2nd November 2017
By Tom Law

NAIROBI DECLARATION – Ethical Journalism for Media Literacy & Democracy

Nairobi, Kenya

30-31 October 2017

The global information crisis in which journalism is being overwhelmed by the narrow self-interests of political and corporate centres of power at great risk to pluralism and democracy is felt strongly in Africa where hate-speech, fake news and abusive exploitation of information technology are ever-present threats.

The democratic process — such as the recent election in Kenya — is being undermined by unscrupulous politicians and the prevalence of false, hateful and divisive information that creates fear, ignorance and uncertainty within the public at large.

We, the participants at this regional conference of journalists, editors and educators meeting in Nairobi to discuss the defence and promotion of ethical journalism in Africa, believe that the crisis of propaganda, fake news and hate speech requires a practical and comprehensive response which puts ethics, self-regulation and good governance at the heart of journalism across Africa.

We declare that the future of democratic pluralism and the defence of human rights relies upon the right of all citizens to receive reliable and useful information and ethical journalism is the key provider of the information democracy needs to survive.

We call on journalists, editors and media owners to build professional solidarity and to work together to promote ethics and good governance to confront the information crisis. In particular, we recommend the following actions to strengthen journalism.

On Hate Speech:

  • We call on all media professionals to support the continental campaign Turning The Page of Hate to expose, isolate and eliminate all forms of incitement to intense hatred and violence.
  • We recommend the EJN to develop practical tools such as the 5-point test for hate-speech and further to launch glossaries of hate speech at national level to promote better understanding of words and terms that can lead to hatred and intolerance.
  • Such glossaries should explore all aspects of hate expression including the targeting of vulnerable groups, minorities, or women in society who are particularly the victims of abuse.
  • As a first step we suggest the preparation of such a glossary for media and journalism in Kenya.

On Ethics and Good Governance:

  • We welcomed the participation of media leaders and owners and agree to circulate the EJN Ethical Media Audit to inspire further discussion in Kenya and the region on the value of transparent and accountable ownership and management of media organisations.
  • We note the willingness of the media owners to engage in dialogue to improve levels of governance and transparency and urges the EJN, with local partners, to seize this opportunity to encourage media organisations to adopt confidence- building measures that will create more efficient open and trusted ownership and management of media.

On Self-Regulation:

The meeting heard from the Kenya Media Council and leading free expression groups that effective and credible self-regulation remains an essential objective in building public trust in journalism. Particular concern was raised regarding the undue pressure and influence of the political community on the exercise of journalism.

  • It was agreed that the work of media self-regulation can only be greatly improved if there is more recognition of the need for  self-discipline and restraint in the public communication of political parties and their representatives.
  • The meeting agreed that initiatives linking journalists, media, and wider civil society were needed to promote civil discourse in the public sphere.

On Gender:

On Authors’ Rights in the Digital Age:

  • The meeting noted that the traditional defence of authors’ rights in the digital age requires the strengthening of awareness of the importance of economic, professional and legal rights of authors and journalists and welcomed the EJN proposal to develop an Africa-based programme to strengthen authors’ rights protection in journalism and media. This will be established through an online tool for journalists to raise awareness on the importance of authors’ rights and how they can defend their interests across the new information landscape.

On Reporting Corruption:

  • The meeting agreed that the problem of corruption remains a paramount obstacle to democracy and economic growth in Africa and that journalism in this area must be strengthened. In order to confront this issue, there must be more commitment to investigative journalism and sound financial reporting. The meeting agreed this will not be possible without more actions to improve
  1. the capacity of newsrooms to have the time and resources to carry out adequate research and;
  2. the editorial freedom to scrutinise centres of state and corporate power.

