Media Ethics Workshop Localizes UN Curriculum

12 May 2019 - 18:15


On Thursday 2 May, a workshop on Media Ethics was held at the Centre for Film and Media Studies, University of Cape Town. The attendees, which consisted of lecturers, tutors and third-year students, was based on a media ethics module curriculum developed by the United Nations' Education for Justice project. The focus fell on ‘fake news’, disinformation and misinformation. The aim of the ethics workshop was primarily to contextualise the UN’s model media ethics module by applying it to South African and African case studies, and to give lecturers and students tools with which to apply the UN’s curriculum to the South African context. The workshop took place a day before the annual World Press Freedom Day on 3 May, and less than a week before South Africa’s general elections, so the focus on media’s role in a democracy, and the threat of mis- and disinformation, was topical.

The workshop module and discussions centred around pertinent issues ranging from media’s role in democracy, how media ethics relate to press freedom, the ethics of sharing news on social media, fake news phenomenon, filter bubbles and individual responsibility, to ethics of care in thinking about consumption and sharing of news and information by media users.

Facilitating the workshop, the Director of the Centre for Film and Media Studies, Prof Herman Wasserman, highlighted the fact that beyond the media’s role in democracy and society in general, media consumers and social media users have a duty to make ethical decisions that affect the wider society positively rather than negatively, particularly given the widespread proliferation of disinformation and fake news that can often pose a threat to public good. Solutions to combat the scourge of fake news on the part of gatekeepers (journalists and media users) include: ethics of care in deciding what to share and the people it affects, diversifying our news space, challenging ourselves to seek out other perspectives and the need for reflection on what we share.

The workshop was based on from Module 10 on Media Integrity and Ethics which is part of the E4J University Module Series on Integrity and Ethics developed by the United Nations' Education for Justice project and framed around the “Doha Declaration” – aimed at promoting ethics through education. Other highlights of the workshop were practical exercises by participants on how to detect fake news, how to navigate ethical dilemmas, particularly using the popular and tested Potter Box Model which helps to navigate ethical issues for journalists, media providers and media users.

The discussion, participants’ reflections and lessons taken away from the workshop will be useful not only in view of the polarised South African political landscape and political parallelism, but importantly in respect to the oncoming South African elections.

More information about the project and module can be found here.

Head of Department of the Centre for Film and Media Studies, Prof Herman Wasserman.