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From left: Dr Liqaa Maki, Assistant Managing Editor, Al Jazeera Net; Aboubakr Khallaf, Founder and board member of Egyptian New Media; Chama Darchoul, IJnet; Basil Okoor, Ammonnews; Dr Mohamed El Amin Musa, and Dr Sadok Hammami, Assistant Professor, College of Communication, University of Sharjah, during a workshop on ‘Online Journalism and Social Media’. (Salim Matramkot)
by Azmat Haroon
Doha: There is extensive corruption within media in many parts of the world today and journalism is, in fact, being sold to the highest bidder, according to a veteran journalist and campaigner for the rights of journalists.
Due to the lack of funding in many media organisation, oligarchs and powerful interest groups are buying newspapers and media, says Aidan White, Director of the Ethical Journalism Network.
“They are doing it not to make money but to use them (media organisations) as trophies and use them for political influence,” White told The Peninsula.
White was speaking on the sidelines of a seminar on the legal context of the protection of journalists hosted by Al Jazeera’s Public Liberties and Human Rights Department.
The seminar is part of the three-day Al Jazeera Forum, which kicked off yesterday.
The 7th edition of the forum is being conducted on the sidelines of “Arab World in Transition: Opportunities and Challenges.”
White, who was the general secretary of the International Federation of Journalists for 24 years, said sometimes stories are portrayed as news when it’s just propaganda.
“The profession (journalism) is being practised in a world of corruption, which is subject to really strong political manipulation and commercial exploitation,” he said.
The reality is, according to White, that journalists are caught in a very corrupt spiral. This is because in many parts of the world, journalists are so badly paid they are forced to accept bribes.
“They have to practise corruption in order to earn a living. The so-called brown-journalism which used to happen in far off places happens everywhere. The corruption of journalism is a matter of fact in the world.”
Insufficient funding in even ‘big media companies’ was one of the main reasons for the severe shortage of qualified professionals in the field of investigative journalism.
Investigative journalism requires time and resources and media organisations are not ready to invest in because it’s a business in decline. They no longer train journalists and prefer to hire interns to work for free.
“The fact of the matter is that it started with a dramatic change within the media. This means that the old private sector which used to drive media is no longer ready to pay for the sort of journalism we want,” White said, adding that most news organisations around the world have had their funding models destroyed by the Internet and social media.
While discussing the role of journalism, particularly in cases of investigating cases of corruption, White pointed out that if journalists have an important role to play, which is providing information, and if journalists are no longer able to provide that information, the pressing issue was who will provide that information in the future and who will pay for it.
“We also need people to invest in journalism and we have to look at new funding models,” White said.
The structures that are created to support journalists need to have a very clear wall between political funding and the editorial work that has to be built into any future setup of journalism.
White also called Al Jazeera a ‘fairy-tale’ in the world of journalism as very few journalists in the world have a fairy to support them, while simultaneously providing them with facilities to be good journalists.
“I think governments like Qatar have to show that they are ready to invest in journalism that is truly independent. Al Jazeera is an example of a media organisation which has tremendous government support but also has editorial independence.”
Based in London, the Ethical Journalism Network is a coalition of media organisations and professional associations devoted to media ethics, good governance and self-regulation.
The sessions held on the first day of the forum included discussions on media training in a changing world, new regional powers and rising international powers as well as issues related to the credibility of online journalism and social media.