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.
An asylum-seeker is a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country, but who hasn’t yet been legally recognised as a refugee and is waiting to receive a decision on their asylum claim. Seeking asylum is a human right. This means everyone should be allowed to enter another country to seek asylum. See refugee and migrant.
A style of education in which participants learn via electronic and online media as well as traditional face-to-face teaching and on the job training.
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.
The term citizen journalists is typically applied to journalists who do not belong to mainstream media, and who might not have had traditional journalism training. Citizen journalists might be activists, bloggers who write to further a cause, or those who want to report about areas of society not covered by the mainstream media. The platforms they use are typically blogs and social media. Citizen journalists might not necessarily feel the urge to be objective, impartial or fair in their reporting. Their motivation might be to right perceived wrongs; equally it might be to advance a cause they feel passionately about. Citizen journalism doesn’t always have the same ethical constraints on it as professional journalism which is guided by commonly accepted media ethics and media law. See on professional journalism.
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.
Civic participation or civic engagement is any individual or group activity addressing issues of public concern. It includes communities working together, or individuals working alone, in both political and non-political activity in order to protect public values and bring about change.
Compliance means conforming to rules which are set out in an organisation’s policy documents or in national and international law. Regulatory compliance describes the goal that organisations aspire to achieve in their efforts to ensure that they are aware of and take steps to comply with relevant laws, policies, and regulations.
Conditionality is when conditions are agreed between partners involved in a media development collaboration which, if not met, could lead to a review. Such conditions could cover issues such as the adherence to human rights and accountability. The aim of conditionality is to ensure that all involved continue to abide by the terms of the original agreements.
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.
Crumbling democracies, also known as democratic backsliding and de-democratisation, is “a gradual decline in the quality of democracy”. It can lead to the state becoming “an autocratic or authoritarian regime”. It is caused by “the state-led weakening of political institutions that sustain the democratic system”. This can include the removal of free and fair elections, and the infringement of individual rights, especially freedom of expression. See sustainability crisis (society).
Deliberative dialogue is a face-to-face method of public interaction in which small groups of diverse individuals exchange and weigh ideas and opinions about a particular issue in which they share an interest. In some methods of deliberative dialogue participants begin the discussion from their personal experience and proceed to examine multiple views and perspectives. In the end, whether or not they come to a consensus, the group will ideally understand the complexities of the issue and come to an informed opinion about the matter they are discussing.
Democracy is a form of government in which people choose leaders by casting their individual vote. In a democracy every citizen should have the right to vote and to do so in total freedom without pressure or duress.
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 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.
Digital disruption is the change that occurs when new digital technologies and business models damage those of existing media outlets and services. This is typically evident in a drop in audience and revenue. See disruptive media.
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.
Economic sustainability refers to activities that support the long-term economic development of a company or a country while, at the same time, protecting the environment, ensuring a fair social structure, and protecting diverse cultures. See sustainable development.
An editorial agenda is a list of issues a media organisation is committed to investigate and cover on behalf of its audience. This editorial agenda becomes part of the media organisation’s sustainable journalism plan, setting out the topics that it seeks to research and explain in an effort to help inform the public debate so that the audience can make informed choices. This then fits into the media organisation’s forward planning function, and forms part of the calendar of events being covered. In political terms, an editorial agenda can refer to a ‘political agenda’ where the content produced is designed to achieve a political outcome; this is particularly relevant in cases where a media outlet has a political leaning. See sustainable journalism.
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.
Equitable distribution of power
Equitable distribution of power occurs when “influence and political decision-making is shared amongst all groups in society”. Equitable distribution gives “all citizens a fair opportunity to participate” in social development.
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 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.
Forward-thinking, or forward-looking is the act of planning for the future, not just the present, in an innovative and progressive way, while taking into account the long-term environmental and social effects.
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”.
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 binary is the classification of gender into the two distinct forms of masculine and feminine often enforced by social systems or cultural beliefs.
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.
Globalisation is the process by which businesses or other organisations develop international influence. It enables the richest countries to control world trade, often at the expense of other countries. Some will argue that globalisation leads to “higher standards of living around the world” as well as “unity of purpose and peace”. Others point to the “exploitation of labour in order to reduce the cost of production” and the “resulting job insecurity, currency fluctuation, and price instability”.
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.
