The final text of the Deontological Code presented at the Second Congress of Catalan Journalists was finally approved by the Governing Board of the “Col.legi de Periodistes de Catalunya ” (Association of Catalan Journalists) at its plenary meeting held on the 22nd October 1992.
The “Col.legi de Periodistes de Catalunya” and its Advisory Council, represented by the different media of communication in Catalonia, have realised the need to foster a collective initiative of the journalists, aimed at reaffirming the rights to freedom of speech and information and at defending the existence of a free and responsible press in a plural and democratic society.
This initiative is in harmony with the acknowledged democratic and independent tradition of the professional collective of the press in Catalonia and is inspired by similar recent actions, in countries with a strong democratic trajectory and with a firm journalistic institution. This proposal is included in the permanent social debate about the function of the media of communication and wishes to promote collective thought and criticism in view of a better relationship between the press and the society whom it addresses and serves.
With this aim, it invites and encourages the bodies and professionals in the field of information and communication in general, to reaffirm the deontological principles that undergird the journalistic activity, endorsing and assuming of their own free will the criteria presented in the following declaration.
The freedom of speech and the right to information are two essential basis of the democratic society. Both of them are rights protected by the Constitution. The existence of a plural and independent public opinion, depends on the strength, respect and full validity of these principles, and it is absolutely essential for the good development of public life and the fullness of the democratic system .
The guarantee of the citizens’ rights requires the defence of a free plural critical press open to the society whom it serves. The importance of the social function assumed by the journalist through the media of communication, as a main factor in the practice of these rights, requires that these principles be safeguarded permanently from any attempt of restriction or compulsion from any kind of power, and their possible degradation, produced by its possible non-observance or adulteration by the media themselves or by the people working for them.
In their capacity as major actors in the practice of a fundamental right, of which each citizen is a depository, information professionals must carry out their function with a double obligation, from the responsibility due to their important task and from their own conscience, according to the constitutional order and the deontological principles of the journalistic profession.
In order to maintain these principles, the journalist must defend and strictly apply the rules of which is based his activity, obeying the following criteria.
1 . Always to observe a clear distinction between the facts and any opinions or interpretations, avoiding any confusion or intentional distortion of either, and the diffusion of conjectures and rumours.
2. Only to spread founded information, avoiding imprecise statements or pieces of information that could damage the dignity of the people and cause damage or unjustified disrepute to institutions or public and private bodies, and avoiding the use of offensive expressions or epithets.
3. To rectify quickly and appropriately the items of information – and the derived opinions – that were false and that, for that reason, damage the rights and interests of the people and/or bodies involved – without avoiding apologies, if that proves necessary, independently of what the law demand.
4. To use worthy methods to obtain information or pictures, without using illicit ones.
5. To respect an off-the-record request when it has been explicitly been made, according to the usual practice of this rule in a free society.
6. To respect the individual and/or legal person’s right not to give information or answer questions, without ignoring the duty of the journalists to satisfy the right of citizens to information. With regard to affairs concerning public administrations, the fundamental right to information must always prevail over any restriction that unjustifiably violates the principle of information transparency to which they are obliged.
7. Never to accept retributions or rewards of third parties, meant to favour, influence or publish pieces of news or opinions. In any case, the practice of journalism must not be combined with other professional activities incompatible with the deontology of information, like advertising, public relations and consultancy in the service of institutions or public bodies or private bodies.
8. Never to never use for one’s own profit privileged information obtained confidentially as a journalist practising his/her information function.
9. To respect the right of people to their privacy and image, especially in cases or events generating situations of sorrow or harm, avoiding the gratuitous interfering and uncalled for speculations over their feelings and the circumstances, especially when the people involved request it.
10. To observe scrupulously the principle of presumption of innocence in the news stories and opinions concerning court cases or penal proceedings under way.
11. To treat with special care all the information involving minors, avoiding to spread their identification when they are victims (excepting in case of homicide), witnesses or accused in criminal causes, especially in affairs of special social importance, such as sexual crimes. The innocent people, family or friends of accused or convicted persons in penal proceedings will not be identified against their will.
12. To act with special responsibility and accuracy in case of news or opinions such as might cause discrimination because of sex, race, beliefs or social or cultural origin and that could incite the use of violence, and to avoid hurtful words for the personal condition of the individuals and their physical and moral integrity.
Journalists must have the indispensable means and instruments in order to carry out their activity with full independence, freedom, initiative and sense of responsibility, concerning the professional and the strictly labour field.
ln this sense and for a full guarantee of their individual rights and of their obligations before the citizens, the journalists will have to be protected by the clause of conscience and the professional secrecy, as provided by Constitution.
We also consider necessary the establishment of statutes of writing, as a more appropriate instrument for defining their rights and duties in media firms and for obtaining, ultimately, a greater transparency in the practice of their function in the eyes of the citizens.
The representative professional bodies and organisations will have to ensure the good image of the journalistic profession, striving to avoid the wrong and corruptive practices that infringe the ethics of journalism, and the attempts to limit the rights of the citizens to freedom of speech and information, through acts or statements aimed at restricting or harming the free activity of the media of communication and of the people working for them.
For a better and more faithful fulfilment of this task, consideration should be given to the constitution of an arbitration body, representative, plural and independent of government that would carry out this duty, on a permanent basis, separately from the functions of existing legal bodies, without ever forgetting the constitutional rights of individuals and media enterprises.