Global Disability Watch
Research Process & Ethical Code of Practice
Global Disability Watch generates and collates crowd and directly sourced information about policy, programmatic and project developments. The bulk of information is directly sourced from our trusted ground correspondents based in-country, and checked by GDW. We work with other in-country sources before publication to account for accuracy, timeliness and safe reporting.
Our correspondents are constantly following policy, practice and other developments relevant to disability through their own practice, media and collaborations with other organisations and researchers. They also have their own network of trusted contacts in the community to triangulate and fact-check information. All content is edited, proofed and approved by the content manager, director and deputee prior to publication.
GDW also conducts secondary reporting on rights violations published through trusted media sources, and in a number of cases conducts its own investigation.
The areas of focus and locations and reporting for our investigation are chosen after careful and diligent consideration and consultation and evaluation by the GDW board working closely and in partnership with our correspondents, national and international organisations and other stakeholders. We act in sensitive and responsible ways to respond when:
- Local events and advocacy efforts need coverage and support
- Stories are underreported or not reported or have been reported but violations persist over time or are entrenched.
- The responsible covering of stories can positively impact policy and practice
- Research does not put individual disabled people, their families and communities, organisations or associates at risk, and does not compromise their security or well-being over time.
- GDW can solidly confirm facts, act responsibly and resourcefully with local partners and follow-up stories with due diligence and social and personal responsibility.
The stories we choose to research, investigate and cover and our methodologies are guided by our extensive team of local correspondents, the bulk of who reside in-country and are permanently in the field, working as activists and advocates and conducting formal and informal research and only following solid consultation and approval by the GDW ethics board and other stakeholders. Correspondents work closely with GDW administration and researchers guided by the GDW ethical code of research practice (see below).
Methodologies implemented are contextualised, sensitive and informed, and we treat each case individually with due diligence and care. We dedicate substantial time to pre-research processes, do not use standardised measures, but approaches are designed and guided by solid consultation in-context. Our objective is to investigate and report human stories humanly, ethically, respectfully and responsibly and that do not have simply informational value, but that can responsibly catalyse and support local advocacy already in place. In this respect, we cooperate with a range of stakeholders including local civil society activists, legal persons, journalists, national and international organisations who are constantly in contact or active in engaging with state and government officials and other agents of change. We report on stories that do not sensationalise, victimise, and expose people, but that may direct focused and supportive advocacy and practice where and when it is needed and called for by local advocates, without identifying, attracting attention to, creating conflict or leading to additional physical or psychological harm to individuals, families and communities.
We research and report ‘problems’ and cases in line with local advocacy priorities and requirements, in particular in supporting efforts that solidify existing calls for action, that articulate responsibilities, help activate measures for redress, and that may usefully provide an informed road map for action while building concerted support.
All our correspondents are active in the disability field as advocates, researchers, journalists among others and are committed to human rights and have in-depth expertise in their respective country of correspondence. The correspondents work in partnership with and under the supervision of the GDW administration to ensure informed, ethical standards including those of safety, accuracy and follow-up. All material provided by our correspondents is carefully screened and checked for accuracy and standards.
- Primary Research Process
Background and Pre-Research
Global Disability Watch operates strictly in accordance with its strategy, priorities and guiding principles in selection of story, research and investigative themes.
We diligently and carefully conduct pre-research assessments in consultation with our correspondents, researchers, and other stakeholders, and each assessment is conducted with rigorous contextualised sensitivity and care. With many themes we cover, our correspondents have already started engaging or are actively involved and have conducted their own formal or informal research and background checks. We endeavour to solidly build on these preliminary efforts. We seek to support and strengthen the efforts of local correspondents and to build on their existing specialisation and expertise to conduct further and in-depth background research in unobtrusive, safe and reliable ways to familiarise, learn more and garner more information that can help GDW take an informed decision about whether to move on with investigate research and the adequate methodologies with a long-term strategy.
The preliminary research phase, enables GDW to: develop an in-depth, solid and comprehensive understanding of each case, as well as well as the socio-economic, political, cultural/ideological, and geographical context; identification of key actors and interviewees and adequately assess safety and other issues; communicate with and develop local contacts and networks including local human rights activists and civil society, national and international organisations.
In addition, GDW conducts extensive preliminary communication and consultation with contacts alongside background research on context and contacts, researches local and national and international media, legal frameworks, as well as academic and non-academic sources.
