MOOC FOE1x | 5.5.1 Are Bloggers Journalists? | FOE in the Digital Age – Part I

MOOC FOE1x | 5.5.1 Are Bloggers Journalists? | FOE in the Digital Age – Part I

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– Welcome back to week five. In this segment, we will
consider the implications of the transformation of the news and opinion reporting business. Internet and social media
have largely increased the number of people
involved in activities which, until recently, have been the prerogative of the media industry. Bloggers and citizen journalists
have made their marks as reporters, opinion
leaders, trend setters. Does this mean that they are, for all instance and
purposes, journalists? And, indeed, who is a journalist in 2016? This segment will attempt
to answer this question by considering the evolving
standard and jurisprudence on the topic alongside the practice and governmental actions. So let’s begin. There is currently no agreed
international definition of journalism or indeed,
of what constitutes media on the international level. Indeed, these remain so
subject which may even oppose people who are otherwise
united in their defense of press freedom. We have seen in the
previous week that there is an increasingly global
position that journalists should not be licensed. This, however, does not
translate into everyone agreeing on who is a journalist,
particularly when cities and journalists and
bloggers are considered. One of your readings for this segment, summarize the discussion that took place in a journalist meeting in 2011 and highlight the fields and concerns of journalists, in this
case, from the Middle East faced with many challenges
including though the rising from the multiplication
of citizen journalists. Based on my work and
meeting with journalists from around the world, I will suggest that very similar debates take place today in many other parts of the world. So-called traditional journalists working for established media outlets have not all made peace with the idea that journalism may not be quite the established profession it used to be. It is not just a question
of competition, by the way. As the journalists cited
by your reading insist, it is also a question of
trust, a question of ethics. Let me first highlight
what is at stake about as far as defining a
journalist is concerned. Internationally, there is a move towards approaching the definition from a focus on the functions performed rather than on the means used or the medium through which
the function is performed. This broad and extensive approach, which includes online journalism, characterize a number of legal development at regional and national level. The UN Human Rights Committee
in its General Comment 34 which you have had the opportunity
to read in previous week defined journalism as, and I quote, a function shared by a
wide range of actors, including professional
full-time reports and analysts, as well as bloggers and others who engage in forms of self-publication in print, on the internet or elsewhere. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression clarified that the definition of journalists include all media workers
and support staff, as well as community media workers and so-called citizen journalists when they momentarily play that role. So what the Special Rapporteur is saying, that you don’t need to be
a journalist full-time. You could just be a
journalist from time to time and still be considered as a journalist. At regional level, the
Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe adopted in 2010 Recommendation Seven on
the right of journalists not to disclose their
source of information, and there, in that context,
defined a journalist as follow. A, I quote, the term
journalist means any natural or legal person who is regularly
or professionally engaged in the collection and
dissemination of information to the public via any means
of mass communication. B, the term information
means any statement of fact, opinion or idea in the form
text, sound and/or picture. The Committee of Ministers
of the Council of Europe has also called on member states
to adopt a new broad notion of media which encompasses
all actors involved in the production and dissemination to potentially large number of people of content and applications
which are designed to facilitate interactive
mass communication. The Special Rapporteur
for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American
Commission on Human Rights defined journalism as well
in terms of functions, as I quote, “individuals who
observe and describe events, “who document and analyze events, “and any proposition
that can affect society “with the purpose of
informing sectors of society “or society as a whole,” end of quote. The European Court for
Human Rights does not define who is a journalist, but it
refers to the watchdog function of media and journalism, so here again, a focus on the function of the journalist. Possibly more problematically, it refers to journalist ethics, implicitly defining
journalism with reference to some kind of professional standard. It has done so in a number of decisions where it states, and I quote,
the guarantee that Article 10 of the Open Convention
offers to journalists with regard to reporting on
issues of general interest is subject to the condition
that they are acting in good faith, based on accurate fact, and provide reliable and
accurate information, respectful of journalistic ethics. So here, the European Court
