Journalism Ethics and Self-regulation in Europe: New Media, Old Dilemmas

27 January 2011, UNESCO, Paris, Room IV

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UNESCO’s Communication and Information Sector organized a conference focused on journalism ethics and self-regulation in Europe, which was held on 27 January 2011 in Paris.

The meeting marked the conclusion of the project “Alignment to International Standards in the Media Sector of South East-European Countries”, funded by the European Commission and implemented by UNESCO with the collaboration of the South-East European Network for Professionalization of Media (SEENPM), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Alliance of Independent Press Councils of Europe (AIPCE). This initiative was part of UNESCO’s ongoing promotion of media accountability through the establishment of voluntary self-regulation mechanisms, in the understanding that they are one of the pillars of an environment facilitating media’s role in advancing freedom of expression, democracy and development.   

This final event held in the framework of the  abovementioned project brought together press council members, news ombudsmen, editors and journalists, academics, media institutes civil society practitioners and representatives from international organizations involved in this subject field. They held a dialogue on the current status and future of media ethical standards and self-regulation in Europe, including the challenges specific to emerging democracies and those posed by the Internet and new technologies.

Throughout the UNESCO-sponsored discussions of the past two years and a half, one notion remained uncontested: self-regulation is pivotal for fostering quality journalism that abides by the highest ethical standards. Codes of ethics, press councils, news ombudsmen, and readers’ and listeners’editors have proven to be of great help for journalists, providing them with practical guidelines they can  take stock of when undertaking their work. Media self-regulation mechanisms and tools can shield reporters, editors and media owners from legal action, and they represent a channel for them to connect with media users and adequately respond to their complaints. Self-regulation aims to strengthen journalists’ ethical conduct and professionalism, in order to ensure that the public benefits from information that is unbiased, accurate, and reliable. Self-regulation thus enhances media accountability, and citizens’ trust in journalists and media houses. None of this has changed. Furthermore, despite the transformation that the media environment has gone through in our digital times, many of the ethical dilemmas that journalists face when performing their job continue to be the same.

However, it is also evident that self-regulation needs to face up to challenges that were previously unthinkable of, as Internet and technological developments have taken traditional journalism by storm. Promoting reflection and debate on these matters is critical for ensuring professional and ethically-responsible journalism across all types of media, in Europe and elsewhere.

Food for thought

Click here to read more on some key issues and questions on the topic at hand 

Webcast recordings

Opening session:

Media Accountability in Europe:

Internet, privacy, security and professional standards:

The Self-Regulation Experience:

Media Accountability in Emerging European Democracies:

Closing session:

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