William Horsley, AEJ Media Freedom Representative, responds on the invitation of the Council of Europe (Expert Group on Media and Discrimination) for assessments and information on this theme, as material for the Council of Europe Campaign and the planned debate at the Assizes meeting in October.
The key principles that emerge from the AEJ’s partial Survey of its member Sections is that
1) Healthy media treatment of issues related to minorities of all kinds, especially discrimination and prejudice, is severely impeded when member states of the Council of Europe have failed to enact a firm, clear and effective framework of anti-discrimination laws, covering all relevant areas including employement, backed up by enforcement mechanisms and well understood both by government agencies and the general public;
2) That media organisations themselves, and their journalist employees, need to develop an internal culture and practices that actively foster non-discrimination, in every aspect from recruitment to the selection of on-air presenters and journalists; and
3) That in too many cases, discriminatory or xenophobic statements by elected politicians and officials set a poor or sometimes directly damaging tone for media coverage of such issues. When the media themselves lack the independence and the mindset of fairness and tolerance to challenge or counter such irresponsible statements by politicians, the long-term effect on race relations and social fairness is often extremely damaging.
LIST OF AEJ TEXTS:
For Armenia, see the Response from Liana Sayadyan
For Croatia, see the Response from Zdenko Duka
For Poland, see the Response from Krzysztof Bobinski
For Turkey, see the Response from Dogan Tilic
For the UK, please see my own Response and Assessment
The AEJ’s UK Section regular activities include occasional professional meetings with figures active in combatting discrimination, such as the head of the Moslem Council of Britain, the human rights organisation Liberty, and UK government ministers. The UK Section is ready to contribute to the Council of Europe campaign in any way possible, as is the AEJ as a whole. The main AEJ website www.aej.org has a link to the Council of Europe on its front page.
For Russia, please see this LINK to an article entitled “Xenophobia in Post-Soviet Russia” in the current issue of London-based “Equal Rights Review”, sent in response to my inquiry on behalf of this Survey by Anna Sevortian, Deputy Director of the Centre for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights in Moscow .
The analysis is noteworthy for its clear assessment of the rise of xenophobia and discriminatory attitudes towards gay people and certain ethnic or national minorities in Russia. It describes how they have in part been fuelled by nationalistic rhetoric by political leaders, inadequate anti-discrimination laws, and ambiguous responses by state and judicial authorities, Restrictions on freedom of expression have played an important part in the failure to counter these trends. The government-directed media have sometimes played a negaive part in setting a tone of toleration or complicity in such displays of prejudice, by actively supporting and justifying anti-foreign and anti-minority attitudes, for example in relation to minority Georgians during a period of tensions in bilateral relations. This paper points up the crucial link between the absence of plural, open and fair media, and the growth of discriminatory or xenophobic sentiments among the population.