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EJN Activities 2017-2018

Throughout the 2017 and into 2018, the EJN has continued to put ethical standards in journalism at the heart of discussions about media literacy and free expression.

The debate about trust in journalism and in global communications has intensified with problems of disinformation and concerns over the exploitation of private information by social networks and technology companies.

We argue that society needs to develop new ways of responding to the new context of digital information as well as the increasing influence of the state, corporations and new Internet publishers on free expression and on journalism.

On a global level, the EJN has worked closely with the agencies of the United Nations and has taken part in United Nations activities to influence policy on issues ranging from media and hate speech to the ethical framework for responsible public communications.

The situation in Turkey continues to concern the EJN. Following our special report on the crisis in the country in 2014 and the devastating events during 2016 in which media and independent journalists were targeted in a state of emergency following a coup attempt, the EJN set out a detailed analysis in the EJN report Ethics in the News. Our response to the crisis is ongoing.

During the year we have also strengthened our links with the media development community and working with International Media Support we have helped them develop an ethics strategy for media management for their partners working in 25 countries facing some of the most difficult economic, social and political challenges. We have also been in discussion with other media support groups, including Free Press Unlimited and the Open Society Institute about further sharing of the innovative work we have developed to strengthen transparency and good governance inside media.

Our regional focus on the media in countries of Africa, Asia and the Middle East has remained a top priority during the year.

Asia Programme: the the EJN worked with local media and academic partners to strengthen efforts to improve standards of reporting in the face of intolerance and increasing propaganda amidst the growing political tensions in the region. Ethics, we have argued, are an antidote to media propaganda and war-mongering and we have been strongly supported by universities and leading journalists in the region.

The EJN has strengthened ethical journalism in Pakistan working with the Coalition for Ethical Journalism established in partnership with local media leaders in 2012. We have helped prepare detailed reports on a unified code of conduct for Pakistan journalism and a detailed report with recommendations on strengthening media capacity to combat external and internal pressures on journalism.

The EJN has established a working relationship with the All-China Journalists Association in China, and in April 2018 we carried out a new mission to the country where we reinforced our contacts with journalists and journalism schools. The results of our mission, which include detailed proposals for education, training and co-operation on ethical issues for media, confirm the need for new dialogues to strengthen ethical journalism without allowing self-regulation to become itself a form of control of independent journalism. The media and journalism landscape are vast and complex, but Chinese journalists are open to new forms of co-operation that will address the challenges facing media the world over.

Africa Programme: during 2017 and the beginning of 2018 the EJN carried out actions that have paved the way for an extended programme for the next three years working with the Federation of African Journalists, and a range of local partners. We carried out work with the continent’s leading journalists’ groups in Nigeria and also held a targeted session in Cameroon ahead the elections in the autumn of 2018 and brought together media leaders in Nairobi in the aftermath of the controversial second round of the Kenyan Presidential elections to discuss how to address media bias, hate speech and propaganda as well as over the issues facing East African journalism.

All three meetings acknowledged a deepening crisis for journalism in Africa and made strong calls on media owners and managers to engage in dialogue to up their game with better governance and more transparency in order to improve the financial prospects of the profession and the news industry. In particular, the meetings called for media owners to open themselves up to a thorough review of how they work and to set higher standards in the management and operations of media companies.

It was agreed to circulate the EJN Ethical Media Audit, which helps managers and owners to bring the owners and executive branch of media into line with the ethical standards expected of journalists and editors in the newsroom.

An important initiative launched in Africa during 2017 and 2018 is an EJN programme in partnership with Norwegian media professional groups representing journalists and media employers and supported by Kopinor, the copyright agency in Norway. This programme – The Ethics of Authors Rights in the Digital Age – is an innovative online teaching tool which will raise awareness in the African media community on ways of tackling the pressure on authors’ rights from technological change.

Middle East Programme: A key part of our work is confronting hate-speech and in December the EJN held the second regional meeting of Arab media leaders to finalise a programme of practical work for the Arab Media Hub Against Hate Speech. The EJN also took part in activities in Doha in cooperation with the Aljazeera, including participating in two major international conferences on journalism and human rights, as well as conducting training on hate speech, migration, human rights and humanitarian reporting for senior Aljazeera journalists.

With Aljazeera the EJN joined the International Press Institute, and the African Media Imitative for a symposium on human rights and journalism in Khartoum for journalists and civil society. The opportunity also allowed the EJN to enter dialogue with the Sudanese government on its poor press freedom record and call for Sudanese media to be given the freedom to organize itself without state interference.

EJN Annual Report 2017/18 Publications

During 2017 the EJN continued to be at the forefront of debates to follow up our migration and media report Moving Stories. We contributed to the International Organisation of Migration book Fatal Journeys, which aims to track down the identity of the thousands of victims of the migration crisis. We also carried out a programme to produce media guidelines for reporting Trafficking in Human Beings and a 17-country study for journalists and policymakers How does media on both side of the Mediterranean Cover Migration, both in co-operation with the International Centre for Migration Policy Development. In April 2018 the EJN published a new edition of Ethics in the News entitled Ethical Journalism: The Key to Media Futures, which looks at how the communications revolution is continuing to pose more questions than answers over a public crisis of confidence, both in democracy and in sources of public information.

EJN Annual Report 2017/18 South Eastern Europe and Turkey

Western Balkans and Turkey Programmes: The 2017 Building Trust in Media and South East Europe and Turkey UNESCO programme continued with EJN actions in Montenegro and Macedonia. The EJN dimension of the programme is directed at owners, managers and editors of media across all platforms of journalism and following the experience in Serbia and Kosovo during 2016, changes were made to the approach to take account of the difficult political and economic conditions in which media work.

During this first phase of the work in 2017 the EJN has:

  1. Prepared materials to perform internal audits of media outlets in Macedonia and Montenegro to help them apply ethical standards, to manage conflicts of interests and to improve standards of good governance. These audits help develop structures for internal monitoring and regulation of performance;
  2. Carried out three missions to the region in August 2017 and October 2017 and November 2017;

During these missions the EJN started the process selecting media houses in each target country of the project to support further actions to promote internal good governance using the principles of ethical audits.

The following agreed to further work in this area:

In Montenegro the EJN joined a new European Union project in co-operation with the Montenegro Media Institute and the Peace Institute to support ethics and good governance in local media, which launched in February 2018;

In Macedonia the EJN is supporting efforts to create a new Association of Print Media and a separate Association of Editors. At present the journalism Code of Ethics applies only to journalists, not editors nor owners;

In Cyprus the EJN has been assisting a groundbreaking initiative to develop a glossary of hate speech. In an unprecedented initiative supported by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe journalists and media leaders on both sides of the divided island are working together to define the harsh words and troublesome phrases that are an obstacle to understanding and peaceful dialogue;

In Turkey the EJN has initiated a solidarity process in which key organisations representing journalists and media support groups have come together to challenge the oppressive policies of the government which has targeted dissidents and media critics since the attempted coup in 2016. In 2018 the EJN organised meetings with Turkish colleagues, regulators, investigative journalism groups, and media educators in Istanbul and Ankara including the Turkish Syndicate of Journalists, the Turkish Press Council and a number of media support groups.

Although the media crisis in Turkey is profound with more than 140 journalists in jail or facing prosecution, Turkish journalists and media supporters are defiant and plan to work together to strengthen the skills, awareness and capacity of news staff. During 2018 the EJN will be working with international supporters, including the International Press Institute, to encourage further actions towards building solidarity and practical actions to support journalists and media.

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