Ethics in the Fast Lane: EJN Ends Busy Year With New Faces And An Expanded Programme for 2015

Dear Friends,

The year is ending at a cracking pace. During November the EJN carried out a series of events in the Middle East – in Palestine, where we established a partnership between four universities to deliver a programme for young journalists to help counter hate speech; in Lebanon, where a meeting of media leaders called for a regional initiative to build an ethical and tolerant culture in journalism; and in Turkey where the EJN met, first, with beleaguered Iraqi journalists striving to strengthen their journalism in the midst of conflict and then with Turkish colleagues focused on combating self-censorship arising from political and corporate interference in media.

In December the EJN led a discussion at the United Nations in New York in support of a new campaign to spot early signs of atrocity violence. We have joined discussions in Vienna to support an initiative aimed at building dialogue among journalists in war-torn Ukraine and Russia. Later in the month we are also forging a new partnership with leaders of the All-China Journalists Association who will visit London on a mission to identify models for media self-regulation and an ethical code for Chinese journalists.

In these busy days we have finalised two multi-country surveys produced by leading journalists in 25 countries, one on the effectiveness of self-regulation and another on the untold story of how internal corruption and paid for journalism undermines newsroom standards.

In all of this, the EJN has also found time for reflection. During our annual meeting on December 4th in London, probably the most important in the EJN’s short history, it was emphasized that the EJN, having grown rapidly since its launch in 2011, needed to strengthen the leadership of the Network and to secure its long-term future as an independent charitable trust.

The meeting heard that our activities in 2014 have helped raise the profile of ethics, governance and independent regulation of journalism. Initiatives such as the Turning the Page of Hate campaign, launched in Rwanda earlier this year, are now being fine-tuned into practical tools for newsrooms in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The EJN’s five-point test for hate-speech, for instance, is gaining wide recognition as a tool to help journalists deal with hate-speech and was further highlighted on December 11th at the UN in New York as an example of how careful, sensitive journalism can help prevent community rivalries turning into genocidal violence.

The annual meeting, hosted by the Thomson Foundation, was opened by the EJN’s new chairwoman, Dorothy Byrne, the Head of News at Channel 4 television in the UK. Dorothy is one of five new Board members who will be responsible for launching the EJN into the next critical phase of its development. She is joined on the board by Chris Elliott, the Readers’ Editor at The Guardian, and two leading figures from journalism in Norway, Randi Ogrey, Director of the Norwegian media owners’ association and Thomas Spence, President of the Norwegian journalists’ union. Also joining the new team is Zahera Harb, who brings vital experience from Middle East journalism and media education and who currently lectures on journalism at London’s City University. New Board members will be added as part of a continuing development programme.

The new Board will build upon the three-year funding agreement signed with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and will continue to be supported by the EJN’s Norwegian support group of journalists and media leaders.

One key reason for the success of the EJN this year has been its vigorous partnership with the Norwegian Institute for Journalism which will continue with new joint activities in 2015.

Other parts of the working programme agreed for 2015 include a three-year project in co-operation with UNESCO to support media self-regulation and good governance to strengthen journalism across the Western Balkans. We have also reached agreement with International Media Support in Copenhagen to work together on an ethics programme with media and journalists in Pakistan.

The ground-breaking work in Palestine will also continue next year with plans to involve all the schools of journalism in the region in a single, targeted programme to help newsrooms blunt the political pressure felt on all sides of media.

The EJN will also continue its work with colleagues in Egypt and the new association of independent editors launched this year. We will also reinforce efforts to create a system of credible self-regulation for media in Tunisia.

The continuing conflict in Ukraine is also on the EJN agenda. During the annual meeting it was agreed the EJN would work with journalists and editorial leaders across Europe to promote dialogue between independent media voices in Ukraine and Russia. This will be carried out in partnership with the Association of Commercial Television and the European Federation of Journalists. As part of this effort, the EJN attended a meeting in Vienna organised by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe on December 11 to revive plans to support discussions between independent journalists on both sides.

Next year the EJN will also launch an extensive survey on how media are reporting migration and will support an initiative to create a fact-based and data driven Migration Newsdesk for journalists with the International Organisation for Migration.

There are plans to hold an EJN Asia conference in Singapore, in co-operation with Singapore University and the Tamesek Foundation, where media coverage of migration will be the major theme. Also the EJN hopes to support another regional event following up the success of this year’s Bali Media Forum in October.

We will also hold special conferences to launch the results of our surveys on self-regulation and paid-for journalism and we have agreed with UNESCO to organise a special EJN session at the World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Latvia in May.

Other events on the EJN agenda for next year involve events in co-operation with leading Network members. We will hold special sessions at major conferences being organised by the International Press Institute (in Myanmar in April); the World Association of Newspapers (Washington); the Organisation of News Ombudsmen (Cape Town); and the Global Editors Network (Barcelona).

In Africa the EJN plans to hold joint activities with the African Media Initiative, the International Association of Women in Radio and Television and other network partners. Already planned are events in Mauritius in Februaryand a second conference in Kigali with journalists and media from Rwanda, Kenya, Burundi, Uganda, South Sudan and Congo – looking at the role of media and conflict sensitive journalism at election time.

Find out more about our plans in 2015 and read the EJN Annual Report for 2014 on our website. Those of you who want further information can contact me directly at aidanpatrickwhite@gmail.com or our Communications Officer Stefanie Chernow at schernow@ethicaljournalismnetwork.org.

Finally, for those of you having a holiday in the coming days, have a good one and come back refreshed for 2015. We have a busy year ahead and we hope very much you will be part of it.

Best,

Aidan White, EJN Director