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IFJ World Congress 2019, Tunis

14 June 2019

National Union of Journalist motions about surveillance of journalists and ending the gender pay gap, were passed by the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) World Congress in Tunis.

The NUJ motion highlighted the need for campaigning to end the gender pay gap and for equal pay, improving employment rights and the need for strengthening the International Labour Organisation. Delegates voted to coordinate a global strategy and campaign to end discrimination in pay and opportunities for women journalists. Delegates also supported a Palestinian Journalists Syndicate’s motion calling for greater efforts to raise awareness about the kinds of threats women journalists encounter, online and offline, and calling on Facebook to accept its role as a news publisher and take responsibility for the problem.

Congress called on the new IFJ executive committee to raise awareness of and build a culture to resist the surveillance of journalists among journalists and to promote technological and organisational approaches to avoid it.

Michelle & Jim
         Jim Boumelha & Michelle Stanistreet

The NUJ’s Jim Boumelha was reconfirmed as the IFJ’s honorary treasurer. Congratulating Jim, Michelle Stanistreet, NUJ general secretary, described his election as an indication of the widespread respect for the NUJ candidate throughout the IFJ. She said: “Jim’s re-election is a vindication of his unstinting work as treasurer and a long serving executive council member. The fact that he was unopposed reflects his incredible work rate.”

Former NUJ president Barry McCall was re-elected to the IFJ Finance Commission, after chairing the outgoing commission for the past three years. Younes M'Jahed, a journalist at Ittihad Ichtiraki, was elected as president of the IFJ and takes over from Philippe Leruth, who held that position from 2016 to 2019. Delegates elected Peruvian Zuliana Lainez as senior vice president and Indian Sabina Inderjit and Russian Timur Shafir as vice presidents.The IFJ has 600,000 members from more than 180 affiliated unions in 140 countries.

Together with Jim, the NUJ’s delegation comprised Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, Séamus Dooley, assistant general secretary, Ronan Brady, Francesca Marchese and president and vice president Sian Jones and Pierre Vicary who were made members of the conference’s standing orders committee.

The NUJ supported an emergency motion brought to Congress highlighting the severe dangers to journalism posed by the recent indictments filed by the US government against Julian Assange. Congress called for this to be resisted by the governments of UK and Australia, highlighting how the decision to prosecute, for the receipt and publication of information clearly in the public interest, is clearly at odds with previous decisions of the US Supreme Court to protect First Amendment rights.

A new IFJ Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists was adopted as a standard of professional conduct “for journalists engaged in gathering, transmitting, disseminating and commenting on news and information in describing events”.

Delegates also backed a motion to promote the IFJ campaign for a UN Convention on the Protection of Journalists and Media Professionals. The campaign was launched in response to rising anger over continued impunity in the face increasing attacks on journalists and media professionals around the world; 95 were killed in 2018 and yet nine in ten cases remain unpunished. The conference held a march through the streets on Tunis in memory of killed colleagues, including Ireland’s Lyra McKee and Malta’s Daphne Caruana Galizia.

During conference, news broke of the death of Norma Sarabia, a Mexican journalist who had been threatened for reporting on police corruption and who was gunned down on Tuesday 11 June as she returned home in Huimanguillo, a city in the south-eastern state of Tabasco. Mexico’s national human rights commission said Sarabia was the 149th Mexican journalist to be killed since 2000.

The NUJ joined the IFJ in condemning the arrests of journalists in Uttar Pradesh in relation to material they broadcast relating to the state’s chief, Yogi Adityanath and welcomed the release of investigative Russian journalist Ivan Golunov, who had been arrested on trumped-up drug charges. His release followed an outcry by newspapers in Russia and international press organisations.

The conference passed motions and calls for solidarity for journalists working for regimes which routinely threatened journalists and press freedom, including in Somalia, Palestine, Turkey, India, Brazil, Poland and Hungary. A motion from the Russian Union of Journalists calling for the need to fight against disinformation and fake news and to get actively involved in consultations within expert groups to expose and thwart it was supported by delegates.

The Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance won support for its motion condemning the raids by the Australian police of a journalists’ home and the broadcaster Australian Broadcasting Company. It said: "Australia holds itself out as a bastion of media freedom, but these recent events challenge that view and send a dangerous message to the world.” The motion also condemned recent legislation in Australia which would restrict public interest journalism and punish whistleblowers.

Séamus Dooley also used an opportunity during debates of the IFJ’s gender council to remind delegates of the appalling record of the Congress’ host country, Tunisia, regarding LGBT rights.