Journalists subject to restrictions on their freedom of movement. spies infiltrating the newsrooms, telephones and computers tapped. covert surveillance of citizens lawfully travelling, these are just a few of the consequences of 9/11.
Journalists need to claim back their role in the discourse about terrorism, said the IFJ/EFJ at its Brussels conference “Journalism in the Shadow of the Terror Laws” on 10-11th September 2011.
Role of fourth estate being chipped away
“The role of media as democracy watchdog has been chipped away even in advanced democracies,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “Restrictions of press freedom have been introduced under the cloak of national security.”
Anti-terror laws have empowered governments’ law enforcement agencies as never before to impose unwarranted surveillance on journalists, and even harrass them if they fail to follow the approved government line.
This new media environment has limited journalists’ ability to report independently on issues related to terrorism. “There has been unwillingness to report on the governments’ policies out of fear of being on the wrong side,” said Arne König, EFJ President.
John Nichols, American journalist and author, said that journalism in the US after the attacks was reduced to raw information complemented by political commentary from ‘talking heads’ with vested political interests.
Time to take a stand
What can be done? The IFJ urges:
- Refuse to be sidelined by the rhetoric of national security, which has frequently been used to stifle scrutiny of governments’ security policies.
- Dare to criticise the way the security state is grasping powers to itself.
- Stop it from trampling willy nilly over freedoms that were hard fought-for.
The conference declared that governments must not sacrifice civil liberties on the altar of national security, and adopted a nine-point declaration addressing these issues, asking journalists and media organisations to take this declaration to heart in their news and opinion gathering activities.
For more information, visit the IFJ/EFJ website.