A commitment to raising standards in journalism to the level of public expectations during election campaigns is more important than ever given the current situation, with fake news fueling waves of disinformation.

Election coverage carries certain risks which journalists need to predict, prevent and mitigate, and some guidance for election coverage to this end is provided below:

  • Protect journalism ethics

Every journalist must adhere to the Code of Journalists when covering political elections, taking into account fundamental professional media ethics.

  • Editorial independence

Independent journalism is an essential component of every democracy. од секоја демократија. In covering the election campaign, editorial staff must ensure that voters have access to unbiased and independent information.

  • Fact-checking

The accuracy of the information is a priority in election coverage, and journalists should follow the candidates' statements by checking them against other reliable sources, such as other officials, civil society organizations and election observers. Information from social networks that may be wrong or biased in favour of/against a candidate or political party should be verified with particular diligence before publishing.

  • Maintain the appropriate tone when reporting

Words and language matter when reporting on elections. Journalists must use appropriate language and avoid an inflammatory, exaggerated tone that can raise or lower voters' hopes for the outcome of the election. This includes measured opinion polls, given that they can be unreliable over time and cannot replace good political reporting.

  • Beware of hate speech

Political elections can cause division along the political and ethnic lines of political parties. Journalists should never provide space for politicians who share and spread hate speech. There should be clear protocols in the newsroom to avoid the misuse of the media for inciting violence and hatred.

  • Good planning for safe reporting on elections

Planning is of essential importance for effective election coverage. Journalists need to know every detail concerning the elections, including the beginning and ending days of the campaigning period and the details concerning the day of voting, such as the organization of voting, the schedule for the elections and the publication of results, information that can be obtained from the election commissions.

  • Fill out the requests for press accreditation

Journalists must check the institutional requirements for covering the elections and apply for their accreditation in time to avoid delays and denial of access to the candidates, to the election commission premises, to the voting centres, etc. Accreditation is also very important for ensuring free movement when election-related restrictions are in place.

  • Look out for signs of confrontation

In an unstable political situation, anything can happen. Journalists should be on the lookout for certain hints of violence. These include the presence of weapons at an event (rocks, sticks, guns, tear gas etc.). It is also of vital importance to listen to what the people in the crowd are saying, including media organizations.

Lastly, journalists should observe the presence of security forces and their behaviour towards the crowd.

  • Protect yourself

If any type of violence breaks out, seek a safe place for recording and photographing in the nearest area to the confrontation. Journalists should always avoid confronting the crowd and should always keep their accreditations visible, even if the violence is not aimed at the media. If violence is instigated upon them, they should seek protection from security forces and leave the premises.

✅ If you want to learn more about dodging election-related disinformation, check out this short, practical self-paced course on Countering Disinformation: