29th October 2017
By Tom Law

East Africa – Ethical Journalism for Democracy in the Digital Age

Federation of African Journalists – Ethical Journalism Network

Ethical Journalism for Democracy in the Digital Age

Roundtable Meeting

Heron Portico Hotel, 9 Milimani Rd, Nairobi, Kenya

30-31 October 2017

This programme by the EJN and FAJ involved the carrying out of consultations, organisation of regional conferences and workshops to strengthen ethical journalism, gender equality and professionalism in African media.

The focus of the programme was to raise awareness among media professionals on practical actions they can take to improve reporting on corruption, elections and security issues through the exercise of ethical journalism, good governance and respect for equality.

The programme aimed to strengthen the craft of journalism and develop proposals for how journalism can become an inspiration for more responsible public communications across the African information landscape, using digital tools to strengthen respect for authors’ rights, core ethical principles and to combat hate-speech, propaganda and intolerance.

The core programme involved three regional meetings on self-regulation and media reporting of hate-speech, elections, gender-based violence, conflict and corruption. There was additional workshops on ethics and authors’ rights and use of digital tools to combat hate speech.

There was a special focus on issues of gender-based violence as well as self-regulation issues. The meetings considered how ethical and quality journalism contributes to development and also discuss taking forward the Turning the Page of Hate in Africa campaign. This work was in co-operation with journalism schools. Alongside this work the EJN encouraged public debates on how ethical journalism can encourage responsible free expression across the wider public information landscape. There was a discussion on the creation of an ethical journalism network process for Africa.

The broad objectives of the programme and expected results are set out in the attached programme work plan. The work was carried out in co-operation with other African partners including the African Media initiative, the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IWART) and the African Editors’ Forum.

The FAJ were responsible for co-ordination and organisation of programme activities. There was also support for an additional programme on promotion of authors’ rights in Africa through ethical Journalism.

  1. Objectives of the Programme

A major influence everywhere is misinformation online, where distortion and falsehoods are becoming all-too common. The purpose of the EJN programme set out here is to prevent such abuse by targeting key areas of professional concern in regions where it is most needed. The programme reinforces the view that quality journalism, particularly in challenging times, leads to better informed citizens who are able to play a positive role in democratic and sustainable development.

The objective is to develop a comprehensive Africa programme for journalists, editors and media leaders to strengthen ethical journalism.

  1. Description of the Programme

The two-day conference will provide a forum for discussions on self-regulation and media reporting of hate-speech, gender-based violence, terrorism and conflict.

  1. Outcome and Impacts

The conference will have built the following steps to:

  • Prepare agreements and contents for Africa-wide initiatives to develop ethical frameworks for reporting on corruption, gender-based violence, and elections through the creation of an ethical network for journalism and with the buy-in of professional groups;
  • Build public confidence in the development process and promote social cohesion by exposing unethical and unreliable information and by challenging misreporting of these issues;
  • Strengthen and develop the Turning the Page of Hate campaign through the engagement and active promotion by some 35 journalists and editors in the region who will incorporate the ethical values of this campaign in their work.


DAY I: 30 October 2017

9:00 Opening:

This session will outline the objectives of the round table meeting, which will include:

  • To facilitate discussion around the main ethical challenges faced by journalists in East Africa, with a special focus on election coverage, hate speech, authors’ rights, media literacy and good governance within media.
  • To develop programmes and initiatives that will form a declaration outlining these ethical challenges and present proposals for regional initiatives by bringing together, media owners, regulatory bodies, journalist unions, academic institutions, the media development community and civil society.

9:30 Round Table 1: Propaganda, Political Bias and elections: lessons learnt

Background: In October, for the second time this year, Kenya held presidential elections amid controversy and political turmoil. Leading up to both polls, Kenyans had to navigate misleading information through print, TV, radio, and social media. The torture and murder of an election official just days before polls opened in the first election in August created a tense atmosphere, and a reminder of the violence during the 2007 presidential election.

