President of Ireland speaks of need to protect media diversity at IFJ world congress
Beth Costa, IFJ General Secretary, Michael D, Higgins, President of Ireland, and Jim Boumelha, IFJ President - © Maxwell
Michael D, Higgins, President of Ireland, addresses IFJ opening ceremony - © Maxwell
Michael D Higgins and Jim Boumelha with Gloria, Dublin's lesbian & gay choir - © Private
5 June 2013
IFJ World Congress
The President of Ireland stressed the need to protect media diversity and pluralism at the opening ceremony of the International Federation of Journalists' world congress in Dublin.
Opening the world congress, President Michael D Higgins warned of the dangers of "identikit news organisations chasing the same narrow commercial ground" and emphasised the importance of a free press to democractic society.
"Pluralism, real diversity and choice are critical and should never be reduced to a false choice between partisan media arrayed on ideological grounds, and identikit news organisations chasing the same narrow commercial ground."
President Higgins told over 300 delegates gathered at the opening ceremony in Dublin's historic Royal Hospital Kilmainham. The President said that real pluralism:
"...occurs at a granular level, within countries as much as within regions, reflecting religious and ethnic diversity, and the views and needs of rich and poor alike. Governments and civil society need to keep this issue at the forefront of media policy – democracy, freedom, even economic growth depend on it."
The President of Ireland was welcomed at the opening by Jim Boumelha, IFJ President,who endorsed his call for free and democratic media across the world. The theme of the IFJ Congress, which is hosted by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) of the UK and Ireland is leading the global fightback. President Higgins said the recent reiteration of the principles of world press freedom day on 3 May by the member countries of UNESCO was an important act of solidarity.
The President stated that if the commitment was to be of real value there must also be a commitment "to turn human rights aspirations in this area from aspirations into guarantees". He outlined the challenges facing journalists including the concentration of ownership, the convergence of technologies, the fragmentation of audiences, the commodification of experience, are all elements of the changed circumstances in which journalism is, and will, be practiced.
"Journalists attempting to investigate and provide information on political and corporate corruption can often be hindered and intimidated by those with vested interests, including by use of violent means; which, if acceded to, would lead to a dangerous misrepresentation or even falsification of information which would not be in the interests of individual citizens and would obviously be detrimental to society at large.
"The principle of diversity and pluralism which lies at the heart of the media must be protected if we are to promote a free flow of ideas and information and strengthen the exercise of freedom of expression around the world."