Director’s Letter: September 2014

Dear Friends,

During September our focus has been on the continuing crisis facing media in Egypt; ways of keeping the lid on hate speech when reporting religion; and opening up a fresh discussion on setting standards for responsible use of information on the Internet.

An EJN mission travelled to Cairo from September 8-10 to meet with journalists’ leaders and to support to the newly-launched Egyptian Editors Association. A report of the visit can be found here.

In Egypt when religion and politics come together it leads to a volatile mix that poses tough questions for journalists and media and never more so since the expulsion of President Morsi last year.

Morsi was removed amidst fears that he was undermining the popular revolution of January 2011 that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. He was accused of preparing a takeover by the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, prompting a public and political backlash that saw the Brotherhood outlawed as a terrorist organisation. Like Mubarak before him, Morsi is in jail and facing trial.

The politics of religion is not just a headache for newsmakers in Egypt. In Pakistan, Myanmar, India, and many other countries, journalists and media have to tread carefully when reporting communities divided by faith and religious culture.

How to report ethically, and particularly how to stop media being used to foment conflict between different religious groups, was the subject of a discussion organised by Religion News Service on September 24. A group of journalists and editors, joined by the EJN, shared views on how to balance the right to report freely with the need to stem the flow of speech designed to incite hatred and even violence. These issues will also figure in a major event being planned for London next year by the KAICIID Dialogue Centre in collaboration with the EJN.

Meanwhile, the EJN joined a free-flowing discussion in Kiev at the end of the month organised by the Global Forum for Media Development where media leaders and activists from Eurasia met to focus on setting an agenda for change in one of the world’s most troubled regions.

Journalism across the landscape of the former Soviet Union suffers from a triple handicap – the lack of an economic paradigm that can create the conditions for media independence; the overweening influence of power elites in politics and commerce on the work of journalists; and the absence of meaningful solidarity in civil society (including journalism) to build respect for pluralism and democracy.

The meeting was held in the shadow of conflict between Russia and Ukraine and other territorial disputes in the region, but it did provide an opportunity to discuss the rapid development of new communications technology and how this might provide an opportunity for journalists to counter the increasing control of media by authoritarian regimes.

The EJN made an intervention calling for the media development community to work together to promote more ethical communications on the web without compromising the freedoms that come with the expansion of the Internet.

But how this can be done? In an attempt to open up the discussion the EJN will be encouraging a debate within our Network in the coming months. For an insight into the issues and what media and journalists can do see this latest posting from the EJN director.

Finally, the EJN international surveys of self-regulation and problems of internal corruption inside media were completed this month and the final reports will be launched in December.

As usual, keep up to date with EJN activity on the web-site and subscribe to our newsletter. Follow us on Twitter (@EJNetwork and @aidanpwhite). More information on all of topics set out here is available from me at aidanpatrickwhite@gmail.com.

Best,

Aidan White

Director