The Journalist’s Code of Practice was first agreed in 1997 by the Cyprus Union of Journalists, the Cyprus Publishers Association and the Owners of Electronic Mass Communication Media. It was amended in 2008.
This Code applies to all media (print and electronic, semi-state or private) and all those working for them.
The Media and those working for them undertake the obligation to cooperate with the Commission in carrying out its investigations. Their non-cooperation constitutes a breach of the Code.
Respect for the truth and the citizen’s right to objective, full and reliable information in an obligation of all media and journalists.
Respect for the journalist’s right to unobstructed access to the sources of news and transparency are necessary prerequisites for proper information.
The conduct, dignity, honesty and professional standard of journalists should be of the highest standard. Journalists refrain from publishing stories or from the use of a language which, by prevailing standards, are considered vulgar or obscene. Journalists, in commenting on the work of their colleagues do so with due respect to their honour and reputation and refrain from personal attacks and references belittling the personality.
The Commission has a duty to defend the Right of Expression and more specifically, the freedom of expression of journalists of print and electronic Mass Media.
The Commission, on its own initiative, or after the lodging of a complaint may deal with allegations that material either published or broadcast, or any act or omission by anyone constitutes a violation or a threat against the aforementioned liberties. In the case it decides to take up the complaint, the Commission gives the opportunity to the parties involved to present their views and positions, either in writing or verbally. It the case of the Commission ascertains that there is a case of violation of threat as above, it makes its findings public unless it decides otherwise.
The Commission has a duty to defend the independence of journalists.
Journalists have an obligation to defend their independence and not to allow interference with their work. Interference in the work of journalists and intimidation or attempted intimidation or influencing journalists with statements or otherwise is impermissible.
Journalists in carrying out their function:
(a) Respect and promote democracy and other universal values. They respect and promote human rights and the fundamental freedoms of all.
(b) Show the indicated sensitivity in matters that concern national security and are particularly careful in presenting issues such as violence, crime, sexual offences, human grief and death, as well as information or pictures that are hurtful or could cause panic, horror, or revulsion, especially to children.
(c) Always act in good faith and comply with the letter and spirit of this Code.
The Media ensure that no inaccurate, misleading, imaginary or distorted news, information or comments are published. In case this has happened, they make an immediate correction and where appropriate, they publish an apology.
The Media have an obligation to present valid information to consumers.
The Media, while they have the right make news analysis and to support concrete positions, they should make a clear differentiation between fact and interpretation, comment or conjecture.
2. RIGHT OF REPLY
The Media give a fair opportunity of reply, in the appropriate case, to those affected and particularly when they have been attacked. This opportunity will be given not so long after the time of publication, that the right of reply shall have no meaning. The Media have the right to edit long letters in a way which will not affect the substance of the reply and to refuse publication of letters which may have legal repercussions on the Media or third parties.
3. PRIVATE LIFE
The reputation and private life of every individual is respected. Intrusions and investigations into the private life of individuals without their consent, including the taking of pictures of people without their knowledge or consent –unless they are involved in events which constitute news of general interest- or on private property and also the gathering of information through bugging devices or long lens photography, are generally unacceptable and their publication can only be justified in exceptional cases an solely in the public interest.
The Media and journalists do not make personal attacks and do not use insulting and abusive words which injure the honour and reputation of individuals.
Investigations or the taking and publishing of pictures/images of persons in hospitals or in other similar institutions are carried out discreetly and after permission has been obtained where this is indicated and after the identity of functionaries of the Mass Communication Media has been duly stated.
In cases involving mourning, grief or shock, an approach characterised by discretion and sympathy to the utmost degree is necessary, as well as avoidance of any act that may increase human pain.
The media should refrain from publishing/broadcasting pictures of people in conditions of mourning, grief or shock and in those cases that publication or broadcasting of such pictures is justified, they should deal with such cases with special care.
No news about suicides is published. In those extraordinary cases that circumstances justify publication, sensitivity and special care should be shown so as to avoid details about the method, even if those details were obtained through a qualified procedure. This clause does not prevent the publication of information obtained from judicial proceedings, provided that all other relevant clauses of the Code of Practice are taken into account.
6. OBTAINING OF INFORMATION
Functionaries of the Media should not, as a general rule, try to secure information or images/photographs through false representation or any other fraudulent manner.
With the exception of serving public interest, documents and images/photographs can only be taken with the consent of their owner.
Functionaries do not obtain or try to obtain information or images/photographs through intimidation or blackmail.
The Media should not publish-broadcast pictures which had been mechanically or electronically modified without informing the public. When doing so they should explain the reasons for such modification. This obligation does not exist when the modification is manifest and the reason is obvious, e.g. for reasons of satire.
The Media and their functionaries respect and implement the legislation in force at any particular time and conventions concerning the protection of copyright. Where permitted, reproduction is done with due respect to the author/creator. The Media and journalist must give due credit to the source.
8. BRIBERY-RECEIVING GIFTS
Journalists do not accept gifts in connection with their function. Save in exceptional cases covered by public interest, functionaries do not pay out or bribe witnesses in criminal cases or persons involved in criminal cases, including members of their families, with the aim of obtaining information or images/photographs.
9. PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE
Functionaries of the Media fully respect the principle that a person suspected or accused of having committed a crime is innocent until the contrary is proven in accordance with the law, and consequently avoid publishing anything which may lead to conclusions regarding either the guilt or innocence of suspects or accused or tends to smear their reputation or publicly humiliate them.
10. SEXUAL CRIMES
The Media do not reveal, either directly or indirectly, the identity of victims of rape or other sexual offences and they do not publish or reproduce details, which are likely to cause or increase human pain.
Especially, in cases involving children the following apply:
The identity of children under 16 who are complainants, witnesses of accused in cases of sexual offences is never revealed.
The term “incest” is not used and the charge is described as a serious offence against children, or given any other suitable description.
No reference, either direct or indirect, is made to family or any other relationship between the accused and the child.
As a general rule, functionaries of the Media do not interview and do not photograph children under 16 in connection with matters relating to their personal situation or welfare without parental consent or the consent of an adult being responsible for them.
The Media an their functionaries must comply with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Media avoid any direct or other reference or action against a person which contains elements of prejudice on the basis of race, colour, language, religion, political or other conviction, national or social origin, property, extraction, gender, age, or other personal status, including physical or mental illness or invalidity. Scorn, ridicule and abuse of individuals and groups are not permissible.
13. ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Functionaries do not make use, and do not pass on, for their personal benefit, and before being made available to the general public, any information of an economic nature obtained by them.
Note: The Interpretative Directions on practicing economic journalism, with special reference to investing recommendations, based on the Directions by the European Union published in the ADDENDUM constitute an integral part of this Code of Practice.
14. JOURNALISTIC CONFIDENTIALITY
Functionaries of the Media have a moral obligation to observe professional privilege regarding the source of information obtained confidentially. A journalist is not obliged to reveal the source of his information. At the same time, it is the duty of a journalist to make sure that his sources and their information are reliable.
15. PUBLIC INTEREST
Under this Code, cases which justify deviation from the rule, by invoking public interest, are mainly the following:
(a) Helping to detect or expose crime.
(b) Protecting public safety and health.
(c) Protecting human rights.
(d) Preventing deception of the public as a result of acts or statements by individuals or organizations.
This Code can only be revised or amended by an agreement or consensus of all the Parties that have adopted it.*
Nicosia, April 1997
* This Code of Practice was modified, mainly in order to be more clear and handy and to take care of changing conditions, by agreement of the founding organisations in June, 2008 and put into force of July 1, 2008.