A series of internal audits will be performed, under a UNESCO project, by media outlets from South East Europe and Turkey to address a number of challenging questions, such as how does your media company protect its editorial independence and respect national and international labour standards, including trade union recognition. Issues of collective bargaining and gender equality as well as provision of health and life insurance to vulnerable staff members will also be tackled.
“The idea of performing ethical audits is to provide an accessible and coherent picture of how a media company works, what are its aims and objectives and its vision for the future,” said Tom Law of the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN). EJN is the UNESCO partner on this specific activity of the project Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey, whose objective is to build a culture of media professionalism to restore confidence in journalism and hence strengthen freedom of expression in the region.
The discussion regarding the audits was launched at the conference organized by the European Federation of Journalists’ Labour Rights Expert Group (LAREG +) in Zagreb on 26 October 2016. Participants discussed and commented on a number of questions to be included in the guidelines for media internal ethical audits. These audits are to be performed on a voluntary basis by the respective media outlets of the region.
Adeline Hulin from UNESCO addressed the meeting and highlighted the importance of the project to build confidence in media. She also reminded that efforts for increased media quality and respect for ethical standards cannot be gained without addressing the issue of journalists’ labour rights.
Participants suggested to include into the checklist of the media internal ethical audits additional questions on the social protection and training of freelancers, as well as ones related to the internal policies on harassment. Following up on these discussions, UNESCO is now calling on media stakeholders, freelance journalists, journalists unions, media enterprises, press councils to review the guidelines and provide additional feedback.
Preceding the conference in Zagreb, various editors, media leaders and media support groups in Serbia responded to the guidelines for media ethical audits. Aidan White, the EJN Director and Bernt Olufsen, the former editor-in-chief of Norway’s best-selling newspaper VG, and a pioneer of internal audits for media, hosted a seminar together with the Serbian Media Association in Belgrade on 18 October 2016. The Association distributed the EJN ethical audit guidelines to all of its members and selected companies across all platforms of media.
Similar event, organized in Kosovo* on 21 October 2016, provided UNESCO and the ENJ with the relevant feedback, since leading editors joined the process and decided to circulate the guidelines for auditing to a wide audience of stakeholders. Agron Bajrami the editor in chief of leading multi-media company Koha Ditore based in Pristina said that discussion on ethical audits provided an excellent opportunity to establish a much-needed coalition for media ethics in Kosovo*. “We have started something and we need a coalition of all groups – including the Press Council, the Independent Media Commission and the media – to follow it up.” “A coalition to address the media and information crisis is needed,” said Bajrami. “Above all, to protect our profession.”
The EJN will be following up on how media respond to the ethical audits and use the ethical guidelines in the coming months. Meanwhile, feedback on the ethical guidelines can be sent to : firstname.lastname@example.org
The UNESCO Project « Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey » started in 2016 with financial support of the European Commission and aims at improving media good governance in the region.
* administered by the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo in the context of UN Security Council Resolution 1244