3. Engage ethically in citizen media practices

If you decide to engage in citizen journalism practice and act as a reporter from your area you might become a source of complementary or alternative information about the crisis. Sharing information however can lead to potential harm on the privacy, identity or dignity of others. Therefore it is important that you behave responsibly and try to incorporate appropriate news media ethics into your practice.

Key steps: 
  • Filter then publish! Rather than simply publishing material – check and verify your content prior to publication.
  • When sharing images with others, try to provide contextual information of where/when the image or video was recorded, what it shows, who it was taken by (if it is indeed safe to share this information).
  • Before sharing information recorded by others, familiarize yourself with the recommendations provided by the Eye Witness Hub.
    • Ask for permission before sharing, provide proper credits if the original uploader requests it, and at the same respect the uploaders’ wish for confidentiality.
  • Ensure the confidentiality of your sources.
  • Consider the potential harm the recording of incidents may have on the privacy, identity or dignity of others.
    • Lack of “objection” cannot be taken as consent for being recorded or identified, as in many cases during emergencies, individuals will not be in a position to make informed decisions regarding whether they want to be recorded or communicate those decisions.
  • Avoid harming others with the sharing of false content.
  • When recording incidents: ensure you take measures to avoid sharing identifying information. Measures could include, for example blurring details of the faces of the members of the public in taken pictures and remove identifying information such as names.
  • When recording or sharing information/images, respect social norms regarding the appropriateness of recording incidents in ways that trivialize the severity of victims’ and communities’ experience.
  • While recording the incidents during an emergency, you need to pay the utmost attention to make sure you do not interfere with the emergency response processes.
  • When recording information or requesting others to record information for you, ensure you are respectful of your and their physical wellbeing (e.g., avoid any potential risk of injury).

  • Overall, do not stay longer than necessary in the threatened area.
  • Consider seeking out professional training in journalism standards to ensure ethical and legal conduct (pre-crisis).

Harmful content can include the publication and sharing of unverified information and participating in group behaviour that targets individuals. A well-known example of this is the (mass) diffusion of false information through the social networking website, Reddit, following the 2013 Boston marathon attacks. Such an example reiterates the importance of verifying information and avoiding participation in ‘witch hunts’ and online vigilante activity.

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