Monday, July 30, 2018

Bernard Margueritte
Bernard Margueritte

An international media conference organised by the International Communications Forum (ICF) and the Association of Polish Journalists (SDP), with the support of the Polish National Foundation and the Foundation for Journalist Solidarity was held in Warsaw, Poland, on 11 and 12 June. The participants were welcomed by Mr Piotr Gliński, deputy Prime Minister and minister of culture of Poland and co-chaired by Bernard Margueritte, president of the ICF, and Krzysztof Skowroński, chair of the SDP. Around 50 leading journalists, media practitioners, and professors of communication from 13 countries and four continents were attending.

Well-known media people and columnists from newspapers, television, radio, editors and producers, trade union members, data analysts and media monitoring experts took part, with thought provoking presentations, in panel discussions about the dignity of the media, the role of traditional and digital media in a new information landscape, the media and the respect of the ‘other’, media and democracy, media at times of conflicts. At a panel about the freedom of the press, it was pointed out by Polish participants from a variety of media outlets that, contrary to what is often said in the West, there is no problem of freedom or diversity of the media in Poland. Admittedly, the power is unfortunately doing its best - as were doing all the previous governments in the country - to control the public media (television and radio), but this has an impact on about 25% of the media. The vast majority of the remaining 75% private media (including two powerful TV channels) is owned by foreign (often German) money and expresses every day strong anti-governmental views without any problem.

As writes Beena Sarwar, a brilliant journalist from Pakistan, now professor of Communication at Emerson College in Boston, in her own report about the conference in Dispatch News Desk, ‘there were plenty of disagreements among participants on the panels as well as in the audience. Intense discussions following the presentations also became heated at times. Overall however, participants were in broad agreement about the importance of the mission of the media in empowering the citizen and strengthening democracy. They also shared similar concerns about major challenges journalism faces in one form or another in various societies’.

Indeed, participants from Ukraine, Pakistan and India shared information about the unprecedented censorship and self-censorship in their countries, whereas from South Africa came stories about the challenges building democracy in a polarised society.

The conference ended on a high note with a wonderful talk held by the very-well known and respected British columnist, Graham Turner, about ‘journalism and spiritual values’! In this spirit, participants decided to adopt a ‘Warsaw Declaration’ about the need for quality journalism, that can be read separately and endorsed by anyone, who will feel the will to do so.