The Journalists’ Code of Ethics

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Preamble

The present Code of Press Ethics was established by the member organizations of the Media Organizations Convention [see below].

The provisions of the Code of Press Ethics are freely consented to by journalists, members of the professional, patronage and trade union organizations signatory to the "The Journalist’s Statute" adopted by the Media Organizations Convention held in Siniai between July 9-11th 2004.

The enforcement of the provisions set forth by the Code of Press Ethics will be under the care of specialized bodies of each signatory organization to the "Journalist’s Statute."

Through the present Code, the notion of "public interest" will be regarded as being based these premises:

  • any matter affecting the existence of the community is of public interest. This is not limited to political aspects only but also includes any other circumstance which could be of any interest to the community.

  • The public interest does not refer only to matters considered as such by the powers-that-be.

  • The way in which the government, the authorities and the public institutions act and function but also any other entity that uses public funds or which affects the community is of major public interest.

  • All words spoken, actions, deeds or gestures made by dignitaries, politicians and other public officials in the fulfilling of their duties are of major public interest. Such persons’ private lives are of major public interest only when they are relevant to the fulfilling of their duties.

  • Having in view the contribution of the authorities to the proper administration of power and of public services, any criticism voiced against a particular administration is of major public interest.

  • When there is no clear public interest at stake, freedom of speech can be limited only insofar as it impinges on another fundamental right.

  • Any information regarding the encroachment of human rights – as defined in international documents also ratified by Romania – is of major public interest.

 

1. The Role of the Journalist

1.1. A journalist has the responsibility to exercise the uninfringeable right of free speech so as to keep the public informed.

A journalist enjoys enhanced protection while exercising his/her uninfringeable right, due to his/her crucial role as protector of democratic values which the press holds within society.

1.2. A journalist has the responsibility to seek out, to respect and communicate the facts – as they become known through reasonable research – by virtue of the public’s right to be informed.

1.3. A journalist has the responsibility to express only opinions based on actual facts. When stating facts and opinions, a journalist will act in good faith.

1.4. A journalist has the responsibility to expose negligence, injustice and abuse of any kind.

1.5. In his/her approach to informing the public, a journalist has to depict society in its full diversity, allowing individual and minority opinions to make their way into the press. The public has the right to know not only favourable information and ideas, or those considered harmless but also those that offend, shock and distress. These are the requirements of pluralism, tolerance and openness, without which there is no democratic society.

1.6. A journalist’s profession implies certain rights and obligations, certain freedoms and responsibilities.

2. Professional Conduct 

2.1. Respecting Human Rights

While exercising its role as a champion of democracy, the press has the fundamental duty to respect human rights. Thus:

2.1.1. A journalist has the responsibility to respect the presumption of innocence.

2.1.2. A journalist has the responsibility to respect the private life of the individual (including those aspects regarding family, residence and correspondence). Interfering in one’s private life is permitted only when the public interest of finding the information prevails. In this context it is irrelevant whether a public person actually wanted or not to reveal this information. An activity is not considered private just because it is not publicly developed.

2.1.3. A journalist has the responsibility to bear in mind the legitimate interest of a minor. He/she will protect the identity of minors involved in crimes, whether as victims or as perpetrators, with the exception of the situation in which the public interest demands that they are properly identified, or if their parents or legal representatives so demand, so as to protect the superior interest of the minor.

2.1.4. The identity of the victims of accidents, disasters or crimes, especially those sexually abused, should not be revealed except with the consent of those victims or when there is a major public interest that prevails. The same treatment should be extended to vulnerable persons (the sick, the disabled, refugees, etc).

2.1.5. A journalist has the responsibility not to discriminate against any person on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation or any kind of disabilities and also he/she should refrain from any incitement to hatred and violence while stating facts or expressing opinions. 

2.2. The Rules of Editing

2.2.1. Information must be kept clearly separate from opinions. A journalist must take clear steps to ensure this.

2.2.2. A journalist will verify the information in a reasonable manner before printing it and will express opinions based mainly on facts. Any clearly false information or information about whose truthfullness a journalist has reasonable doubts shall not be published.

2.2.3. With regard to what he/she reports, a journalist has to make efforts in order to present the points of view of all those involved.

2.2.4. While editing, a journalist will respect the rules of quoting. If he/she partially quotes someone, a journalist has the obligation not to distort the message of that particular person.

2.3. The Protection of Sources

2.3.1. A journalist has the responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of those sources that demand it, or of those sources whose life, physical or mental integrity or workplace could be in jeopardy if their identity were revealed. 

2.4. Gathering Information

2.4.1. A journalist will obtain information in an open and transparent manner. The use of special investigative techniques is justified in the public interest and when the information cannot be obtained by other means. It is recommended that the use of special investigative techniques be explicitly mentioned when publishing the information.

