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. During 2016 the EJN is working with universities and journalism schools to promote new public dialogues with policymakers and civil society groups to encourage media literacy at all levels using the core values of journalism as an inspiration for more responsible free expression. “Everyone has the right to free speech, but that must not be abused by a lack of respect and intolerance of others,” says White. “Humanity, accuracy and transparency in our communications are core elements of ethical journalism that can provide benchmarks for more responsible public communications.” In particular, the Ethical Journalism Network is calling for more action to eliminate misogyny and abuse of women in online communications. “Media must do more to eliminate gender stereotypes that encourage discrimination, but today there is an emerging and growing threat from online misogyny outside the media sphere that requires a concerted effort from web companies, policymakers and users to isolate and eliminate hate directed at women.” 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 identify malpractices and weakness. 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.