On Teaching Journalism:

  • The meeting recommended the following actions to improve the quality of teaching the ethics of journalism and to prepare students to the realities of working in newsrooms and as freelancers in the modern media environment:
  • Deeper collaborations and dialogue between academia and practitioners, including university lecturers and professors spending time in newsrooms and a more structured approach to internships so that they benefit both students and media.
  • Encouraging teaching institutions to be more open to contributors or guest lecturers who may not have academic qualifications but do have valuable practical experience of the industry.
  • Mentorship schemes between students, teachers and journalists should be expanded so that journalists are prepared to for the reality of the newsroom and to give them ideas about how to prosper and think about under-reported stories.
  • Institutions consider amending their curricula so that:
    • Ethics and law are taught separately and that ethics is taught through the curricula, with a focus on how journalists can remain impartial amid political and financial pressures.
    • Greater emphasis should be given to ethical decision making based on African, as well as international case studies.
    • Efforts should be made to ensure classes are small enough for lecturers to be able do more student-led seminars based on critical thinking and decision-making.
    • Observing that sport can be used as a political vehicle and, like all industries, faces issues of transparency, governance and corruption, sports journalism must no longer be considered as an ethics-free part of curricula.
    • Considering that some universities review curricula only every 5 years, we encourage this to be revisited so that journalism schools can better adapt to the evolving nature of the digital communication landscape.
    • A greater part of the final grade should be based on practical assignments rather than final exams.
    • Students are made more aware of author’s rights and the dangers of plagiarism.

On Media Literacy:

  • The meeting agreed on the need for holistic media literacy programmes that bring together, media owners, regulatory bodies, journalist unions, academic institutions, media development groups and civil society. We have to get out of our comfort zones and form collaborations with all stakeholders and involve citizens as equal partners in the debate around media literacy and ethics.
  • Journalists and media must proactively communicate what the mission and goals of journalism are or should pay in society based on the values of; transparency about who you are and your agenda, shared humanity, and accurate fact-based communications.
  • Teaching of media literacy must go beyond the technical, teaching ethics art of storytelling reviving Africa’s history of oral storytelling.

Nairobi, October 31st 2017

Kenyan Signatories:

  • Nancy (Dr.) Booker, Aga Khan University
  • Justus Machio, African Media Initiative (AMI)
  • Wangethi Mwangi, African Media Initiative (AMI)
  • Henry Maina, Article 19
  • Salim Amin, Camerapix, EJN Board Member
  • Grace Githaiga, International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT)
  • Josephine Karani, International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT)
  • Rachael Nakitare, International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), EJN Adviser, Kenya
  • Dixon Onyor, Kenya Correspondents Association
  • Esther Nthusi, Kenya Correspondents Association
  • William Oloo Janak, Kenya Correspondents Association
  • Carol Gachacha, Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), Kenyan Union of Journalists (KUJ)
  • Catherine Ndonye, Kenyan Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), Kenyan Union of Journalists (KUJ)
  • David Ohito, Kenyan Editors Guild
  • Toepista Nabusoba, Kenya Union Of Journalists (KUJ)
  • Brian Lupia, Kenya Union Of Journalists (KUJ)
  • Kwamboka Oyaro, Kenya Union Of Journalists (KUJ)
  • Mary Daraja, Kenya Union Of Journalists (KUJ)
  • Lawrence Adera, Kenya Union Of Journalists (KUJ)
  • James Ratemo, Media Council Of Kenya
  • David Omayo, Media Council Of Kenya
  • Lynette Mwangi, Media Owners Association
  • Isaac Ongiri, Political Journalists Association of Kenya (PJAK)
  • Elias (Dr.) Mokua, University of Nairobi, SOJ
  • Judie Kaberia, WAYAMO Foundation

International Signatories

  • Abdulwaheed Odusile, Federation of African Journalists (FAJ)
  • Gabriel Baglo, Federation of African Journalists (FAJ)
  • Jerome Rwasa, Association of Rwandan Journalists (ARJ)
  • Collin Haba, Rwanda Journalists Union (RJU)
  • Oliver Modi, Ugandan Journalists of South Sudan (UJOSS)
  • Said Mmanga, (JOWUTA)
  • Timothy Kitundu (JOWUTA)
  • Lucy Ekadu, Uganda Journalists Union (UJU)
  • Draga Osman, Uganda Journalists Union (UJU)
  • Aidan White, Ethical Journalism Network (EJN)
  • Tom Law, Ethical Journalism Network (EJN)

This is part of an Africa journalism and media support programme supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (NMFA).