The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has today (16/03/2015) attended at the Press Club Brussels the presentation of a new report called Untold Stories – How Corruption and Conflicts of Interests Stalk the Newsroom published by the Ethical Journalism Network (EJN), a global coalition of 50 journalism and media support groups, including the EFJ. The EJN published report is gathering data and stories from distinguished journalists from 18 countries representative of different regions (Western Balkans, Colombia, Denmark, Egypt, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Turkey, UK and Ukraine) that exposes how media managers are doing “deals” with advertisers to carry paid-for material disguised as news, how editors are being bribed by politicians or corporate managers and how this whole process makes it increasingly difficult to separate journalism from propaganda from public relations.
Aidan White (EJN Director) and Dorothy Byrne (EJN Chair) introduced the report to the public highlighting the external threats that journalists face in a worldwide level, the increasing pressure on journalism globally and the similarities of experiences in different countries and regions.
During his presentation, Aidan White pointed out how governments, politicians and a big range of global media corporations influence the news selection, set the agenda for the media, put pressure on journalists and try to eliminate their power by cutting and restricting the media economy. “This is a profound crisis that should worry every journalist in every newsroom”, said White.
More specifically, the major problems addressed by journalists in the Balkans are related to the increasing state power on media outlets and the high dependence of media on public funding. In Macedonia (FYROM) and Montenegro, the state is a major sponsor of media companies. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, the government is using subsidies to control media companies and in Croatia, many elites and advertising agencies were involved to money laundry and corruption scandals in the media sector. In Turkey, the system of ”clientelism” between media owners and the state is well established and this explains the corrupt system driven by a complete lack of transparency.
One of the findings in the report is that journalism is more compromised by politicians and owners in countries where social and political tensions are high such as Egypt and Turkey. In other countries like Nigeria, Philippines and Colombia, the precarious working conditions provide fertile conditions for “gifts and inducements”.
In order to change the situation, EJN is calling for the adoption of a Eight-Point Action Plan to combat corruption in media :
- Commitment to transparency inside media of relevant information related to the political and financial interests of owners, managers, editors and all leading journalists and presenters;
- Adoption of rules to prohibit undue interference in the work of journalists and establish full disclosure of contacts and transactions between media and state officials
- Agreed standards on the allocation of all forms of public advertising
- Creation of independent and transparent systems for assessing circulation and ratings of media
- Introduction of internal systems for disclosing potential conflicts of interests at all levels
- Providing contracts and employment conditions for journalists that meet international labour standards
- Agreement on internal rules and procedures to ensure full disclosure of all paid for content and made them clearly distinct from editorial and journalistic work
- Launch a debate at national and international level on the need for structures to provide public assistance to encourage the provision of pluralist and ethical journalism without infringing editorial independence.
The complete report (PDF) with detailed cases and stories concerning the 18 countries is available online.
Photo Credit : EB/EFJ