Botswana – Press Council (2003)

Code of Ethics of the Press Council of Botswana, adopted in 2003.

The safeguarding of the freedom of speech in Botswana should be closely connected to the right of access to information. The media should endeavour to collect information and news and to publish them as correctly as possible. In pursuance of this endeavour the media recognizes that the individual citizen is entitled to respect for his/her personal integrity and the sanctity of his/her private life and the need for protection against unjustified violations. Journalists are however encouraged to demonstrate receptiveness to unfamiliar realities, and an ability to report on these realities without prejudice.

The Code will govern the conduct and practice of all media practitioners, media owners, publishers and Media Institutions to be enforced by the Press Council of Botswana.

Each media sector shall submit its Code of Ethics, which will align to that of the Press Council of Botswana.

General Standards
Media practitioners must maintain the highest professional and ethical standards.

They must carry out their functions, which include informing, educating and entertaining the public professionally and responsibly.

They must take reasonable steps to ensure that they disseminate accurate and balanced information, and that their comments upon events are genuine and honest.

They must never publish information that they know to be false or maliciously make unfounded allegations about others that are intended to harm their reputation.

General Duties of a Media Practitioner
A media practitioner has a duty to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards by being honest, fair as well as courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.

A media practitioner shall at all times defend the principle of the freedom of the press and other mass media by striving to eliminate news suppression and censorship.

Good Practice
When compiling reports, media practitioners must check their facts properly, and the editors and publishers of newspapers and other media must take proper care not to publish inaccurate material. Before a media institution publishes a report, the reporter and the editor must ensure that all reasonable steps have been taken to check its accuracy. The facts should not be distorted by reporting them out of the context in which they occurred.

Special care must be taken to check stories that may cause harm to individuals, organizations or the public interest. Before publishing a story of alleged wrongdoing, all reasonable steps must be taken to ascertain and include the response from the individual or organization.

Correction of Inaccuracy and Distortion
If a Media Institution discovers that it has published a report containing a significant distortion of the facts, it must publish a correction promptly and with comparable prominence. If a Media Institution discovers that it has published an erroneous report that has caused harm to a person or institution’s reputation, it must publish an apology promptly and with due prominence.

A Media Institution must report fairly and accurately on any finding by the Press Council on its performance.

Right of Reply / Rebuttal
Where a person or organization believes that a media report contains inaccurate information or has unfairly criticized the person or organization, the Media Institution concerned must give the person or organization a fair opportunity to reply.

Comment, Conjecture and Fact
A media practitioner shall distinguish clearly in his/her publications between comment, conjecture and fact. The comment must be a genuine expression of opinion relating to fact. Comment or conjecture must not be presented in such a way as to create the impression that it is established fact.

Rules of the Profession
Undue Pressure and/or Influence
Media owners and publishers, and media practitioners must not suppress or distort information about which the public has a right to know because of pressure or influence from their advertisers or others who have a corporate, political or advocacy interest in the Media Institution concerned.

A media practitioner must not succumb to cultural, political or economical intimidation intended to influence the outcome of the published or broadcast material.

Public Interest
A media practitioner shall exercise his/her profession in the public interest without undue interference from any quarter.

Payment for Information
Media Owners and Publishers and Media Practitioners must never publish or suppress a report or omit or alter vital facts in that report in return for payment of money or for any other gift or reward.

Media owners, publishers and media practitioners must not pay people to act as information sources unless there is demonstrable public interest value in the information. (They must also indicate when the information has been paid for).

Reporting of Investigations
In our law a person is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.  Media institutions are entitled to inform the public about arrests of suspects by the police and the trial of persons accused of crimes. They should, however, not publish the names of suspects until the police have filed formal charges against them unless it is in the public interest to do so.

Where a media institution has started to report a criminal investigation, it should normally follow up and report subsequent developments in the case.

It is normally wrong for a media practitioner to intrude into and to report upon a person’s private life without his or her consent. Reporting on a person’s private life can only be justified when in the public interest to do so. This would include: detecting or exposing criminal conduct; detecting or exposing seriously antisocial conduct; protecting public health and safety; and preventing the public from being misled by some statement or action of that individual where such a person is doing something in private which he or she is publicly condemning.

Intrusions into Grief or Shock
In cases involving personal grief or shock, enquiries should be carried out and approaches made with sympathy and discretion.

Interviewing or Photographing Children
Media Practitioners should not normally interview or photograph children under the age of sixteen in the absence of or without the consent of a parent or a legal guardian/authority.

In interviewing and photographing children in difficult circumstances or with disabilities, special sympathy and care must be exercised.

Children should not be approached or photographed while at schools or similar institutions without the permission of the school authorities or institutions.

Children in Criminal Cases
Media Institutions must not publish the names of any offenders under sixteen arrested by the police or tried in the criminal courts.

Victims of Crime
Media Institutions must not identify victims of gender violence or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless the victims have consented to such publications or law has authorized them to do this. In cases where consent is given subject to certain conditions, then such conditions must be respected.

Innocent Relatives and Friends
Media Institutions should generally avoid identifying relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime unless the reference to them is necessary for the full, fair and accurate reporting of the crime or the legal proceedings.

Gathering of Information
Media Practitioners should normally use open methods of gathering information in which they clearly identify themselves as media practitioners. Generally they should not obtain or seek to obtain information or pictures through misrepresentation, subterfuge or undercover techniques.

Surreptitious methods of information gathering may only be used where open methods have failed to yield information in the public interest. These methods may thus be employed where, for example, they will help to detect or expose criminal activity, or will bring to light information that will protect the public.

Editorial Rules
Hatred and Disadvantaged Groups
Media Institutions must not publish material that is intended or is likely to cause hostility or hatred towards persons on the grounds of their race, ethnic origins, nationality, gender, physical disabilities, religion or political affiliation.

Media institutions must take utmost care to avoid contributing to the spread of ethnic hatred or dehumanising disadvantaged groups when reporting events and statements of this nature. Dehumanising and degrading pictures about an individual may not be published without the individual’s consent.

National Security
Media Institutions must not publish/broadcast material that will prejudice the legitimate national security interests of Botswana in regard to military and security tactics or strategy, or material held for the purpose of intelligence relating to defence.

This provision does not prevent the media from exposing corruption in security, intelligence and defence agencies and from commenting upon levels of their expenditure and overall performance.

No media practitioner should engage in plagiarism. Plagiarism consists of making use of another person’s words or ideas without proper acknowledgement and attribution of the source of those words or ideas.

Protection of Sources
When sources are promised confidentiality, that promise shall be honoured, unless released by the source.


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