Round table “How to save integrity of journalism and media“ held in Sarajevo

media integrity

Journalists and media experts discussed the good practices in journalism and how they can serve as models of protection of media integrity at a regional round table „How to save integrity of journalism and media”, held in Sarajevo on April 14 within the scope of the SEE Media Observatory project gathering several SEENPM members.

The media integrity research of the SEE Media Observatory from 2014 and 2015 revealed problems and obstacles, but also some good practices regarding protection and promotion of media integrity, i.e. public service values in journalism and media. This event  focused exactly on these good practices in the region, often overlooked because the problems are so numerous and profound.

The regional round table provided discussion on several good practices in the region related to media policy, anti-corruption framework in media and journalism practices. The aim was to exchange information and knowledge about good examples – how they are achieved, what made them possible and how these experiences can be useful for proposing and advocating media reforms.

There are good practices in protection of media integrity in the region of South East Europe, despite many problems, it was said at the round table.

Commercial media or public broadcasters are nowhere among the good practices; the good examples of media production are primarily related to non-profit media formed by journalists who were not satisfied with the mainstream media, showed a report by Brankica Petković from the Peace Institute from Ljubljana.

„All good examples [in protection of media integrity] are non-profit media, established by journalists and they are all clear what is purpose of journalism. They are clear of their public mission, journalism as public services. Only journalists can save journalism – not the state, not the government, not the researchers”, Petković said during the discussion.

The need for regulation and policy measures in protection of media integrity was however also discussed during this one-day meeting. Societies dealing with problems of corruption and auto-censorship in media have to start dealing with the causes on the policy and institutional level. Media policies of Ministry of Culture of Croatia during the previous government were mentioned for several changes in media policies among which the one that enabled some state financing for non-profit media. Some of these changes were however abandoned at the beginning of 2016.

In Serbia, a state institution, Anti-Corruption Council provided indispensible contribution to insights about the corruption in the media system. Although the reports revealed questionable patterns of ownership and financing of media, both the institutional reactions and support by the media outlets were insufficient.

“There is nothing scarier than to realise that you are fighting for the media integrity, and those who should be fighting for that – the ones it is all about, the media – obstruct you”, said Miroslav Milićević, Vice President of Anti-corruption Council of the Government of Serbia.

Aside from the widespread corruption related to media ownership and financing, the participants discussed the problems related to advertising market, mainly the hidden advertising and political control. Experts said that in the impoverished market where large advertisers are controlled by politics, the media are left with few choices.

Financial support to media by international donors is also decreasing over the past decade.

Yet, examples of good journalism still live on in the South East Europe. Models of several different media organizatios were mentioned, including weekly magazine Novosti in Croatia, online magazine Ž from Bosnia and Herzegovina, regional organization the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN, Sarajevo-based Center for Investigative Reporting and Buka online portal from Bosnia and Herzegovina. Good journalists, donors money, respect for professional standards – this is what still makes the good journalism possible, it was a general conclusion.