GDW endeavours to garner sufficient in-depth and rigorous information about rights violations and context and to frame and present these in an accurate, fact-checked and safe way for interviewees, advocates and GDW staff over the long term.
In some instances we can report this by interviewing advocates and other stakeholders backed by adequately researched information from secondary sources. At other times, and after solid consultation with local trusted gatekeepers, we interview victims of rights violations. Before engaging in primary research, we conduct solid assessments of risk, security, personal and family circumstances and for each case to put in place adequate safety measures and communications. This phase also helps us determine adequate locations and interviewees and how to approach, contact and conduct research. Throughout this phase we work with activists who know the context and each case well, as well as researchers, academics, lawyers and others in the local context whenever possible. Before engaging in primary research, and in choosing sites and interviewees, we and make extensive use of empirical information including national data sets and studies.
In instances where interviews with victims of rights violations are conducted, our scope is to understand, elucidate key facts and perspectives that inform, offer opportunities for learning as well as opportunities to catalyse and solidify advocacy and protection measures. We also work hard to give a voice to people, especially those that are seldom heard or talked for by others. We also interview sensitively in ways that can alert to and offer solid recommendations for policy and practice changes.
These initial steps help GDW build up information, understand the context, and locate adequate interviewees using trusted, informed and safe channels and also to build legitimacy for our own investigationists, community leaders using trusted, informed and safe channelsndkey gatekeeprs, sties for learning as well as opport. At times, we may also conduct interviews with government authorities, and others that may broaden the perspective and also initiate a process of awareness and protective action. All interviews are conducted following adequate consultation with local experts and a careful assessment of security risks.
We go to great lengths to understand and remain constantly aware of the peculiarity and sensitivity of each case, which means that we have to be flexible yet rigorous and constantly ethical in our approach. We are nevertheless guided by core principles: impartiality; respecting people’s security, dignity and well-being at all times; confidentiality; informed consent; anonymity; fact-checked and triangulated information.
Interviewees are free to choose the location, and in most cases we endeavour to interview in private settings. Times are chosen by interviewees, and we insist that interviewees have the right to terminate the interview at any point without any questions asked. In our efforts to corroborate and verify information, we seek to (where possible) interview other victims and stakeholders.
We are extremely sensitive to traumatic events and the scars they leave and for research to not impose additional psychological, physical or other stress. We conduct interviews sensitively, carefully, and in non-invasive ways, and do end or postpone research if we feel interviewees are struggling.
We conducts interviews in native languages with trusted and trained cultural mediators by GDW if needed, but most of our correspondents are locals and fluent in the language.
While most of our research is conducted in person, we may on occasion conduct interviews online or by phone, especially with policy makers, organisations or other stakeholders, if these cannot be reached, or we feel an in-person interview may constitute a security or other risk.
- Secondary Research
As highlighted in the introduction, much of the research conducted by GDW is secondary, non-interview in-person research. This allows us to provide as comprehensive a picture as possible of global disability issues, to keep abreast of developments, and to inform our primary research priorities, themes and approach.
We conduct extensive reviews of secondary media reports, local policy development, national and international legislation, policy and position papers, academic output, civil society reports and grey literature. We carefully review information from international bodies, multilaterals, bilaterals and international organisations and regional bodies.
Our local correspondents are also constantly reviewing and gathering information from various sources and conduct formal and informal interviews assessing events and developments, key locations and so on. Our own correspondents work closely with the GDW head offices to gather information, elucidate and verify key facts.
Code of Ethical Practice
All staff, including administration and correspondents for GDW believe that respect for human rights, dignity, well-being, safety and protection are the cornerstones of informed, respectful and just journalism and practice that can act as a powerful force for positive transformative change. Ethical journalism has a responsibility to inform, facilitate free exchange of information that is accurate, fair, thorough but that avoids harm and that ensures protection at all times. An ethical journalist operates and reports with integrity at all times. GDW, its staff and collaborators declare and are committed to the following principles as the foundation of ethical journalism, advocacy and practice:
1. Truth and Accuracy
Ethical journalism and practice, online and offline should be accurate and fair at all times, and correspondents and administrators should act in informed and consistently honest and rigorous ways in gathering, reporting and interpreting information:
- Assume responsibility for accuracy of information generated from primary and secondary sources and reporting.
