Standards for ethical professional journalistic reporting

As a basis for determining possible non-compliance with professional standards, ICS in this research and in media monitoring is guided by the valid regulations that regulate the work of the media (Article 16 of the Constitution of the RNM, the Law on Media, the Law on Audio and Audiovisual Media Services, the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination, the by-laws and regulations of the Agency for Audio and Audiovisual Media Services), as well by the principles and guidelines of trade unions, media organizations and educational institutions:

The most frequent violations of journalistic professional and ethical standards

Given that the goal of the media monitoring within the research is to determine the most common unprofessional practices in the (non) reporting of the harmful narratives, several practices that serve as a model in detecting these tendencies among the media are highlighted below:

  1. Uncritical reporting of accusations and incomplete and unconfirmed information: The basic rule in journalism is that a journalist should report accurate and verified information. The choice of the sources is extremely important. Allegations, facts and documents must be checked and verified in order to ensure complete truthfulness and accuracy. If the information cannot be confirmed or it is an assumption, i.e. speculation, this should be said and published. The media often apply the “he-said-she-said” journalistic practice, uncritically reporting the claims and accusations of the parties, thereby playing the role of silent reporters of the political messages. Hence, they consciously or unconsciously become catalysts for disinformation, inaccurate and/or malicious information, amplifiers of polarization in society and mistrust in the institutions.
  2. Uncritical reporting of statements that undermine trust in the institutions, spread panic, fear and insecurity, blame foreign interference and conspiracy theories: Indisputable reporting of harmful narratives, with effects resulting from their dissemination, which are amplified, emphasized feelings of fear, panic, insecurity among citizens, undermining trust in the institutions, threats from foreign influences…Uncritical reporting of certain information, i.e. accusations and claims. The media should be extremely careful in the selection of reported statements, vocabulary and terminology used in media content, to avoid sensationalism and false exclusivity of information, guided by the principles of accurate, reliable, fair and balanced information.
  3. Extremely tendentious discourse and emphatic disregard of the professional standards: One of the most important violations in media reporting is the disregard of a series of professional standards, which produces the effect of emphatic tendentious reporting (emphasized against or emphasized in favour of a political actor). According to The Code of Journalists of Macedonia: ‘Reporting on the political processes, especially elections, should be impartial and balanced. The journalist must ensure a professional distance from the political subjects’.
  4. Demonization of the political actors: The media should ensure openness to different political opinions and points of view, as well as impartial presentation of the activities of the political parties. Violation of this rule can be manifested through labelling, ridicule, use of offensive words and gross disrespect of the political actors, but also other persons (media workers, activists, public office holders)
  5. Populism: The political actors in public communication often use words/sentences/messages by which they explicitly or implicitly promote their own ideologies, activities or behaviours as something that benefits the people, the broad masses of people, the ‘common man’, the ‘average citizen’. At the same time, the activities of their political opponents are promoted as being aimed at the interests of a smaller elitist group that is diametrically opposed to the interests and will of the people. The media in such cases often, knowingly or unknowingly, reinforce the populist narrative. The media should be critical of the activities and measures promoted by the political actors, taking into account the arguments and the context in which they were adopted.
  6. Negative speech directed at individuals and marginalized groups: In the context of informing about the political actors, negative discourse towards these groups can be manifested through journalistic products that, for the purposes of the political campaign, promote discrimination or extreme negative stereotyping. The journalistic texts must ‘defend human rights, dignity and freedom’ and ‘respect the dignity and rights of members of marginalized communities’.
  7. Party-political abuse of groups or individuals: The journalistic texts must not abuse identities of minors, as well as persons with disabilities. Violation of this rule can be manifested through the publication of names, recordings or photos of these groups of citizens and their contextualization in the political campaign of some political subjects.
  8. Openly inflammatory or incendiary speech directed at an ethnic community or call to violence: The political actors in public communication can often use speech that is openly inflammatory. Often, this narrative is accompanied by ethnocentrism, i.e., claims that glorify one’s own ethnicity, as opposed to the other or other ‘less valuable’ ethnic communities, and this can encourage a general mobilization for violent actions against: (1) the institutions of the country, (2) any political actor; (3) some social groups or communities (ethnic groups, marginalized or vulnerable communities, etc.).

This list of the most frequent professional violations is not final, but an attempt to summarize the current journalistic practices that are of special interest and subject to the media monitoring.