The Journalists’ Pact for Strengthening Civil Peace in Lebanon

25 Jun 2013

The Journalists’ Pact for Strengthening Civil Peace in Lebanon

Opening Remarks

By

Mr. Robert Watkins

UNDP Resident Representative

25 June 2013

Beirut

 

Your Excellencies,

The Minister of Information, Mr. Walid Daouk,

The Head of the European Delegation, Ms. Angelina Eichhorst,

Ambassadors of the European Union,

Heads and members of the media,

 

Dear colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

 

A polyglot country of people from myriad cultural and religious backgrounds, the world looks to Lebanon as a symbol of hope for sustaining tolerance in a region where peaceful coexistence is increasingly under threat.

 

Yet, while this diversity in people is both the pride and vitality of Lebanon, it represents a unique challenge as well. Co-existing in pluralistic societies is not easy in any country, even in, or perhaps especially in democracies, where necessarily open debate and the expression of different views can also create tensions.

The media represent a particularly important source of wealth with respect to Lebanon’s diversity and energetic social dialogue. There is perhaps no country in the region with a more robust and open media sector. Lebanon scores highly among Arab states in terms of press freedom and the number of newspapers and television stations per capita.

Yet this source of wealth can become a source of disruption when it is used improperly to influence rather than inform, becoming a vessel for incitement and the destruction of trust across communities, working against the principles of good journalism.

For this reason, UNDP, together with our partners at the European Union, have made working with the media on objective and professional reporting a key priority through the “Strengthening Civil Peace in Lebanon” project. Recently, we have supported a series of joint news supplements, bringing together journalists from across the spectrum to collaborate for the first time in such scope on different themes of common national interest. I am pleased to note that the third issue, which addresses the impact of the Syrian conflict on Lebanese communities, will be disseminated nationally tomorrow through our partner newspapers, Annahar and Assafir.

And today, in very much the same spirit, we are pleased to help launch the “Journalists’ Pact for Strengthening Civil Peace in Lebanon”, the development of which we and the EU had the honor to support. The Pact goes far in setting out the principles of freedom with responsibility, as well as practical steps to help ensure that a balanced, ethical and professional media serve the people of Lebanon with coverage both accurate and fair.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Getting to this point was not easy and required a long, careful process under the auspices of the Minister of Information, closely engaging a range of editors-in-chief, journalists and key media figures.

The directors and Chairpersons of the board of every major media institution in Lebanon, some 34 in total, were also asked to reflect on the Pact, while assigning high level focal points to help further translate words into action. And 21 editors-in-chief were brought together in one place for the first time to discuss and debate these issues, arriving at a level of consensus and ownership that can already be considered a measure of success.

I would like to conclude in thanking the European Union for recognizing the importance of this work and helping make it possible. I would also like to thank the Ministry of Information for their vital coordination and support, and the Minister in particular for his personal vision and persistence in seeing this process through.

Finally, I would like to thank the impressive collection of Heads of media organisations, editors-in-chief, journalists and key media persons who have participated in this important process from the beginning for your patience, insight and dedication.

It is now up to you to make this Pact, your Pact, a living instrument in the service of civil peace for all Lebanese.

Thank you.