Report and images by Danica Ilic
The Ethical Journalism Network (EJN) hosted a panel on ethical standards, self-regulation and good governance in the Balkan media at the 3rd Fažana Media Festival in Croatia. Founder of the EJN, Aidan White, and the editors of the media outlets from Albania and Serbia who conducted the ethical audits as part of the Building Trust in Media in South East Europe (SEE) and Turkey project supported by UNESCO and the EU, emphasised the importance of self-regulation and commitment to the Journalism Trust Initiative principles led by Reporters without Borders (RSF).
“The JTI’s guidelines are like our safety switch. We built up a new statute for our organisation through which any persons, especially officials, within our organisation are obliged to conduct themselves in accordance or otherwise be removed from that function,” said Branko Čečen, Director of Center for Investigative Journalism Serbia (CINS).
Alice Taylor, Deputy Editor of Exit News from Albania, the first media outlet to conduct the ethical audit in the Western Balkans, talked about their experience of committing to the ethical standards and principles defined by JTI.
“When we were asked to do this ethical audit, at the time, self-regulation and improving our professional standards, were already on our radar”, said Taylor.
She explained how certification obtained through a process such as the JTI would allow credible outlets to “weaponise” their integrity and use it as proof of the genuine nature of the information being published in the face of government attacks on press freedom.
Describing the Fažana Media Festival as an opportunity to “reaffirm a simple truth that is better understood in the Balkans than any other part of Europe – that when politics is hostile and when news media are under fire, journalists must stick together”, the EJN founder Aidan White said, of the issues faced by journalists exposing corruption and organised crime.
“In some situations, you can be a good journalist, report freely, challenge authority, expose corruption and have a chance of ending up in jail. Many journalists have been to jail because of that. However, there’s a whole layer of people working in journalism building alternatives, keeping faith with notions of decent moral behaviour in journalism and ethics, and they are courageous in the way they are doing this,” White said.
“That is why I always shy away from the pessimism that very often, I fear, overwhelms people. There’s so much that can be done,” he added.
Fažana Media Festival 2021 took place on 6- 11 September 2021. It gathered more than 70 media professionals from Western Balkans, as well as the European Parliament and the EU representatives. This year, the EJN partnered with the main organiser of the Festival – Center for Investigative Journalism (CIN), Media Diversity Institute (MDI) and South East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM) putting the commitment to journalistic professional standards and civil society’s trust in media at the focus of discussions held at the Festival.
Since 2016, the EJN in partnership with UNESCO and supported by the European Union, has been helping the media partners in South-East Europe and Turkey to conduct the ethical audits – a useful tool for ensuring sustainability and competitiveness in the digital age, as well as to avoid many issues that can stem from reckless reporting.
Watch the EJN panel “How to build trust in the media in the Balkans?” – recorded 10th September 2021 at the Fažana Media Festival