Human resources (HR) refers to those who work for a business or an organisation, collectively referred to as ‘staff’ and regarded as an asset in terms of skills and abilities. The HR department in an organisation is responsible for finding, screening, recruiting, and training job applicants. HR will often be involved in assessing staff performance against set targets, or objectives, as part of an appraisal system where individuals are given the opportunity to develop in order to help them achieve their potential and be of greater value to the organisation that employs them.
Human rights defender
A human rights defender is someone who, individually or with others, acts to promote or protect human rights in a peaceful manner.
An inalienable right is “a right that can’t be restrained or repealed by human laws”. Inalienable rights include the right to life, freedom of speech and opinion, equality before the law, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They belonged to each human being from birth and can’t be taken away.
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 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 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.
An interest group is a group of people that seeks to influence public policy on the basis of a particular common interest or concern.
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 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 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 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 literacy empowerment
Media literacy empowerment is the process of promoting an awareness of media influences and thereby helping to build a greater understanding of why media has been created, who has created it, and what the purpose of the media is. After building this understanding journalists should be better informed when consuming and creating journalism.
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 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 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.
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.
Migrants are generally considered to be those staying outside their country of origin, who are not asylum-seekers or refugees. Some migrants leave their country because they want to work, study or join family, for example. Others feel they must leave because of poverty, political unrest, gang violence, natural disasters or other serious circumstances. Some, who don’t fit the legal definition of a refugee could nevertheless be in danger if they went home. See refugee and asylum-seeker.
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.
Multidimensional perspective means assessing issues through multiple circumstances, views, aspects, and features. It is an attempt to reach a rounded and complete view rather than a narrow, one-dimensional perspective.
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.
Normative change, or normative shift, occurs when the dominant group view changes quickly. It is when previous practices become exposed as being morally dubious or out of step with society, and which, having been considered acceptable one day, are seen as morally corrupt the next.
Normative change, or normative shift, occurs when the dominant group view changes quickly. It is when previous practices become exposed as being morally dubious or out of step with society, and which, having been considered acceptable one day, are seen as morally corrupt the next.
Plurality (in media)
Plurality in media means ensuring there is a diversity of viewpoints available and consumed across and within media enterprises and preventing any one media owner or voice having too much influence over public opinion and the political agenda. It also refers to the availability of different types of media outlets offering the audience multiple choices of content and perspectives so that those consuming news content can reach informed decisions.
Plurality (in society)
Plurality in society is when members of diverse ethnic, racial, religious, or social groups maintain an autonomous participation in and development of their traditional culture or special interest. A pluralistic society treats all ways of life with equal respect. Respect is built through discussion, mutual understanding, and a willingness to compromise. See our entry on diversity.
A political prisoner is someone imprisoned for their political beliefs and activities. The victim might have been imprisoned by political regimes not necessarily because they have broken a particular law but because their thoughts, ideas, and activities have challenged or threatened those in power.
Populism is a political approach that strives to appeal to those who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established groups of powerful people (the elite) who are considered to hold a disproportionate amount of wealth, privilege, and political power in a society. See populist leaders.
Post-truth is the emotional reaction to news and information which often takes on a life of its own. It is often seen in social media and political campaigning when the reactions obscure the original facts. Post-truth in journalism and politics is also referred to as post-factual and post-reality. It creates a culture where debate is framed largely by appeals to emotions rather than policy. It is typified by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored. See disinformation.
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.
A refugee is a person who has fled their own country because they felt they were at risk of serious human rights violations or persecution and considered that their safety and life were threatened. This leads them to the point that they felt they had no choice but to leave and seek safety outside their country because their own government cannot or will not protect them from those dangers. Refugees have a right to international protection. See asylum-seeker and migrant.
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.
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.
Stakeholder engagement (or involvement) is the process by which an organisation involves people who are affected by the decisions it makes or can influence the implementation of its decisions.
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.
State and non-state actors
State and non-state actors are entities that participate in or promote international relations. The two types of actors involved in international relations include ‘state’, which represents a government, and ‘non-state’ which represents society separate from the state.
Strengthening institutions involves building the capacity and ability of institutions to perform the functions they were set up to deliver. The main focus is governance and identifying any weaknesses that can be addressed. See our entry on capacity building.
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 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 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.”
A think tank performs research and carries out advocacy on topics such as social policy, political strategy, economics, military, technology, and culture. Most are non-governmental organisations, but some are semi-autonomous agencies within government, or are associated with particular political parties or businesses. Think tanks publish articles, studies and sometimes draft legislation on particular matters of policy or society. This information is then used by governments, businesses, media organisations, social movements or other interest groups as part of their goals. See advocacy and NGOs.