This document sets out the definitions for some of the terms which are frequently used in Fojo’s work, communications, and news articles. The aim is to provide clarity and enhance understanding. The definitions were researched and written by Fojo communications staff, informed by a wide variety of international development sources, online dictionaries, and Wikipedia.



Advocacy means creating change by giving individuals and organisations the support they need in order to make their voices heard. It is about helping people understand their rights and express their views.

Access to information

Access to information is about the ability to find facts effectively. It helps citizens uncover the information they need in order to try to understand the decisions which affect their lives. Once empowered with this information, individuals and groups are then able to hold governments and organisations to account. Access to information is vital for enabling all citizens, especially the vulnerable and those who are excluded, to find out more about their rights and entitlements.

Capacity building

Capacity building is the process of strengthening the skills of individuals and organisations so that they are better able to deal with the problems they face. It’s about sharing knowledge, and sometimes resources, in order to help bring about transformational change from within. The aim is to help people, communities and organisations develop in a way that is best-suited to their particular circumstances and cultures.

Civil society

Civil society includes non-governmental organisations (NGOs), trade unions, social movements, grassroots organisations, online networks and communities, faith groups, and “everything that exists outside the family, market, and state”. In many parts of the world social change has been achieved through the work of civil society organisations (CSOs). Groups and networks vary in size from international NGOs and mass social movements to small local organisations.

Core values

Core values are the fundamental beliefs held by a person or organisation. These guiding principles dictate behaviour and can help people understand the difference between right and wrong. Core values also help determine if they are on the right path and whether they are fulfilling their goals or not. Fojo’s core values are to strengthen free, independent and professional journalism in a way that is democratic, transparent, gender-equal, conflict-sensitive, and sustainable.


Digitalisation of the media industry means the introduction of digital newsgathering, production and publication methods. It has been driven by changing consumer behavior and expectations, especially among younger audiences who typically want instant access to content, anytime and on multiple devices. Media that has always been digital, such as online news sites and some online broadcasters are sometimes referred to as digital-native media. Media that has adapted to embrace digital media is sometimes referred to as digital-migrant media.

Digital literacy

Digital literacy refers to an individual’s ability to find, evaluate, and communicate information through typing, recording sound or video, or speaking using a variety of digital platforms. It is the development of a person’s use of language and their input skills in order to produce text, images, and audio/video using digital technology. It also refers to their ability to make sense of the information shared by others on digital platforms and to be able to research and fact-check information found via digital platforms. See media literacy.


Disinformation is about knowingly spreading false information which is intended to mislead, in particular propaganda issued by a government organisation to a rival power or the media. It is the conscious effort to deliberately mislead and spread manipulated information, propaganda and lies, unlike misinformation which is often the unconscious spreading of false information. See our entry on misinformation and post-truth.


Diversity is the practice of including or involving people from a range of different social and ethnic backgrounds and of different genders and sexual orientations. See our entry on pluralism.

Environmental sustainability

Environmental sustainability is responsibly interacting with the planet to maintain natural resources and avoid jeopardizing the ability for future generations to meet their needs. See sustainability crisis (society).


Ethnification is when an ethnic group is portrayed as being outside the social mainstream. It is sometimes referred to as ‘othering’, where ethnicity becomes the focal point in political discourse or media coverage leading to an ethnic group being singled out. Ethnification can lead to ethnicity being used to divide or manipulate different sections of society. In terms of journalism and the media, ethnification in news coverage takes place when the actions of a person or group are highlighted as the behaviour of a minority with a particular racial background. It can be linked in some societies to inequalities in opportunities and a resulting lowering of economic status. Ethnification can also be used by states to divide societies into groups that are easier to manipulate or, in the extreme, eliminate.


Fact-checking is the process of ensuring that information gathered is factual and trustworthy. Fact-checkers will reference data and statistics to test whether something that is being said rings true. Many media organisations have set up fact-checking units in order to combat the spread of fake news and post-truth reaction. Some now have fact-checking reporters/correspondents whose job it is to analyse what has been said – often by politicians – and to offer context and data to either firm up claims or challenge them.

