A pilot project to create a platform that will test a media outlet’s trustworthiness and transparency was the topic of a discussion today at Croatia’s Fažana Media Fest. Alice Taylor, co-editor of Exit.al, an Albanian news portal involved in the initiative, and a journalist with The Shift News, formed part of the panel highlighting the efforts behind the Journalism Trust Initiative (JTI).
The platform was designed as an authenticating system for news outlets wishing to credibly demonstrate adequate standards in relation to their editorial guidelines, overall transparency, commercial income, fact-checking policies and accountability, among other aspects.
JTI was initiated by Reporters Without Borders and supported by Agence France Presse, the European Broadcasting Union and the Global Forum for Media Development.
Taylor said Exit.al’s involvement started “when we were asked to do this ethical audit; at the time, self-regulation and improving our professional standards were already on our radar”.
Exit.al was the first Albanian outlet to participate in the JTI’s self-assessment process, which is now in the hands of an external auditor which will in turn verify the outlet’s submissions prior to their final publication.
“This was also in the wider context of the issue of disinformation, which is a global phenomenon, but also because of the Albanian government’s introduction of a new law which would bring all of the media outlets under the control of a government-appointed body which would have the power to shut down media publishing what it claims is fake news and disinformation,” Taylor added.
She also explained how certification obtained through a process such as the JTI would allow credible outlets to “weaponise” their integrity and use it as proof of the genuine nature of the information being published in the face of government attacks on press freedom.
Exit.al has now published information related to their operations in order to further their transparency score as recommended by the JTI’s strict criteria, with Taylor stating that the material obtained from the exercise is now being used for employee training.
The rest of the panel was composed of Aidan White, the founder of the Ethical Journalism Network who previously served as General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists for 24 years, and Branko Cecen, the director of the Centre for Investigative Journalism in Serbia.
“The JTI’s guidelines are like our safety switch. We built up a new statute for our organisation through which any persons, especially officials, within our organisation are obliged to conduct themselves in accordance or otherwise be removed from that function,” Cecen stated.
“We have reinforced a system on which everything relies on how ethical we are,” he added.
White spoke of the issues faced by journalists exposing corruption and organised crime, referring among other things to how he perceived a sense of fatigue and exhaustion among journalists facing overwhelming odds.
“In some situations, you can be a good journalist, report freely, challenge authority, expose corruption and have a chance of ending up in jail. Many journalists have been to jail because of that,” White said.
“However, there’s a whole layer of people working in journalism building alternatives, keeping faith with notions of decent moral behaviour in journalism and ethics, and they are courageous in the way they are doing this,” White continued.
“That is why I always shy away from the pessimism that very often, I fear, overwhelms people. There’s so much that can be done,” he added.
The discussion was hosted by Dasa Ilic, also from the Ethical Journalism Network. The funding for the project was issued through the European Commission and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. The full discussion can be found here.