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‘We won’t forget journalists who have been silenced’ – IPI World Congress

“the role of quality journalism and of the agencies which seek to protect and nurture it, has never been more important.”

“When journalists are targeted, societies as a whole pay a price”, UN Under-Secretary General Michael Møller said at the World Congress of the International Press Institute (IPI) being held in Geneva.

He promised that those journalists silenced would never be forgotten.

The 68th IPI World Congress includes the participation by some 200 editors, media executives and journalists from around the world. Taking place over the course of two days, the theme of the event is ‘Building Alliance for Independent Media’.

In Møller’s opening remarks he addressed the challenges being faced by the free and independent media. He urged the media to play the role of the Fourth Estate while engaging in constructive journalism.

“It’s not about positive, upbeat news. It’s not about seeing the world through rose-coloured glasses. Rather, it’s about reporting solutions to start a debate on what can be done.”

IPI Executive Director, Barbara Trionfi, explained how the IPI was created almost 70 years ago as a network for journalists, editors and media professionals who believe in independent and quality journalism. She highlighted the rise of authoritarian and populistic tendencies in societies that were once democratic, as well as noting that attacks on the press were increasing on a global scale.

“Attacks on the press are growing, as are attempts to smear journalists as enemies of the people and so challenge journalists’ most valuable goods: their trust and credibility,” she said.

The BBC Director of Editorial Policy and Standards and IPI Executive Board Member, David Jordan, also spoke at the inauguration ceremony addressing the growing problem of the anti-press rhetoric.

“At a time when facts are so often a plaything of the powerful, manipulated and corrupted to fit the agendas of those who seek to suppress the truth, the role of quality journalism and of the agencies which seek to protect and nurture it, has never been more important.”

Markus Spillman, the Chair of the IPI Executive Board, used his speech to draw attention to the plight of journalists who have been killed, imprisoned, attacked and injured.

“Journalism and journalists are under attack – globally, more than ever,” he said, adding that even in “established democracies in Europe” there were disturbing instances of erosion of freedom of speech and media. He noted that those perpetuating these issues “do not like the concept of independent and critical media work”.

He agreed that journalists who had been silenced in any way should never be forgotten and that the IPI would do all it could to ensure that this does not happen: “If the world forgets, it becomes easy to silence journalists”.

In Malta, flowers and candles at the protest memorial in honour of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Valletta have been cleared over 100 times – a fact noted by the Council of Europe’s Special Rapporteur Pieter Omtzigt.  He also notes it was blocked off, denying citizens access to a public monument, leading him to observe the government’s apparent efforts to erase her memory. The report was adopted by committee last week.

Addressing questions from the international press, the government’s Head of Communications, Kurt Farrugia, recently objected to the use of the word “assassination” when referring to the journalist’s death in a car bomb outside her home on 16 October, 2017. 

The government has so far refused to launch a public inquiry despite calls by the European Parliament, the UN, and international press freedom and human rights NGOs. Her family has now been forced to  turn to the courts, citing breaches of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council of Europe report by Pieter Omtzigt imposes a three-month deadline for the inquiry to start.

Petra Caruana Dingli at The Shift News

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