Fake news

Fake news is false or misleading information presented as news. It is frequently used for political and commercial gain and often aims to damage the reputation of a person, organisation, political party, or a national government. Sometimes fake news is generated in order to gain online clicks, sell newspapers, or draw a TV or radio audience in order to make money through advertising revenue.

Free media

Free media is about exercising the right to publish and broadcast freely without interference from the state or other outside pressures. It means that journalists are free to investigate issues that most affect the societies and audiences they serve and produce robust and critical reports without fear or favour.

Freedom of expression

Freedom of expression or freedom of speech is “the power or right to express opinions without censorship, restraint, or legal penalty”. It is “a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation or legal sanction”. The right to freedom of expression has been recognized as a human right in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international human rights law. Freedom of expression includes “any activity of seeking, receiving, and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used”.

Gender gap

The gender gap is the difference between women and men as reflected in social, political, intellectual, cultural, or economic attainments or attitudes. The gender gap is often measured in four areas: health, education, economics and politics, and is used to assess differences in opportunities and attitudes as well as identifying any barriers that exist to prevent equality.

Gender perspective

Taking a gender perspective involves being aware of, reflecting and rectifying any gender-based differences in status and power. It assesses how discrimination is affecting society and looks at tackling any injustice in the interests of all genders. See non-binary individuals.

Hate speech

Hate speech covers anything that promotes hatred or encourages violence towards a person or group based on their race, religion, nationality, disability, sex, or sexual orientation.

Holding power to account

Holding power to account is a fundamental role of independent, robust, and critical journalism where journalists make a difference by reporting stories that the public didn’t know about before, exposing the truth and, in turn, challenging power. When people are being treated unfairly, or when powerful people are doing something wrong, journalists can investigate what is happening and reveal the truth, which is one way to challenge power, bring about change, and help to restore justice.


There is no simple definition to impact in journalism. In development cooperation, OECD DAC defines impact as “The extent to which the intervention has generated or is expected to generate significant positive or negative, intended or unintended, higher-level effects.” However, this is not very applicable for media and journalism organisations, for- or non-profit alike. Different kinds of journalism, and legal organisational forms, have different objectives and therefore strive to achieve different types of outcomes or impact. Typically in journalism however, one can view impact on three different levels: individual, network and regulatory or systems.

Inclusive society

An inclusive society is a society that “overrides differences of race, gender, class, generation, and geography”, and “ensures inclusion and equality of opportunity” as well as “the capability of all members of the society to determine an agreed set of social institutions”.

Independent media

Independent media refers to all media, including broadcasting, publishing, and online, that is “free from government or corporate interests”. In international development, the term refers to the support and development of robust media outlets, particularly in areas where there is little or no existing media presence. See media viability.

Indigenous communities

Indigenous communities are made up of those who are native to a place which has been “colonised and settled by another ethnic group”. They form culturally distinct ethnic groups and are also referred to as first people, aboriginal people, and native people.

Legacy media

Legacy media is a term used to describe media organisations such as television, radio, newspapers and magazines, often referred to as mainstream media. See professional journalism.

Mainstream media

See our entry on professional journalism.

Media capture

Media capture is when the news media is controlled “either directly by governments or by vested interests networked with politics.” Media capture is seen in the continuing rise of right wing populism and the methods used by governments to maintain a hold on the public.

Media development

Media development includes many terms set out in this glossary. It involves the capacity building of institutions and individuals so that they are better able to exercise freedom of expression. It aims to ensure the plurality and diversity of the media, as well as offering transparency about media ownership. Media development has a strong focus on journalism ethics and the processes and workflows needed in order to establish financially sustainable media houses producing journalism that informs the public debate and educates the audience.

Media ethics

Media ethics are the values that professional journalists are expected to observe. Typical ethical categories include accuracy, fairness, impartiality, objectivity, integrity, offence, privacy, taste and decency. See our media ethics section on the Fojo journalism training site.