Description: The discussion will consider if lessons were learnt from previous elections and what more can be done to improve the quality of reporting during elections around the region. One new project attempting to contribute to this effort is Africa Check’s African Election Promise Tracker, which will track and monitor the election campaign promises made by the Presidents or Prime Ministers in Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Senegal. But how valuable are innovative projects like this compared to taking more traditional steps to improve editorial standards such as the guidelines issued by the Media Council of Kenya prior to the election? We will also consider how these guidelines could be improved and produce recommendations for media on initiatives and programmes to support election reporting in future elections in East Africa and beyond.  


  • Federation of Africa Journalists
  • Kenyan Union of Journalists

11:30 Round Table 2: Hate speech and violent extremism

Description: Hate speech is a dilemma for journalists the world over but the issue can be particularly acute in Africa, especially during conflicts or around elections. This session will begin with an update from the EJN about the Turning the Page of Hate campaign and consider a proposal to create a series of glossaries of hate speech for Kenya and other countries in the region. We will also hear from those who have been monitoring hate speech around the recent Kenyan elections. 


EJN five-point test for speech

The test has been developed by EJN advisers and is based on international standards. It highlights some questions to be asked in the gathering, preparation and dissemination of news and information that will help journalists and editors place what is said and who is saying it in an ethical context. The EJN test for hate speech is available in four languages widely spoken in Africa – Arabic, English, French and Swahili.

EJN Glossaries

  • The EJN has completed a glossary of hate speech in Egyptian media in collaboration with the American University Cairo, using the EJN five-point test for speech as a research guide.
  • As part of our Ethics in the News report from earlier this year we published a short glossary of hate speech in Hong Kong.


  • Racheal Nakitare – Kenya Broadcasting Corporation
  • Tom Law – Ethical Journalism Network

13:00 Lunch

14:00 Panel 3: Ethics, Self-regulation, Good Governance: The Africa Challenge

Description: The session will include a short introduction to the EJN ethical media audit, a global standard for quality journalism drawing upon policies and strategies pioneered by the Ethical Journalism Network. The panel discussion that follows will focus on how the audit can be adapted to work in East African newsrooms.

Background Information:


  • Salim Amin – Camerapix
  • Aidan White, Director – Ethical Journalism Network

16.00 Round Table 4: The Ethics of Authors’ Rights in the Digital Age

Background: This session is part of the EJN’s new authors’ rights project supported by Kopinor.

Moderator: Aidan White, Director – Ethical Journalism Network

DAY II: 31 October 2017

9:00 – Group Work

Description: This session will be used to draft the meetings declaration and plans and to scope out details of plans for future initiatives.

10:00–Round Table 5: Ethics for All: Journalism Teaching, Media Literacy and Civil Discourse

Background: This session will focus on the recommendations made in this article in the Colombia Journalism ReviewKenyans need more than fact-checking tips to resist misinformation

In Kenya, misinformation during elections is a recurring problem. A government commission report on the 2007 elections pinpointed partisanship, hate-speech, and misinformation in media (mainly via radio) as key factors inciting post-election violence. Kenya’s ethnic rivalries, stoked by colonial powers, date back to before the country’s independence. Violence after the 2007 elections, in which over a thousand people died, made clear that the divisions, inflamed by economic and land inequality, had grown into a dangerous tribalism. Social media exacerbates these long-standing divisions, because it typically strengthens group identity; trust on social networks often depends on human relationships rather than accuracy of information. As behavioral economist Cass Sunstein found in his work on conspiracy theories, arguments from perceived outsiders usually lack the credibility to reduce polarization.

This year, false allegations surfaced of political party defections, and incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta hired Cambridge Analytica, the data firm that stimulated support for President Trump’s election and the Brexit campaign in the UK, to influence voters. An early sign that fake news would play a role in the election came in February, when the hashtag #SalomeDivorcesPhaRAO trended on Kenyan social media networks amid accusations that Kalonzo Musyoka, leader of the Wiper Democratic Movement-Kenya had defected to the rival Jubilee political party. While people traded memes or shared the story, many didn’t realize the story was false.

What followed, in print and online, included everything from exaggerated accusations to fake news falsely attributed to the BBC and CNN.

Moderator: Federation of African Journalists

12:00 Plenary: Adoption of plans and final declaration

14:00 Closure and Group Lunch