Ethics in the News:

Journalism Responds to Post-Truth Rhetoric

This report on the work in 2016 of the Ethical Journalism Network covers a year of crisis for news media around the world, but it was also one in which ethics in the news became a critical benchmark for defining the quality of information in the public sphere. It was, not surprisingly, also a year in which the EJN was more active than ever in work to strengthen journalism worldwide.

The EJN was at the forefront of debates to follow up our 2015 migration and media report Moving Stories and during the year we reinforced our role as the primary journalism support group in this area. We worked on a new report at the end of the year on how media in 17 North African, Middle Eastern and European countries are reporting the continuing migration and refugee crisis.

In 2016 we organised or attended activities in 32 countries involving journalists, media experts, academics, and policymakers from more than 100 countries worldwide. In the process we reached around 1,748 policymakers and civil society leaders, representing national governments, international organisations and non-government groups; as well as 2,285 media companies and industry representatives; 2,040 journalism students and teachers; and a total of 605 representatives of journalists’ unions and media support groups.

As a result, the EJN 5-point test for hate speech, the EJN guidelines on migration reporting and the EJN’s publications have been disseminated and promoted within the networks of these groups. The major EJN achievements during 2016 include the following:

  1. Our new campaign against hate speech and media war-mongering in East Asia with the inauguration in June of the East Asia Media Forum with participants from China, Japan. Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea;
  2. The publication of Ethics in the News, a report on the ethical challenges in covering the major stories of 2016 and which outlined ways in which journalists could respond to the threat of fake news and misinformation;
  3. The EJN work with media in Pakistan to develop the first-ever unified code of professional conduct for the country’s journalists and to produce a report on how media can overcome problems of undue commercial influence;
  4. The launch of a programme in the Western Balkans and Turkey with UNESCO to strengthen good governance in media and where media houses have agreed pilot work on organising ethical media audits;
  5. The EJN mission to China and discussion of new proposals for co-operation with journalism schools and media leaders on how to combat corruption inside the country’s media system;
  6. Receiving a solidarity award from the Turkish Journalists Syndicate recognising our work to protect Turkish journalists and media during the crisis that has overwhelmed media during 2016 and in recent years;
  7. The preparation and promotion of a guide for media and journalists to report on migration (available in ten languages);
  8. The consolidation of three major EJN actions areas:
    1. The world’s first searchable database of media codes, press councils and standards Accountable Journalism ( is being reinforced with Middle East and Asian support programmes;
    2. The EJN’s African campaign against hate speech – Turning the Page of Hate – was endorsed by the continent’s journalists at meetings in Abuja and Kampala and in the Middle East, journalists meeting in Cairo agreed to strengthen the Arab Media Hub Against Hate Speech.
    3. The establishment of an EJN voice in the field of media literacy, and working with UNESCO and the European Union to promote ethical journalism as an inspiration for free speech and responsible public communications.

This report shows that the EJN has been influential far beyond its core group during 2016. We established ourselves as a “go-to” organisation on matters of ethics and self-regulation, hate speech and migration.

We also broke new ground. In 2016 the EJN became an active player in major media literacy events, an issue often the preserve of experts from the educational and academic world.

The report provides solid evidence of the value of ethical journalism in the face of a range of critical issues, including propaganda, fake news and a deepening internal crisis of funding for independent journalism across the globe.

The EJN is, we believe, as much needed now as it ever has been and we aim to build on this work in 2017 and beyond.

Aidan White, Director


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