3rd July 2019
By Tom Law

RSF and partners launch a public consultation on the Journalism Trust Initiative

The EJN’s founder and president Aidan White chaired one of the three drafting committees for the Journalism Trust Initiative’s defining indicators for trustworthy journalism. 

RSF and partners launch a public consultation on the Journalism Trust Initiative

3 July 2019

Read the original press release on the RSF website.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and its partners AFP, EBU and GEN are pleased to announce the launch of a public consultation about their Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI) on July 3rd. JTI aims at defining indicators for trustworthy journalism. Compliance with them is expected to provide tangible benefits for media outlets, big and small, and thus, support them to cater to a healthy information space at large.

  • A new logic to reward compliance with professional standards
  • A definition of indicators for trustworthy sources of information
  • A benchmark for ethical conduct and transparency
  • A breakthrough self-regulatory solution elaborated by 120 experts
  • A three months’ public consultation will feed into the final standards

Since May 2018, more than 120 experts, representing global, national and local media outlets, consumer associations, tech companies, regulators and NGOs have been working on developing professional standards in the frame of the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI), launched by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) with its partners the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Agence France Presse (AFP) and the Global Editors Network (GEN). In early June of this year, during a 3rd JTI Workshop at the EBU headquarters in Geneva (Switzerland), the registered participants adopted an official Standards document that defines indicators for trustworthy journalism. This document is made public on July 3rd, whereas a public consultation is launched under the aegis of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN).

According to CEN guidelines, the JTI indicators were developed by consensus over the course of three Workshop meetings, facilitated by AFNOR, the French standardization body, and supported by its German sister-organisation DIN. Three drafting committees tasked with editing the text consisted of journalists and media practitioners only to secure the self-regulatory nature of JTI. An additional so-called Technical Task-force advised on its algorithmic interoperability. Other groups of participants, like media development organizations, regulators and tech companies have contributed their demands and views on how the JTI instrument might be applied further on. The World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) has endorsed the project and followed its progress continuously.

A draft of the CEN Workshop Agreement is available for download on the website of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). It includes a list of criteria on transparency, professionalism and ethical conduct that JTI stakeholders considered essential best practices for media outlets to be trusted. In addition, the document provides a questionnaire translating the Standards clauses into a checklist, which is machine-readable in order to inform algorithmic distribution of news.

The public consultation of this draft is a critical feature to ensure the broadest possible support for the finally published document, and from now on until October, the Journalism Trust Initiative is expecting feedback on its proposal. The general public, as well as professional communities, are invited to provide opinion and specific proposals for amendments of each of the 16 clauses, numerous sub-clauses and the attached checklist. Means of providing feedback include an already available comments form posted on the CEN website and a dedicated e-mail address [email protected]. In addition, an interactive online-tool will be developed. Following CEN guidelines, all comments received will be evaluated by the JTI drafting committees and then fed into a final review of the Workshop Agreement and its release towards the end of the year.

After final publication of the JTI document in early 2020 it will be made available to all types of media outlets for self-assessment and optional, additional audit, the so-called conformity assessment. The resulting datasets are supposed to inform better decision making of news distribution and consumption, both by humans and algorithms, but also of advertising spending, and thus reward journalism worthy of this name. Any instrument to facilitate this logic was missing up until now and JTI took off to provide it in a fully inclusive and self-regulatory way – sourced by journalists for journalists, but with a wider alliance of other stakeholders supporting it. The public consultation is intended to widen the range of participation in and, eventually, the legitimacy of the Journalism Trust Initiative.

Distinguishing itself from other projects around trust indicators, JTI focuses on the process – or the ‘manufacturing’ level of journalism – only, not on single pieces of content. Media outlets would be conforming with the standard as an entity, for example by providing transparency of ownership, sources of revenue and proof of a range of professional safeguards. For the first time, it adds a logic of rewarding compliance with already existing principles of journalism.

Selected participants in the development stage of the JTI Standard include, in no particular order, the BBC, RTL Group (Luxembourg), Gazeta Wyborcza (Poland), Tagesspiegel (Germany), Tamedia (Switzerland), Norsk Rikskringkasting (NRK, Norway), TT News Agency (Sweden), Associated Press (USA), Deutsche Presse Agentur (dpa, Germany), World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), Google, Facebook, City University of New York (CUNY, USA), Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), Swiss Press Council, Association of Taiwanese Journalists, Journalists Association of South Korea, The Independent Monitor for the Press (IMPRESS, UK), Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (AGCOM, Italy), Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM, Germany), European Association for the Co-ordination of Consumer Representation in Standardisation (ANEC), Internews (UK), Thomson Foundation (UK), Free Press Unlimited (FPU, the Netherlands), Fondation Hirondelle (Switzerland), Civil (USA), NewsGuard, Global Disinformation Index (GDI), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).


