Social media and citizen journalism are powerful tools
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Social media and citizen journalism are powerful tools

Participants in a workshop on the ethics of social media called for guidelines in the use of social media and citizen journalism that can create greater transparency and credibility. Building a healthy alliance between professional journalists and citizen journalists is crucial to good governance and good citizenship.

The third Global Ethics Forum conference in the series “Seeds for Successful Transformation – The Value of Values in Responsible Business” (GEF 2012) took place in Geneva, Switzerland, 28-30 June 2012, just one week after the UN Conference on Sustainable Development – Rio+20.

Some 240 participants from around the world took part in two days of plenary presentations and workshops addressing the need to find credible and common values on which to base fundamental transformations in the economy, business, politics, and civil society.

WACC contributed to GEF 2012 in the form of a workshop on the ethics of social media use based on a recent survey of WACC members and invited contributions. Moderated by Alexis Kalagas (The Global Journal), a panel consisting of Philip Lee (WACC), Nathalie Labourdette (European Broadcasting Union), Amy Greber (International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies), and Kristine Greenaway (World Congress of Reformed Churches) explored communication ethics in the context of social media platforms, citizen journalism and its relationship with professional journalism.

Concerns about censorship, privacy and social responsibility regarding access to and use of social media point to the need to study the impact of social media further. Some of the questions identified were:

  • What roles could social media realistically and credibly play in strengthening democratic accountability, good governance and good citizenship?What roles could social media realistically and credibly play in conflict-resolution and/or peace-building?
  • How can social media be a credible and reliable source of information and opinion in the context of the practice of global and national journalism?
  • What steps need to be taken to guarantee a sound working relationship between so-called professional journalists and citizen journalists that respect commonly accepted deontological codes of practice?
  • To what uses can those working on peace-building and conflict-resolution put social media to enhance and promote their cause in ways that achieve sustainable peace?
  • If social media become the norm for day-to-day communication, to a large extent replacing mainstream media, what consequences can we predict?

Participants in the discussion underlined the need to provide education and guidelines on accountability, media literacy and ethics; to offer adequate resources for social media practitioners including resources in multiple languages; and to explore better articulation of the relationship between journalists and civil society, especially in the context of social transformation and peace-building.

Based in Geneva, is a global network of people and institutions interested in various fields of applied ethics. It offers access to a large number of resources on ethics, especially through its leading global digital ethics library and facilitates collaborative web-based research, conferences, online publishing and information sharing.

The international secretariat, based in Geneva, currently concentrates on three topics of research: Business and Economic Ethics, Methodologies of Interreligious Ethics and Responsible Leadership. For further information visit

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