“In this time of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have unfortunately witnessed how diversity has been increasingly used as a ground for scapegoating, spreading false accusations, conspiracy theories, and hate speech against minorities. With this in mind, journalists must take a proactive role in fostering understanding and acceptance of diversities among people and ensure that those diversities are reflected in their stories. Inclusive reporting can be an adhesive glue that pulls societies together and deters these destructive phenomena," said Marina Tuneva, Director of the Media Council in North Macedonia.
With a view to upgrading the existing ethical framework in relation to journalistic reporting on minority groups, but also to raising awareness among journalists about their underrepresentation in the media, Marina Tuneva authored the “Guidelines for inclusive media reporting on Covid-19”, with the support of UNESCO as part of the EU-funded Project “Building Trust in Media in South East Europe-Phase 2”.
The guidelines are primarily intended for journalists, activists, media management, journalism students and educators, but also for all those working in addressing the needs of vulnerable and marginalised individuals and groups. The guidelines are divided into ten sections which include recommendations for journalists on how to ensure inclusiveness in reporting, including in terms of sources of information, subjects of stories, topics. The research and the recommendations are built on a wide array of sources, going from consultations with press councils in Europe to interviews with media experts, academics, representatives of CSOs. The guidelines, although structured to respond to issue exacerbated by the pandemic, are applicable in normal times.
"Although the Covid-19 pandemic highlighted just how much some voices were neglected and absent from journalistic stories, these guidelines can be used in normal circumstances. Moreover, the research has shown us that issues relating to inclusiveness, for example, underrepresentation and stereotypical portrayal of minority groups are not unique to North Macedonia or the region, but also to Europe and wider."
Inclusive reporting, the Guidelines argue, represents an important pathway for the media to gain and nourish the trust of their readers. By failing to grasp the realities of a society in all its diversities, the media also fail to represent a part of their readers’ interests. The “Guidelines for inclusive media reporting on Covid-19” will be promoted on social media and shared with press councils in the region to encourage knowledge-sharing and build cohesion and cooperation.
UNESCO and the European Union, DG Near, launched the second phase of the project Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey in November 2019. In consideration of the clear decline in the civil society’s trust in media in the region and the recommendations from the European Union in combating disinformation online, the three-year project aims to, among others, enhance MIL skills among youth of the region and support media professional standards and self-regulation.