ONO Newsletter June 2021



What a wonderful Annual General Meeting we had on June 8th. Thanks to all the members – 35 in total – who were able to join us.

We sadly bid farewell to President Bjarne Schilling and Vice-President Sally Begbie, who both stepped down after leading us so magnificently through the difficult times of Covid. The good news is that both will be keeping active with ONO and both will remain on the Board, which means we will continue to benefit from their advice and input, just as we do with other former Presidents like Tarmu Tammerk.

The other good news, of course, is that we have two fine replacements to lead us into the future in Margo Smit and Jack Nagler.

In recent times, Margo has been the ONO Treasurer, ensuring that our finances remain in good shape with the help of our wonderful book-keeper, Elaine Carlton.

Both Margo and Jack have been active and involved Board members, and so there is no doubt the organization remains in good hands.

I am sure you will join me in welcoming them both.

We also welcomed two new board members, which brings the size of our current board up to the maximum number of thirteen.

Joining the Board this year are Elisabeth Ribbans from the Guardian and Observer newspapers in the UK, and John Daniszewski from Associated Press, based in the US.

Both will bring very valuable skills and experience to our organization.

The ONO website has now been updated to provide some new links on the front page with some background information on Margo, Jack and the rest of the Board.

Here is the full team:

  • MARGO SMIT (President): Margo is the Ombudsman for Journalistic Content at NPO, the public broadcaster in The Netherlands. You can access her official homepage HERE.
  • JACK NAGLER (Vice President): Jack is the English Language Ombudsman for CBC, the Canadian public broadcaster. His homepage is HERE.
  • SALLY BEGBIE: Sally is the immediate past Vice President of ONO, and the Ombudsman for the Special Broadcasting Service, a public broadcaster in Australia.
  • LARS BENNIKE: Lars is the Viewers’ Editor at TV2, a government-owned subscription TV service in Denmark.
  • GEORGE CLAASSEN: George is the Public Editor of News24, an English-language online news service in South Africa, as well as The Witness, a daily newspaper in Pietermarizburg, and Media24’s Community Press, published countrywide..
  • JOHN DANISZEWSKI: John is the Vice President and Editor-at-Large for Standards at Associated Press, one of the world’s major news agencies, based in New York.
  • TIMO HUOVINEN: Timo is the Head of Journalistic Standards and Ethics at YLE, Finland’s national public broadcasting company.
  • DAVID JORDAN: David has been Director, Editorial Policy and Standards at the BBC since 2007.
  • A.S. PANNEERSELVAN: Panneer is the Readers Editor at The Hindu newspaper in India, one of the longest-running and most popular English language newspapers in the country.
  • ELISABETH RIBBANS: Elisabeth is the Global Readers’ Editor for the Guardian and Observer newspapers in the UK and internationally.
  • BJARNE SCHILLING: Bjarne is the immediate past President of ONO. He is the Reader’s Editor at Politiken, a leading daily Danish broadsheet newspaper.
  • IGNAZ STAUB: Ignaz is the Ombudsman for the TX Group (formerly Tamedia), the largest media group in Switzerland, with a portfolio of daily and weekly newspapers, magazines and online platforms.
  • TARMU TAMMERK: Tarmu is Ombudsman at ERR, the Estonian Public Broadcaster.

For security reasons, we like to change the members only password on the ONO site from time to time, and when you receive this newsletter you will note that, from today, the old password (TRUST2020) will no longer provide access to this area.

The new password is OMBUDS21

You will need this password to access the members only section, and also to access any of the shop talk videos that are in that section.

This is a good opportunity to remind you to take a look at this section of the site. It contains not only recordings of shop talks but also email contacts for all ONO members, links to editorial standards from all around the world, back copies of newsletters and a host of other information.


It was wonderful to hear from ONO member Kathy English at the AGM as she spoke about her recent research paper on the future of public editors and ombudsmen, and the challenges of redefining and expanding their role in the future.

You can listen back to the session or download the slide pack in the members only section of our website.

There was a lively discussion off the back of Kathy’s talk, but not all members were able to contribute due to time constraints.

After the meeting, one very interesting reflection came from ONO member Ana Cecilia Terrazas, the Ombudsman for Radio Educacion in Mexico.

Ana Cecilia drew our attention to an important legal victory in Mexico for the rights of ombudsmen and their ability to set and uphold standards for the public. It’s a timely reminder that, around the world, the battle for good editorial standards and proper media accountability is an ongoing one, and nothing can be taken for granted.

Here is the article that Ana Cecilia has written for us, and I am delighted to be able to reproduce it in Spanish as well as in English:

Mexican Supreme Court sides with AMDA

On May 12th, a majority of members of Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice ruled in favour of the appeal interposed by the Asociación Mexicana de Defensores de la Audiencia (Mexican Association of Ombudspersons, AMDA in Spanish). The appeal was against the 2017 reform of the Federal Law of Telecommunications and Broadcasting, by which Congress sought to limit both, the Federal Telecommunications Institute’s (IFT) attributes as a regulatory entity, and the mandatory enforcement of audiences rights by all open television and radio stations, as originally stated in the 2014 Law.

With the Supreme Court’s ruling Congress has now 30 days to reinstate the original attributes of the IFT, so as to allow it to issue the proper guidelines that radio and television stations must comply with in order to guarantee that audiences rights shall be observed, including the public issuing of Ethic Codes and Standards by all networks. Congress must also recognise the faculties of the IFT as the autonomous regulatory entity to make sure all networks abide by these regulations.

