By Reuters, Jan. 31, 2023
HELSINKI, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Finnish, Norwegian, Danish and Icelandic unions will quit a global media federation on Tuesday in protest at “corruptive activity”, including allowing Russian state media journalists in Ukraine to stay as members, the Finnish union said.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents 600,000 journalists in 146 countries, denounced the accusations as “false, defamatory and damaging”.
The Nordic members accused the IFJ of longstanding undemocratic practices, unethical finances and of allowing the Russian state media representatives to continue as members.
The Nordic unions’ latest disappointment resulted from the IFJ not taking action against the Russian Union of Journalists for setting up regional journalists’ associations in Ukrainian territories invaded by Russia.
“They have been able to do so in all tranquillity without the international federation expelling the Russian union,” Hanne Aho, the chairwoman of the Union of Journalists in Finland, said.
The IFJ is a voluntary federation of unions and associations representing journalists and media professionals around the world – our strength is in our unity, but we always recognize that our affiliates have a choice to be members.
We remain committed to building the strongest possible global voice for journalists and media workers to secure their professional, labour and social rights and to defend media freedom. We will do so by continuing to recruit new affiliates around the world, serving existing affiliates and
maintaining a dialogue to seek to persuade those who have left to return.
Since the last IFJ World Congress in June 2022, the IFJ and its affiliates in the Nordic countries have been involved in a process of dialogue regarding concerns those unions have raised, in particular, what was the most important issue for them, that the Russian Union Journalists is expelled from the IFJ. The IFJ has responded by letter, email and in two meetings in Copenhagen (20 September 2022 and 27 January 2023) to those concerns.
The IFJ takes concerns by its affiliates seriously, no matter where they come from. The newly elected IFJ President asked to meet the five Nordic unions already immediately after being elected. A meeting was held in Copenhagen on 9 September during which the IFJ Nordic affiliates asked a series of questions and requested a further meeting on 27 January. The IFJ President wrote answering these questions. Despite this, on 19 December the Nordic Unions said they had a lack of confidence in the IFJ, that they were not satisfied on three issues: “Russia” , “Transparency” and “Democracy.”
The IFJ has taken the time to listen, dialogue and make proposals to explore and address concerns and will continue to do so.
On 24 February 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine the IFJ and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) launched a joint solidarity fund to support Ukrainian journalists and exiled Russian journalists. Since that date more than €500,000 has been raised, and working with our two Ukrainian unions, six Journalists Solidarity Centres offering protective equipment, safety training, psychological and legal support, work spaces for journalists from occupied territories and humanitarian grants have been established in Ukraine.
In October, the Russian Union of Journalists established four branches in Ukrainian regions annexed by Russia. The IFJ issued a statement condemning the move. The IFJ Executive Committee unanimously passed a motion, in line with the IFJ rules, condemning the decision and triggering
Article 16 of the IFJ Constitution, which can lead to the suspension and eventual expulsion of an affiliate, obliging the General Secretary to investigate the establishment of the 4 new branches and to report back to the Executive Committee.
The report of the General Secretary will be presented to the Administrative Committee on 9 February and considered by an extraordinary session of the Executive Committee on 22 February, which has the power to suspend the RUJ.
At all times the IFJ has respected its rules which set out the rights and responsibilities of all affiliates and are applied equally to all members.
While the IFJ always strives to improve all its operations it rejects unsubstantiated allegations of corruption as false, defamatory and damaging.
The IFJ has a robust system of transparency. The IFJ’s accounts are deposited, by law, with the National Bank of Belgium and are publicly available to all. The IFJ sends its audited accounts to all 189 affiliates every year in advance of the Annual Meeting and all financial reports are available on the members’ area of the IFJ website. At the Annual Meeting all affiliates can attend, ask questions and scrutinise the accounts.
As at every World Congress, for the Congress in June 2022, all affiliates received in advance by pdf, and on the spot in hard copy, all the reports of the President, Honorary Treasurer and General Secretary. All these reports were presented to the Congress and adopted unanimously, including by
the Nordic Unions who participated in the Congress. The elected lay-member Finance Commission report is presented and was also endorsed unanimously.
In order to respond to ongoing concerns among Nordic Unions the IFJ had proposed establishing a governance commission, which would have the power to review all processes and procedures and make recommendations for changes to statutes or working rules.
In June 2022 the IFJ held its 32nd World Congress in Muscat, Oman, at the invitation of its affiliate, the Oman Journalists Association (OJA). IFJ Congresses have been held in a range of countries across the world with varying systems of government and democratic rights. In this way the IFJ is able to support its affiliates in strengthening their work on media freedom and journalists professional and social rights. It is precisely because media freedom is threatened or journalists are prevented from working independently that the IFJ moves and acts. It is in this spirit that the IFJ has held meetings of its elected bodies in Palestine, Tunisia, Morocco, Zimbabwe, Turkey, Russia, Egypt and Taiwan in recent years.
In 2022, Motion No.6 on press freedom in Oman, tabled by the Norwegian Union of Journalists, was passed unanimously by the Congress and was welcomed by the OJA. Discussions were held on LGBTIA rights, including calls on the Omani government to reform its repressive legislation.
No government ministers or representatives were invited to speak to the Congress. Inaccurate and misleading figures about the alleged cost of the IFJ Congress and the sources of funding have been published by some media.
The IFJ rejects allegations that holding a Congress in a particular country or receiving funding from public bodies or commercial enterprises has had any influence on the ability of the Congress to discuss, debate and decide on any issue in the same way it is done at every Congress – no matter the venue.
International solidarity cannot just be about writing communiqués from Brussels, but is characterised by an uncompromising – independent – commitment to journalists and media workers, wherever they may be.
The IFJ is proud of its daily work – from conflict zones to underground activity in some of the most repressive environments for journalists. For 96 years wherever journalists have faced threats the IFJ and its affiliates have stood up for journalists and journalism. We will not stop.
No organization is perfect. All can strive to be more effective, deliver more. All remarks, suggestions and proposals for improving and developing the work we do are important, are listened to, debated and responded to, from all its affiliates from all regions of the world.
Today, more than ever, as we advance towards our centenary, the International Federation of Journalists remains committed to working tirelessly for the collective interest of journalists and media workers, spearheading the fight for the safety of journalists, advocating for the protection of journalists at the UN, challenging the surveillance of journalists, including the threats created by the Pegasus software and through the global labour movement fighting for workers’ rights at the workplace.