2.5. Abuse of Status

2.5.1. Using a journalist’s status in order to obtain personal benefits or in order to favour a third party constitutes a serious violation of ethical norms and is thus unacceptable.

2.5.2. Considering a journalist’s professional status, he/she will not accept gifts consisting in money or of any other nature, or any other advantages that he/she is offered.

2.5.3. A journalist will avoid putting him/herself in a situation of conflict of interests. It is recommended that a distinction be made between the editorial activities of a journalist and political and economic involvement.

2.6. Independence

2.6.1. A journalist will exercise his profession according to his/her own conscience and in complete harmony with the provisions set forth by the "Journalist’s Statute" [see below] and the present Code of Press Ethics. 

2.7. Correcting Errors. The Right to Reply

2.7.1. A journalist will promptly correct any error appearing in his materials. If he/she thinks it necessary, a journalist may publish apologies.

2.7.2. The right to reply is granted when this request is considered to be justified and reasonable.

3. A journalist’s Rights

3.1. A journalist is protected by international treaties and conventions in which Romania took part and which guarantee the freedom of speech and free access to information, and information sources.

3.2. A journalist has the right to oppose censorship in any way.

3.3. The protection of professional secrecy and of confidential sources is both a right and an obligation for a journalist.

3.4. A journalist has the right to invoke the conscience clause. He/she has the right to refuse any journalistic action that he/she considers to be contrary to the principles of journalistic ethics or contrary to his/her own principles. This freedom derives from the obligation of a journalist to inform the public in good faith.

3.5. By virtue of the distinction between economic activities and editorial ones, a journalist has the right to refuse any advertising or sponsorship contracts given to the press institution he/she works for.

3.6. A journalist enjoys, according to the law, the protection of his copyright privileges.

3.7. A journalist affirms his right to be protected by the press institution he/she works for and also by the professional or trade union association that represents his/her interests in opposition to any pressure exercised against him/her, pressure that can lead to a breach of professional conduct as set forth by the "Journalist’s Statute" and the present Code of Press Ethics.

 

THE CONVENTION OF THE MEDIA ORGANIZATIONS

The Convention of the Media Organizations of Romania (COM) was established in December 2002 and includes over 40 media professional organizations – associations of journalists, media owners, press distributors, broadcasters, or photographers, journalists’ unions and other media NGOs (www.freeex.ro/en/index_com.html).

COM was established with the support of the Center of Independent Journalism (www.cij.ro) and of the Media Monitoring Agency (www.mma.ro), the two organizations still holding a secretarial position in the Convention.

The aims of the Convention are:

  • To advocate for the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press in Romania

  • To implement the Journalist’s Statute and the Journalists Code of Press Ethics, adopted by the Convention in July 2004

  • To monitor the economic environment in which media institutions are functioning and to develop strategies for its improvement

  • To monitor the main global trends in the media industry (legislation, ethics, technologies etc.) and to analyse their impact in Romania.

All these aims are to be achieved in common projects developed by the members.

 

The Journalist’s Statute

1. The journalistic profession is free and independent, in conformity with the right of free speech and free information stipulated by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, by the European Convention of Human Rights, the Romanian Constitution and also by the Journalist’s Code of Press Ethics, which is part of the present statute.

2. A journalist is that person who exercises the right to free speech and whose primary source of income is obtained by developing journalistic products – either as an employee or as a freelancer – no matter what the field (written, broadcast, online, press etc.).

3. The journalist’s profession is recognized by professional, employers’ and trade union organizations signatory to this statute.

4. The role, the professional conduct, the rights and obligations of a journalist are stipulated by the Code of Press Ethics, a constituent part of this statute.

5. The provisions of the Code of Press Ethics are freely consented to by the journalists and members of the professional, employers and trade union organizations signatory to this statute.

6. Implementing the provisions of the present statute, and also those of the Code of Press Ethics is entrusted to the specialized body within each signatory organization.

7. The implementing body can mediate in any litigation between journalist and his/her employer.

8. A journalist has the right to address the implementation body about any litigation regarding professional problems between him/her and his/her employer.

9. None of the provisions of the present statute, of the Code of Press Ethics or of the Collective Work Contract can be interpreted contrary to the provisions of the international principles regarding the freedom of speech.

10. Journalists who are not part of any of the signatory organizations of the present statute can give a declaration of acceptance to the secretariat of the Media Organizations Convention.

11. The present statute is also open to endorsement by all professional, employers and trade union organizations journalists are part of, organizations that did not take part in drafting the statute but which find themselves among its provisions.

THE PRESENT STATUTE WAS ADOPTED BY THE MEDIA ORGANIZATIONS CONVENTION IN SINAIA, JULY 9- 11TH 2004.