The original 2014 Federal Law of Telecommunications and Broadcasting was the result of a Constitutional Reform by which, for the first time in Mexican history, the State acknowledged a series of audiences’ rights (article 256), networks were required to issue public Standards or Ethic Codes, and an independent body (IFT) was set up in order to regulate broadcasting in general.

However, in 2017 and due to the pressure of the private media lobby, after the IFT issued its guidelines in December 2016, a majority of Representatives and Senators decided to modify the original 2014 Law, granting media the decision whether of issuing or not a public Standard or Ethic Code, and limiting the IFT’s faculties as the sector regulating entity.

AMDA, together with other civil associations and a number of legislators, interposed an appeal before a Federal Judge, arguing that such modifications countered the spirit of the 2014 Constitutional Reform and its subsequent Law. The Judged granted the appeal, and the issue was finally resolved in May 2021 by the Supreme Court of Justice in favour of mandatory audiences’ rights, and the attributes of the IFT as an autonomous regulatory entity.

More information available at https://amda.unam.mx/.

El pasado12 de mayo de 2021, la Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación (SCJN) confirmó la sentencia a favor del amparo de la Asociación Mexicana de Defensorías de las Audiencias (AMDA), dictada por otro juez en 2019, para dejar sin efecto la parte reclamada de la reforma a la Ley Federal de Telecomunicaciones y Radiodifusión que en 2017 limitó las atribuciones del Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT) para emitir Lineamientos a fin de establecer procesos estandarizados y la garantía para la defensa de los derechos de las audiencias”, según publicó la propia AMDA en boletín del 14 de mayo de 2021[1].

A partir de la sentencia de la SCJN, el Congreso tiene 30 días para dejar sin efecto los dos párrafos impugnados del Artículo 256 y, en consecuencia, el órgano regulador, el Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones (IFT), tendría que emitir nuevos lineamientos o bien dejar los que ya existían previos a la contrarreforma de 2017 (así llamada por las defensorías de las audiencias).

Con esa sentencia se logran avances con énfasis en tres tópicos: inconstitucionalidad, papel regulador del IFT y ética inclusiva de las audiencias. 

Esto es: se confirma inconstitucional la modificación hecha en 2017 a los últimos dos párrafos del Artículo 256, en los cuales se dispuso que los concesionarios emitirían sus códigos de ética sin que tuviesen que ser revisados posteriormente por ninguna autoridad. Con la ratificación de la sentencia, el Instituto Federal de Telecomunicaciones recupera la facultad de emitir (o reemitir los Lineamientos Generales de 2016) mediante los cuales los códigos de ética de todos los concesionarios deberán apegarse a la protección, promoción y defensa de los derechos de las audiencias.

A raíz de esa sentencia, la Cámara Nacional de la Industria de la Radio y la Televisión (básicamente la radio y la televisión comerciales, no públicas) comenzó una andanada de amenazas y desinformación en contra de la AMDA argumentando falsamente que ésta quiere obstaculizar la libertad de expresión. El ánimo de esas respuestas es más para confundir y no abrir sus contenidos al escrutinio público, a las audiencias y a una ética incluyente.

Más información en el sitio de la AMDA: https://amda.unam.mx/


We all know that upholding editorial standards can be a thankless task at the best of times, but every now and then the role is recognised and rewarded. When that happens, we all have cause to celebrate.

ONO is therefore delighted to let all members know that Kerstin Dolde, ONO member and Reader Advocate at the Frankenpost newspaper in Germany, has been awarded a prestigious Medal of Merit from the German Government for her work. Congratulations Kerstin!

Here’s how it was reported by the German Organization of News Ombudsmen:

“I am pleased to be able to make an extremely gratifying announcement to you today. It is also a small tribute to the Association of Media Ombudspersons, but it is in full measure for a colleague who has been a member of our Association from the very beginning.
On behalf of all of us, I congratulate Kerstin Dolde from the Frankenpost in Hof. At the suggestion of the Bavarian Minister President, she will receive the Medal of Merit of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany from the Federal President.
Justifications in the letter of thanks from the Minister President Markus Söder show her great commitment and significant contributions to the common good”


  • Given the in-depth, two part discussion we recently held on issues relating to “unpublishing”, members will be interested in this development at Associated Press. The company has announced a significant change in the way it handles the reporting of minor criminal matters and the use of mug shots.
  • ONO Member Sjoerd de Jong, from the Dutch evening newspaper NRC Handelsblad, published this piece on the challenges of accurately reporting on a major court judgement.
  • Jesper Termansen at DR, the Danish Public Broadcaster, dives into the complex and controversial area of Middle East reporting: https://www.dr.dk/etik-og-rettelser/brugernes-redaktoer/nyheder/dr-var-ikke-partisk-i-artikel-om-konflikten-i
  • In Belgium, ONO Member Karin De Ruyter (Ombudsman at De Standaard newspaper) makes some important points about the significance of context when establishing accuracy (registration required)
  • And finally, let’s finish with a bit of a laugh, courtesy of this piece from ONO Board Member Elisabeth Ribbans setting out some of the worst typos in The Guardian over the years.
Margo Smit                                                                                                            Alan Sunderland ONO President                                                                                                 ONO Executive Director

[1] https://radioeducacion.edu.mx/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Posicionamiento_AMDA_14_05_2021.pdf

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