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Monday, July 30, 2018

The ICF conference held in Warsaw 11 and 12 June 2018 ended with participants adopting a ‘Warsaw Declaration’ about the need for quality journalism, that can be endorsed by anyone who will feel the will to do so.

Magnus Linklater, CBE, Scottish journalist, writer, and former newspaper editor and another participating journalist

We, over 50 journalists and media practitioners representing a wide range of political, religious and ethnic backgrounds from thirteen countries and four continents, have issued this statement reaffirming our commitment to journalistic ethics and media freedom. We have attended the Media as a Public Service Conference organised by the ICF (International Communications Forum) and the Polish Journalists Association (SDP) at Warsaw, Poland, 11-12 June 2018.

It is poignant indeed that Poland with its history of trauma and terror hosted such a dialogue. There is symbolism also in the city being the site of the Warsaw Declaration ‘Toward a Community of Democracies’, the founding document of the Community of Democracies, signed on June 27, 2000, at the building of the Polish Parliament by representatives of 106 democratic states. We hope this meeting will build on the ongoing growth towards a democratic community of journalists.

We are grateful to our hosts for their hospitality and their role in providing a space to share our professional experiences and concerns. The process has brought greater awareness of our own limitations as well as greater resolve in standing united for the principles of seeking the truth based on facts, with a willingness to question and listen with an open heart regardless of our personal opinions. Aware that the journey is as important as the goal, we know we may never arrive at the ideal even as we acknowledge the need to continue in this pursuit.

We join hands in standing firm against challenges to media independence and freedom of expression from many quarters including State and non-State actors. Threats to media worldwide, including some of us here, have come in the form of violence, intimidation and threats aimed at silencing our voices. At the opposite end, misuse of the freedom of expression by trolls and organised syndicates to spread fake news especially through social media add a new dimension to the issue.

The assassination of our colleague Shujaat Bukhari, Editor of Rising Kashmir, shot dead in Srinagar on June 14, highlights the nature of these threats from multiple sources. We stand together in condemning his murder in the strongest of terms and join our colleagues worldwide in demanding a proper and credible investigation into his murder that ensures his killers are brought to justice.

The digital age, as well as rising commercial pressures, have brought new non-conventional threats to media functioning, professionalism and independence. There are also issues of media ownership patterns influencing coverage.

We believe that all news media, old and new, must uphold the basics of journalism -- provide full and complete information and context, obtain multiple sources of verification, and monitor political and economic power. We stand against the threat to these core issues particularly in this age of instant media and public gratification.

The explosion of information, misinformation and fake news means that the role of journalists, its trade unions and civil society, is more important than ever. We commit to being self-reflective, to offering context and deepening understanding and tolerance, and to using our positions to build bridges rather than deepen conflicts.

We believe it is essential to provide training to new journalists including citizen journalists, and refresher courses to practicing journalists to avoid falling into the traps of click-baiting and ‘scoops’ that contain unverified news.

Finally, we believe it is important to train not just journalists but also readers so they can recognise the difference between journalism and sensationalism, whether it is objectivity of facts or pluralism of opinion.

Endorsed by participants of the Media as a Public Service Conference organised by the ICF (International Communications Forum) and the Polish Journalists Association (SDP) at Warsaw, Poland, 11-12 June 2018.