Editors from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia gathered in Ohrid to exchange their views on fundamental ethical principles of journalism.
The meeting “Journalism Ethics: Old dilemmas and new challenges”, organized on August 30 – September 2, provided a platform for media professionals from the region to exchange experiences and discuss new ethical challenges and old dilemmas for the profession.
Reporting on suicide and femicide, internal codes of ethics, regional and global professional challenges and ethical communication with audience were among the topics discussed by 29 editors and media CSO representatives.
Ognen Janeski, an editor and TV host at TV 24 from North Macedonia, believes that the role of editors will soon be affected and reduced by artificial intelligence. However, we shouldn’t neglect the importance of one’s experience in conducting journalism.
“We are transforming the media and journalism and while doing so we should keep in mind all the things that we can learn from the older and more experienced, and those are usually the editors”, says Janeski.
Editors should guide and help young journalists and other colleagues in the newsrooms to ensure the quality of the journalistic product. This is what the editor’s role should be, not bullying and pretending to be better than others, believes Žarka Radoja, a journalist and editor from Serbia.
“From some previous experiences, I can tell that a large number of editors implement the policies of the company and superiors. This is a serious problem because it leads to self-censorship and even to open censorship”, points out Radoja who was among the speakers at the Editors’ Forum.
One of the topics discussed during the event was the importance of codes of ethics for today’s journalism, especially the internal self-regulation mechanisms, created within media outlets. Lufti Dervishi, editor and investigative journalism trainer who advocates the improvement of ethical standards in Albanian media, was among Editors’ Forum participants. He believes that codes of ethics are even more important in the internet and digital era.
“When you report on scandal, accident, calamity, earthquake, suicide, femicide, or mass killings, the best guide for journalists is code of conduct. How to be more professional when reporting on a story that everyone will write about – you have to stand out. The only way to stand out from the digital crowd is to be more professional, and the only way to become more professional is to dare, respect and implement the code of ethics”, says Dervishi.
Going back to basics matters
The Editors’ Forum in Ohrid was the second meeting of regional editors organized by SEENPM and partner organizations from the Western Balkans. This year, the meeting was held as part of the project “Building Resilient Journalism in the Western Balkans” implemented by SEENPM in partnership with Transitions, BIRN Kosovo and SEENPM members Mediacentar Sarajevo, Montenegrin Media Institute, Albanian Media Institute, Novi Sad School of Journalism and Macedonian Institute for Media. The project is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy NED.
During the next phase of the project, editors and journalists from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia will get the opportunity to participate in the project and produce cross-border stories.
The participants of the Editors’ Forum pointed out that it was a unique opportunity for media professionals to gather and discuss some of the most important ethical dilemmas they face on a daily basis.
“It’s interesting that we all mentioned very simple examples, yet very difficult to handle, like whether to publish a photo of someone if they’re not public persons, whether to report that someone was assassinated if we’re not sure about the information, should we publish documents that we believe are verified and truthful but don’t have a literal source…”, explains Janeski.
The meeting also offered a platform for editors to share experiences from their countries and compare it to others.
“The gathering in Ohird was special because it didn’t fall into the trap of lecturing and telling what is good and what isn’t. It was more about inspiring and sharing experience across the region on what works in one country and what in another”, concludes Dervishi.