International Federation of Journalists Launches Global Platform for Quality Journalism

Philippe Leruth, Vice President, IFJ
Philippe Leruth, Vice President, IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), the world’s largest organisation of journalists, representing 600,000 media professionals from 187 trade unions and associations in over 140 countries,  has launched a “Global Platform for Quality Journalism”, aimed at saving and protecting jobs in the media industry and creating“a future that promotes a sustainable, ethical and publicly supported information economy.”.

The Global Platform for Quality Journalism is programmed to protect jobs in the media industry and create a future that promotes a sustainable, ethical and publicly supported information economy.

While launching the Global platform on April 29, 2020, barely some days to the May 3 World Press Freedom Day, IFJ proposed to the world employers’ federations to support the initiative for Quality Journalism and appealed to their national members to implement it.

IFJ said it “proposes a strong and immediate global stimulus plan to save the most badly affected media and the most precarious journalists; and calls on all national governments to commit to quality journalism in this time of misinformation through strong political and economic measures that will ensure the survival of quality media and professional journalists.”

The statement from IFJ noted that from the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists have amply proved the essential role they play educating their citizens, contextualising the non-ending number crunching, explaining the science and, most importantly, unravelling the narrative played by politicians, asking the tough questions and exposing institutional failures. Thanks to their engagement, journalism as a public good, kept on thriving as the backbone of our democracies.

However, it noted that the need for quality reporting of the health, political and economic implications of the COVID-19 crisis which has brought more than two-thirds of humanity to a standstill, cannot be ignored since “Information must never be confined. The information must remain a public good.”

“It is time to protect media, save jobs and support the most precarious workers. This ‘Great Confinement’, as already defined by the International Monetary Fund, in reference to the ‘Great Depression of 1929’, does not leave any continent or sector untouched, and the media, whatever their nature, are unable to escape this destructive wave. Many media companies have already closed down, millions of jobs have disappeared and journalists, even though quality information is essential for citizens in times of crisis, are suffering the full impact,” an IFJ source said, adding “But it is also time to prepare for the future, a future of quality, ethical and solidarity-based journalism that respects labour rights and fundamental freedoms.”

While noting that many IFJ affiliates around the world have already achieved significant progress and strong commitments from governments or employers’ federations in line with the dictates of quality journalism, IFJ listed other conditions including ensuring the physical and psychological safety and protection of media workers; Enabling journalists to circulate freely in times of general confinement (particular during the lockdown period) as well as providing journalists and media workers with the means to live and work decently with exceptional financial assistance, despite a drop in income.

 Unfortunately, it noted that many states take advantage of the COVID -19 crisis to increase their authoritarian power, strengthen their systems of surveillance of the population or to jail journalists while some media companies reduce salaries without negotiation, cut benefits or lay off staff.

 The IFJ and its affiliates around the world stressed its intention to be at the forefront of tomorrow’s journalism, globally and nationally, and promised to continue to promote the quality, ethical and solidarity-based journalism it has been standing up for since its creation in 1926.

It also called on all governments to immediately open negotiations with the GAFAM – Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft – to collect a tax on revenues generated within their national territory.

It said since these companies pay no tax in the majority of countries where they collect revenues, estimated at $900 billion worldwide, taxing their revenues at 6% could inject $54 billion into journalism.

The IFJ, therefore, called for the said funds to be managed jointly by representative unions of journalists and media workers and national employers’ organisations. It urged the organisations to use the funds to support public service media, private, independent media and national and local media not owned by multinationals·

It added that any journalism-recovery stimulus should be seeded with the necessary support to revitalise adequately staffed newsrooms able to deliver trustworthy news and information, and should not be allowed to be used to prop up doomed business models that have failed. The IFJ wants these funds to be used as a priority to support independent, co-operative and non-profit media enterprises.

Among other things, IFJ called on governments to give priority support to precarious journalists (including freelancers) by creating a social protection fund, a national minimum wage, exempting them from income tax and granting them bank loans at reduced rates.

It also recommended that governments reform media ownership rules to allow for greater pluralism of information, and in line with the EU Whistleblower Directive, the IFJ called on governments to legislate urgently for the protection of citizens acting in the public interest.