introduces a new variable, that of ethics, and you may recall that the journalist from your reading was also raising questions regarding the ethics of citizen journalism. What’s happening at national level? The issue there is even
more confusing, in fact. We have seen that in the
context of the United States, the US government has failed
to adopt in recent years federal law on confidentiality of sources because of the absence of agreement of who should benefit
from such a privilege, that is, on who is a reporter. Similar problems, in fact, have occurred at judicial level in the United States. American judges have noted in particular that, I quote, the proliferation
of communication media in the modern world makes it impossible to construct a reasonable or useful definition of a reporter, end of quote. So the situation in the United States is that there is no current agreement as to who is a journalist
or is a reporter, whether at Parliament, Congress level or within the judicial system. In the Arab world, a
journalist is often defined rather tautologically as a member of the National Press Association or by reference to
accreditation or license. In Uzbekistan, just to give you
a different kind of example, a journalist is defined
as a natural person who works for the mass media. In Belgium, the
Constitutional Court confirmed the constitutionality of
a law on the protection of journalists’ sources by broadening the application of the law,
and it in particular defined the person who can benefit from the law as anyone directly contributing
to the gathering, editing, production or distribution of information for the public by way of a medium. Here, you have a fairly broad definition, again focusing on the function. However, it is fair to say
that at national level, there is no emerging definition
across all of the countries. We can find that definition
at the regional level. NGOs that support
journalists, all journalism, tend to define journalism broadly. For example, the American Press
Institute defined journalism as the activities of
gathering, assessing, creating and presenting news and information. The Committee to Protect
Journalists defines journalists as, I quote, people who cover news or comment on public affairs
through any media, including in print, photograph, radio,
television and online. Journalists Association or
trade union of journalists are divided on the question. Some of them, including in Australia, the United Kingdom, New
Zealand and the Netherlands have considered including bloggers and citizen journalists
in their definition and therefore in their
trade union membership. However, globally speaking, at the moment, at the present time, the
trade unions of journalists tend to restrict their
membership to people who work for established media, so they have not all yet
adopted the broad definition, function-based definition
that is being recommended by regional bodies and by civil society. So in conclusion, it is fair to suggest that the trend, as far as
the definition is concerned, is to focus on the function
performed by journalists, meaning broadly speaking, the
collection and dissemination of information to the public, not to focus on the medium used, on the employers or on the
income or on the education. However, it is also fair to say that this function-based definition
has not yet become the consensual approach to journalism. For some, including the European Court but possibly as well a number
of journalist trade unions, the definition really
also requires espousing or following principles and ethics, which ought to be at
the heart of journalism, accuracy, objectivity, trust, possibly in the form of a code of ethics. Before continuing with the code of ethics, let me add a word of caution. Bloggers and citizen journalists includes a very broad range of individuals performing very different activities, not all of which will qualify as amounting to the collection and
dissemination of information, even less to the European Court emphasis on the public watchdog function. Not all blogging activities require abiding by a code of ethics as a result, not even some very basic
standard of civility online. The public should be able to decide whether or not to read them. Still, for those bloggers
or citizen journalists who self-define as a journalist, who describe their activities as amounting to gathering, researching, producing, disseminating information, news, opinion, abiding by the same
self-regulatory framework as other journalists,
including a code of ethics, may make plenty of good sense. This may be achieved through membership to a journalist union where
their work is acceptable from the journalist union’s standpoint, but bloggers themselves, in
fact, have taken the initiative and developed their own
bloggers’ code of ethics, all of which are voluntary. This is a development which
I think is very positive and highlight a maturity of the sector and indeed, of the work
performed by bloggers and citizen journalists
that is very important. There are many benefits from the characterization of journalist. I’m focusing here on those
bloggers and citizen journalists who in essence perform
journalistic functions as per the above definition. Press freedom organizations
have clearly highlighted for several years now
that citizen journalists and bloggers perform
functions which are no longer achieved by traditional media
