The Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), in partnership with UNESCO and supported by the European Union (EU), has been implementing the Building Trust in Media in South East Europe (SEE) and Turkey since 2016. In the context of a rapid digital transformation followed by a decline in the commitment to journalistic professional standards and civil society’s trust in media, the second phase of the project was launched. The role of the EJN in Phase 2 is to support the media outlets in South East Europe and Turkey to perform a self-assessment exercise of their commitment to good governance and ethical and professional standards – also called ethical audits.
In 2020 eight media outlets in two target countries – Albania and Serbia – performed the ethical audits through piloting of Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) principles. For more information about the media who have completed the ethical audit please click here.
The Building Trust in the Media in SEE and Turkey puts UNESCO and EJN efforts in the region into a wider global context of global tendencies to promote the media standards for ethics, good governance and self-regulation. The introduction of specific mechanisms to improve the commitment of media outlets to defined professional and ethical standards and to increase their transparency towards citizens is crucial if media organisations are to be able to prove themselves as sustainable in a world where traditional revenue streams have been compromised.
The EJN Guidelines for Ethical Audits & Developing Editorial Guidelines
The Ethical Journalism Network has created simple online tools to help media outlets from South East Europe and Turkey perform the ethical audits in accordance with Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) principles. Ethical audits are a self-assessment exercise of the media outlets’ commitment to good governance and ethical and professional standards. They are available through the EJN or the JTI app.
The following tools explain some of the categories and questions that a media outlet will go through when performing the ethical audit.
1. What is the ethical audit?
The ethical audit is a self-assessment exercise of the commitment to good governance and ethical and professional standards in the media. Who can perform it, and how?
2. Editorial values
The Media Outlet shall disclose its editorial mission statement which shall be consistent with the fundamental ethical principles of trustworthy journalism, and should incorporate principles of: ethical practice, good governance, self-regulation and engagement with the public.
3. The Media Outlet’s public service mission
The Media Outlet shall describe its public service mission and the legal instrument on which it is based. It should include its governance structure, editorial values and if its governance structure guarantees its editorial independence.
4. Disclosure of ownership
Part of the ethical audit is dedicated to disclosure of type of ownership. The Media Outlet shall declare its legal status clarifying what type of company it is registered as. The Media Outlet shall state clearly if it is fully or partly owned by the government, a state institution, or other public body.
5. Disclosure of sources of revenue
The Media Outlet shall disclose a list of its sources of revenue, ranked from largest to smallest. These may include subscriptions, advertising, major donors and donations, subsidies, fees, sales, memberships, sponsorships, events, etc.
6. Overview of the EJN Guidelines for Ethical Audits
The EJN ethical audit summarised, including an explanation of the ethical audit, who can perform it and how; public service mission statements, editorial values and disclosure of media ownership and financial sources.
Developing Editorial Guidelines
The following tools explain some of the categories and questions that a media outlet will go through when developing editorial guidelines, as part of the Ethical Audit process.
1. Producing Editorial Guidelines
The Media Outlet shall produce a set of editorial guidelines or adhere to an external set of guidelines to which its journalistic operations comply. They should govern meaningful principles of journalistic content, dissemination and conduct. These guidelines, and the identity of the person or group of persons with ultimate responsibility for them within its organisation, shall be made available to the public in a readily accessible and understandable form.
2. Rules and processes for ensuring the accuracy of editorial content
The Media Outlet shall have internal rules with a systematic editorial process to make sure that the content is accurate and the Editorial Guidelines are adhered to. This may include the verification process for the content and the role of editorial oversight.
3. Ensuring the accuracy of editorial content sourced from the public
The Media Outlet shall ensure that the same principles of checking for accuracy, legal and ethical compliance are applied to journalistic content sourced from the general public (UGC or Eyewitness News content) as with all content it publishes.
4. Providing contact details to the public for newsroom and social media accounts
The Media Outlet shall provide the contact details for its newsrooms and for the professional social media accounts of those responsible for interacting with and responding to public queries about the organisation’s editorial content. This can be management, senior editorial staff, the ombudsperson, readers editor or equivalent.
5. Dealing with anonymous sources
The procedures for granting anonymity to sources shall be covered by the Editorial Guidelines. The reason for anonymity should be clarified for the public.
Infographics designed by Mary Schrider ([email protected])
Podcast series: Building Trust in Media in SEE & Turkey