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IFJ Backs Indian Calls for "Peace and Tolerance" in Media Reports of Religious Dispute

September 30, 2010

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) today called for journalists to play their part in keeping the peace in India where there are fears of community violence in a long-running religious dispute.

Some 200,000 Indian army and security personnel have been put on alert with fears of violence between Hindus and Muslims over a court decision on a holy site in the pilgrim town of Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh, which is claimed by both communities.

"Journalists and media must play their part in resisting the forces of violence by deploying the highest standards of tolerance and ethics in reporting this issue," said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. "This is no time for ill-judged and hateful commentary but for good reporting and reflection on ways of building better understanding between the communities."

Journalists and media workers unions from 25 countries, represented by the IFJ and Union Network International, attending a regional meeting in Bali, Indonesia, also added their voices to calls for peace in the region.

"Indian media must lead the demands for tolerant and peaceful means to resolve this dispute," said Suresh Akhouri, President of the Indian Journalists' Union. "My country has suffered enough from internal violence. Journalists must help build the peace and avoid provocation by maintaining professional balance."

Akhouri also called on the IFJ to organise a meeting on ethical responsibility of journalists in Delhi as soon as possible. "This is a serious moment and we must alert journalists to the dangers of media taking sides," he said.

The Allahabad High Court has ruled on ownership of land where Hindu mobs tore down a 16th Century mosque in 1992, some of them claiming that the site is the birthplace of their God, Ram. Hindu leaders say they want to build a temple there.

But the destruction of the mosque prompted some of the worst rioting between Hindus and Muslims since the division of India in 1947 and led to violence in which thousands of people on both sides of the religious divide were killed.

For more information contact:
International Federationof Journalists
Phone: + 32 2 235 22 07

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