Dubai took a step forward to induce ethics in journalism as it hosted the Regional Ethical Journalism Initiative (EJI) yesterday by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) in collaboration with the UAE Journalists Association.
The event saw a large number of international journalists who spoke on the subject to a packed house. Held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, it was sponsored by Dubai Press Club and Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
The two-day event includes heads of journalists associations and syndicates, editor-in-chiefs, industry experts and media personalities from Arab countries, West Asia and Africa sharing their views on the subject in five different sessions. Representatives of journalistic associations from 20 different countries are at the event.
Highlighting the objective of such an event, Head of the UAE Journalists Association Mohammed Youssef announced the support of the association stating "we are not above accountability".
By stating his support to such an initiative, he conveyed that the entire journalistic community of the country is behind such an effort, but "we do not forget our responsibility, that's an essential part of our jobs".
Yousef highlighted the role of charters of honour approved by press societies on themselves as a fence that protects the society and its rights and gives the press its monitoring right in the society to complement the role of executive, legislative and judicial authorities in any society.
The strength and safety of the press in any society is the responsibility of all the press institutions that includes journalists, investors or workers of the media institutes. And this obliges journalists to observe professional criteria imposed by the honour charters as well as enlightening laws and legislations that ensure all rights in the society, primarily the right to free press expression.
Among the host of topics that were discussed on the first day of the event included editorial independence, media responsibility, the building of democracy through truth, challenges to pluralism and diversity and ethics at times of war.
Speakers who shared their opinion on the first day included Paul Gillespie foreign editor of The Irish Times, Bettina Peters; Aidan White IFJ General Secretary; Zafar Abbas of the daily newspaper Dawn; Dr Hussein Amin, chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication at the American University in Cairo; Habib Al Sayegh, consultant at Al Khaleej newspaper; Bettina Peters, Director of the Global Forum for Media Development in Belgium; Moayyad Al Lami, Head of the Iraqi Journalists Union; Mogens Blicher Bjerregaard, President the Danish Union of Journalists; Abdul Hamid Ahmed, Editor-in-Chief of Gulf News along with Mufid Al Jazairi, Samia Nakhoul, Sakher Abu El Oun and Abdulla Al Awady.
Gillespie of The Irish Times highlighted the importance of professional ethics and welcomed the initiative. He said the press should practice a role of raising awareness and contributing to the advancement of the society.
International Federation of Journalists' General-Secretary, Aidan White, said the conference comes at decisive phase of the history of press in the world, especially in the Arab World and West Asia where wars, social conflict and racial bigotry still generate internal conflicts. Gillespie said the press can build bridges to change the world but it will not succeed unless there is enough space for the establishment of an independent professional media activity. Governments have to free their people and allow sufficient space for thinking and strongly expressing themselves, he said.
The seminar will continue forum discussions and speeches by international guests on building peace, combating corruption as well as the process of laying the foundations for accountable media. Dubai is the first Arab city to host the event, which will be concluded with the launch of the regional initiative as well as the setting up of a permanent follow-up commission.
The initiative is focused on promoting national, regional and global inter-media dialogue as an essential part of strategies for peace-building and development.
The EJI is launched as journalism adjusts to profound internal changes and as media face the challenge of reporting in an increasingly polarised world, characterised by extremism in religion and culture, public mistrust of traditional politics, and rising anxiety among communities about their future and their relations with their neighbours.
The initiative was adopted by the IFJ at its World Congress in Moscow in 2007 and it has been the centrepiece of meetings of media professionals in Europe, the Middle East and Indonesia and was formally launched by the IFJ at the Global Inter-Media Dialogue in Bali in 2008.
The EJI puts ethical conduct back on the media agenda. At a time of dramatic change in the information landscape it strengthens democratic values through promotion of media quality and ethical journalism.
The EJI takes up this challenge and raises awareness of how informed, accurate journalism and reporting in context helps create mutual understanding in the face of division, whether defined by language, culture, ethnicity or religious belief and strengthens democracy.
Summing up yesterday's event, Gillespie stressed that ethics is not a marginal thing in the future of journalism but rather it is the key for its survival. (With inputs from agencies)