Deontological Code for the Journalistic Profession

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Preamble

In the framework of the civil rights, enshrined in the Constitution and which form the basis of a wholly democratic society, journalism is an important social tool which puts into effect the free and efficient development of the fundamental rights of all citizens to freedom of information and the freedom to express one's opinions.

As subjects and as instruments of the freedom of expression, journalists acknowledge and guarantee that journalism is the basis from which public opinion manifests itself freely in the pluralism of a democratic state governed by the rule of law.

However, journalists also take into consideration that when their profession uses their constitutional rights for the freedom of the expression and the right to information, their conduct is subject to limitations, which prevent the violation of other fundamental rights.

Therefore, when taking on these obligations, and as a true guarantee which a journalist offers to Spanish society, which he/she serves, journalists understand that they must maintain, collectively or individually, irreproachable conduct when it comes to the ethics and deontology of information.

In this sense, the journalists which form part of the Federation of the Press Associations of Spain (Federacion de Asociaciones de la Prensa de Espana - FAPE) commit themselves to maintain the binding ethic principles when exercising their profession. The general assembly of the FAPE declares the following principles and binding norms for the journalistic profession:

 

I. GENERAL PRINCIPLES

1.

A journalist shall always act keeping in mind the principles of professionality and the ethics of this Code. A journalist must express his/her approval of these principles to be able to join the professional register of journalists and the federal associations of the press.

Those, who after joining the register and the corresponding association act in a way which is not compatible with these principles, shall incur to assumptions contemplated in these regulations.

2.

The first obligation of a journalist is to respect the truth.

3.

In agreement with this principle a journalist shall always defend the principle of the freedom to investigate and honestly disseminate information as well as the freedom to comment and to critizise.

4.

Without violating the right of the citizens to be informed, the journalist shall respect the right of individuals to privacy keeping in mind that:

a) Only the defence of public interest justifies interferring with or investigating the private life of a person without his/her prior consent.

b) When dealing with issues which may cause or imply pain or sorrow in the persons in question, a journalist shall avoid rude interference and unnecessary speculations about their feelings and circumstances.

c) The restrictions concerning privacy must be taken into special consideration when dealing with persons in hospitals or in similar institutions.

d) Special attention shall be paid to the treatment of issues which concern children and youth. The right of privacy of minors shall be respected.

5.

A journalist must maintain the principle that a person is presumed innocent until proven otherwise and he/she must avoid, as much as possible, causing any harm in practising his profession. This kind of criterion is especially important when dealing with issues which are brought to the knowledge of the courts of law.

a) A journalist must avoid mentioning the names of relatives and friends of persons accused of or sentenced for a crime, unless it is absolutely necessary in order to make the information complete and equal.

b) Mentioning the names of the victims of crimes, as well as publishing material which may contribute to the indentification of the victim, shall be avoided. The journalist shall act with special care when handling issues which deal with sexual crime.

6.

The criteria indicated in the two former principles shall be applied with extreme strictness when the information concerns minors. Particularly, a journalist must refrain from interviewing, photographing or taping minors on themes related to criminal activities or on private matters.

7.

A journalist shall exercise extreme professional caution in respecting the rights of the weak and discriminated. Therefore, discriminating information or opinions or such information or opinions which incite to violence or to inhuman or humiliating practices, must be handled with special sensitivity.

a) One must, therefore, avoid alluding in a pejorative manner or with prejudice to the race, colour, religion, social class or sex of a person, or to whatever sickness, physical or mental handicap he/she might have.

b) One must also avoid publishing such data, unless it is directly related to the issue being published.

c) Finally, one must generally avoid unkind or hurtful expressions or statements on the personal condition of individuals or on their physical or moral integrity.

II. STATUTE

8.

To guarantee the necessary independence and fairness in carrying out his/her profession, the journalist must claim for himself and for the people working for him/her:

a) The right to appropriate working conditions, as it refers to earnings, as well as to the material and professional circumstances in which he/ she must carry out his/her tasks.

b) The obligation and right to oppose any evident intention to monopolize or oligopolize information which might hinder political and social pluralism.

c) The obligation and right to participate in matters of the journalistic enterprise in order to guarantee his/her freedom of information in a way which is compatible with the rights of the media in which he/she is expressing this freedom.

d) The right to invoke the clause of conscience, when the media on which he/she depends on proposes a moral attitude which offends his/her professional dignity or which substantially modifies the editorial policy.

e) The right and obligation to professsional training which is up-to-date and complete.

9.

A journalist has the right to be protected by his or her own institution as well as by the associative or institutional organizations against those who, by any kind of pressure, try to divert him/her from the standard way of conduct defined in this Code.

10.

The right to keep professional secrecy is a right of a journalist, but it is also an obligation which guarantess the confidentiality of the sources of information.

Therefore, a journalist shall guarantee the right of the sources of information to remain anonymous, if such has been requested. However, this professional obligation shall exceptionally not be applied if it has been proved that the source has deliberately falsified information or if revealing the source is the only way to avoid serious and instant damage to people.

11.

A journalist scrupulously sees that the public administration fulfils its duty for the transparency of information. In particular, he/she shall always defend the free access to information which comes from or is produced by public administration, and the free access to public archives and administrative registers.

12.

A journalist shall respect and shall make others respect the rights of the author which derive from all creative activity.

III. PRINCIPLES OF ACTION 

13.

The commitment to seek the truth means that a journalist always informs about facts whose origins he/she knows, he/she does not falsify documents nor does he/she leave out essential information, he/she does not publish information which is false, misleading or distorted. Consequently:

a) The foundations of the information to be disseminated must be diligently laid, which means that a journalist must contrast the sources and he/she must give a person affected an opportunity to tell his/her own version of the facts.

b) When known to have spread information which is false, misleading or distorted, a journalist shall be obliged to correct the error as quickly as possible using the same typographic and/or audiovisual form which was used to publish it. He/she shall also publicise apologies through his/her media, when proper.

c) Consequently, a journalist must allow physical or legal persons an opportunity to correct inaccuracies in the way indicated in the former paragraph, without them having to have recouse to the law.

14.

In practising his/her profession, a journalist must use appropriate means to obtain information, which excludes illegal procedures.

15.

A journalist acknowledges and respects the right of physical and legal persons not to give out information and not to answer the questions which are asked without violating the right of the citizens to be informed.

16.

With the same exceptions which apply to the professional secrecy, a journalist shall respect the "off the record" when it has been explicitly called for or it is thought that such was the intention of the informant.

17.

A journalist shall always draw a clear and unmistakable distinction between the facts which he/she tells and what may be opinions, interpretations or surmises, although, in his/her professional activities he/she is not obliged to be neutral.

18.

In order not to cause mistakes or confusion among the users of information, a journalist is obliged to maintain a formal and rigorous distinction between information and advertising.

Therefore, it is considered ethically incompatible to simultaneusly practice journalism and advertising.

Equally, this incompatibility applies to all activities related to social communication which may imply a conflict of interests with the journalistic profession and its principles and norms.

19.

A journalist shall not accept, directly or indirectly, payments or rewards from other persons to promote, direct, affect or to publish information or opinions of any kind.

20.

A journalist shall never take advantage of the information to which he/she is privileged as a consequence of his/her profession. In particular, a journalist who regularly or occasionally deals with financial issues is subject to the following regulations:

a) He/she may not take financial advantage of financial data of which he/she has knowledge before it has been published, nor can he/she transmit such data to other persons.

b) He/she may not write of such bonds or shares in which he/she or his/her family has a significant financial interest.

c) He/she may not buy or sell such bonds or shares of which he/she intends to write in the near future.