Colombia – El Tiempo

The Principles of El Tiempo.

El Tiempo, born in 1911, is a national daily published in Bogota and one of the most important newspapers in the country.

El Tiempo is a newspaper of a liberal, independent character, whose mission consists in informing Columbians every 24 hours of what occurs in the city, in the country and in the world, in a manner that is relevant, objective, impartial and truthful. It also feels theobligation to shape public opinion, within the frame established by the Constitution and the laws.

El Tiempo accomplishes its mission by exercising press freedom, of whose unrestricted vigour the newspaper is a champion, within the institutional and democratic framework and with respect towards the regularly established authorities.

El Tiempo strenuously rejects any kind ofrestriction on the freedom to print or to express oneself, whether open or veiled, direct or indirect.

El Tiempo advocates respect for the privacy of citizens, for the institutions that constitute Columbian society,for social morality and for the integrity of the national territory. To that end, it will not admit in its pages statements that can be considered deliberate offenses or insults to private persons, to the religious hierarchy,or to constitutional authorities. That does not exclude criticism, humour, irony, nor the exposure of facts worthy of blame or sanction, whatever the circumstances in which they occur.

El Tiempo encourages all the efforts madein favour of national and international peace and opposes any movement that advocates or uses violence or illegitimate force to reach its goals. Of course, it rejects any terrorist act.

El Tiempo defends the right to life as a sacred right and will not accept, or let itself be forced into accepting, any condition edicted by delinquents who would use its pages or put pressure on its employees, by means of blackmail, in order to pursue their criminal activities.

El Tiempo, because of its independent character, repulses all pressure, whatever its origin, aimed at changing the objective and impartial meaning of a news story. It considers that it defends the interest of the community when it refuses to let itself be manipulated and it puts the preservation of its independence above any other consideration.

El Tiempo is an organ that shapes opinion,by way of the news and the verified facts that it publishes, and it is also anewspaper shaped by public opinion that influences it through the daily plebiscite which the reading of its pages constitutes.

El Tiempo maintains with its readers a relationship based on transparency and participation.

El Tiempo, in order to insure transparency in the relation that it wishes to maintain with its readers, has created theposition of reader’s advocate (Defensor del Lector). He is a direct representative of the readers and a permanent critic of all the material that is published.

El Tiempo understands that economic and financial independence is an essential condition of its editorial and political independence. It considers that there can be no critical and independent journalism in newspapers and other media published or sponsored byfirms that are subordinate, directly or indirectly, to a government or an economic group or a political party.

El Tiempo, being a liberal and democratic newspaper, is independent from any political power centre or group.

El Tiempo will not serve as an incubator for candidates of any ilk, nor will serve personal interests or interests foreign to the common good. That does not exclude the use of the freedom which the newspaper has of inviting and supporting editorially one or several candidates when it considers them likely to promote the common good.

El Tiempo is the enemy of all extremism whether of the right or of the left and of any totalitarian regime, whatever its nature and its orientation. It declares that its ideology is summed up in the Declaration of Human Rights.

The reader holds priority over any otherinterest, including that of advertisers. El Tiempo recognises that advertising is part of the package of information which the newspaper offers to its readers, which implies that advertising material must receive the same treatment as the news, especially as regards its truthfulness. But as it is material paid for by an interested third party, it must be presented in such away that the reader will not confuse it with news. The editorial and advertising departments are separate and there is between them no relation of subordination. The management of the newspaper reserves the right to reject an advertisement when the text or the illustration of it transgresses the norms of public morality, is contrary to public welfare or the security of the State, or when the moral standing of the advertiser is not satisfactory.

El Tiempo will proceed, speedily, tocorrect the errors that may have been committed and will do so in a clear,open, unambiguous manner. One of the obligations of the Readers’ Avocate (Defensor del Lector) is to make sure that this rule is respected.
Principles for the journalist at El Tiempo:

A prime obligation of the journalist at El Tiempo is to observe the norms of the present code of conduct. Under the term”journalist” are gathered publishers, editors, reporters,photographers, correspondents, contributors and other professionals that take part in the editorial production of the newspaper.

The journalist is committed to keep out of his/her articles and photographs whatever can be considered not to conform to those principles, and must not incorporate his/her personal opinions about the facts he/she is reporting. While following the same principles, columnists can freely express their opinions on various topics.

It is not possible for anyone to shed his/her beliefs. In other words, absolute objectivity does not exist in journalism. By simply choosing a topic and organising the data or selecting a picture, a journalist takes decisions that are largely subjective, influencedby his/her personal position, habits and emotions. That fact, however, does not exempt him/her of the responsibility to keep as close as possible to objectivity, which can be achieved by distancing oneself from the facts and analysing them with a cold eye, but not, of course, with apathy or lack of interest. This is when the journalist can and must let his/her ethical principles get the upper hand.

The editors, reporters, correspondents,photographers and other collaborators in the newsroom can write analyses of the news but none of them can write opinion columns in the editorial pages of the newspaper.

Even the smallest problems of choice which a journalist must solve on a daily basis, can take on an ethical dimension.He/she must always consider the moral consequences of what he/she writes or of the pictures he/she publishes.

Never should a journalist forget that he/she is working for the reader, the final destination of information.In other words, he/she carries the heavy responsibility of being the holder of the right of keeping every citizen informed truthfully and impartially.

The pages of the newspaper cannot be used by a journalist to advantage any person or group, political or economic or religious – or in order to obtain personal benefits.

The journalist cannot air quarrels or conflicts of a personal character in the pages of the newspaper, nor can he/she blackout some public figure, out of mere animosity or to avenge a particular act which the said person may have committed against him/her. The appropriate editor or the management of the newspaper will decide if a particular incident deserves a separate article,which will have to be concise, objective and impartial and limited to reporting the event.

