New ethics code for a common purpose


Eric Carvin, board member, Online News Association.


AMI supports social media ethics code

April, 2016 — The African Media Initiative has asked to be listed as a supporter of a Social Newsgathering Code of Ethics launched on April 1, 2016, by the Online News Association.

The code, described by its sponsors as “a set of best practices that cover everything from verification to rights issues to the health and safety of sources — and of journalists themselves”, has attracted support from a variety of international media such as AFP, BBC, CNN, Eurovision News Exchange, Eyewitness Media Hub, First Draft,, Storyful, The Guardian, Verification Junkie, Ethical Journalism Network, Fresco News, and Verifeye Media.

At the launch, ONA’s board member and chair of its News Ethics Committee, Eric Carvin, said: “We’re constantly reminded of the need for best practices such as these. The recent bombings in Brussels, Ankara, Lahore and Yemen, among others, provided yet another stark and tragic reminder of how information and imagery spread, in a matter of moments, from the scene of an unexpected news event to screens around the world.”

He added: “Moments like these challenge us, as journalists, to tell a fast-moving story in a way that’s informative, detailed and accurate. These days, a big part of that job involves wading through a roiling sea of digital content and making sense out of what we surface.”

Welcoming the code, Eric Chinje, AMI’s chief executive officer, said the pan-African body had not hesitation in supporting the initiative, which, “in a very resounding way, buttresses our own efforts to strengthen the ethical basis of journalism”. He urged news organizations that care for entrenchment of professional standards to support the code and promote its application in their particular jurisdictions.

The code lays out the following practices:

  • Endeavoring to verify the authenticity of user-generated content before publishing or distributing it, holding it to standards that are equal or equivalent to those maintained for content acquired through other means.
  • Being transparent with the audience about the verification status of UGC.
  • Considering the the emotional state and safety of contributors.
  • Considering the risk inherent in asking a contributor to produce and deliver UGC, including whether it incentivizes others to take unnecessary risks.
  • Considering technical measures to ensure anonymity of sources when required.
  • Seeking informed consent for the use of UGC through direct communication with the individual who created it.
  • Being transparent about how content will be used and distributed to other platforms.
  • Giving due credit to the owner of the content providing that consideration has been given to potential consequences, including their physical, mental and reputational well-being.
  • Endeavoring to inform and equip journalists to confront the dangers of engaging with sources through social media networks and the digital footprint they leave behind.
  • Supporting and assisting journalists who are confronted with graphic or otherwise disturbing content. Maintaining an organizational culture that enables journalists to seek help or speak out when they need to protect their mental health. (


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