Code of Ethics, approved by the General Assembly of the Journalists’ Circle of Bogota in 1990.
Freedom of the press is a basic condition for society to have accurate, sufficient, and timely knowledge of the concrete reality of the world. As such, it should be maintained free from intrusion or coercion from the public or private sector.
Access to information constitutes one of man’s basic human rights. The journalist has the obligation to defend this raison d’être of freedom of the press, and must practice his/her profession with the highest level of responsibility and honesty.
The journalist’s principal obligation is to report on facts of public interest in an exact and comprehensible manner.
The ethics of the profession is based on principles geared to establish the journalist’s responsibility to society. These principles are the basis of the present Code of norms adopted by journalists to ennoble their professional work.
The Code seeks to point journalists to some principles of conduct that consult the rational principles of ethical and professional behaviour, and should be adhered to not only by journalists, but also by the owners, managers, and directors of the media.
True and adequate media
Article one. The community has the right to news that is true, adequate, and timely, and the journalist has the obligation to inform the public according to those terms.
1. Although absolute terms like truth and objectivity are debatable, good faith is indispensable to journalism. The content of the news or of commentary should be accurate in its facts and in its context.
2. It is necessary to present different sides of the news and to make sure that, when there is more than one interpretation of the facts, all relevant sides are presented.
3. The obligation to inform is not fulfilled:
a) Through action (false news)
b) Through omission (keeping silent about a fact).
c) Through approximation (biased news).
4. News must be clearly differentiated from commentary.
Corrections and replies
Article two. It is the journalist’s obligation to promptly and adequately correct inaccurate information, even if the affected party has not requested clarification.
Article three. The journalist must adopt an analytical attitude toward his/her sources, meet them face-to-face, and verify their statements.
1. In principle it is advisable that the recipient know the source of information. This lends greater credibility and responsibility to the news being reported. Nevertheless, the journalist may promise to remain silent about his/her sources of information. The journalist may be exonerated of keeping this promise when:
a) he/she was deceived by the source, and
b) this invalidates the promise to keep the source anonymous.
The object of professional silence is to protect the source from publicity; in no case should it be used to protect the inaccuracy of information, nor does it free the journalist from his/her obligation to check the facts.
The obtainment of the news
Article four. Not all methods of obtaining a piece of news are ethical. Considerations of public interest should prevail over private interests in the obtainment of information.
Citations and transcripts
Article five. The journalist should not allow quotes to alter the meaning of what he/she is writing, and should only put direct statements in quotes.
Article six. Plagiarism is an act contrary to ethical principles.
Favours and privileges
Article seven. The independence and credibility of the journalist are crucial to his/her work. The following are considered unethical.
1. To use one’s influence for personal gain or privileges.
2. To receive payment or any type of favour from a source.
3. To engage in activities relating to advertising or public relations at the same time that one is practicing journalism.
4. To work in business, in the public or private sector, at the same time as working in journalism.
5. The sale of advertising as part of the journalist’s compensation for his/her work.
6. Actions which may lead to dependency, such as journalism prizes awarded by sources.
Article eight. Sensationalism is a deformation of the news, and implies manipulation and deceit, and most significantly, it takes advantage of the public’s good faith.
1. Journalism should respect an individual’s privacy and dignity, and should limit itself to referring to private acts or circumstances only when they attain a clear public interest.
2. Journalism should abstain from exploiting the public’s desire for morbidity and ill -willed curiosity.
3. Special care should be taken when covering judicial proceedings, because even if not illegal, such coverage may influence the decision on the accused’s guilt or innocence.
The media business
Article nine. The character and social responsibility of the media means that it may not be involved in any other business. Therefore, the managers, editors, and in general, those responsible for writing in the media, should do their work with due respect to the intellect and professionalism of the authors of the news.
In this Code, the owners, managers, and employees of the administrative and commercial departments of the media have the same responsibility towards journalism ethics as does the journalist. Thus:
1. They must avoid any ventures or privileges which call into question the independence of the media.
2. Their involvement in boards of directors and their positions as advisors to other businesses compromise the independence of the media.
3. Advertising, be it through commercial ads, political publicity, advertising supplements, etc. must be clearly differentiated from the news.
Article ten. The journalist is morally obligated to act according to his/her conscience and may
not be sanctioned for doing so.
Therefore, media organizations may not sanction or demote a journalist for behaving ethically in his/her work.
Boundaries and competence
Article eleven. Professional self-criticism and public debate of topics related to the news are advised. The obligations of professional ethics, which bind all journalists, exceed their civil or penal responsibilities. As a consequence:
1. The responsibility to guarantee the faithful observance of professional ethics falls not on the shoulders of those public authorities, but on the shoulders of those employed in the profession, as decreed in the International Code of Journalism Ethics, put forth by the United Nations.
2. The norms of conduct in the present Code do not justify intervention by public authorities or their representatives to force the observance of the moral obligations established in this Code.
3. It is necessary to create an honour tribunal whose structure and composition are decided upon by consensus by the country’s associations, in order to guarantee adherence to this Code.