3rd August 2015
By Stefanie Chernow

Director’s Letter: June/July 2015

Dear Friends,

These months are normally a quiet time for those of us north of the Equator, but this year we have been exceptionally busy with four important developments for the EJN:

In Palestine, the EJN programme on ethics and training to combat hate speech has inspired an unprecedented agreement on co-operation between the journalism departments of local universities. For the first time AL Najah University in Nablus, Birzeit University, Bethlehem University, Alquds University, Hebron University and Modern Community College on the West Bank have agreed to work together with the Palestine Journalists Syndicate and other EJN partners to launch a Palestine section of the EJN on November 25th.

The launch meeting will also include a special session on the links between academic freedom and press freedom, two branches of free expression which have come under pressure in the region and which have been brought into joint focus thanks to EJN work.

In China the EJN Director carried out a country mission at the invitation of the All-China Journalists Association in July. He visited newly-formed Ethical Journalism Commissions established in Shanghai, Wuhan and Beijing where he held a seminar on media self-regulation with leading media representatives. A full report with recommendations for further co-operation with Chinese media will be considered by the EJN board which meets in Oslo on August 11th.

In Africa the EJN has strengthened its work on hate-speech and organised in Nairobi on July 29th a session on actions to combat intolerance in media only a few days after US President Barack Obama visiting in Kenya called for governments to act to over human rights abuse, particularly of the rights of the African gay community. The EJN action, in co-operation with the Eastern African Journalists Association, highlighted how journalists can avoid bias, stereotypes and incitement in their reporting.

The session was led by Rachael Nakitare, President of the International Association of Women in Radio and Television, a leading EJN member, and included leading journalists’ groups from Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda, countries where media have played a role in stirring up public resentment of minorities. Plans are already in hand to expand co-operation with the Federation of African Journalists next year.

In the United States and Brazil the EJN has strengthened further its links with the global community of investigative journalists. The Director took part in a session at the Investigative Journalists and Editors conference in Philadelphia on June 4th. This massive event – there were 17000 participants – was an opportunity to promote discussion on ethical treatment of sources. Some days later Tom Kent, an EJN advisor and head of standards at Associated Press, represented the EJN at the annual conference of Latin America’s leading investigative journalism body ABRAJI (Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism) held in Sao Paulo on July 3rd.

These links with key groups of journalists will be further strengthened later this year when the EJN joins the annual conference of the Global Investigative Journalism Network, the worldwide federation of investigative journalism groups, to be held in Lillehammer, Norway, in October.

The EJN’s message calling for more media action to promote ethics and good governance is being taken up in all corners of journalism and was also on the agenda of this year’s World Association of Newspapers congress in Washington. On June 3rd the EJN held a lunchtime meeting on the challenges of increasing commercialisation of the newsroom which also highlighted the findings from our Untold Stories report on conflicts of interest in journalism. See the report here.

The EJN also led a session at the OSCE conference on safety of journalists in Vienna on June 16th. The debate focused on tensions between Russia and Ukraine and the need for media in the region to avoid the propaganda trap laid by political leaders on all sides of the conflict.

Participants were particularly concerned about the role of Russia media in fomenting tensions through misinformation across the region. The EJN will continue to support dialogue between independent Russian media and Ukraine journalists. The EJN plans to launch new training and education activities to combat biased journalism involving journalists in the region.

The challenges facing journalism in East Europe were also centre stage at a summer school for journalists from Balkan countries held in Sarajevo on July 15th where the EJN Director discussed the EJN and its programmes with young journalists from across the region.

This meeting, organised with the Press Council of Bosnia-Herzegovina, was also an opportunity to announce the launch of the EJN programme of education and training for the Western Balkans which will get off the ground in September. The project is financed by the European Union through UNESCO and involves education on good governance principles and ethics for media in seven countries including Turkey.

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). I can provide more information on all of the issues set out here if you contact me at [email protected].

Aidan White

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