17th April 2019
By Tom Law

Media in Western Balkans and Turkey: Building Trust Regional Conference

Radisson Hotel, Belgrade

March 22nd 2019

The participants of the regional conference held in Belgrade on March 22 in the context of the Building Trust in Media in the Western Balkans and Turkey programme,

Considering the results of the three-year programme of the Ethical Journalism Network to raise awareness of the need for good media governance and to introduce the principle of ethical auditing of media,

Supporting the continuation of this initiative to strengthen transparency and high standards of good governance in the ownership, management and administration of media;

Believing that technological change in the rights hands and given direction by the social intelligence of journalists and editors provides an unprecedented opportunity for Balkan media to be more efficient, more reliable and more effective in providing information the public can trust,

Noting that the crisis of professionalism in media across the Western Balkans and Turkey continues to intensify in the wake of political pressure, poor market conditions and a low pay culture in journalism,

Recognising that undue political influence on the media market, a funding crisis, and the increasing power of non-media business interests in the sector weakens the capacity for quality journalism and good governance,

Noting the increasing concern at all levels that traditional market models for funding public interest journalism are broken and no longer generate the resources needed to pay for pluralist and reliable information that people require in a democratic society,

Believing that the explosion in growth of unregulated social media and unethical online portals further damages the public information sphere,

Conscious that all of these factors reduce public confidence in the capacity of journalism to provide reliable and trustworthy information,

Declare our support for a fresh vision of the future for media and journalism in the region that puts ethics, good governance and self-regulation at the heart of strategies in support of a sustainable future for public interest journalism.

We welcome the work of the EJN and local partners who have raised awareness of the importance of putting professional values in ownership and management of media on the agenda for media development.

We believe that in a world where internet business models are not designed to support the core values of journalism, there needs to be a new and sustainable framework to support public interest journalism.

We know that in future independent journalism will depend upon a range of streams of funding – from traditional and non-traditional sources, including advertising, commercial sponsorship, public subscription, donor assistance and broader national public support.

But this future of journalism must be organised in a transparent process that breaks with the past. It may also be assisted by the creation of independent public bodies to gather resources and to distribute support to media.

To be effective, this framework must be able to identify the media and journalism that respect core values of ethical behaviour and transparency in ownership and management.

Only media which demonstrably subscribe to the core values of public interest journalism should be considered worthy of support derived from public sources of funding.

As a matter of urgency, this meeting believes that independent and professional voices of media need to come together to support a regional movement in support of ethics, good governance and self-regulation.

With that in mind, the meeting agrees to establish the Balkan Network for Trusted Media to make common cause between like-minded media across all platforms in support of high standards in media and journalism.

In that endeavour, the new network will reach out to media support groups – including press councils, journalism schools, unions and professional associations and press freedom bodies – to create a broad movement in support of sustainable journalism built upon respect for ethics, governance and self-regulation.

The participants believe that the Balkan Network for Trusted Media can open the door to a viable and practical programme that will build public confidence.

We call upon all international organisations and media support groups, including the EJN and European regional professional bodies, to support this region-wide effort to confront the current media crisis and to bring about meaningful reforms of media and information policy.

Inaugural Statement of the Balkan Network for Trusted Media

The Network, which was formed in Belgrade on March 22nd 2019, is made up of news media and journalists who agree to work together in support of media pluralism and independent journalism exercised according to the following principles:

  • Transparency in the exercise of journalism and media management,
  • Ethical journalism as set out in codes and guidelines for media staff,
  • Good governance in the ownership and management of media,
  • Partnership with the public and active engagement with the media audience.

The Network is a flexible and inclusive community also open to media support groups including journalism training schools, press councils, press freedom bodies, and media monitoring groups.

All media on all platforms of journalism, including online portals, may join the Network providing that they support the principles set out above and subscribe to the core values of ethical and professional journalism, which include accuracy and fact-based communications; editorial independence; impartial news gathering; humanity and respect for others; and accountability to the public through transparency.

The aims and objectives of the network are:

  1. To share information and to co-operate on common actions designed to strengthen journalism and to strengthen public confidence in news media;
  2. To consider and develop together new models for funding for journalism and news media;
  3. To consider and prepare joint actions in support of national and regional projects that will improve the professional capacity of news media and journalists;
  4. To examine how technological tools and computational journalism can be developed specifically for Balkan media;
  5. To work together on programmes of support particularly for young journalists and new entrants to the profession;
  6. To organise workshops at regional and national level for improving the skills of newsroom staff; to strengthen transparency in media management; and to promote media solidarity around principles of ethics, self-regulation and good governance.

The network is open to national and regional groups based in Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey.

At the inaugural meeting the following national contact points were established:

  • Albania: Alfred Lela, Politico.al
  • Bosnia and Hercegovina: Vildana Selimbegovic Oslobodjenje and Tatjana Udovicic, Zurnal.ba
  • Kosovo: Agron Bajrami, Koha Ditore
  • Macedonia: Biliana Georgijevska, TV Klan
  • Montenegro: Olivera Nikolic, Institute for Media Montenegro
  • Serbia: Dragan Janjic, Beta News Agency
  • Turkey: Mustafa Kuleli (Coalition for Ethical Journalism in Turkey)

Read and download the EJN’s report, “Building Trust in Media in South Eastern Europe and Turkey”, in English or Serbian