MEAA issues guidelines for reporting on extremism and race amid ‘concerning rise of hate speech’

Australia’s media union has released new guidelines advising journalists to exercise care and balance when reporting on issues of race and encouraging mindfulness in the coverage of extremist views and hate speech.

The guidelines from the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance (MEAA) were developed in light of ethical dilemmas raised for journalists covering the Christchurch shootings a year ago.

The concerning rise of hate speech has put journalists in a difficult place: MEAA

The mosque shootings which saw 51 people killed occurred 12 months ago, with a memorial event cancelled last weekend over coronavirus fears.

MEAA media federal president Marcus Strom said the coverage of extremism and hate speech has long been a concern for the union.

“For some time, racist, neo-Nazi, and extremist groups have become very adept at using the media to spread their messages of hate, intolerance and violence,” Strom said.

“As journalists, we have a responsibility to report on these issues, but how do we cover these groups without providing them with a platform for their extremist views?

“How do we resist efforts to co-opt us? How do we strike the right balance between informing the public and protecting our audiences? These are the types of questions the guidelines seek to help answer.”

The guidelines have been created in consultation with a range of groups and organisations, beginning with an industry forum held a fortnight after the Christchurch shootings in 2019. They also include information for reporting on race, Islam and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and issues.

The guidelines include points such as only including the race of a person if it’s relevant and not publishing comments which contain racist hate speech.

“These guidelines are intended as an ethical framework that will help journalists when reporting on race, religion, immigration, and extremism, but in no way, shape or form is MEAA seeking to dictate to journalists how they should go about doing their jobs,” Strom said.

“Freedom of speech is fundamental to the role of journalism, which is to inform and to provoke thought.”

“That means sometimes journalism may offend or insult, but that does not mean it intends to vilify. But journalism that deliberately seeks to vilify on the basis of race deserves to be condemned. Hate speech is antithetical to ethical journalism.”

An investigation held into the reporting of the Christchurch shootings by the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) found the various broadcasters involved in the coverage of the event acted within the guidelines of the Code of Practice.

You can read the new guidelines here.


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