Media literacy

Media literacy is about helping people access and evaluate content published or broadcast online, on air, in print, and on social media. The aim is to help people understand who produced what and why. It also involves helping the audience understand how they can create and disseminate reliable, robust, critical and trustworthy content. See media literacy empowerment.

Media regulation

Media regulation refers to rules that are applied to the media in order to ensure certain policies and standards are observed and met. Regulations could be set to ensure the media reflects society as it is by including multiple, diverse views and perspectives in order to ensure freedom of expression and representation from all sectors and levels of society. It can be used to block certain content through legal restrictions on what can be broadcast or published in terms of taste, decency, privacy, and the likelihood to offend. Media regulation is usually enforced at state level. See self-regulation media and media law.

Media law

Media law is the legislation through which governments regulate the mass media. It includes censorship, copyright, defamation, broadcast law, and antitrust law. In democracies, media law is seen as a balancing act between two conflicting principles: freedom of expression and the constraints laid down in statutes of common law, as in issues of defamation and the national interest. All journalists are expected to study law as it affects journalism, in particular defamation and libel. They also need to understand how to cover court hearings as well as council and parliamentary proceedings. See media regulation.

Media organisation

A media organisation is an entity engaged in disseminating information by broadcasting via television, radio, and cable, and/or publishing in print via newspapers, magazines, and online. See media outlet, media company, and media organisation.

Media outlet

A media outlet is any mechanism used for publishing and broadcasting news, information, current affairs, and feature articles via television and radio, newspapers and magazines, and the internet and social media. See media company and media organisation.

Media producers

Media producers are responsible for the production of news, current affairs, and other programme material for TV, radio, and online. They oversee editorial staff and work closely with output teams to ensure content is produced to the required standard and timescale.

Media viability

Media viability refers to the conditions that are required for media to be able to exist and flourish independently and free of influence by government or corporate interests. See independent media.

Mid-career professional development

Mid-career professional development helps to establish career stability and also assist in the progression in a career or a transition into a new area. Many employees in this stage reach their peak levels of productivity and maintain a skill set specific to their role. Mid-career development can help them consolidate that position or assist them build their capacity and expand their skill sets.


Misinformation is unwittingly spreading false information without necessarily intending to mislead, and possibly thinking the information was true. See our entry on disinformation.

Monitoring and evaluation

Often referred to as M&E, monitoring and evaluation are the methods used to assess the effectiveness of international development work. The purpose is to improve and learn how to do things better, both in the present and in the future. Both monitoring and evaluation are used to ensure agreed objectives are met. Monitoring refers to the ongoing assessment, often based on assessing the situation at the start, middle, and end. An evaluation is an examination of the project’s outcomes looking at the relevance, effectiveness, and resulting changes measured against agreed objectives.

Non-governmental organisation (NGO)

An NGO is a non-governmental organisation that is typically nonprofit and often involved in humanitarian activities, such as those providing assistance aimed at reducing suffering and improving living conditions. They can also be lobby groups for corporations.

Professional journalism

Professional journalism refers to journalism that is guided by commonly accepted media ethics and media law. There are set standards to be met, and there are usually public bodies that monitor the performance of journalists to ensure that they continue to operate in a professional manner. Professional journalism is often referred to as mainstream media. See our entries on citizen journalism and media ethics.

Public interest journalism

Public interest journalism is the production of all news, current affairs, and information that aims to investigate and explain issues of public interest or significance. It plays a critical role in ensuring that the public is fully informed in order to make educated choices. See public service journalism.

Public service journalism

The role of public service journalism is to inform the national debate in democratic societies by delivering news and current affairs coverage that is independent, impartial, accurate, and relevant to the information needs of the audience. See public interest journalism.

Regulatory body

A regulatory body is a public organisation or government agency which is set up to regulate an activity. The body imposes requirements, outlines conditions to be met, sets restrictions and standards for activities, and enforces the regulations in order to achieve compliance. See our entry on compliance.

Right to information

The right to information (RTI) enables the public and civil society to access information held by public bodies, and empowers those gathering that information to hold their leaders accountable, develop a fuller understanding of the world, and campaign to ensure human rights are upheld.


