Rules of Ethics in Journalism

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In their work, journalists of all media must constantly bear in mind the basic rules of human relations, and the public's right to information, freedom of expression and criticism.

Clause 1

A journalist aims to do nothing which may bring his profession or professional organisation, newspaper or newsroom into disrepute. He must avoid anything which may be deleterious to public opinion of the journalist's work or damage the interests of the profession. A journalist must always be honourable in his dealings with colleagues.

Clause 2

A journalist is aware of his personal responsibility for all that he writes. He bears in mind that he is generally perceived as a journalist, even when not expressing himself as such, in writing or the spoken word. A journalist respects the necessary confidentiality of his sources.

Clause 3

A journalist observes the highest possible standards in gathering information, processing this information, and in presentation, and shows the utmost tact in sensitive cases. He avoids all that may cause unnecessary pain or humiliation to the innocent, or those who have suffered.

Clause 4

Should a journalist accept a bribe or use threats in connection with publication of material, this is counted a very serious violation. Journalists must always be conscious of when names should be published for the sake of public safety, or in the public interest. In accounts of legal and criminal cases, journalists must observe the general rule that every person is innocent until proven guilty.

Clause 5

A journalist must do his best to avoid conflicts of interest, for instance by reporting on companies or interest groups in which he himself is involved. He must primarily serve the interests of the readers, and the honour of the journalistic profession in all that he undertakes in the course of his work.

A journalist writes always on the basis of his convictions. He makes sure not to confuse editorial material of clear informative and educational value with advertising in pictorial and / or written form.

This code of ethics does not limit the freedom of expression of journalists who write under their full name clearly defined items in newspapers, e.g. criticism, where the writer's personal views are of the essence.

Clause 6

Any person who believes that a journalist has offended against the above code, and whose interests are at stake, can make a complaint to the Ethics Committee of the Icelandic Union of Journalists within two months of publication, provided the item published is not the subject of court action at the same time.

The complainant must, however, have previously sought redress from the organ (newspaper, broadcasting company) in question. The Ethics Committee may, however, rule to make an exception to the rule on seeking redress due to other circumstances. The Ethics Committee shall discuss the matter at a meeting within one week and shall publicise a well-grounded ruling as soon as possible.

When the Ethics Committee undertakes to investigate a complaint, it must take into account the overall coverage of the matter in the medium against which the complaint has been made. The respondent shall be given the opportunity to explain his view of the matter.

The Ethics Committee classifies three categories of violation, according to their nature:

a) reprehensible
b) serious
c) very serious

No appeal can be made against the Ethics Committee's ruling. The ruling of the Ethics Committee, together with the grounds and arguments of the ruling, shall be published as soon as possible in the journalists' union periodical. The Ethics Committee's ruling shall be sent to the organ in question at the first opportunity, with a request for publication in the case of an offence in category b) or c). Three days later, the ruling shall be sent to other media.

The principal ruling of the Committee shall be published verbatim. In the presentation of news on rulings from the Ethics Committee, journalists shall observe all precautions which this code lays down, cp. clauses 1 and 2 above.

Should the board of the Icelandic Union of journalists feel, after the Ethics Committee has ruled, that a violation is so serious that further action is required, it may submit a proposal for sanctions against the journalist in question to a meeting of the members, provided that the intention to do so has been mentioned in the announcement of the meeting.

In the case of an article not being clearly attributable to a writer, or that the journalist in question is not a member of the Union of Journalists, the Ethics Committee's ruling shall apply to the editor or guarantor as directly concerned. Even if none of these individuals is a member of the Union of Journalists, the Ethics Committee can still make a ruling on a complaint.