Director’s Letter: July 2014

Dear Friends,

The summer months in the northern hemisphere are sometimes called the “silly season” for news when politicians are on vacation and journalists are scratching around for stories, but this year is different. Wars in Syria, Ukraine and particularly the upsurge in violence in the Gaza Strip have dominated the media space and provided massive ethical challenges for newsrooms.

The use of media as propaganda weapons in Ukraine and Russia came sharply into focus with the shooting down on July 17 of a Malaysian Airliner MH17 with the deaths of all 298 on board. Ukraine and Russia exchanged accusations of responsibility for the attack and media on both sides fuelled the political blame-game although all evidence points to a terrible mistake made by Russian-speaking rebels in the east of Ukraine.

In an effort to challenge the lack of mainstream independent reporting around the conflict the EJN is working with the European Federation of Journalists in co-operation with the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe to promote dialogues between independent journalists in both Ukraine and Russia. A meeting of media and journalists from both countries is being prepared, probably to be held in Vienna.

The problem of media bias and propaganda in the region was also the subject of a lively discussion on the Russian Network RT on July 20, when the EJN Director was challenged over our support for more independent and ethical reporting. The interview can be seen here.

Meanwhile, the Gaza conflict has also put journalism in the frontline. This horrifying outbreak of violence in Palestine, the Middle East’s longest-running dispute, has seen a number of journalists killed and reporters under pressure to follow the political spin of media-savvy combatants.

In such conditions it is difficult to maintain an ethical balance, but the EJN is working with local partners to try to promote a fresh discussion on the importance of editorial independence and to counter reporting that might provoke intense hatred or incitement to violence.

Working with CARE, a Palestinian research and education body and the local media, we are organising a six-day course on ethical journalism, targeting media students and young reporters in the West Bank towns of Nablus and Ramallah to be held in September. The EJN hopes that this work in Palestine will help reinforce demands for editorial independence and media standards in both Palestine and Israel.

In a timely development, the reporting challenges facing journalists in Palestine and Israel are revealed in a compelling collection of essays by reporters and editors issued this week by the International Press Institute, an EJN supporter.

Finally, the EJN Director has been asked by IMPRESS, a new press regulator in the United Kingdom, to assist in the selection of Board members for the new body which aims to promote independent self-regulation within the press. You can find out more here.

As usual, keep up to date with EJN activity on the web-site and subscribe to our newsletter. Follow us on Twitter (@EJNetwork). More information on all of topics set out here is available from me at aidanpatrickwhite@gmail.com.

Best,

Aidan White
EJN Director