​Director’s Letter: November – December 2015

Dear Friends,

The year ends on a high note with the publication of the EJN’s global review of how media have covered the migration and refugee crisis. Moving Stories is a detailed summary of coverage in 14 countries across the globe with a special focus on the European Union.

The main story follows the fortunes of millions of people from Iraq and Syria displaced by civil war and terrorism. Most fled to neighbouring Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan while hundreds of thousands of others risked their lives to reach Europe by land and sea. It was by far the biggest story of 2015.

The EJN report, published on December 18 to coincide with International Migrants Day, reveals many problems — how journalists and media in Europe failed to raise the alarm about an imminent influx of refugees even though the story was there to be told a year before the crisis broke; the crisis of hate speech caused by inflammatory anti-migrant statements from politicians like Donald Trump; and difficulties caused by a lack of editorial resources or the presence of well-informed journalists to cover the story.

Nevertheless, across the globe there is also much to praise with journalism laced with humanity and empathy for the victims of migration.

The report also provides insights into different forms of migration and how journalists beyond Europe report on migration from other perspectives – from China, India, Nepal, Gambia, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Australia, Lebanon, Turkey and the United States.

To counter the many difficulties facing journalists, the report recommends that news media take urgent action to appoint specialist reporters to the migration beat. It also calls for industry wide and in-house training on migration issues and problems of hate-speech; improved links with migrant and refugee groups; and more employment of journalists from ethnic minority communities to strengthen diversity in newsrooms.

The report is formally launched by the Director at an International Organisation of Migration conference in Rabat, Morocco on December 18 and an event is also being held in Oslo organised by the Norwegian media community on December 17.

The EJN held a Board and members’ meeting on December 8th in London. The meeting agreed a revised statements of aims and objectives and also a comprehensive new strategy for the EJN for 2016-2018 which will see the Network strengthening its education and training work and the launch of a new programme – Ethical Journalism for Free Expression. The Board also welcomed the launch of the Accountable Journalism website, the world’s first searchable database of codes and guidelines on ethical issues for journalists. This site will be updated in the coming weeks and months.

On December 3rd the Director and EJN Board member Thomas Spence and Norwegian Editor’s leader Arne Jensen met in Oslo with the Foreign and Defence Committee of the Norwegian Parliament to give them a briefing on EJN work and plans for next year.

On December 1st the EJN Director and Communications Officer joined the inaugural meeting of the European Union Expert Panel on Media Literacy. The EJN will assist European Union policymakers in framing policy for combatting abusive communications across the open information landscape.

Read our summary of the meeting here.

A few days earlier on November 25th Thomas Spence made a presentation on EJN work to a ground-breaking meeting of media schools and universities in Nablus, where journalism teachers and the Palestine Syndicate of Journalists joined with media leaders to launch an ethical journalism support group based on EJN principles for Palestine.

On November 7-8th, EJN Board members Chris Elliott and Zahera Harb took part in a regional meeting of journalists’ leaders and media academics organised by the EJN and the Norwegian Institute of Journalism in Cairo. The meeting focused on combating hate-speech in Arab world media. A working party has been set up to prepare plans for a regional Arab world hub to counter intolerance and hatred in journalism.

On November 3rd the Director spoke at the European Union’s SPEAKUP!3 conference in Brussels where the focus was on support for media in the Western Balkans and Turkey. After months of delay, the EJN programme with UNESCO and the European Union to promote good governance in Balkans media will get off the ground early in 2016.

November and December also saw the final two lectures in the Ethical Journalism Network’s series of talks at the Journalism Department of City University:

  • Living with a TV Regulator – Dorothy Byrne discusses Ofcom – The Head of News and Current Affairs at Channel 4, Dorothy Byrne, discussed ethical journalism at a well-attended lecture. Read a summary of the event here.
  • Readers’ editors – Do they matter? – Chris Elliott the readers’ editor at The Guardian discussed the commercial as well as ethical case for media groups to exercise self-regulation. Read a summary of the event here.

In the third of the Ethical Journalism Network’s series of lectures at the Journalism Department of City University London on 2nd December 2015, Chris Elliott the readers’ editor at The Guardian discussed the commercial as well as ethical case for media groups to exercise self-regulation.

As usual, keep up to date with EJN activity on the web-site where you will find our reports, videos and newsletters. Follow us on Twitter (@EJNetwork). For more information on the issues set out here contact EJN Communications Officer Tom Law at tlaw@ethicaljournalismnetwork.org or contact me at aidanpatrickwhite@gmail.com.

Finally, my thanks to all EJN supporters for their help this year. It has been a challenging time, but the EJN emerges stronger and well on track. I wish you all the very best in your end of year celebrations and we can all look forward to an even more successful and ethical 2016!