Self-censorship is when journalists censor their own work, or limit what they will investigate, write or broadcast about, out of fear, deference, or other outside pressures. Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”. Journalism self-censorship can be subtle, and can be linked to unconscious bias where a journalist limits what they say because they are influenced by their own preference, or by those with whom they are working. But usually it is because of the fear of reprisals if others who object to the information being published take action.

Self-regulation of the media

Media self-regulation is independent of government control and is designed to uphold the quality of the media. Self-regulation can take the form of codes of ethics, press and media councils, or complaints commissions and ombudspersons. Media self-regulation often involves the creation of a voluntary code of conduct agreed by the majority of media houses in a country or region which is then set as a guideline for all to follow. See media regulation.

Social sustainability

Social sustainability is about recognising and managing the positive and negative impacts of systems, processes, organisations, and activities on societies, in particular focusing on people and social interaction and survival. See sustainability crisis (society) and crumbling societies.


A stakeholder, in terms of international development, is anyone interested in the success of a particular project. This includes the funders, development partners, and those likely to benefit from the project.


A start-up is a fledgling organisation, company or group that is in the process of becoming established. Start-ups are often created to meet a perceived need or requirement which those behind the start-up feel they have the skills to satisfy.

Sustainability crisis (society)

Sustainability crisis in society relates to climate change, poverty, inequality, and crumbling democracies. It covers the environment, social structures, and economics. See crumbling democracies and environmental sustainability.

Sustainability crisis (journalism)

Sustainability crisis in journalism refers to the erosion of revenue streams, competition from the global social media companies, media takeover by those more interested in profit than informing the public debate, the spread of disinformation, and the deteriorating public trust in the media. The media must be financially independent and viable if it is to address these sustainability challenges. See disruptive media and digital disruption.

Sustainable development

Sustainable development is satisfying the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It is about enabling for the long term.

Sustainable development goals

Sustainable development goals (SDGs) have been adopted by all United Nations member states. They form a shared outline for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future. There are 17 goals set for all countries, which are categorised by the UN as “developed and developing”, that are working together in a “global partnership”. The goals recognise that ending poverty and other deprivations must go “hand-in-hand with improved health and education, the reduction of inequality, and economic growth”, while, at the same time, “tackling climate change and preserving the world’s oceans and forests”.

Sustainable journalism

Sustainable journalism looks at the issues facing society and uncovers information which has previously gone unreported and which, once public, will inform the public debate. It is evidence-based journalism built on deep knowledge which exposes abuses of power, enlightens the public about the threat of climate change, explains how society functions, and confronts the challenges faced by society. See the Fojo training module on issue-led journalism. Sustainable journalism is independent of outside pressures, whether they be political or business. It reflects how decisions, processes and activities will affect the ability of future generations to enjoy the same or improved opportunities as our own. Sustainable journalism safeguards and promotes democracy and is an enabler of a sustainable society.

Sustainable journalism partnership

Sustainable Journalism Partnership is a term used by Fojo to describe a learning process that involves Fojo partners, academic institutions, interest groups, professional organisations, media producers, and individual journalists in a “global network” working together “to produce sustainable journalism”. The term appears in Fojo’s strategy document for 2022-2025. The Sustainable Journalism Partnership is designed to harness Fojo’s “experiences and insights from our partners, and by keeping up with, participating in, and promoting relevant research, we will stimulate debate and learning about the role of journalism in society”.

Theory of change (Fojo)

Fojo’s theory of change is about the organisation’s long-term vision which is that “the public has access to the journalism it needs to make informed decisions so that people have power over their lives and can, together with others, form sustainable, democratic and inclusive societies”. Fojo breaks this down into three ‘interconnected processes’. 1) “As knowledge of new perspectives on journalism and its practical application increases, the role of journalism is expanded to also encompass sustainability.” 2) “As the ability to produce and publish sustainable journalism is strengthened, the conditions will be created to meet the new challenges facing journalism.” 3) “As economic viability and sustainability is strengthened, the diversity of viable media producers and the quality of their journalism will be increased.”