The University of Jyväskylä, Department of Communication, in co-operation with the Union of Journalists in Finland and the Federation of the Finnish Media Industry, organised a seminar on ‘Journalists’ professional autonomy and journalism ethics’ under the frame of the MEDIADEM project. The seminar, which took place on 14 June 2012 in the premises of the University of Jyväskylä in Jyväskylä, Finland, served to explore current practices of journalists’ self regulation and their contribution to journalists’ ethical performance. The conference was opened by Heikki Kuutti, leader of the Finnish MEDIADEM team, University of Jyväskylä, who chaired the panels during the day. Then Evangelia Psychogiopoulou, Research Fellow at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy and coordinator of the MEDIADEM project, presented the MEDIADEM project, its objectives, the scope of the research carried out and the progress so far.

The first panel, ‘Journalists’ professional autonomy’, started with a presentation on ‘Fighting corruption, preserving press freedom, serving democracy’ from Stephan Russ-Mohl, European Journalism Observatory. Prof. Russ-Mohl focused on the importance of a professional culture of journalism in defending press freedom and keeping journalism responsible. He underlined the need for infrastructures to improve journalistic quality and self-regulation and talked about the contribution of the European Journalism Observatory in facilitating collaboration between media researchers and practitioners. The presentation of Halliki Harro-Loit, Professor, University of Tartu, on ‘Journalists’ professional autonomy: Europe-wide comparison’ addressed the pressures working against the autonomy of journalists in Europe, pointing at the influence of cultural elements, domestic specificities and their impact on journalistic performance, among others. Journalists’ autonomy is generally a neglected policy area, she noted. Her presentation was followed by that of Arto Nieminen, Chairman at the Union of Journalists in Finland, on ‘Reflections on journalists’ professional autonomy in Finland’. ‘The role of the media industry in safeguarding journalists’ autonomy’ was the focus of the presentation of Valtteri Niiranen, Managing Director of the Federation of the Finnish Media Industry.

After lunch the conference reconvened for the second panel on ‘Journalism ethics’. The panel opened with a presentation by Klaus Bichler, Mag. at Medienhaus Wien, on ‘Media accountability and transparency in Europe’. He presented the findings of the EU funded MediaAct project, explaining how various ‘traditional’ media accountability instruments, such as press councils and newsroom ombudsmen, as well as emerging forms of accountability online operate in different media systems across Europe.  In her presentation on ‘New challenges in journalism ethics’, Nina Porra, Secretary at the Council for Mass Media in Finland, addressed the practices of the Council in self-regulating journalistic output, and assessed its effectiveness in encouraging ethical practice. Subsequently, Riitta Ollila, Lecturer at the University of Jyväskylä, gave a presentation on ‘Ethics of journalism and regal rules’, providing an overview of the various mechanisms of journalists’ self-regulation in Finland and the problems they face. She also discussed the legal rules enacted to balance journalists’ right to freedom of expression vis-à-vis the rights of individuals. The final presentation was that of Ville Grahn, Digital media manager at the Keskisuomalainen (Finnish regional newspaper) on ‘Ethical practices in the newsroom’, who focused on the newsroom policy of Keskisuomalainen and raised attention to the day to day challenges for good professional practice.

In the panel discussion that followed speakers and participants reflected upon the principal constraints on journalists’ autonomy and ethical performance, exchanging views on the various topics discussed during the day.

The agenda of the workshop is available here.