“It’s not rocket science to define the basic journalistic principles. Many ethical codes exist as long as journalism exists. The major problem is the algorithmic distribution of online content, because it does not include an “integrity factor” and amplifies everything that goes against these professional norms – sensationalism, rumours, falsehoods and hate. Therefore, existing best practices of the journalistic trade need to be translated to code of the Internet. This is a condition to reverse its logic, by rewarding and eventually re-monetizing compliance with these norms. JTI is the missing link between journalistic principles and methods on one side, and algorithms on the other.”
Christophe Deloire – Secretary General, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)

“We understand that there is a substantial demand for these indicators, on the side of major platforms, advertisers, but also regulators and the media sector itself, but the process of developing them must be fully self-regulatory. We do not want to see governments or regulators or advertisers or big tech telling us what good or bad journalism is and therefore it must be us, the journalist’s community, to take the lead!”
Bertrand Pecquerie – CEO of the Global Editors Network (GEN)

“Following many months of work the EBU welcomes the chance for stakeholders to offer their feedback on the standards developed by our broad coalition of industry partners and EBU Members. We are all dedicated to creating an environment where media organizations that are committed to producing quality trusted journalism are valued and visible.
Protecting this journalism, which derives from the strong public service media principles of Accuracy, Independence, Impartiality, Fairness, Transparency and Accountability is at the very heart of this project. Now is the time to see how these standards can operate on a practical level, so this initiative can have a real impact, helping the industry and audiences alike to identify quality journalism amid the disinformation.”
Noel Curran – Director General, European Broadcasting Union (EBU)

“It is critical to answer properly to the public distrust in media, by offering to the citizens landmarks and visible tags on the web to distinguish trustworthy content easily. For us as a news agency, workability of the solution in the daily routine is key and it is extremely important, for all of us working on JTI, to propose a solution that serves the interests of the citizens first and foremost. Any standard is subject to constant review, particularly in fast-moving industries, and we expect this one to be no exception, but we have to start somewhere and we have to do it now.”

Phil Chetwynd – Global News Director, Agence France Presse (AFP)


Founded in 1985, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has become one of the world’s leading NGOs in the defence and promotion of freedom of information. RSF is registered in France as a non-profit organization and has consultative status with the United Nations, UNESCO, the Council of Europe and the International Organization of the Francophonie. Based in Paris, it has fourteen international bureaux (Berlin, Brussels, Dakar, Geneva, Helsinki, London, Madrid, Rio de Janeiro, Stockholm, San Francisco, Taipei, Tunis, Vienna and Washington, D.C.) and has more than 150 correspondents in 130 countries, in all five continents. More about RSF at www.rsf.org

The Global Editors Network (GEN) is the worldwide association of editors-in-chief founded in 2011. “Prototyping the Future of News” is our motto with the mission of fostering digital innovation and new storytelling methods within newsrooms and beyond, to all content providers. GEN is committed to quality journalism, ethical standards and a sustainable news ecosystem in the platform era. GEN seeks to empower news executives through its dedicated programmes: The Editors Lab, the Data Journalism Awards and the Media Literacy Toolkit project. The annual GEN Summit gathers some of the industry’s leading figures from across the globe for peer-learning and solutions-oriented collaboration. It is attended by 650+ participants from 60 countries, making it the world’s leading editorial conference. The GEN community includes over 15,000 editors, journalists and media innovators from around the world. More on Twitter @GENinnovate.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) is the world’s foremost alliance of public service media (PSM). Our mission is to make PSM indispensable. We represent 117 media organizations in 56 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and have an additional 34 Associates in Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Americas. Our Members operate nearly 2,000 television and radio channels alongside numerous online platforms. Together, they reach audiences of more than one billion people around the world, broadcasting in more than 160 languages. We strive to secure a sustainable future for public service media, provide our Members with world-class content from news to sports and music, and build on our founding ethos of solidarity and co-operation to create a centre for learning and sharing.

Our subsidiary, Eurovision Services, aims to be the first-choice media services provider, offering new, better and different ways to simply, efficiently and seamlessly access and deliver content and services. We have offices in Brussels, Rome, Dubai, Moscow, New York, Washington DC, Singapore and Beijing. Our headquarters are in Geneva. Discover more about the EBU at www.ebu.ch

Agence France-Presse (AFP), founded in 1835 as Agence Havas, is the third largest international news agency in the world delivering fast, accurate, in-depth coverage of the events shaping our world, from conflicts to politics, economics, sports, entertainment and the latest breakthroughs in health, science and technology. It is an autonomous entity created by the French parliament (Law N° 57-32 of 10 January 1957) whose operation is assured according to commercial rules. Its independence is at the heart of its fundamental obligations set out in its bylaws (article 2). Its Chairman represents the Agency and ensures its general management. AFP is administered by a board of eighteen directors composed of representatives of publishers, of broadcasting companies, of three government representatives as public services users, of members of its staff and of qualified individuals chosen by its higher counsel for their knowledge of media and digital technologies, economic and managerial skills. AFP has a duty to fulfil missions of general interest in the field of news and must, to the full extent of its resources, develop its activities with a view to providing users with accurate, impartial and trustworthy news services.

CEN, the European Committee for Standardization, is an association that brings together the National Standardization Bodies of 34 European countries. CEN is one of three European Standardization Organizations (together with CENELEC and ETSI) that have been officially recognized by the European Union and by the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) as being responsible for developing and defining voluntary standards at European level. CEN provides a platform for the development of European Standards and other technical documents in relation to various kinds of products, materials, services and processes. CEN supports standardization activities in relation to a wide range of fields and sectors including: air and space, chemicals, construction, consumer products, defence and security, energy, the environment, food and feed, health and safety, healthcare, ICT, machinery, materials, pressure equipment, services, smart living, transport and packaging.

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