EJN delivers ethics training to SOAS journalism students

Social Media, hate speech, ethics and images in the age of social media and fake news + migration, humanitarian law and terrorism coverage, and dealing with leaked information

The EJN training at SOAS on 3 June 2017 focused on the following:

Social media, hate speech and fake news:

It is currently the major talking point in media and politics, but the debate over fake news and hate speech is confused by misunderstanding about the phenomena, its origins, definitions and why fake news and hate speech pose a threat, not just to journalism but to the framework of democratic pluralism. We’ll work together on solutions and practices for getting the best out of social media and online journalism top expose fake news and hate speech and find ways that ethical reporting can raise awareness about the issue without causing further harm.

Ethics and migration reporting:
In the last 2 years the EJN has conducted two major reports on migration coverage. This session looked at what we can learn from trends in migration coverage in over 20 countries covered by the EJN’s reports and consider the fundamentals of good migration reporting.

In most countries the story has been dominated by two themes – numbers and emotions. Most of the time coverage is politically led with media often following an agenda dominated by loose language and talk of invasion and swarms. At other moments the story has been laced with humanity, empathy and a focus on the suffering of those involved.

What is unquestionable is that media everywhere play a vital role in bringing the world’s attention to these events. We will cover the best practices for doing this effectively and ethically.

Refugee Images:

What decisions are made before photographs of refugees and war victims appear in our newspapers, or as video and stills on our computers, mobiles and television screens? Should journalists be more critical when publishing and interpreting such pictures? These are among the questions that were explored with specific reference to how media used the images of Aylan Kurdi.

Journalism and International Humanitarian Law

Should journalists ever be witnesses in war crimes trials? When, if ever, should journalists, intervene in humanitarian situations? In looking for answers for these questions the session looked at the legal and ethical frameworks for making these difficult decisions.

Terrorism and atrocities

Here, we looked at how media have coped with covering terrorist attacks in Europe and elsewhere and consider whether journalism is playing into the hands of propagandists in way they react to attacks and use the videos and other content proliferated by IS and other groups.

Leaked information and protecting sources:

Good journalism is only ever as good as our sources of information. Most of those sources are personal, many are official, and some will be anonymous whistle-blowers. Together they provide reporters with the lifeblood of their trade – reliable, accurate and truthful information.

Journalists need to be as transparent as possible in their relations with sources. The news media have great power and people can be flattered when they are approached by reporters without understanding fully the risks to themselves and to others when they come into the public eye. This is particularly true of people caught up in humanitarian disasters, war or other traumatic events.

This session used case studies to explore strategies for protecting sources in the digital age.