June 12, 2015

Strengthening freedom of expression in a multicultural world

Media Diversity Institute (MDI) reports the outcomes of the panel about freedom of expression and responsible journalism: “Journalists are these who map our reality and that is why journalism must be responsible”.

Panelists gathered by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) and the Media Diversity Institute (MDI) discussed freedom of expression and its challenges in a multicultural world. What are the practical ways for strengthening freedom of expression? What kind of social responsibility the world media and journalists have when they report events such as Charlie Hebdo attack? Why inclusive journalism and reporting diversity need to be included in curriculum of jourmegafono (2)nalism schools?

These questions were discussed by dr Verica Rupar from Auckland University, Courtney Radsch from the Committee to Protect Journalists and Milica Pesic, MDI Executive Director. Moderator of a debate held in Washington on 9 June was the BBC News journalist and presenter Razia Iqbal.

Agreeing that freedom of expression is a universal right that underpins some other rights and that it is not standing alone, but that it includes rights such as privacy, CIMA and MDI panel questioned what a good journalism means in today’s diverse and multicultural world.

“For instance, if I was an editor of a newspaper, I would never republish Charlie Hebdo front cover. Journalists and editors do have a right to republish such content, but they also need to think what they will archive by doing that,” said dr Rupar. Milica Pesic stressed that freedom of expression should be enjoyed by all citizens of every age, gender, sexual orientation and ethnic background.

“As a citizen you can say whatever you want, but the role of the media is to give the voice to citizens and to be their watchdog. While you are doing that, you have to be responsible,” said Milica Pesic insisting on social responsibility as a principal of a good journalism.

Rupar who is a lecturer at Journalism School at the Auckland University highlighted that increased social responsibility and critical discussion will not diminish the role of journalism and the media.

“There are many people who don’t know enough about Islam or any other religion. That’s why there is a need to educate journalists, as well as a need to teach the audience what is a good journalism and what is propaganda,” said Pesic.

“We are also faced with something that might be called a lazy journalism,” added Courtney Radsch. She explained that some editors and journalists simply invite the same contributors to their programmes. “We rarely hear the opinions of secular Muslims in the media for instance,” said the representative of the Committee to Protect Journalists stressing that not every journalism is trying to have a broader perspective.

Discussing where the limits of freedom of expression are, Courtney Radsch gave an example of Egypt where, she said, there was never such a level of self-censorship. “Journalists naturally turn to self-censorship because they don’t know what the consequences of their reporting might be,” said Radsch.

Panelists were asked who set up the limits of freedom of expression, especially in the countries with unstable democracy. “Governments and people in power might interpret differently terms such as inclusive, accurate, balanced and sensitive reporting. But journalists have to decide for themselves on a daily basis where are the limits of freedom of expression,” answered Pesic.

“When we talk about journalists we talk about dedicated authority. Journalists are these who map our reality and that is why journalism must be responsible,” concluded dr Rupar.

Journalism also should be inclusive, agreed the panel at CIMA and MDI event in Washington. To highlight the importance of diversity and inclusiveness, moderator Razia Iqbal talked about her first job at the BBC. “In the newsroom I was assigned to, although it was an international newsroom, most of the colleagues were white. 25 years later, BBC pretty much still looks the same – white,” said Iqbal.

The video recording of a panel discussion “Strengthening Freedom of Expression in a Multicultural World” organized by CIMA and MDI can be watched here.

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