- Use original and reliable sources whenever is possible and corroborate findings with diligence and safety at all times.
- Consult with a range of trusted and reliable stakeholders for clarity, depth and comprehensive reporting.
- Question sources’ motives and clarify conditions for research
- Provide enough information on context without compromising confidentiality or anonymity.
- Do not misrepresent or oversimplify
- Gather, update and correct information throughout the life of a news story.
- Be truthful at all times to sources and key informants and do not make promises that cannot be kept or that go against GDW’s guiding principles or that may lead to false expectations, cause harm or damage relationships.
- Reserve, guarantee and take all measures to ensure anonymity for sources who may face danger, retribution or other harm (see below).
- Diligently consult with and follow up whenever possible with subjects of news coverage to allow them time and opportunity to respond, add on, contradict or even withdraw the story.
- Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information.
- Work to seek and give a voice to the voiceless or those who are represented while ensuring their anonymity, well-being and safety at all times.
- Support open, safe and civil exchange of views and do not react aggressively or be confrontational even when these may be difficult to digest or may go against one’s own person, religious/ideological or cultural values.
- Never impose one’s own values or beliefs on others
- Recognize the need for special focus on policy and other developments
- Tell stories that are truthful, accurate and that account for human diversity and complexity, where respect and dignity are firmly at the core.
- Never deliberately distort facts or context, including visual information or fabricate information.
- Never plagiarize and always attribute
- Make certain that headlines and any material do not misrepresent. They should not highlight incidents out of context.
- Never distort the content of news photos or video.
- Distinguish between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be labelled and not misrepresent fact or context.
- A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published.
- A publication must report fairly and accurately
- Verify information before publishing it and disseminating it through solid consultation with various sources: respondents and GDW staff are responsible for confirming all facts
- Digital communications and third party sources require adequate probing and cross-checking. Decision on reliability of sources is the responsibility of the editors as well as correspondents
- Results and third party material e.g. survey results need to be contextualized and to specify accuracy, or flaws where possible.
- All sources and subjects are to be treated with respect and all reporting has to be conducted fairly even with hostile and recalcitrant ones whose values and practices may go against those of GDW, including personal, political and other values and positions.
- Subjects of stories should have the opportunity, within reasonable limits, to respond to findings and reporting.
- Personal and reporting conduct and Harm Limitation
In conducting research and reporting:
- All GDW correspondents and staff are to be clearly aware of and examine their own cultural/ideological, political and other values and avoid imposing these on others at all times.
- Act and communicate and behave respectfully and in contextually sensitive and responsive ways that do not encroach on or compromise any one person’s sense of self-worth, well-being, beliefs and customs, comfort and security at all times.
- Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability, physical appearance or social status at all times.
- Avoid making promises concerning the potential of stories in subject’s personal or social circumstances
- Participants must never be coerced, intentionally or otherwise by GDW staff or third parties in participating in research or to have their story reported.
- Be honest about the scope and directions of research and reporting
- Be informed and seek adequate and reliable support and gatekeeping in entering.
Under no circumstances will GDW staff or correspondents mislead sources, lie, cheat, steal or engage in any other immoral, unethical or illegal behaviour in the pursuit of a story. GDW and its associates should exercise sound judgment at all times.
- GDW identifies itself as a journalist and advocacy programme upfront. We do not use hidden cameras or microphones, go undercover or engage in any other news-gathering activity that may be misleading or lead to person or community harm.
- Respect ethical procedures at all times:
- Provide adequate information on the scope, directions, and outcomes of research
- Provide information on potential risks and the rights of participants (withdrawal, anonymity, confidentiality) while emphasising the limits of anonymity
- Emphasise the right to withdraw with no explanation throughout all stages
- Explain off-the-record interviews, and clearly set out the ground rules to avoid misunderstandings as to how information may be used.
- Request permission (consent) in written or oral form in contextualised ways for the person/s to be interviewed in advance, ideally in a familiari ideally in ngs as to how ermission in consultation with the GDW director before being published. tion measures, and sing visit beforehand
- Take adequate and contextualised measures to protect the person’s anonymity at all times, from interviewing right through to reporting (see below).
- Where possible, and depending on the case, anonymise any written or audio-visual output and remove any information that may help identify the person, location or community and/or that may put the person in danger (see below).
