Code of ethics adopted in Cotonou on 24 September 1999 by the National Associations of Journalists.
The national associations of information and communication professionals assert their determination to carry on the traditions of the Beninese press in its fight for freedom of expression and the right of the public to information.
They also stress their commitment to promote democratic culture according to the Constitution of December 11, 1990, which guarantees press freedom in Benin.
They are convinced that the responsibilities incumbent on journalists in their mission to inform the public must prevail over any other responsibility, particularly toward their employers or the authorities.
They maintain that this mission can only be accomplished on the basis of sound professional practices. Consequently, they have decided to draft a code of ethics which sets forth the duties and rights of a working journalist in Benin.
The national associations of information and communication professionals endorse the present declaration. The journalists and technicians of communication commit themselves to scrupulously respecting, in their daily practice, the principles derived from it for the sake of the dignity, the credibility and the prestige of the journalistic profession in Benin.
Declaration of duties
In gathering, processing and spreading information as well as in commenting on events, the essential duties of a journalist are the following:
Article 1: Honesty and the right to publish true information
A journalist is bound to respect facts, whatever the cost for him/her – because of the right the public has to know the truth.
Article 2: Social responsibility
A journalist only publishes information whose origin, truthfulness, accuracy have been established. The slightest doubt must lead him/her to abstain from publication or to express the needed reservations in the required professional manner. The processing of information likely to cause harm to society calls for great professional rigour and, if need be, caution.
Article 3: Corrections and right of reply
If published, false news or inaccurate information must be immediately corrected. The right of reply and of retort are guaranteed to individuals and to organisations under the conditions provided for by the law. The right can be exercised only in the media outlet that published the disputed item.
Article 4: Respect of privacy and human dignity
A journalist respects the rights of any individual to privacy and to dignity. The publication of information concerning the private lives of persons can only be justified by the public interest.
Article 5: Professional integrity, gifts and perks
Apart from the wages due him/her by his/her employer for professional services, a journalist must refuse any money or payments in kind from people that benefit from, or are involved in the said services, whatever the value of such gifts and whatever the cause may be. He/she yields to no pressure and accepts editorial instructions only from the managers of the newsroom. A journalist refuses to publish a piece of information in exchange for money.
Article 6: Plagiarism
A journalist strictly abstains from plagiarism, slander, libel, insult or unfounded accusations.
Article 7: Professional secrecy
A journalist respects professional secrecy and does not reveal the source of information obtained under condition of confidentiality.
Article 8: Separation of news and views
A journalist is free to take sides on any issue. But he/she is under the obligation to separate news from views. When commenting, he/she must hold scrupulousness and a sense of balance as prime principles.
Article 9: Separation of information and advertising
News and advertising must be kept separate.
Article 10: Inciting racial or ethnic hatred
A journalist refuses to publish anything that can incite tribal, racial or religious hatred. All forms of discrimination must be proscribed. As must the apology of crime.
Article 11: Sensationalism
A journalist will abstain from sensational headlines that have little relation with the contents of the article.
Article 12: Restraints on information
No item of information must be distorted or omitted unless it threatens the security of the State.
Article 13: Responsibility for published news
A journalist is responsible of whatever he/she publishes, of the choice of photographs, sound bites, video images and comment, jointly with his/her hierarchy. He/she will explicitly point out that a report could not be filmed so it was reconstituted or even staged. He/she gives a warning if pictures come from the archives, if a report is seemingly live but was taped, if advertising is mixed with the news.
Article 14: Professional honour
A journalist avoids using unfair methods to obtain information, photographs and other illustrations.
Article 15: Protection of minors
A journalist respects and defends the rights of minors by not publishing their photographs and not revealing their identities.
Article 16: Violence and obscenity
A journalist must abstain, as much as possible, from publishing scenes of violence, and gruesome or obscene pictures.
Article 17: Professional solidarity
A journalist must seek professional solidarity. He/she will not use the columns of his/her publication or airtime to settle accounts with colleagues.
A journalist does not apply for the job of another journalist and does not cause his/her firing by offering to work for less.
Article 18: Incompatibility of journalism and PR
The function of press attaché, of PR officer and other such jobs, are not compatible with working as a journalist at the same time.
Article 19: Duty of competence
Before producing an article or a broadcast program, a journalist must take into account that his aptitudes and his knowledge are limited.
A journalist deals with topics only after investing a minimum of effort in research and investigation. He/she must constantly improve his/her talents and professional practices by enriching his/her culture and taking part in programs of continuous education set up by various professional associations.
Article 20: Jurisdictions
Any violation of the rules of the present code may cause its author to be disciplined by media self-regulatory agencies or by professional associations. A journalist will accept to be judged by his/her peers and accept the decisions made, after examination of the case, by the above-mentioned institutions. A journalist makes a point of knowing his/her country’s press legislation.
Declaration of rights
Every journalist, in the practise of his/her profession, must claim the following rights:
Article 21: Free access to sources
A journalist, in the practise of his/her profession, has access to all sources of information and is entitled to freely investigate all facts that have a bearing on public life.
Article 22: Refusal to obey
A journalist is entitled to refuse any order contrary to the editorial line of the press organ he/she works for.
Article 23: Conscience clause
A journalist, in the practise of his/her profession, can avail him/herself of the conscience clause. He/she can refuse to write or read political comments or editorials that are contrary to the ethical rules of the profession; and refuse to censor articles or broadcasts produced by his peers for reasons other than professional. In case of a conflict linked to the conscience clause, a journalist can release him/herself from contractual commitments to his company, under the same conditions and with the same rights as in the case of a dismissal.
Article 24: Protection of the journalists
A journalist is entitled not to have to fear for his/her person and his/her equipment; entitled to protection by the law and respect for his/her dignity – over the whole national territory, without condition or restriction.
Article 25: Obligation of consultation
Newsroom staff must be informed of any important decision likely to affect the life of the firm. It must at least be consulted, before any final decision, on any measure involving the composition of the newsroom, i.e. the hiring, firing, transfer or promotion of journalists.
Article 26: Contract and wages
Considering his/her function and responsibilities, a journalist is entitled not only to collective agreements but also to a personal contract that insures his material and moral security as well as wages in harmony with the social role he/she fulfils, and which will insure his/her economic independence.