Reporters Without Borders (RSF) launched its Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) transparency tool designed to promote trustworthy journalism. Media outlets can use the JTI interactive online app to check, disclose and promote compliance of their editorial processes with best practices. At the core of the JTI is the self-assessment of media outlets to diagnose, optimise and promote the accuracy of their journalism, with the aim of building a healthier news ecosystem, identifying and rewarding reliable reporting and restoring audiences’ confidence in journalism at large.

The JTI is built on a list of criteria that was developed by RSF in collaboration with over 130 organisations including the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN). Through the Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey – Phase 2, supported by the EU and in partnership with UNESCO, the EJN has been working with the media outlets and representatives of media industry, academia, regulatory and self-regulatory bodies that are committed to the JTI principles. As a demonstration of readiness to submit their functioning to scrutiny, eight media outlets across Serbia and Albania have self-assessed their commitment to good governance, transparency, and accountability, against the professional standards and principles of the JTI.

The JTI offer consists of three stages; first the media outlet is invited to complete a self-assessment via the JTI online app, which involves an internal check of conformity with the JTI Standard. Next, the results of this self-assessment may be voluntarily disclosed to the public and published by the media outlet as a Transparency Report. The final stage of the process is an external audit involving an independent evaluation by a licensed Certification Body. The media outlet will be certified and awarded a JTI Mark following the successful completion of all three stages.

The development of the JTI is a direct response to the viral spread of disinformation in recent years. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2020, as many as 74% of internet users say they are concerned about disinformation on social media, while 64% turn to the news

“In the current information chaos, falsehoods, propaganda and hate speech have a competitive advantage over journalism”, said Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders. “This has negative consequences for both the public, as it limits its capacity to make fact-based decisions, and for the sustainability of journalism. If we want to get out of this downward spiral, we have to reverse the logic by incentivizing journalism through a trusted third-party mechanism. JTI is a game changing initiative as it turns compliance with professional norms into a tangible asset, and eventually a contribution to the sustainability of journalism.”

The launch of the JTI web application was preceded by a pilot phase in which a diverse range of nearly 50 media outlets have participated to thoroughly test the instrument. From now on, every media outlet can join by visiting the JTI online tool, which is initially available in English, French, German and Spanish, and create a profile for self-assessment. Interested professionals in the media industries can learn more about the three-stage process of the JTI by attending a webinar on 7 June 2021. It will offer an introduction to the tool and feature a peer-to-peer panel comprised of representatives from media outlets that were involved in the pilot phase, sharing their first-hand experiences of the initiative.

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