The news media is a pillar of democracy: it informs citizens about issues in the public interest and acts as a watchdog over the powers that be. Consequently, journalism plays a significant role in emerging democracies.
To play this role effectively, however, news media need to stand out as credible and respected sources, and to be credible they need to be accountable. As highlighted in Tunis at the WAN-IFRA Arab Free Press Forum, after years of propaganda, it is difficult for newly-free publications to establish themselves as trustworthy sources of news, particularly when facing competition from blogs and social media.
Ethics are a cornerstone for a credible and professional news media environment. As reported by BusinessGhana, media practitioners and associations in the Cote d'Ivoire recently adopted a new code of ethics for journalists at a forum in Abidjan.
The adoption of the code, the article says, is an important milestone in the road to credibility and in the effort to improve professionalism in the country's journalism. A statement issued and copied to the Ghana News Agency in Accra by Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) and reported in the article said this new code has elaborated provisions on duties and responsibilities of the journalists, as well as a comprehensive set of articles on rights and freedoms.
For more journalistic codes of ethics and African media accountability mechanisms see UNESCO's list here.
The way that codes of ethics are established is important, Magda Abu Fadil stressed in Tunis: they should be willingly adopted by news organisations, rather than imposed by the government. Media laws are often see as undue state's interference in media independence and freedom of speech.
This has been the case of the redefinition of media regulation in Hungary introduced between July and December 2010 which attracted much criticism.
As the Center for International Media Ethics (CIME) reported, the current situation has been the motivation behind launching a new media ethics campaign, the Editors Forum, which aims to set standards and guidelines to apply to all Hungarian journalists. The underlying idea of the forum, the article explains, is to build a network of participating chief editors, publishers and journalists across Hungary to self-regulate the industry and along the way ensure and support media freedom and build audience trust.
In the interview with CIME, Editors Forum's founder Balàzs Weyer described the purpose of the initiative saying: "The purpose of the Forum is to set industry standards, create a sense of transparency in journalism practices, to gain back the trust of the society towards the media, provide guidance for journalists and journalism students, create exemplary models for them to follow and re-gain the dignity of the trade".