Roundtable discussed media self-regulation in Croatia
The UNESCO-supported roundtable, which took place last month in Zadar (Croatia), concluded that self-regulation of media should be the way forward to implement ethical principles. Self-regulation has already been successfully applied in many European countries, but also worldwide. The discussion finished with an appeal to all Croatian media professionals to revive incentives for self-regulation.
The roundtable on journalism ethics and media self-regulation in Croatia was held at the premises of the editorial board of Zadarski list, within the framework of the project, Alignment to International Standards in the Media Sector of South-East European Countries, supported by the European Commission and UNESCO. Elisabeth Ribbans, Executive editor of The Guardian, and Ognian Zlatev, UNESCO consultant, presented the advantages of media self-regulation, while the situation in the Croatian media was introduced by Professor Stjepan Malovic and Professor Gordana Vilović.
"We live in a time when the ethics of journalism and respect for ethical principles in the media have fallen to alarmingly low levels. Self-regulation of media and journalism is a generally accepted way to apply ethical principles. In Croatia self-regulation has never really gained ground, despite the decision of the Annual Assembly of the Croatian Journalists' Association in 2006 to establish a media council. Consequently, Croatia, along with France and Slovenia, are the only major European countries without it," said the organizers of the roundtable discussion, noting that even without the institutional bodies, self-regulation may be applied in newsrooms, as illustrated by numerous examples abroad.
Nedjeljko Jusup, founder and the first editor-in-chief of Zadarski list, spoke at the opening of the roundtable about the tradition, importance and conditions of the media in Croatia. He gave a brief overview of the development of journalism in the Zadar region and reminded that Zadar in the 19th century was the capital of journalism, where, among other things, the first newspaper in Croatian language, Kraljski Dalmatin, was edited.
During the discussion of ethics on the Internet, Professor Gordana Vilović stressed the importance of ethical and professional standards, not least because the Internet has attracted a vast amount of young people. Ms Vilović pointed out that, in addition to the news published on news portals, the site owners are also responsible for the comments that readers leave below the published texts, and where one can often read very strong language close to hate speech, libel, etc.
Elisabeth Ribbans presented her experience with self-regulation. The Guardian is the third most widely read quality daily newspaper in the UK, and the second most widely read news-portal in the world after The New York Times. Its printed edition has a special page for communication with readers and for their comments, which also includes corrections from previous releases. She described the functioning of self-regulation in The Guardian and in Britain, where the Media Council plays a significant role.
When talking about news portals, Ms Ribbans pointed out that errors and problems in terms of speed and quantity of the published information do occur and that they should not be denied, but instead be corrected as soon as possible, since this has a significant impact on the trust the readership has in the media.
Finally, Professor Vilović noted that, regardless of the fact that Croatia still does not have an independent media council, every editorial board can make a step further in terms of self-regulation by introducing a code of ethics they should follow. Zadarski list has reached a praiseworthy level in this respect.