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UNESCO underlines crucial role of press councils to ensure trust in media in a digital age

22/01/2020
Brussels, Belgium
16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

UNESCO underlines crucial role of press councils to ensure trust in media in a digital age

On the occasion of the 10-year anniversary of the Conseil de Deontologie Journalistique (CDJ) the Press Council of the francophone part of Belgium, UNESCO Project Officer Adeline Hulin opened a panel session with a keynote speech on the vital role of press council in ensuring trust in media in the digital age.

New technologies have not changed the essence of journalism. Yet, it has revolutionized the way journalists work

Adeline Hulin, UNESCO Brussels

The event, organised by the CDJ in Brussels on 21 and 22 January 2020, gathered more than 100 participants to take stock of a decade of achievements and to reflect on the upcoming challenges. The conference was also the occasion to launch a new EU-funded project entitled Press councils in the digital age, coordinated by the European Federation of Journalists and supported by UNESCO.

“New technologies have not changed the essence of journalism. Yet, it has revolutionized the way journalists work. In this context, newsrooms and press councils have gradually adopted new ethical and professional guidelines to guide the work of journalists in this new ecosystem. These journalistic codes and charters are the hallmark of journalism in an online environment where everyone can claim doing journalism”, said Adeline Hulin of the UNESCO Brussels Office.

Listing the various adaptations of journalists’ codes of ethics, from the right to be forgotten, the moderation of online users’ comments, the personal use of social media by journalists, to the use of Artificial Intelligence in journalism, Ms Hulin also highlighted the tremendous task for press councils to adapt their work and statutes to the digital world.

“Adapting the codes of ethics to new technologies is not sufficient. The statutes of press councils should also reflect those changes to perpetuate the functions of a self-regulatory body in a digital world. Press councils notably need to address the new temporality of information and how it affects complaints of citizens, to address the online convergence of journalistic content and how to cope with the multitude of online journalistic actors”, she added.

Emphasizing the complexity of this exercise, she pointed to the fact that press councils are also suffering from the economic crisis in the media industries, and thereby European support to projects such as Building Trust in media in South East Europe and Turkey or Press councils in the digital age is critical.

EU Vice-President Jourova opened the conference and stressed: “I truly believe in the power of self-regulation to maintain high-quality standards in the media sector. I want to further support such initiatives. (…) I will present later this year a Democracy Action Plan that should be broader than fighting hate speech or disinformation and achieve clear goals: strengthen the media sector, make platforms more accountable and protect our democratic processes”.

Among the participants of the conference were also Ms Bénédicte Linard, Minister of the Federation Wallonie-Bruxelles, representatives of Belgian media outlets and media associations, representatives of different press councils and other self-regulatory initiatives, such as Article 19 or the Journalism Trust Initiative.