Prime time for tolerance

IN EARLY MAY, while the Labour Party was getting used to its first General Election victory for 18 years, three hundred journalists gathered in Bilbao to discuss media freedom and racial intolerance. The conference, organised by the International Federation of Journalists and hosted by the Basque government, attracted trades unionists and journalists from over 70 countries.

"World Press Freedom Day" fell on May 3, the conference's second day. It was used to pay homage to journalists murdered or imprisoned in the struggle for press freedom. The first Press Freedom Prize was awarded to Chinese journalist Gao Yu, who is serving six years in jail. She was tried in secret, with no lawyer, for what the authorities saw as "leaking state secrets" about China's reforms, in a Hong Kong magazine. She was in fact carrying out her normal duties.

Press freedom was not the only concern at Bilbao; the challenge of racism in Europe and America was also on the agenda. In Europe, many people thought that the end of the Second World Was would end state racism -- but the 1992 outbreak of war in the Balkans firmly disproved this. Racism against black and ethnic minorities is, we heard, on the increase in Europe. Journalists who negatively portray these communities, whether in words or pictures, strengthen racist organisations. Conference also called for black people to be given equal access to media training and jobs.

BY Beulah Ainley

Jul/Aug 1997

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