party (PSOE) related the site of the congress, the Real Teatro de Las Cortes in San Fernando, was itself the birthplace for news freedom in Spain and in its then Latin American colonies.
Fernandez said the Cortes or parliament that was assembled in the San Fernando assembly hall promulgated on November 10, 1810 a brief article that guaranteed all Spanish citizens the right to write, print and publish political ideas without having to secure approval from authorities.
"These 20 words turned what had been the exception into the norm," said Fernandez, who declared that "we cannot have freedom without freedom of expression and freedom of the press which are the first and most solid pillar for a democratic society."
"In Spain, we owe a deep debt to journalist who have made great efforts to be the voices of those bereft of voice at risk of their own lives and whose work have made us all a little more free and dignified,"said the Spanish deputy prime minister.
While noting that journalism faces major challenges from changes in society and technology, Fernandez said that "no matter where the future takes us, news freedom will continue to be a pillar of democracy"and called on journalist to take seriously their responsibility to provide accurate and in-depth analysis of the events that shape our lives."
IFJ President Jim Boumelha stated that the 200 year old decree "was as important to journalists in Spain and Latin America as the First Amendment was to journalists in the United States."
However, Boumelha related that journalists in Spain and elsewhere are now confronted with the consequences of the current global financial crisis which "affects all workers and the government plans to make workers pay for it."
Moreover, Boumelha warned that the values of journalism has embodied "are now being abandoned" by media publishers and owners around the world and our profession, which should be the key watchdog in defense of freedom and democracy, is itself deep in crisis everywhere."
IFJ General Secretary Aidan White related that "journalism is separating from media" as the past role of publishers as radical social reformers is fading."
"Publishers of traditional news media are now systematically abandoning fundamental principles of independent journalism and are cutting jobs, stopping investigative journalism, ceasing training and adopting business models based on the opposite of ethnical journalism," said White.
"If publishers and media owners continue in this direction, they will forfeit their role as defenders of news freedom and lose the justification for a special place in society," warned the IFJ general secretary.
White stressed that "journalism is a public good" and that the special and essential difference of professional journalists lies in the fact that they are the core of a system of providing "ethical, credible, transparent and accountable information for citizens."
However, White warned that "the development of new sources of public funding must not open the door for governments or political groups to interfere in news coverage but to ensure the continuation of journalism as a public good for democracy."
John Nichols, a lifelong journalist and author of "The Death and Life of American Journalism," stated that journalists must recognize the reality that the traditional model which linked publishers, advertising and journalism was vanishing around the world.
"Old media is declining, new media is unable to fill the gap, and power is stepping into the gap," he warned.
"We are not just facing a decline in journalism as a profession but a decline in democracy as you cannot have a functioning democracy unless citizens are informed," Nichols stated.


Updated : 2021-04-19 04:50 GMT+08:00