From: Exit News
UNESCO: Exit’s Ethical Audit is a Powerful Tool for Enhanced Transparency and Good Governance

Exit News, along with seven other regional media has been commended by UNESCO for completing the Journalism Trust Initiative.

The initiative consists of a 150-question self-assessment audit, created in collaboration between UNESCO, Reporters Without Borders and with support of the Ethical Journalism Network and the EU project “Building Trust in Media in South East Europe and Turkey-Phase 2.”

“When people lose trust in media, they remain without an important guide in seeking reliable information. The efforts by the media in Serbia and Albania to reinforce that trust by performing ethical audits represent a valuable practice that should be replicated by other media, also across the region,” said Danica Ilic from the Ethical Journalism Network.

The project aims to support quality journalism in the fight against disinformation, strengthen self-regulation mechanisms to ensure professional standards in media, and pilot Media and Information Literacy (MIL) projects to enhance critical thinking in the region.

Exit was the first media in the region to complete the assessment during its pilot phase. It’s now joined by Albanian media outlets, Euronews Albania, and Droni, as well as Cenzolovka, Istionmer, Juzne Vesti, and the Centre for Investigative Journalism in Serbia. Another three Serbian portals, Krik, Vreme, and Fonet are due to submit their questionnaires soon.

In addition to the public self-assessments, Exit was selected to go through an external auditing process with Deloitte. This will see the declarations made in the self-assessment verified and then certified. Exit has committed to publishing the conclusions of this audit in full as soon as it’s complete.

“For Exit News, the process has been enlightening,” said Alice Taylor, Co-editor at Exit News. 

“While we had many policies in place before we started the process, they were not all in one place and had not been updated in a while. The audit allowed us to ‘get our house in order’ and to ensure we are up to date with how we work and that everyone in Exit is on the same page. It has also resulted in us conducting various in-house training sessions for all our journalists, as well as for new team members. Being part of such a project with prestigious international partners has also significantly boosted the morale of the team.”

Aidan White, the former General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, a former journalist with The Guardian, and long-time campaigner for journalist rights commented on the outcome of Exit’s participation.

“The Exit News commitment to ethics is a guarantee to the public about the quality of its journalism. In these difficult days, people are bombarded with information – much of it false, distorted, and even abusive. To combat these threats news media must renew their commitment to truth-telling, transparency, and ethical reporting.

Exit News has done just that by setting a standard that all newspeople should follow, not just in Albania, but across the Western Balkans and the European Union.”

He added:

“Exit News has taken up the challenge, declaring ‘we have nothing to hide and are ready to speak the truth in the public interest.’ I congratulate them for their pioneering action to build public trust in media.”

As a part of the process, Exit had to provide information including funding sources, revenue, owners and employees, structure, compliance, and internal processes. In addition to this, Exit published on its site details of journalists, owners, editorial guidelines, contact information, and policies relating to complaints and accuracy.

Furthermore, Exit has appointed an independent external ombudsman to manage any complaints or issues. The Albanian Media Council (AMC) will deal with any matters brought before them and Exit has pledged to be bound by their decisions. They also joined and were elected to the board of the Ethical Media Alliance, Albania’s first self-regulatory platform.

Koloreto Cukali, Head of the AMC said:

“This is great news for Albanian media. Until now self-regulation has seemed a burden we are somehow ‘forced into’ because we want to keep the government out of handling the regulation of ethics. But the latest decision by Exit shows a new, contemporary approach: accepting to be self-regulated not by ‘fear’ but by the belief that this will improve the standards of reporting and build a more trusting relationship with the audience.”

They also joined and were elected to the board of the Ethical Media Alliance, Albania’s first self-regulatory platform.

You can read Alice’s article for the Ethical Journalism Network here, and listen to the podcast “Ethics in the News” here.

You can read Exit’s questionnaire here:  JTI Transparency Report_Exit_2021_Clean_Final