Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jump to Content Journalism is no walk in the park - Richards

-The Post
TRINIDAD and Tobago President Professor George Maxwell Richards says risks for media personnel are ever increasing. Opening the 61st International Press Institute World Congress in Port-of-Spain on Sunday, President Richards said journalism was no walk in the park adding that the media influence in world affairs could not be denied and that one needed not harp on the attendant responsibilities.He said world opinion had been galvanised as a result of media reporting and the course of history had turned accordingly.
President Richards said personal safety had been eschewed in the interest of ensuring worldwide awareness of and sometimes participation in events as they unfolded. "As we are witnessing the risks for media personnel are ever increasing, as they are for diplomats, in a changing world environment which does not guarantee safety," he said.

"The dangers for foreign media as for local are very real in areas of conflict. Journalism is no walk in the park so to speak. The reports of 110 journalists killed in 2009 and 66 in 2011 give no comfort whatsoever and the record of deaths over the last five years should lead to sustained thrust in the international arena in the matter of impunity for those who threaten, harass or kill journalists, with impunity seems to be the norm. Perhaps the time has come for some form of internationally recognised immunity to be agreed such as that afforded to agencies such as the Red Cross so that the risks to journalists may be minimised if not eradicated. This cannot be a concern confined within the IPI."

President Richards said the 2012 IPI world congress was being held in the Caribbean for the first time. He said hosting the congress was important for the Caribbean region because the area was well informed of what was happening in other parts of the world through the media."What I am not sure that outside of the Caribbean, the Caribbean is as well reported as it might be," President Richards said.

"Perhaps after this congress we may be better known and our news may be more widely sought and disseminated globally. There is much about the Caribbean that is unique and which is worthy of wider international exposure." On the state of the state-owned media, President Richards said in some countries, the control exercised by the state media was not muted while in others it was less so. "I believe that the reality of political systems as they exist and the will of the people within them must inform the conclusions at which you arrive and the way forward," he said.

President Richards called for career development with some serious lessons in language arts and communication skills, including grammar. The IPI congress opened on Sunday in Port of Spain, Trinidad, with a focus on how the media can operate in challenging world of internet, harassment, prosecution and death. Media executives and editors have been meeting in the resort coastal city of Port of Spain examining many challenges and opportunities facing the media, including review of online media ethics, new business strategies, the role of state-owned media, in-depth conversation with formerly jailed journalists, environmental issues and corruption.

IPI executive director Alison Bethel McKenzie singled out Syria as being the most lethal country in terms of journalists' deaths this year. McKenzie said Mexico was the most violent and 72 journalists had died this year worldwide. "We will also recognise the depth and breadth of talent within the press freedom community and pause to honour those whose service and strengths have been shining examples to all of us," said McKenzie. And Pansy Tlakula who is special rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to information said newsrooms were becoming more and more junior in terms of personnel and lacked resources.

She said lack of resources was leading junior journalists into accepting bribes.
Tlakula also said another problem facing media in Africa was the issue of being considered as opposition by ruling parties. She said the media was considered opposition because most opposition political parties were weak. Peter Preston, former editor of the UK Guardian, and CNN International anchor Jim Clancy were among dozens of high-profile speakers and panelists at this year's Congress.

IPI is a more than 60-year-old organisation with members in 120 countries dedicated to advocating and ensuring press freedom. The event was organised locally in partnership with the Association of Caribbean Media Workers (ACM) and the Publishers & Broadcasters Association (TTPBA).

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