- Where material (films, photos, audio-files etc.) obtained from third party sources relates to the private life of a person or a group of persons or is taken in such a setting, it should not be used without the participant’s consent.
- The collection and presentation of audio-visual data material should be sensitive and appropriate to the local community demands and contexts, ideally discussing material with participants and asking for their opinions, feedback and consent.
- The participants’ physical, emotional, social and spiritual well-being should be at the centre of all phases of the process.
- Show compassion at all times and act sensitively.
- Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
- Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort and in such cases is not to be pursued or alternative informed routes sought.
- Be extremely cautious about identifying suspects or victims of rights violations and exposing these to family, local communities, and national authorities. Consultation with informed stakeholders, including gatekeepers and civil society is key at all times and discussions on ways forward must be ongoing.
- Do not harass, engage in intimidation (overtly or covertly), or persistent pursuit. This includes questioning, telephoning, recording or photographing once asked to desist
- Do not remain on participants’ property when asked to leave. Be sensitive and judicious in understanding when a participant no longer wants to be interviewed.
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.
- Remain free of associations and activities that may compromise integrity or damage credibility.
- Refuse gifts, favours, fees or special treatment at all times
- Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
- Be wary of sources offering information for favours
- Use heightened sensitivity when dealing with children (see below), young people, victims of sex crimes, and sources or subjects who are inexperienced, vulnerable or unable to give consent.
- Follow up: where possible initiate and maintain contact with interviewees and gatekeepers to update on stories, but also to ensure that adequate protection measures remain in place following fieldwork and reporting.
Participants (any individual or group of persons being audio recorded/video recorded or about who the reporting is done):
- Should be consulted before being interviewed and/or having their picture taken or video or audio recorded and adequately informed as to how this will be used. No data should be collected without their knowledge (see above).
- Have the right to freedom of expression and choice in how to represent themselves and their stories. They should be provided with the space and flexibility to describe what they have experienced without being coerced or censored.
- Have the right to decide what language to use in telling and creating a story
- Have the right to determine whether or not their names are attached to their stories and whether images of themselves are blurred to protect privacy. These issues should be discussed and agreed in advance.
- Sharing stories about especially painful life experiences should be supported in approaching their narratives from a position of strength rather from a vantage point that reinforces victimization. Work in sensitive and supportive ways.
- Must be able to make informed choices about the content of the material by giving the opportunity (where possible) to review it before it is published
- Have the right to withdraw their material from public circulation at any time.
All necessary safeguards should be taken when dealing with children (under 16):
- All contact should be initiated and maintained in the presence of a trusted adult
- Permission to be interviewed and/or photographed needs to be explicitly sought from a family member or legal custodian.
- Obscure children’s identities in reporting
- Privacy and anonymity
The right to privacy is to be respected at all times:
- All reasonable measures must be taken to minimise intrusion and invading any person or community’s privacy at any time
- Caution should be exercised in reporting and publishing identifying details that may enable others to intrude on the privacy or safety of people who have become the subject of media coverage.
- Sources promised confidentiality must be protected at all costs.
- GDW refrains from using profanity or slurs that may offend unless these are quoted directly and within sensible measure. The editorial director and ethics board are responsible for reviewing and approving this content.
- Self-regulation: internal ethics board
In addition to the above codes of ethics, GDW maintains its own Ethics Board entrusted with reviewing primary sourced stories, especially ones where ethical and legal issues may be complex. The ethics board works with the GDW administration to advise on key themes, coverage, ethical concerns, protection measures and reporting. Sensitive stories undergo review by the ethics board and need to be granted permission in consultation with the GDW director before being published.
- Requests from Outside Media and Others
- All requests from media, governments, or other sources must be directed immediately to the GDW director.
- When appropriate and suitable, GDW will disclose doubts, and lack of information about a specific story and will disclose any relationships and/or connections e.g. GDW partners that might appear to influence our coverage.
GDW is accountable to a range of stakeholders, including The Critical Institute, the GDW partners, readers and others. Where possible, GDW will:
- Reflectively explain why we cover certain stories and provide spaces for debate and questions about coverage and practice.
- Encourage the public to communicate with us, including complaints as well as feedback and recommendations.
- Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
- Expose any unethical practices that may emerge.
- Abide by the same high standards to which it hold others.
Global Disability Watch
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