The IFJ President Jim Boumelha sent a welcoming speech to the participants of the discussion “The Media crisis is a crisis of the Journalism”

03.05.2018 /15:28 | Източник: IFJ/ UBJ Големина на шрифт: a a    Отпечатай:


Just before opening of the the discussion “The Media crisis is a crisis of the Journalism” Jim Boumelha sent the address personally to Mrs. Snezhana Todorova, Chairperson of the UBJ Managing Board.

The journalistsic discussion was organized by UBJ on the occasion of 3th May – the World Press Freedom Day.

Here is the full text of the speech: 

Dear Mrs. Snezhana Todorova,

I understand that the UBJ is once again bringing Bulgarian journalists together to discuss the state of the world of journalism. When you asked me to send you a few comments I was too distraught by the continued slaughter of journalists the world over and my first thought, after the carnage in Kabul, was is journalism really a profession worth dying for? We should not apologise if our emotions are so raw and our frustrations so strong when we consider the staggering grim toll of journalists killed over the years.

We protest relentlessly whenever a journalist is killed and do everything we can to expose the shameful failure of governments to properly investigate and prosecute the killers -- and we lead the fight for justice and against impunity.

Whatever the reasons behind the delays and obstacles to find out who murdered them, we fight relentlessly for justice and hold governments, including Pakistan, to their obligation enshrined in laws and commitment to international legislation to defend press freedom and ensure that all the murders of media workers are investigated and punished quickly.

And behind every statistic there is a human story, a name, a family, a newsroom and a community whose lives have been affected for ever. The loss of so many of our colleagues, brothers and sisters, is hard to bear. And we should continue at every opportunity to honour all those we have lost.

And it is not just the killing of journalists that is making headlines. The world of journalism today is a fundamentally different place. Some people saw 2017 as “the year that changed journalism.” Today you can’t open a newspaper or read a blog without finding a story about the crisis of journalism.

Our profession is going through an existential crisis in which our news ecosystem has changed more dramatically in the past five years than perhaps at any time in the past hundred.

In many countries democracy is in retreat and the momentum today is with the autocrats. In the West, too, democracy is going through a bad time. Press freedom is widely curtailed and propaganda is increasingly commonplace. And democracy is not just about voting, it also about the protection of liberties and freedoms, and the guaranteeing of free discussion and uncensored distribution of news and fair comment.

Some industry leaders are openly questioning if indeed it is technology that is disrupting democracy. We have seen huge leaps in technical capability—virtual reality, live video, artificially intelligent news bots, instant messaging, and chat apps. At the same time, we are seeing massive changes in control, and finance, putting the future of our publishing ecosystem into the hands of a few, who now control the destiny of many. And this without the level of public examination and debate it deserves.

Two significant things have already happened that we have not paid enough attention to:

First, news publishers have lost control over distribution. Social media and platform companies took over what publishers couldn’t have built even if they wanted to. Now the news is filtered through algorithms and platforms which are opaque and unpredictable. “The news on Facebook is what Facebook says it is.” With billions of users and hundreds of thousands of articles, pictures and videos arriving online everyday, social platforms have to employ algorithms to try and sort out the important and recent and popular and decide who ought to see what.

Second, the inevitable outcome of this is the increase in power of social media companies. The largest of the platform and social media companies, Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, have become extremely powerful in terms of controlling who publishes what to whom, and how that publication is monetized.

The competition for attention is fierce. Somebody called them the “four horsemen of the apocalypse”—Google, Facebook, Apple, and Amazon (five if you add in Microsoft)—are engaged in a prolonged and torrid war over whose technologies, platforms, or even ideologies will win.

Today’s reality is that we are handing the controls of important parts of our public and private lives to a very small number of people, who are unelected and unaccountable.

We will all welcomed the internet’s promise to empower the individual and enhance the democratic process, and it has given everybody the ability to speak truth to power. Technology is also empowering journalists and transformed the way we do our job – new means of story-telling, fact-checking and doing journalism not just for people, but with them.

But technology has proved to have a dark side in distorting democracy and also facilitating the weaponisation of news with the onset of the information war. It has given us more rigorous tools but also more noise, clickbaits and filter bubbles. Furthermore algorithms are not neutral as they push consumers of news into more entrenched and extreme positions rather than balanced points of view.

We have also seen with the scandal of Cambridge Analytica the increase abuse of data for political ends, facilitated by Facebook. Not to forget Fake News, another variety of untruth and in my view an overstated problem, but which is now exploited by politicians to attack journalists, or by anyone to cover news they don’t like.

These are some of the headlines of how the disruption of democracy is impacting on us as journalists which I would have hoped you could discuss.

As well as adapting ourselves to this new media landscape, we should not forget colleagues all over the world. We concentrate on killed journalists but there are more than one way to silence journalists – censorship as well as imprisonment are powerful tools used by governments. We see it in China or Iran or Turkey or Eritrea. We have also seen the number of jailed freelance journalists nearly double to make up almost half of incarcerated journalists.

Too many of our colleagues, some of the bravest and the most determined – those who are prepared to sacrifice their personal and professional lives for the public good – are in jail or in detention.

If I can borrow from BBC former director of news James Harding who recently summed up in 140 characters what we journalists are going through. He said, “We’re in a democratic recession. Technology is rewarding bad behaviour in politics. Let’s do something about it.”

Good luck!


 

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