#CheckitFirst: Verifying news in the Western Balkans

Tackling disinformation in the Balkans

It’s not easy to report the truth in the Western Balkans.

A significant proportion of the media here is either a mouthpiece for the ruling parties or a vehicle for other powerful elites determined to push their own agendas. This results in media that is riddled with disinformation powered by foreign and domestic political forces that threaten the very fabric of democracy. 

#CheckitFirst is ARTICLE19’s new campaign to promote ethical journalism and prevent the spread of fake news in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.

We are working alongside journalists and media professionals to improve the accuracy of news reporting and boost media literacy among the public in the region. When journalists like you are free to create media that is accurate, honest and impartial, you build a landscape where truth thrives and disinformation crumbles – ultimately helping to create a more democratic society.

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Sign the Ethical Journalism Pledge

Endorse the pledge of upholding ethical journalism principles:

I, the undersigned, pledge to adhere to the professional principles of ethical journalism. By signing this pledge, I commit to fully incorporating the code of conduct from my country in my reporting.

signatures66

Andela Andrijevic, Dejana Cvetkovic, Dragica Mačkić, Jelena Čolović, Maja Stojanovic, Sanja Đorđević, Slađana Dimitrijević, Tijana Lekić, An-Djurdja Radulovic, Danijela Lasica, Drazen Vujovic, Igor Mitrovic, Miloš Rudović, Svetlana Mandić, Adelina Ahmeti, Minel Abaz, Aulonë Kadriu

Dardan Hoti, Alena Beširević, Dino Cviko, Dragan Maksimović, Tamara Stankov, Marija Vučić, Vladislav Stojičić, Harun Dinarević, Aleksandar Dokic, Dunja Karanović, Butrint Avdyli, Stefan Kosanović, Andrea Perišić, Florentina Hoti, Saranda Aliu, Teodora Ćurčić

Maja Boričić, Jelena Đukić Pejić, Nikoleta Rakočević, Jakov Daković, Amil Dučić, Tamara Bajčić, Jovana Tomić, Ivana Milosavljevic, Kristina Perić Vanja Stokić, Emir Velić, Vanja Đurić, Zorica Krstić Vorgučić, Milena Popović, Milena Bakić, Anja Raonic

Leka Dedivanovi, Danica Nikolić, Jelena Ćorluka, Vukašin Obradović, Ilmira Lika, Dinko Gruhonjić, Ivana Kragul, Miloš Vlahović, Vanja Stokić, Nebojša Vučinić, Samir Rastoder, Irena Čejović, Branka Katnic, Ajrona Resulani

#CheckitFirst jury

FAQs

Foreign disinformation, information manipulation, and interference (FIMI) have been prevalent throughout the Western Balkans, and recent events such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, have exacerbated the situation. Various factors contribute to the Western Balkans’ susceptibility to disinformation. These include political factors like concentrated power, corruption, and impunity among political elites; societal factors like social divisions and ethnic nationalism; economic factors like corruption, weak economic policies, and organised crime. 

In the four countries, journalists face challenges in adhering to ethical journalism standards. This can be attributed to the financial instability and funding models of media outlets, as well as the limited job security for journalists, along with external pressures from political and business circles.

This campaign is reclaiming your power and rebuilding trust in journalism. By endorsing professional standards, you’re not just ticking a box – you’re championing ethical journalism. Here’s what we want to achieve:

  • Better adherence by journalists with ethical journalism, as a means to counter disinformation in the media
  • Encourage a commitment to the principles of ethical journalism that are the foundation of the profession
  • Promote reliable news sources from media organisations, contributing to a positive media ecosystem
  • Encourage people to demand fairness from journalists and media in their reporting, enable them to receive accurate information and to thus lower dissemination of disinformation across the media in the four countries

Join us. Lead the charge for journalism with integrity.

The Western Balkans region is not immune from disinformation resulting from global crises like COVID or the Ukraine war. This vulnerability is exploited by ruling parties and foreign powers like China and Russia  who aim to manipulate public opinion.

The media, once considered the bastion of democracy, is facing challenges as it grapples with clickbait and propaganda. Media organisations and journalists often struggle to find the motivation to uphold ethical standards, which can contribute to the spread of disinformation.

When citizens are exposed to fabricated fear and manipulated facts, trust in the media erodes, elections lose their integrity, civic engagement can transform into blind rage, and the foundations of our societies crumble under the weight of lies.

We call for ethical journalism. Journalists should wield the power of truth and reliable information. A low adherence by journalists to ethical journalism standards, damages the credibility of the media as a whole.

The region needs beacons of light to dispel the darkness of disinformation and lead the charge towards a future built on increased trust, transparency and accountability.

There are five principles of ethical journalism:

  1. truth & accuracy: respect the truth and do everything possible to get the facts right, including checking and cross-checking, and admitting when this isn’t possible.
  2. independence: journalists must pledge to have an independent voice, without political or business affiliations. Where there are conflicts of interest, these should be declared.
  3. fairness & impartiality: reporting with balance builds trust.
  4. do no harm: do not feed into prejudice, racism, hate speech and other harmful attitudes; be aware of the impact reporting will have on the safety of others.
  5. accountability: be accountable to readers by listening, apologising for errors and correcting them.

For more, see https://ethicaljournalismnetwork.org

Ethical journalism is vital to the preservation and health of democracy. It serves as a cornerstone, empowering citizens by providing accurate information and fostering an informed citizenry. Acting as watchdogs, journalists expose corruption and hold those in power accountable, contributing to transparency and trust in the government.

The self-regulation model is a framework that relies entirely on voluntary compliance: legislation plays no role in enforcing the relevant standards. It exists to hold its members accountable to the public, to promote knowledge within its membership and to develop and promote respect for ethical standards. Those organisations that commit to this type of regulation do so not under threat of legal sanction, but for positive reasons such as the desire to further the development and credibility of their profession and sector. Self-regulation models rely first and foremost on members’ common understanding of the values and ethics that underpin their professional conduct.

A code of ethics is a set of principles aimed at guiding journalists in fair reporting.

In today’s expansive communications landscape, ethical codes play a crucial role in combating issues like hate speech and misinformation in the media. These codes advocate for the integration of the principles of ethical journalism with the press  and are informed by the global ethical journalism principles. The IFJ Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists is the first global code of ethics for journalists (https://www.ifj.org/who/rules-and-policy/global-charter-of-ethics-for-journalists)

They guide journalists to report information in an ethical manner that respects the values enshrined by the principles.

  • Ensure you are up to date with the ethical journalism standards that are the cornerstone of your profession. Visit the Ethical Journalism Network for more.
  • Participate in ARTICLE19s campaign and publicly endorse ethical journalism principles by entering our media awards.
  • Integrate ethical journalism standards in your reporting.
  • Use precise language to avoid the spread of misinformation.
  • Join calls for laws that ensure media freedom, diversity and pluralism.

#CheckitFirst Ethical Journalism Pledge

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#CheckitFirst campaign is part of an EU funded regional project focusing on tackling foreign information manipulation and interference (FIMI). This project seeks to contribute to more democratic resilience to FIMI and to lessen chances of inter-communal conflict caused by FIMI in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.

This campaign is funded by the European Union. Its contents are the sole responsibility of ARTICLE19 and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.