Code of Professional Ethics of the Journalist, adopted at the 9th Conference of the Belarus Union of Journalists on 18 October 1995.
The task of this code is to give basic moral orientation, which should guide a journalist in fulfilling his professional duties, so that his action does not harm the legitimate interests of those persons who use the results of his work, and also citizens, collectives and organizations, with which he has contacts in the process of acquiring, processing and disseminating information.
This code also serves as a means for considering violations of the principles and norms of journalistic ethics.
The position of this code has been disseminated among the members of Belarus Union of Journalists, creative workers of state mass media institutions and also among persons who practise journalism through a commission of a media or on other legal basis.
I The Principles of Professional Ethics of a Journalist
Social Responsibility of a Journalist
A journalist is responsible to the readers, viewers, listeners, and also to society as a whole in the face of its constitutional institutions for the contents of the materials prepared by him for publication, for informing the audience truthfully and at the right time about the current problems which have social importance. To secure the right of the citizen to information is the primary duty of a journalist.
If an order of the publishing house or the leadership of the editorial office is contrary to the demands of social morality or the status of this code, a journalist is obliged to abstain from fulfilling it.
Truthfulness and Objectivity
A journalist is obliged to give a truthful description of reality through detailed and comprehensive information. He presents facts, retaining their true meaning, showing the important relationships, and not allowing falsifications so that society may form an accurate, a contextual and a most adequate representation of current social processes, their origins, nature and meaning about the state of affairs in contemporary world.
A journalist must not be a spokesman for egoistic, private or group interest. He is required to contribute so that the mass media objectively reflect the pluralism of opinions. It is not acceptable to withhold societally important information, to distort the facts and to give a false interpretation of them.
The conscientiousness of the journalist includes scrupulous confirmation of the facts according the means at his disposal, the accurate transmission of the information received from documents or other sources and intended for publication; it excludes distortion of the facts, unverified opinions, scribbling and fabrication of materials.
Professional honesty forbids a journalist to exploit the values which he has received through his professional activity for personal interests and also for the interests of his intimates. The use of the printed word and broadcast word for persecution of disfavoured persons, information about the personal accounts, satisfaction of group or author’s ambitions is prohibited. A journalist is obliged to keep secret the sources of confidential information, to respect the right to the intellectual property and author’s rights of other persons, and not to allow ghost writing or plagiarism.
Respect for Universal Human Values
By recognising the priority of universal human values over all others, the journalist works for humanism, peace, democracy, social progress, human rights. He abstains from all forms of approval of aggression, other forms of violence, hatred and discrimination, totalitarianism and tyranny.
A journalist relates with respect for the specialities, values and dignity of every national culture and the rights of the nations to self-government, to the freedom to choose their political and social-economic systems. With his work he promotes the diminishing of ignorance, insufficient understanding and sensitivity between nations, promotes the education of culture for relations between nationalities, raises in his audience understanding for the needs of other nations, respect for the rights and dignity of all nationalities and all people regardless of sex, race, language, national origin, religious faith or ideological conviction.
A journalist safeguards the prestige of the profession, respects the honour and dignity of colleagues, does not permit actions which undermine the authority of journalism. In his creative action a journalist does not permit himself in any form to abuse the trust of his colleagues who have got into difficulties, to prevent them from performing their professional duties or to cause them any other harm. He contributes to the development of the creative ability of his colleagues, in raising their knowledge and proficiency, comes to the aid of colleagues in trouble.
II The Offences against the Norms of Professional Ethics
The Offences which inhibit the Right of the Citizen to Receive Information
The following may be classified as offences against the professional ethics by limiting the right of the citizen to receive information:
– if a journalist deliberately publishes false information
– if a journalist publishes false information as a result of neglecting to the duty to confirm it carefully
– if a journalist, having received societally important information especially for publication, conceals or hides it for selfish or other base reasons
– if journalist without the necessary precautions publishes information, based on unverified communications, rumours, opinions and also information which is received from an unknown source.
Offences which Limit the Right of the Citizen to Express Opinions
The following may be classified as offences of the professional ethics which limits the right of the citizen to express opinions freely:
– if a journalist for selfish, group or other reasons opposes discussion or publication of opinions, with which he does not agree, thus violating the principle of pluralism of opinions;
– if a journalist opposes the publication of critical or polemic comment concerning previously published material
– if a journalist makes public a falsified, fictive letter of a reader, viewer or listener or passes off his personal material as a point of view or result of work of other real person (ghost writer)
– if a journalist contrary to the request of the author or interviewee does not show him the final text prepared for publication, or makes essential changes to the text without his consent, or publishes a text despite of the refusal of the author or interviewee.
Offences against the Personal Honour and Dignity
The following may be classified as offences against the personal honour and dignity:
– if a journalist publishes information which, although corresponding to reality, has no social importance, offending the honour and dignity of an individual.
– if a journalist presents a citizen or a group of citizens in an unfavourable light in relation to their sex, age, racial or national appurtenance, language, profession, place of living or relationship to religion.
Violation of Professional Dignity of a Journalist
The following may be classified as violation of professional dignity of a journalist:
– if a journalist uses his professional status for receiving material or other advantage for himself, for his relatives and intimates or third persons or organizations
– if a journalist for selfish or other low reasons opposes or refuses to publish any material or part of it, or publishes it or tries to persuade his colleague to publish it
– if a journalist accepts from interested persons or organizations sums of money, presents, any kind of property or benefit which may influence his independence in carrying out his professional duties
– if a journalist to obtain information makes use of fraud, blackmail, provocation or other means which violate the norms of morality and justice
– if a journalist in any form gives information which is not intended for publication by violating an agreement with a person or his confidence
– if a journalist in any form uncovers a pseudonym which belongs to another person, without his approval, excluding those cases when a pseudonym has been publicly uncovered earlier
– if a journalist, by using the work of another person offers it or part of it as work of his own, without naming the real author or the source of citation.
– if a journalist without asking the permission of the editor submits the same material to two or more media or submits for publication material which has been published before, excluding those cases postulated in law
– if a journalist uses his professional status in order to conceal the collection of information on behalf of outside persons or organizations which are not mass media.
Violation of Employment Ethics and Professional Solidarity of Journalists
The following may be classified as violation of employment ethics and professional solidarity of journalists:
– if a journalist, using his official position by way of editing changes the contents of material produced by his colleague and without his permission publishes it in that form
– if a journalist, using his official position in editorial office, imposes his personal tastes and subjective inclinations on colleagues by the way of arbitrary alteration of their materials thus preventing the development of their creative capabilities
– if a journalist for career, selfish or other low reasons in publication presents a publication or his colleague in an unfavourable light to other journalists or to society
– if a journalist by using his official position in an editorial office opposes the work of the organization of journalists or restricts its independence.
III The Passing of Sanctions
Treatment of the Cases
Cases concerning the offences against the principles and norms of journalistic ethics will be examined in the Council on Professional Ethics, which is elected in the congress of Union of Journalists. No other organs or organizations have the right to examine cases concerning offences against journalistic ethics. The norms of this code cannot be a basis for bringing journalist to disciplinary, administrative or other accountability.
The Council on Professional Ethics may make a decision on publishing of information about the offence and the application of chosen measures against the offender.
The measures concerning the offences against journalistic ethics will be taken independently of legal or other action.
The right to officially interpret the principles and norms of journalistic ethics, confirmed in this code, and also the codification of precedents and the decision concerning their final qualification belongs to the Council on Professional Ethics of the Belarus Union of Journalists.
The code has been accepted in the 9th Conference of the Belarus Union of Journalists 18th October 1995.