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Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Finnish, Norwegian, Danish and Icelandic unions will quit a global media federation on Tuesday in protest at “corruptive activity”, including most recently letting Russian state media journalists in Ukraine remain as members, the Finnish union said.

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), which represents 600,000 journalists in 146 countries, calls itself “the global voice of journalists”, many of whom strive to reveal corruption and wrongdoings. It denounced the accusations as “false, defamatory and damaging”.

The Nordic members accused the IFJ of long-standing undemocratic practices, unethical finances and of letting Russian state media representatives continue as members.

“We call this corruptive activity,” said Hanne Aho, chair of the Union of Journalists in Finland.

“We have decided to resign with the Norwegian, Danish and Icelandic unions. We will hand in our letters of resignation on Tuesday.”

Aho said the Nordic unions have for years tried to raise problems internally in the IFJ, with their latest disappointment being the IFJ not acting 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,” said Aho.

The IFJ said its executive committee triggered a formal process for suspending and expelling the Russian Union of Journalists. It said expenditure is formally audited yearly, and it has sought to answer all questions posed by the Nordic unions.

Autocratic state

“We entirely reject what are false, defamatory and damaging allegations,” said IFJ deputy general secretary Jeremy Dear.

The Nordic unions also complained about what they called the IFJ’s nontransparent use of finances, including its decision to hold its world congress last year in the autocratic Gulf Arab state of Oman, which has limited press freedom, Aho said.

“Trappings at the congress were extremely flamboyant so we began to wonder where the money had come from to pay for them,” Aho said.

Aho said the Union of Journalists in Finland requested and received IFJ’s budget for the congress, which showed that up to €745,000 of the total of €778,000 came from Omani ministries and private companies as well as the Oman Journalists’ Association, while IFJ itself paid only €33,000 of the expenses.

The IFJ said the amounts included subsidies negotiated by the Oman Journalists’ Association. “This has been normal procedure used in the hosting of successive IFJ congresses over decades,” it said in a statement.

The Nordic unions also condemned a low turnover in the federation’s decision-making bodies, saying suspect undemocratic practices may have occurred at the organisation’s internal elections, Aho added.

The IFJ says on its website that it does not subscribe to any given political viewpoint, but promotes collective action to defend human rights, democracy and media pluralism.

“IFJ policy is decided democratically at a congress that meets every three years, and work is carried out by the secretariat under the direction of an elected executive committee,” it says.


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