Friday 15 December 2017

You must be free to tell truth without fear, Higgins tells world's journalists

Elisabeth Costa, IFJ General Secretary and President Michael D Higgins, at the IFJ World Congress
Elisabeth Costa, IFJ General Secretary and President Michael D Higgins, at the IFJ World Congress

Fiach Kelly Political Correspondent

THE MEDIA "can and must be allowed to speak the truth without fear or sanction", President Michael D Higgins has told an international gathering of journalists in Dublin.

Mr Higgins delivered a keynote speech to open the 28th International Federation of Journalists world conference, which is taking place in the capital this week.

The conference is being hosted by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), and Mr Higgins said it marked "a time for reminding ourselves of the obligation we share to ensure and support press freedom around the world".

Press freedom has the power to "change and reform society" and help build democracies, the President added.

Many journalists risked their life working in dangerous locations and warzones, with an estimated 600 killed in the last decade.

"When attacks on the media take place they are not solely attacks on individual journalists as they attempt to inform the public without fear for their personal safety or their economic wellbeing," Mr Higgins said. "They are also attacks on the very foundations of human rights, undermining the public good and the creation of democratic societies underpinned by a freely operating press."

He also said the "concentration of power of owners, cross-ownership, advertisers' pressure or even from the reticence of journalists to challenge received wisdom" is also a threat to press freedom and plurality.

"Governments and civil society need to keep this issue at the forefront of media policy – democracy, freedom, even economic growth depend on it."

And the challenge of the internet offers some "profound opportunities for media and for journalism not least because it opens up a potentially global audience and theoretically renders national borders redundant – stories can flow around the world, regardless of where they are written".

He also warned against the growing editorial power of internet search engines and how content could become the "exclusive preserve" of large multinational companies.

Irish Independent

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