for a number of reasons, linked in particular to the fact that the media may be
too heavily controlled or may engage in self-censorship, so there has been a displacement
of real news gathering from the traditional mass
media to the online world. This has even been recognized by the European Court for
Human Rights, which in a recent decision on Turkey,
Cengiz et al v. Turkey, specifically stated that
the YouTube platform was an important source of communication and that it permitted the
emergence of citizen journalism which could impart political information not conveyed by traditional media. According to the Committee
to Protect Journalists, 199 journalists were imprisoned in 2015. Of those, the majority
were online journalists. This was already the case in 2007, when CPJ, Committee to
Protect Journalists, began registering the medium used. It will thus be particularly
logical and important that these individuals as journalists operating in the online
world should benefit from the same rights as
those formally employed by established mass media. So what are these rights that
these online journalists, bloggers and citizen
journalists could claim? The first and most important one is that they should not be licensed. We have already reviewed
in the previous week that the licensing scheme for journalists are means of control and censorship, which fails to meet international standard and the three part test of legality, valid grounds and necessity. Bloggers and online journalists,
citizen journalists, should also be able to
claim that as journalists, they do not have to be licensed. That’s a very important right. Second, bloggers and citizen
journalists should benefit from the right to keep
their sources confidential. I have already highlighted
the importance of this right in week four and the
fact that, unfortunately, even though it is recognized
by many courts around the world it is also curtailed in many
other parts of the world and in the mind, by increased surveillance and restrictions on freedom of expression. The Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights has recognized that bloggers and citizen
journalists benefit from the right of
confidentiality of sources. They’ve done that very directly, and I’m gonna quote from
that commission right here. Every social communicator has the right to keep his or her source of
information, notes, personal and professional activities
confidential, end of quote. The term of social
communicator is the first time I introduce it to you, but this is a term that is widely used throughout
Latin America and is meant to offer a very broad
definition of journalists. It includes offline, online,
journalists, bloggers, citizen journalists, they
are social communicator. In Europe, a less expansive
or generous approach was adopted by the Council of Europe. In 2011, Recommendation
1950 on the protection of journalistic sources indicates the need to extend sources’ protection to non-traditional media platform in line with changes in professional practice. However, the recommendation
goes on to make a distinction from source protection between journalists and non-journalists, such as, I quote, individuals with their
own website or web blog. The last category not being covered according to that recommendation by the professional privilege of keeping sources confidential. The Committee of Ministers
of the Council of Europe said that, and I quote, as regards
in particular new media, code of conduct or ethical
standard for bloggers have already been accepted by at least part of the online journalistic community. Nonetheless, bloggers should
only be considered media if they fulfill the criteria
to a sufficient degree. So altogether, the Parliamentary Assembly and the Committee of Ministers
of the Council of Europe do not reject the
proposition that bloggers and citizen journalists may claim a right to keep their sources
confidential provided they conform to the function
and ethos of a journalist. So in Europe, you have a
far less generous approach to the protection afforded to bloggers and citizen journalists than you may find in Latin America, for example. These are examples that highlight the fact that globally, those issues
are still under discussion, under debate and we don’t
have yet a final settlement around A, who is a journalist, and B, what kind of rights
do they benefit from. To sum up, I have
highlighted in this segment an emerging global norm related to the definition of journalist, and that definition is
based on function performed rather than based on the medium used, the contract of employment
or other attributes. This is an emerging norm. This is not a settled norm, and that norm is not
without its detractors. I have identified throughout the segment the fact that there are
a number of individuals and actors who do not necessarily see journalism according to that function. This said, such a function-based approach to defining journalism
match the developments regarding the production
of news and information, with bloggers and citizen
journalists emerging as a major source of
information for the public, particularly in countries where the traditional media is
controlled or censored. The implications are evident. Bloggers and citizen
journalists ought to have the same rights and protection
as traditional journalists because they are increasingly
the target of repression, imprisonment, and indeed, killings. Thank you very much.

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