Code of Journalistic Principles

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Freedom of expression is one of the fundamental rights of man, an essential condition for public opinion to be enlightened and informed. In its concern to preserve the integrity and freedom of the press, the Belgian Association of Newspaper Publishers, the General Association of Professional Journalists of Belgium and the National Federation of the Information Newsletters have adopted the following code of principles of journalism in 1982.

1. Freedom of the press

Freedom of the press is the main safeguard of freedom of expression without which the protection of other basic civil freedoms cannot be ensured. The press must have the right to collect and to publish information and commentaries without hindrance, to ensure the forming of the public opinion.

2. The facts

Facts must be collected and reported without bias.

3. Distinction between information and comment

The distinction between facts reporting and commentaries must be clearly visible. This principle must not prevent the journal/newspaper from presenting its own opinion as well as the viewpoints of others.

4. Respect for the diversity of opinions

The press recognizes and respects the diversity of opinions, it defends the freedom to publish different points of view. It opposes all discrimination based on sex, race, nationality, language, religion, ideology, culture, class or conviction, provided that the convictions thus professed are not in contradiction with the respect for fundamental human rights.

5. Respect for human dignity

Publishers, editors-in-chief and journalists must respect the dignity of and the right to a private life of individuals and avoid all intrusion into physical or mental suffering unless considerations related to the freedom of the press make this necessary.

6. Presentation of violence

Crimes and terrorism as well as other cruel and inhuman activities must not be glorified.

7. Correction of erroneous information

Facts and information proved to be false must be corrected without restriction and without prejudice to the legal provision of the right to reply.

8. Protection of sources of information

Sources of confidential information cannot be revealed without the explicit authorisation of the informant.

9. Secrecy

The secrecy of public and private affairs as defined by law cannot prevent the freedom of the press.

10. Human rights

Should the freedom of expression be in conflict with other fundamental rights, it is up to the editors (in consultation with the journalists concerned) to decide on their own responsibility to which right they will give priority.

11. Independence

Newspapers and journalists must not give in to any outside pressure.

12. Advertisements

Advertisements must be presented in such a way that they cannot be confused with factual information.