Racism, Xenophobia and the Media: Towards respect and understanding of all religions and cultures (Conference report)

Some 120 journalists and media practitioners from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East met in Vienna on 22 and 23 May 2006 to discuss the influence of media on intercultural relations and racism. Topics under discussion included improving reporting standards and accountability of journalists; self-regulation policies in the EU and in South-Mediterranean countries; impact of media reporting on ethnic and religious minorities; negative stereotyping; balancing freedom of expression with protection from hate speech; and making better use of expertise and experience of ethnic minority organisations.

Euro-Mediterranean Conference in Vienna

The conference "Racism, Xenophobia and the Media: Towards Respect and Understanding of All Religions and Cultures" was held in the framework of the Austrian Presidency of the EU, and had been co-organised with the European Commission and the EUMC.

Austrian State Secretary Hans Winkler, European Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, and EUMC Director Beate Winkler opened the conference in Vienna.

"Dialogue between media, civil society, faith groups and policy-makers is the way forward to eradicate racism," said EUMC Director Beate Winkler at the opening of the Conference. "Showing cultural diversity in mainstream programmes, employing minority journalists, and training of journalists can reinforce the positive influence that the media can play."

Keynote speakers, amongst others, included:
Doudou Diène, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Racism;
Aidan White, General Secretary, International Federation of Journalists;
Thomas Hammarberg, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights;
Miklos Haraszti, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.

After an open exchange of views, conference participants mapped out improvements in journalism practice and structures that might enhance understanding about cultural differences. The emphasis throughout was on effective self-regulation. There were also calls from journalists to learn (more) about cultural and religious diversity as part of their training.

Suggestions from the conference participants included:

  • better representation of minorities in newsrooms through targeted training and recruitment
  • more diversity in mainstream and non-fiction programmes
  • making training in intercultural understanding a standard component of journalist education
  • networking and sharing of information and best practice among media from different regions (twinning and exchange programmes)
  • more dialogue between ethnic, religious and cultural groups and the media
  • improved self-regulation and self-initiatives that promote ethical standards in reporting