Declaration of the Duties and Rights of a Journalist



The right to information, together with freedom of expression and criticism, is one of the fundamental liberties of every human being.

The rights and duties of journalists devolve from the public's right to have access to fact and opinion.

A journalists' responsibility to the public must come before any they bear towards a third party, notably employers and public authorities.

Journalists should, of their own accord, adopt the rules necessary to accomplish their mission to inform. Such is the object of the 'Declaration of Duties' below.

In order to carry out their journalistic duties in an independent manner, and in accordance with required quality standards, journalists must be able to count on general conditions adequate to the exercise of their profession. Such is the object of the 'Declaration of Rights' that follows.

Declaration of Duties

The journalist who gathers, selects, edits, interprets and comments on information is ruled by general principles of fairness in his or her honest treatment of sources (the people with whom he or she is talking) and the public. The journalist's duties are:
1) To seek out the truth, in the interests of the public's right to know, whatever the consequences to him- or herself.
2) To defend freedom of information, freedom of commentary and criticism, and the independence and dignity of the journalistic profession.
3) Not to publish information, documents, images or sound recordings of which the origin is unknown to the journalist. Not to suppress information or any essential elements of a story. Not to misrepresent any text, document, image or sound recording, nor people's expressed opinions. If information is unconfirmed to clearly say so. To indicate when photographic and/or sound material has been combined to make a montage.
4) Not to use dishonest methods to obtain information, recordings, images or documents. Not to manipulate them, or have them manipulated by a third party with a view to falsification. To prohibit plagiarism in not passing off the work or ideas of others as one's own.
5) To rectify any published information that is revealed to be factually incorrect.
6) To respect professional secrecy and not reveal the source of any information obtained in confidence.
7) To respect peoples' privacy insofar as the public interest does not demand otherwise. To disregard anonymous or unfounded accusations.
8) In respecting human dignity, the journalist must avoid any allusion by text, image or sound to a person's ethnic or national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation as well as to any illness or physical or mental handicap that could be discriminatory in character. The reporting of war, acts of terrorism, accidents and catastrophes by means of text, image and sound should respect the victims' suffering and the feelings of their loved ones.
9) Not to accept any advantage nor any promise that could limit his or her professional independence or expression of opinion.
10) To avoid as journalists any form of commercial advertising; and never to accept conditions laid down by advertisers directly or indirectly.
11) To take journalistic directives only from designated editorial superiors; and to respect those directives only when they are not contrary to this Declaration.

Journalists who are worthy of this title accept as their duty a strict adherence to the principles of this declaration. While recognizing the laws of each country, they only accept in professional questions the judgement of their colleagues, the Press Council or similar, legitimate organizations determining professional ethics. Thereby, they reject any interference by the state or any other authority.

Declaration of Rights

Full respect by journalists of the duties articulated above requires that they enjoy, at the minimum, the following rights:
a) Free access to all sources of information and the right to investigate without impediment anything that is in the public interest. Public or private confidentiality can only be invoked against the journalist in exceptional circumstances and with the provision of clearly-defined reasons.
b) The right not to act in any way nor express any opinion that is contrary to professional rules or personal conscience. As a result, journalists should not suffer any prejudice.
c) The right to refuse any directive or interference that is contrary to the general policy of the organisation with which he or she is collaborating. This policy must be communicated in writing before the journalist's employment. It cannot be modified or revoked unilaterally under pain of breach of contract.
d) The right to transparency as to the ownership of the company for which the journalist works. The right of a member of an editorial team to be informed in time, and to be heard before, any decision that affects the future of the company. In particular, members of the editorial staff must be informed and heard before final decisions determining the composition or organisation of the editorial department.
e) The right to adequate and continuous professional training.
f) The right to benefit from work conditions guaranteed by a collective agreement, including the right to be active in professional organisations without suffering discrimination.
g) The right to benefit from an individual employment contract guaranteeing material and moral security. In particular, an appropriate remuneration - corresponding to the journalist's function, responsibilities and social role - should ensure his or her economic independence.

Decided at a session of the Swiss Press Council Foundation on December 21, 1999.