The first major review of journalistic self-regulation which highlights the importance of media councils in promoting journalistic standards in a context of proliferation of online disinformation has just been released in Europe.
The review which was released by independent Media Councils highlights the key role with regard to the respect of journalistic ethics and offer journalists with guidance and tools for their daily work and give the public the opportunity to hold journalists and media to account through a fair complaints procedure.
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), which is the primary beneficiary of the self-regulation drive, is the largest journalists’ organisation in Europe representing more than 320,000 journalists in 70 journalists’ organisations across 44 countries in Europe.
Researcher Raymond Harder, who had earlier conducted a comparative study of 28 media councils, commended the initiative, stressing that, “In this context, media councils can reiterate the standards that journalists should respect in their daily work. It is important that media councils keep adapting their practices and guidelines to the developments in the sector to help ensure that they stay relevant.”
The Flemish Media Council’s Secretary-General Pieter Knapen also harped on the importance of self-regulation adding that it was the right time to self-regulate for the benefit of journalism practice.
According to him, “Independent and truthful journalism is the best remedy for misinformation, and independent media councils help guarantee this. The comparative study aims to illustrate and explain the system of self-regulation by media councils. It can inspire existing media councils to exchange best practices and to further improve their operation. In countries where a media council does not yet exist, it can stimulate and inspire journalist associations and media companies to set up a media council, with the aim of journalism that can be held accountable without jeopardising freedom of the press”.
General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Ricardo Gutierrez echoed the progressive view and advised journalists to embrace the new wave of change. “We welcome the European Commission’s support for ethical and responsible journalism in the public interest. Journalists’ organisations have always supported the principle of self-regulation as an effective way of improving practice and restoring trust,” he said.
The results of the research can be consulted in an interactive database on the website. Researcher Raymond Harder also summarised the findings in a report, titled Media Councils in the Digital Age. An inquiry into the practices of media self-regulatory bodies in the media landscape of today.
The EU pilot project Media Councils in the Digital Age is implemented by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) together with the media councils in Austria (OP), Germany (TDP), Ireland (PCI), Belgium (RVDJ and CDJ), Finland (JSN) and two Universities, ULB in Belgium and FundacióBlanquerna (Universitat Ramon Llull) in Spain.