The journalist must abstain from engaging in any kind of personal business with entities which he/she covers in the course of his/her professional activities. Exceptions are the necessary and inevitable relations that any citizen needs to have with public or private entities.

It will never be accepted that a journalist indulge in campaigns of any nature in the pages of the newspaper. Every campaign carried on by the newspaper will have to be previously approved by newsroom management, and its design, range and development will follow the orientation given to them by those executives.

It is immoral to appropriate a news story originated outside the paper, or texts or pictures that are not one’s own. In cases when the journalist needs to have recourse to extracts from documents, encyclopedias, pictures or books, the source must be made clear and specific.The news staff must arrange so that the reader can easily tell material that belongs to an outside source and what comes from the author of the news story.

A journalist is a narrator and not an actor, so that in his/her articles his/her obligation is to abstain from expressing personal opinions about events or about the sources or protagonists of them. That does not mean that he/she should not point out the contradictions of some public figure or whatever element is not flattering for the source,every time such remarks correspond to facts and are not personal appreciations.The columnists remain free to ignore that obligation.

In no circumstances can a journalist from El Tiempo impersonate somebody else. In general, he/she must fully identify him/herself. In exceptional cases and with previous permission from newsroom management, he/she can abstain from revealing his/her identity so as to advance an investigation, but never must they adopt a fictitious name or identity.

No journalist of El Tiempo can, in any circumstances, accept favours or gifts from a news source. All the presents that can be given spontaneously, at the office or at home, must be handed over to the management of the newspaper, which will insure that they be returned. The sources referred to in this prohibition, and in the next two paragraphs, consist not only of those with whom the journalist deals in his/her daily assignments, but every potential source of news for the newspaper. The prohibition does not apply to presents of symbolic, as opposed to commercial, value that are usually sent at times of the year when it is traditional to exchange gifts and best wishes, like at Christmas, especially if they have a professional use, like a clutch pencil, a notebook, a diary, etc. The latter category, of course, does not include personal ornaments, liquor, jewels, objects for decoration or domestic use.

The journalists of El Tiempo cannot accept discounts, loans or favours that come from a source of information and which constitute disguised financial presents.

El Tiempo has adopted the policy of paying for the travelling expenses, food and accommodation of its journalists when incurred in covering news events. If for some reason that is not possible and an invitation includes travel expenses, lodging and per diem, the situation must be brought to the attention of the newsroom managers and will only be accepted if they authorise it. Before it is published, all information derived from that type of invitation must be examined and approved by the heads of the newsroom and in all cases the reader must be explicitly warned about the invitation.

All the news published in the pages of the newspaper must have been written by journalists of El Tiempo, without intervention of people outside the newspaper. With the exception of texts transmitted from afar via a portable PC, news stories must be composed, corrected and edited inside the El Tiempo newsroom.

Every journalist is under the obligation to try and be first and to strive to insure exclusivity for his/her stories,hence it is forbidden to enter, without authorisation by the top editors, into agreements with journalists from other news media in order to cover events, to share data, to delay the publication of a piece of news. Such agreements will be looked upon by El Tiempo as serious violations of journalistic ethics. The prohibition does not include such agreements, approved by newsroom management,as are indispensable because of restrictions imposed on the reporting of particular events, making it compulsory to form groups (pools) which will share information and photos. Of course, embargos of all material provided in advance are always to be respected.

The journalist of El Tiempo works only in and for that newspaper. He/she must not hold another job. Advertising and Public Relations are activities that are particularly incompatible with the exercise of journalism. Exceptions are academic activities and irregular contributions to other media, with previous authorisation by newsroom management in each case. Neither can he/she hold official positions, belong to public corporations, fulfil diplomatic tasks or enter in any relation of dependence with the authorities.

The journalist cannot write any text, make any statement that can be interpreted as an incitation to violate a legal rule,but he/she can reproduce declarations clearly attributed to authorized sources.

Complaints and protests about a news story must be received courteously and be immediately brought to the attention of the Readers’ Advocate (Defensor del Lector) and the editor-in-chief, who will decide, together with the journalist, how to admit or to contest them.

El Tiempo is under no obligation toward a journalist to publish all the material that he/she produces, and the journalist cannot promise his/her sources or interviewees that material generated by them will be published. Determining which texts must be published is a prerogative reserved to the directors of the newspaper.

The journalist of El Tiempo must be aware,fully and deeply, of all the Columbian legislation that concerns journalism. It is a paramount responsibility of the journalist to respect, in words and deeds,the legal norms. It is asked that special care be taken in the treatment of information concerning events in which minors are involved.

Whenever a serious difference or conflict occurs in the newsroom, the Director of El Tiempo must be consulted, as he/she is the highest authority in the newspaper.

All news, editorials and graphics,produced by the employees and collaborators of El Tiempo and which are published in the pages of the newspaper or filed into its archival system, arethe property of El Tiempo.

No text or picture that appears in El Tiempo should contain phrases offensive or pejorative about individuals, groups, regions, ethnic minorities, parties, religions or countries. That does not include verbatim quotes from a source, when its relevance or news value seems essential.

El Tiempo respects the private life of its journalists and will not interfere with it, but they must keep aware that inmost cases people will consider them as representatives of the newspaper. For that reason, the acts, manners and behaviour of the journalists, especially in public places, automatically reflect on the image of the newspaper.

The journalist of El Tiempo is not permitted to report information on events in which anyone of his family is involved. When the journalist has been employed by some official bureau or by a private firm, he/she will not cover sources there.

[Translated by Claude-Jean Bertrand; source:]

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