IFJ seeks ethics code for Euro journalists

IFJ’s White: wants to “establish base of standards”

The International Federation of Journalists is to try to get a basic standards code laid down for publications – both print and online – serving the European Parliament.

General secretary Aidan White is calling a meeting in the next two weeks of the International Press Institute and journalists belonging to media unions in Belgium, Germany and the UK, based in Brussels, together with providers of internet sites.

He wants their views on the dangers of sites which carry paid-for interviews and give copy approval but which claim to be editorially independent news providers.

The catalyst for this has been the launch last week of EUpolitix.com, which is carried on the Parliament intranet and the internet network in the European Commission and Council of Ministers.

White said: “We are a bit concerned that there is a mixing up of paid-for services for clients who are interested in lobbying activities within the institutions of the European Union and the bone fide journalistic activity of providing a news service for public consumption. It’s the eternal argument of separating advertising and editorial.”

White has spoken with executives of EUpolitix and visited the parent site, Epolitix, in the UK. EUpolitix chief executive Adam Nyman told the European Voice recently that the site offered copy approval to interviewees “not because we want to endear ourselves to anyone but because we want to be seen to be entirely neutral in our reporting.”

White commented: “It seems to us the introduction of wonderful capacities that new technology brings should not lead to any dilution of the importance of maintaining the independence of the editorial product.

“With the growth of new internet services and a general anxiety, even among politicians, about the power of lobbyists and the internet having access to decision-makers, it would be useful to have a meeting among journalists in Brussels about what the dangers are and what we can do to establish some base of standards.”

Christopher White, who produces a special Parliamentary focus free newspaper, EUReporter, is to hold a parallel meeting with the commercial side of the industry and Parliamentary institutions. Both sides will then get together to draw up a code of ethics.

White said: “There has to be a code of ethics that is enforceable by the withdrawal or refusal of accreditation.”

By Jean Morgan

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