Ethical Code of the Bulgarian Media

Country:

In accordance with the Constitution of Bulgaria and its international human rights agreements;

Confirming that everyone has a fundamental right to freedom of expression, access to information, protection of personal dignity and privacy, and life in safety and security;

Confirming that the media are guaranteed the freedom to operate without any form of censorship;

Realising that to balance these rights, the media have both freedoms and responsibilities, and rights as well as obligations;

Declaring that our primary purpose in abiding by the letter and the spirit of this Code is to honour the right of the public to receive and distribute reliable information in order that they can play an active role as citizens in an open democracy;

In recognition of our responsibility to respect these rights, we, as representatives of the Bulgarian media[1], commit ourselves to the following principles[2]:

1. Supplying the public with reliable information

1.1. Accuracy

1.1.1 We shall supply the public with accurate and verified information and we shall not deliberately suppress or distort facts.

1.1.2 We shall not publish[3] information we know to be inaccurate.

1.1.3 We shall not mislead the public, and will clearly indicate where manipulated texts, documents, images and sounds have been used.

1.1.4 We shall distinguish clearly between comment, conjecture and facts.

1.1.5 In presenting analysis and comment we shall seek to ensure that a diversity of opinions and views is represented.

1.1.6 In reporting on a controversy we shall seek to ensure that parties concerned have an opportunity to state their position.

1. 2. Corrections

1.2.1 We shall publish a clear and appropriately prominent correction when it can be demonstrated that inaccurate or misleading information has been published, and provide an apology if necessary.

1.2.2 We shall provide a right of reply to individuals and organisations directly affected by inaccurate or misleading publications.

1.3 Sources

1.3.1. We shall seek to verify information before it is published, as we look for and use different sources and where appropriate indicate its provenance.

1.3.2. We prefer to use identified sources rather than anonymous sources whose honesty and reliability cannot be assessed by the public.

1.3.3. We shall protect the identity of confidential sources of information.

1.3.4 We shall always indicate where information has not been confirmed.

2. Acquisition and presentation of information

2.1 Identification

2.1.1. We shall gather information by fair and legal means.

2.1.2 We shall only make use of subterfuge, hidden cameras, microphones or other special equipment, or obscure our professional identity, if there is no other means to obtain information exceptionally important to the public interest; we shall indicate such methods in the story.

2.2 Harassment

2.2.1 We shall not use threats, force or harassment to obtain information or images.

2.3 Privacy

2.3.1 We shall respect the inviolability of everyone's private life.

2.3.2 We shall avoid publishing photographs and recordings of individuals taken outside public places without their consent.

2.3.3 We shall not add to the distress of people affected by tragedy or crime and report such matters with sympathy and constraint.

2.3.4 We shall respect the wish of people to grieve in private.

2.3.5 Only an exceptional public interest would justify the media's intrusion into private and family life.

2.3.6 According to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights, public figures can expect a lesser degree of privacy; however, information about their private life can be disclosed only if it is in the public interest.

2.4 Children[4]

2.4.1 We shall demonstrate special responsibility in respecting the rights of children, including their right to be heard.

2.4.2 We shall not take advantage of children's innocence and trust.

2.4.3 We shall not publish information or photographs about the private life of a child unless there is an overriding public interest.

2.4.4 We shall protect the identity of children involved in or affected by tragedy or criminal activity, in case it might turn out to be harmful.

2.4.5 We shall seek to avoid interviewing children without the consent of an appropriate adult.

2.5 Discrimination

2.5.1 We respect everyone's right to live in safety and security, and we shall avoid publishing material that incites or encourages hatred, violence or any form of discrimination

2.5.2 We shall not refer to a person's race, colour, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, mental or physical condition, unless it is of importance to the meaning of the story.

2.6 Crime and brutality

2.6.1 We shall respect the ‘assumption of innocence' and will not describe someone as a criminal prior to their conviction.

2.6.2 If we identify a person as being charged with a crime, we shall also make known the outcome of the trial.

2.6.3 We shall treat with caution the identification of victims and witnesses of crime, especially in cases involving sexual assault, unless they give consent to being identified.

2.6.4 We shall refrain from glorifying or unnecessarily sensational reporting about crime, violence and brutality.

2.6.5 We shall be careful not to be used as a platform by those who promote, incite or use violence; we shall report on their activities with due constraint and only if there is a clear public interest.

2.7 Decency

2.7.1 We shall respect good taste and decency in our publications.

2.8 Suicide

2.8.1 We shall avoid publishing details of suicide methods, in order to limit the risk of imitation.

3. Editorial independence

3.1 We shall not be susceptible to political or commercial pressure or influence.

3.2 We shall maintain a clear distinction between editorial decision-making and commercial policy of the media.

3.3 We shall maintain a clear distinction between editorial content and marketing, advertisements or sponsored materials.

3.4 We shall not accept any personal, political or financial inducements that may impact upon our ability to provide the public with accurate information.

3.5 We shall not use our access to information as a means of obtaining personal gain, especially in respect to information about business performance and financial markets.

3.6 We shall avoid covering stories where we have a direct personal interest, or shall at least declare our personal interests where it is relevant.

3.7 We shall respect the right of individual journalists to refuse assignments, or to be identified as the author of publications which would contravene the letter and spirit of this Code.

3.8 We shall not pay sources for information but where payment is considered necessary in order to obtain information that the public has a right to know, we shall make clear that payments have been made. 

4. Relations between and within media

4.1 We believe that relationships between different media outlets and between media professionals should be characterised by mutual respect and fair competition in order to preserve the integrity of the media.

4.2 We believe that the public has a right to know who owns and controls media outlets.

4.3 We consider all forms of plagiarism to be unacceptable in all circumstances.

4.4 We shall respect copyright and the terms of copyright agreements.

4.5 We shall always acknowledge the source of short extracts of material from other media which may be used without express permission.

4.6 We shall only reproduce longer extracts or complete materials from other media with prior permission and with the acknowledgement of the author and media.

4.7 We shall support media colleagues when they are unfairly attacked or criticised; however, professional solidarity should not be an excuse for suppressing or distorting information.

4.8 We believe that individual journalists who respected the letter and spirit of this Code yet are charged in a court by third parties should be supported by their media outlet.

5. The public interest

5.1 Infringement of the terms of this Code may only be justified where it can be clearly and fully demonstrated that publication serves the best interests of the general public.

5.2 For the purposes of this Code, information ‘of public interest' should not be confused with information which is ‘interesting to the public'.

5.3 A publication is in the public interest only if:

  • It protects health, safety and security;
  • It helps the prevention and disclosure of serious crimes and abuse of power;
  • It prevents the public from the danger of being seriously misled.

 

[1] The term is used to include journalists, editors, producers, publishers and owners of print and electronic media.
[2] These principles form the basis for self-regulation of the Bulgarian media. Those of us who sign the Code shall ensure appropriate publication.
[3] For the purpose of this Code, ‘to publish' includes disseminating information in both print and electronic media.
[4] The expression ‘children' is used here to refer to children and young people up to the age of 18.