The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European group, the Federation of European Journalists (EFJ) held the “10 years after 9/11, Journalism in the Shadow of Terror Laws” conference in Brussels on 10th-11th September 2011.
Read Ararat News‘ article on the conference, including the conference declaration and list of demands, below:
War on terror after 9/11 undermines journalists’ independence
By Roni Alasor – Ararat News – Publishing (ANP), Brussels, 13 of September – The anti-terror legislation following the 9/11 attacks in U.S.A. threatens the press freedom and should be reviewed in order to protect the rule of law and the fundamental human rights. This call was made by the participants at the conference “10 years after 9/11, Journalism in the Shadow of Terror Laws”, organised by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its European group, the Federation of European Journalists (EFJ) in Brussels on 10th-11th September 2011.
“The role of media as democracy watchdog has been chipped away even in advanced democracies,” said IFJ President, Jim Boumelha in his opening remarks. “Restrictions of press freedom have been introduced under the cloak of national security.”
Leading journalists and human rights advocates told the conference that the legislation adopted after the attacks as part of the anti-terror war has empowered the governments to limit the journalists\’ ability to investigate independently or to report on issues related to terrorism. Moreover, several undemocratic measures for mass surveillance of journalists and media organisations have been introduced by the governments under the cover of “national security protection”.
According Arne Konig, EFJ President, this approach has resulted in “unwillingness to report on the governments\’ policies out of fear of being on the wrong side”.
EU Counter-terrorism Coordinator, Mr. Gilles de Kerchove was also invited as speaker to the conference, the EU anti-terror coordinator, who is also European Law Professor in the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), has pointed out that thanks to the commitment of the European Governments to fight against terror, Europe is now safer than before. Mr. De Kerchove underlined the necessity of having a defined strategy, partnership with the private sector, promotion of new technology and study of cyber-security in the anti-terror policies.
“The language of war on terror has made easier for governments to introduce measures which repress media freedom and fundamental rights,” said Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “The anti-terror legislation after 9/11 has undermined journalistic integrity and discouraged critical voices.”
Ben Hayes, from Statewatch held speech on the impact of anti-terror legislation on civil liberties and the work of journalists. He underlined the antidemocratic approach of the states to misuse the anti-terror war in order to limit the press and the freedom of speech.
Turkey was also on the discussion table as a country where 60 journalists are in prison, according Ersu Oktay Huduti, representative of the Turkish Press Council, and Ercan Ipekci from the Turkish Journalist Syndicate.
After two days of debates, the participants in the conference adopted a Declaration on the impact of anti-terror legislation on journalism following the 9/11 attacks in America. Below is the full text of the Declaration:
Declaration Adopted by IFJ/EFJ Conference on ‘Journalism in the Shadow of Terror Laws’
We, the participants at the IFJ/EFJ Conference “10 years after 9/11, Journalism in the Shadow of Terror Laws”, held in Brussels on 10th-11th September,
Noting that since the September 11th terrorist attacks on the United States, the response by governments to the threat of terrorism had been massively disproportionate, resulting in
– fundamental rights being routinely violated and undermined,
– a raft of mass surveillance measures targeting journalists and media organisations being introduced,
-laws and regulations that undermine almost half of the minimum standards set out in the 1948 UN Universal Declaration on Human Rights being enacted by governments, often in the absence of scrutiny and debate, and
– media and independent journalism suffering in a “pervasive atmosphere of paranoia” which is leading to dangerous levels of self-censorship,
Recognising that these laws, when adopted in democratic states, are used by authoritarian regimes to reinforce their oppressive systems, and in most instances have served to restrict dissent inside and outside media and to curtail free speech,
Believing that all forms of indiscriminate violence and terrorism are unacceptable and threaten journalism and press freedom,
Concerned that the majority of counter-terrorism measures adopted by states over the past decade have helped usher in a ‘surveillance society’ with new high-tech forms of ‘dataveillance’ been used to monitor journalists’ activities, with spies and undercover agents been active in newsrooms, and with phones and computers been tapped and movements recorded,
Rejecting the message that fundamental rights can be sacrificed to fight terrorism and further concerned that ‘national security’ interest continues to enable governments to withhold information or override the constitutional and legal protections that should be afforded to citizens, journalists and whistleblowers alike,
1.That governments must not sacrifice civil liberties under the pretext of security;
2. That all counter-terrorism and national security laws, among them those hastily enacted immediately after September 11, should be reviewed to ensure compliance with international human rights and freedom of expression norms and prevent the misuse of anti-terror laws against journalists;
3. That mandatory data retention regimes must be repealed, and that restrictions and controls on the use of surveillance powers and new security technologies, as well as robust new mechanisms to protect personal privacy be established;
4. That journalists and editors must maintain editorial independence and guard against self-censorship, and that media need more than ever to be active in the scrutiny of the actions of government;
5. That independent journalism\’s vital role in investigating and exposing the impact of changes in national and global security policy on society at large is crucial to the future of democratic society;
6. That independent organisation of journalists in unions and associations is an essential safeguard for press freedom, self-regulation and editorial independence;
7. That all forms of violence against media and targeting of media workers are completely unacceptable;
8. That all restrictions on journalists’ freedom of movement, pressure on them to reveal sources of information, and manipulation of media by political leaders on security issues are unacceptable,
9. That the IFJ/EFJ should:
a) strengthen their campaign among journalists’ unions everywhere to raise awareness of security policies and their impact on the right to report,
b) reiterate IFJ policy on the importance of pluralism, diversity, press freedom and open government at national and international level, and the need for tolerance in journalism, as adopted at the Bilbao international conference in 1997, and reiterated in 2005,
c) build the wider coalition with other trades unions, human rights campaigners, employers, whenever appropriate, other media organisations and relevant civil society groups against further attacks on civil liberties and democratic rights,
d) advocate for the introduction of freedom of information laws that guarantee citizens the right of access to public information and restrict the application of national secrecy provisions and for the elimination of all laws that criminalise journalism, or restrict the protection of sources,
e) promote debates at national and international level on the need for professional vigilance, ethical conduct and improvement of journalists’ capacity to work and investigate without undue pressure from whatever source, and the need for tolerance in journalism.
The IFJ represents more than 600.000 journalists in 131 countries
The EFJ represents more than 250.000 members in over 30 countries