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UNESCO Gathering: Media Crisis A Threat To Democratic Life …

  • May 10th, 2010
  • Posted by EUEditor

unesco-logoresize.gifA crisis in media and the future for democracy has been brought on by news media organisations retrenching, as their business models fail; according to Aidan White, General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists – who attended this year’s UNESCO World Press Freedom Day congress (3.5.10), in Brisbane, Australia.

The gathering issued a “Declaration of Brisbane” exhorting the international community to move more actively in support of freedom of information, and ending information poverty.


Aidan White, from the Brussels-based IFJ, said severe cost-cutting by news organisations – especially newspapers losing revenue due to impacts of the Internet –   meant uncertainty and precariousness for journalists, and a threat to the quality of their work.

aidan-white.jpgWhile many journalists had moved to online outlets to continue providing quality reportage, the plethora of business models and new outlets had opened a gap between the ideas of “media” and of “journalism”.

With the retrenchment or non-replacement of staff from media institutions which had provided a framework for journalism, much that was being published now failed to provide impartiality, transparency and accountability — and such services were needed if media was to enable citizens to make informed decisions.

“The media crisis is something which affects us all in society”, he said.

“This moment of crisis in media calls for greater recognition of journalistic ethics, and ideals.”


nadya-russia-jour.jpgNadezhda Azhgikhina, Secretary of the Union of Journalists of Russia, on the same platform, deplored high levels of impunity in the murder or harassment of journalists in several countries.

In Russia, she said, the ending of centuries of censorship, in the 1990s, had been  enforced by freedom-of-expression legislation, and permitted the growth of responsible independent journalism, free of corruption.

unesco-stop-kill-journs.gifBut the situation had deteriorated with journalists being killed and the majority of those crimes had not been investigated properly.

Journalistic standards had fallen, with journalists failing to stand together.

“It is important to support investigative journalism and high standards of investigation.

“Media institutions have failed in  many cases to realise on our freedom; the situation  is an outcome of lack of solidarity among journalists”, said Ms Azhgikhina.



The World Press Freedom Prize Laureate for 2010 was named as Monica Gonzalez Mujica, 65, cited as a courageous Chilean journalist imprisoned and tortured under the Pinochet regime during 1984-5.

Ms Gonzales, despite harassment by secret police, had been reporting on human rights violations and financial misdeeds of the military dictator and members of his family.

Today she is providing her experience to the younger generation, teaching investigative journalism.


qut-campus.jpgThe declaration made by the international gathering on media rights concentrated on getting more states to make formal, and effective guarantees of freedom of information, and called for extending of access to digital media, as a tool for building working democracy.

Text in part:

Signatories to the Declaration of Brisbane, World Press Freedom Day, 2010:

“Underscoring the principles of … a free, pluralistic and independent media as a cornerstone of democratic societies and development;

“Welcoming growing global recognition of the right to information, reflected in international statements, conventions and jurisprudence, as well as in the significant recent trend to adopt right to information laws at the national level;

“Aware that the majority of the world’s States have still not adopted legislation giving effect to this fundamental right;

“Concerned that even where right to information laws have been adopted, their implementation faces significant challenges, including political and bureaucratic resistance …

“Call on Member States:

“To enact legislation guaranteeing the right to information in accordance with the internationally-recognised principle of maximum disclosure;

“To harness the power of information communication technologies (ICTs) to realise the right to information and to foster enhanced pluralism in information flows;

“To bridge the digital and knowledge divide by overcoming low literacy levels and poor Internet connectivity, and by making information available in local languages and in a form that is easily understandable by diverse audiences;

“Call on professional associations, media outlets and industry:

“To implement innovative strategies aimed at channeling relevant information to the marginalised and underrepresented, and at promoting diversity in the workplace;

“To contribute to disseminating good practices and experiences showcasing the direct link between the right to information, journalism, democracy and people’s quality of life;

“To promote and strengthen forms of self-regulation and new forms of review of performance of media that enhance and support ethical journalism, with the aim of building public trust;

“Call on UNESCO:

“To promote the free flow of information and ideas through the Internet, and to condemn censorship and other violations of Internet freedom of expression …”

The UNESCO World Press Freedom Day conference took place at the University of Queensland, Brisbane, 2 and 3.5.10.

Declaration  in full: United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), Paris. “World Press Freedom Day 2010. Freedom of Information: the Right to Know; Brisbane Declaration”, (3.5.10)., (9.5.10).

UNESCO logo; Aidan White (; Nadezhda Azhgikhina (; UNESCO poster (UNESCO);Monica Gonzalez Mujica (UNESCO); city of Brisbane (QUT).