2nd May 2016
By Stefanie Chernow

Solidarity and Self-regulation Vital for Independent Journalism


Solidarity and Self-regulation Vital for Independent Journalism in Europe

Solidarity in defence of ethics and self-regulation is the key to building public trust in media Europe’s leading media human rights campaigner has told journalists’ leaders ahead of World Press Freedom Day on Tuesday 3 May.

Dunja Mijatović, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe representative for media freedom, said that self-regulation was the only way media can address issues of accountability, transparency and ensuring press freedom.

She urged more than 100 European journalists’ leaders meeting in Sarajevo last week to work together for self-regulation in media to ensure accountability and transparency for their audience.

“It is a very long and, I would say, painful project”, she told delegates at the annual meeting of European Federation of Journalists, representing associations and unions of journalists, but added that it is the only way media can protect their independence. “What is needed is more solidarity and more determination to address these issues.”

The meeting highlighted the need for a focus on self-regulation in Western Balkans. “What I see across the region is polarisation of many associations having different views on these issues,” she said. “But my firm view when it comes to journalism is they should all have the same view.”

She pointed to the successful collaboration between the delegates from Ukraine and Russia who are promoting the idea of “one profession; two countries” as an example of the need for a common commitment to journalism, especially in conflict situations.

On Tuesday, to mark World Press Freedom Day, UNESCO is officially launching a project to strengthen self-regulation in Western Balkans with the Ethical Journalism Network and other partners.

Over the next three years the EJN will be working with press councils, journalists and media support groups to find ways to improve governance and ethical codes at a national level and within key media organisations in the region.

This work has already begun in Kosovo and will go on to cover Albania, Serbia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Montenegro and Turkey.

Mijatović praised the Ethical Journalism Network for its track record of successfully collaborating with her office to improve press freedom in the Western Balkans.

“I am really glad that the EJN exists and works with journalists”, she said, adding that it was important for the European unions and associations to talk open dialogue and explore ways of working with the EJN as it is a position to engage with issues in ways that inter-governmental organizations like the OSCE cannot.

“I do not believe that issues relating to professional conduct of journalists is something that governments need to engage in, especially in countries where there is not a tradition of an independent judiciary.”

There is a need for more international engagement on media monopolies and transparency of ownership across Europe, including within the European Union, she said.

In most cases, it is not a lack of laws enshrining freedom of expression and free press but “zero implementation” of these laws.

Mijatović said the EJN and other organisations had created tools, like the five-point test for hate speech, to help media analyse content and create and implement codes of ethics.

Read the full article here. (EJN)

World Press Freedom Day – 3 May 2016: Journalism must take a lead in countering hate-speech and propaganda

Around the world the information crisis is defined by more government surveillance and interference, more corporate snooping and exploitation of personal information and a growing trend of abuse in online speech.

To mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd the Ethical Journalism Network is calling for quality journalism and ethical communications to be promoted in order to counter these dangerous trends.

“Journalists must be free to exercise their profession without a climate of fear and intimidation,” the Ethical Journalism Network’s director, Aidan White, said in a statement.

“Ethical values in media are not marginal to democracy, they are essential to

confronting the crisis of self-censorship, propaganda and hateful communications which is emerging around the world.”

The Ethical Journalism Network has launched campaigns to combat hate-speech in key areas of reporting including migration and journalism in areas of conflict and social dislocation and has developed a five-point test to help journalists identify and eliminate hate-speech in their work.

Read the full press release here. (EJN)

Israeli and Palestinian journalists agree to help journalists with new hotline

Israeli and Palestinian press associations reached agreement last week to establish a hotline between their organisations to provide assistance for journalists who are obstructed in course of their work.

The agreement was announced at the general meeting of the European Federation of Journalists in Sarajevo on 26 April and was welcomed by EFJ president Mogens B. Bjerregård on behalf of delegates from some 100 associations and federation across Europe.

Read the full article here. (EJN)


EJN five-point test for hate speech

The modern newsroom is a challenging place. In the competitive world of media information flies around at breakneck speed. There is little time for checking facts and images or corroborating information and virtually no space for laid-back discussions on the ethics of journalism.

But even when time is scarce, reporters and editors must pause and take a moment to judge the potential impact of offensive, inflammatory content.

The dangers of hate speech in journalism are well known and in many parts of the world they have had tragic consequences.

Read the full article here. (EJN)

You can download the test in English, French and Arabic.

Countering Hate Speech in the Media through Ethics and Self‐Regulation

On 3 May the Ethical Journalism Network’s director Aidan White is chairing a panel discussion at UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day celebrations in Helsinki, Finland on how to identify and counter hate speech without creating environments that result in the censorship of legitimate expression.

The session will explore the efforts of press councils and media ombudsmen to create self‐regulatory systems to encourage journalistic ethics in public communications to a larger role in fighting hate speech.

Last year the Ethical Journalism Network produced an international review of self-regulation to outline both the good practices that industry bodies and journalists’ unions have sought to encourage in newsrooms as well as identify malpractices and weaknesses.

The report – The Trust Factor – tests how well journalism is monitored and its mistakes handled in 16 countries, including challenging hot spots in the Middle East, Africa, Latin America and Asia.

Systems of self-regulation of media and journalism need radical rethinking if they are to survive the harsh economic and political realities of news media in the digital age, the reports concludes.