Guidelines for Journalists

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Introduction

The freedom of speech is the foundation of a democratic society. Good journalistic practice is based on the public's right to have access to facts and opinions.

The aim of these guidelines is to support the responsible use of the freedom of speech in mass communication and encourage discourse on professional ethics.

The guidelines concern all journalistic work. They have been drafted specifically for self-regulation in the field. The guidelines are not intended to be used as grounds for criminal or indemnification liability.

Professional status

1. A journalist is primarily responsible to the readers, listeners and viewers. They have the right to know what is happening in society.

2. Decisions concerning the content of communication must be made in accordance with journalistic principles. The power to make such decisions may not, under any circumstances, be surrendered to any party outside the editorial office.

3. The journalist has the right and obligation to resist pressure or persuasion that attempts to steer, prevent or limit communication.

4. The journalist must not abuse his/her position. The journalist may not handle issues which may lead to potential personal gain nor demand or receive benefits which might compromise his/her personal independence or professional ethics.

5. The journalist has the right to refuse an assignment that conflicts with law, personal convictions or good journalistic practice.

6. When handling issues that concern the journalist's own medium, the group or the group's owners, the journalist should make the context of the news item clear to the readers, listeners and viewers.

7. It is crucial to observe good professional practice when using the work of others. The source must be mentioned when the information has been published by another party.

Obtaining and publishing information

8. The journalist must aim to provide truthful information.

9. The journalist is encouraged to make clear his/her profession during the course of an assignment. Information should be obtained openly. If matters of social significance cannot be otherwise investigated, the journalist may carry out interviews and obtain information by means that deviate from standard practice.

10. Any information obtained must be checked as thoroughly as possible, including cases where the information has been previously published.

11. The public must be able to distinguish facts from opinions and fictitious material. Nor may photographic and sound material be used in a misleading manner.

12. Information sources must be approached critically. This is particularly important in controversial issues, since the source of the information may be pursuing personal gain or to damage others.

13. A news item may be published on the basis of information that is considered limited. Reports on subjects and events should be supplemented once new information becomes available. News events should be pursued to the end.

14. The journalist has the right to conceal the identity of any person who has provided confidential information. The editorial office must respect this principle.

15. Headlines, leads, cover and picture captions, sales-promotion posters and other presentation material must be justified by the body of the story.

The rights of interviewer and interviewee

16. The interviewee has the right to know, in advance, in which context his/her statements will be used. He/she must also be told if the interview will be used in multiple media. The interviewee must always be told whether the conversation is intended for publication or will be used exclusively as background material.

17. If the interviewee requests to read his/her statement prior to publication, it is generally wise to acquiesce as long as this is possible in terms of editorial techniques. This right strictly concerns personal statements of the interviewee, and the final journalistic decision cannot be surrendered to any party outside the editorial office.

18. The interviewee's refusal to allow the publication of his/her statement must be complied with only if the circumstances following the interview have changed so significantly that the publication of the interview could be viewed as unjust.

19. Advertising and editorial material should be clearly separated. Hidden advertising must be avoided.

Corrections and right of reply

20. Incorrect information must be corrected immediately.

21. If the intention is to present information about the activities of a clearly identifiable person, company or organisation in a manner that would present them in a very negative light, the object of the criticism must be granted the right of reply on the issue in question.

22. If it is not possible to simultaneously hear the views of the parties involved, it may be necessary to give the party which has received the very negative publicity the opportunity to be heard afterwards. If this is not done, good journalistic practice calls for the publication of the comment of the party criticised.

23. A right of reply is a specifically intended mode of reprimand and should be published as soon as possible without any irrelevant additions.

24. Conventional cultural critique, political, economic or societal appraisal or similar presentation of an opinion do not, however, warrant the right to reply.

25. If the reply is not fit for publication as such, changes should be discussed with the writer. Even if no agreement cannot be reached, it is advisable to publish the essential contents in an objective manner.

Private and public

26. The human dignity of every individual must be respected. The ethnic origin, nationality, sex, sexual orientation, convictions or other similar personal characteristics may not be presented in an inappropriate or disparaging manner.

27. Highly delicate matters in one's personal life may only be published with the consent of the person in question, or if such matters are of considerable public interest. Protection of privacy must also be considered when using photographic materials.

28. Discretion must always be exercised when reporting on occurrences of illnesses or deaths or on victims of accidents or crimes.

29. It is generally acceptable to cover and photograph any event that transpires in a public place without having to acquire the permission of the subject(s) in question.

30. The right to privacy also applies when publishing public documents or other public sources. The public availability of information does not necessarily imply that it can be freely published. Particular discretion should be exercised when an issue concerns minors.

31. The name, photograph or other identifying facts of a convicted criminal may be published, unless it is viewed as unjust in terms of the position or action of the condemned person. The journalist must be particularly careful not to disclose the identity of a minor or person found to be criminally unaccountable.

32. The journalist must be careful not to present information that may lead to the identification of the subject in cases where the subject is only considered a suspect or has been charged.

33. Information about the convicted, charged or suspected individual should not be published if it may reveal the identity of the victim of a highly sensitive crime.

34. The identity of a victim of a highly sensitive crime must be protected unless the matter is of considerable public interest.

35. If the request for investigation, indictments or conviction has been a published news item, the matter should be followed to the end as far as possible. During an ongoing trial, the journalist should not strive to affect the decisions of the court or present a premature position on the guilt of the subject in question.