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Wednesday, March 10, 2004

On 9th March 2004 in Edinburgh, Scotland, Bernard Margueritte, president of the International Communications Forum, addressed a one-day media conference organised by The Royal Society of Edinburgh.

The purpose of the Conference was to consider whether or not there has been a break-down of trust where the media is concerned, and whether standards and quality of journalism properly serve the public interest, this in view of the fact that concerns continue to be voiced about the relationship between the Scottish media, the Scottish Parliament and the public, also about ownership of the media

The other main speakers were Professor Philip Schlesinger, head of the Media Research Institute at Stirling University; Lord Steel, ex-presiding officer, Scottish Parliament, Tony Stoller of Ofcom, and Alastair Campbell, ex-Downing Street Director of Communications. There were four Panel discussions each comprising a mixture of journalists and politicians. The chairman was James Naughtie, presenter BBC Radio 4.

Margueritte posed the question “Isn’t it time we asked what our mission is supposed to be?” and he submitted that the media have two main tasks: to give their audience everything they need to know (and not only everything they want to know), in order for people to know what is happening, why it is happening, so that they can make up their own mind: to report about faraway countries, to bring closer to their audience the civilisation and culture and also the problems, the fears, the dreams of those faraway people, so that all can move from understanding to mutual understanding.

He concluded an inspired address by saying that the media can and should play a prominent role in the battle to build a better world, but in order to do so “we have to refind our dignity and sense of mission. Yes, we in the media do have to change our visions and look in the same direction as the people of goodwill on this planet. At stake is our own credibility, as media people and as human beings, and at stake, ladies and gentlemen, is the future of our societies and our world.”

The chairman commented, “You have lifted our thinking to a higher level”

During his visit to Scotland Bernard Margueritte was received in his chambers by the Lord Provost of Aberdeen ,Liberal Democrat Mr. John Reynolds; was invited to address the media students at the Robert Gordon University; visited the offices of the Aberdeen Journals and spent an hour with Press & Journal  editor, Mr. Derek Tucker. He spoke at a public meeting organised by the Aberdeen branch of the Christian Socialist Movement and preached at the morning service in the Aberdeen city centre church of St. Nicholas, after which he had lunch as the guest of the minister, the Rev Ross McLaren MBE.

The invitation to Bernard to address The Royal Society of Edinburgh media conference came from Dr. Magnus Linklater, a columnist for The Times of London and Scotland on Sunday, who is himself a member of the Society media committee. He also arranged a lunch for Bernard with the editor of The Scotsman, Mr Iain Martin. Bernard was accompanied on this visit by his wife, Joanna a lecturer in architecture at Warsaw University.

To read the full text of Bernard Margueritte's speech, click here