Code of ethics, adopted by the Association of Journalists in El Salvador (APES) in September 1999.
The present Code of Ethics was drafted by the Asociación de Periodistas de El Salvador (APES). It is the result of nine months of work involving journalists, academics and students of journalism and related disciplines from distinguished universities, together with representatives of various sections of Salvadoran society. The APES aims to contribute, with this document, to the professionalism of the Salvadoran press and thus to the strengthening of democracy. The fact is that the changes made in El Salvador in recent years require a journalism more and more committed to the interests to the population served by the press. While it is true that ethical norms are a matter of personal conviction, the rules listed in the present document can serve as a guide for the conduct of any person looking forward to a career in professional journalism. An ethical commitment of the press to society in El Salvador is fundamental to further stimulate the progress journalism has made. The technological advances to which news media have access nowadays enable them to improve their technical quality, but it is necessary that, on the other hand, the contents of the media’s messages take into account the basic principles of ethics. For those reasons, we recommend that journalists, editors and owners of the communication media, do their utmost so that the ethical rules contained in this code open the way to a new form and style of journalism in El Salvador.
Art. 1. The present code sets the norms within the framework of which journalistic activity in El Salvador must develop, regulating its relations with the community, with news sources and among colleagues, with the common good as the overall target.
Art. 2. Journalism and journalists must always be the servants of truth, justice and human dignity, of a democratic State, a culture of tolerance, social progress and fraternity among peoples.
Art. 3. A journalist must stand as a guardian of freedom of expression and the right to information proper to every human being. The rights and the duties of the journalist both derive from the right of the public to know the news and opinions.
Art. 4. A journalist is a social servant in that the interests of the population are to take precedence over any responsibility he/she may have towards business firms or towards public and private powers.
The Journalist and Society
Art. 5. A journalist must always make a clear distinction between facts and opinions, avoiding any confusion or deliberate distortion of either.
Art. 6. Advertising, propaganda and comments, as well as the news , must be properly identified so that the difference is clear between what constitutes opinion and what information.
Art. 7. A journalist must publicize only sound information and avoid vague and insufficiently grounded data which can injure or discredit individuals and cause damage or unjustified disrepute to institutions or public and private entities. Also he/she will avoid using insulting terms.
Art. 8. It is a duty of whoever practices journalism to inform the community of all the events worthy to be reported, which is why he/she will abstain from all means to endow facts with an unreal informative value in order to attract attention.
Art. 9. A morbid description of violence must be avoided. Pictures relative to crimes or accidents must be taken and made public with proper consideration for victims and their relatives.
Art. 10. A journalist must render accounts to the public, when asked, about news that has been published. Besides, he/she will promote an open dialogue with readers, listeners and viewers.
Art. 11. A journalist must obtain that the right of reply be effectively granted, under equivalent conditions of space, to whoever has been the target of accusations concerning his/her morality or reputation, or who has been hurt by some news story.
Art. 12. Journalists must, as much as possible, commend and promote the concept of Defender of readers, listeners and viewers (Press Ombudsman).
Art. 13. A journalist must guard the right to information. Therefore, he/she must avoid excluding from his/her stories persons, organisations or any source that deserves to be taken into account.
Art. 14. A professional of journalism must not accept for him/herself, or on behalf of others, assignments incompatible with the integrity and dignity of the profession. Nor must he/she accept benefits from individuals or groups when directly or indirectly they tend to compromise the independence or objectivity of his/her journalistic work.
Art. 15. He/she will act with special rigour and sense of responsibility in the case of news or views that can generate discrimination because of gender, race, nationality, religion, ideology – or that incite to violence.
The Journalist and News Sources
Art. 16. A professional of journalism must base his/her information on hard facts or on trustworthy sources that support or confirm his/her statements.
Art. 17. A journalist must use honourable methods to obtain information or pictures, and not have recourse to illegitimate means.
Art. 18. A journalist must observe professional secrecy and respect the trust he/she is shown by being informed of restricted topics.
Art. 19. A journalist will respect the “off the record” [sic] when that has been agreed beforehand with the source.
Art. 20. A journalist will respect the date and hour of embargoes on publishing a piece of information when it has been supplied under that condition.
Art. 21. At no time will a journalist use for his own profit privileged information received confidentially.
Art. 22. A journalist must respect the people’s right to their privacy and image in circumstances that generate grief or pain.
Art. 23. A journalist will not prejudge a case brought before a tribunal, taking sides about guilt or innocence, and will seek to present the position of every party […].
Art. 24. A journalist will avoid identifying, unless they agree to it, the relatives or close relations of persons charged or convicted of a crime.
The Journalist and Children
Art. 25. A journalist must process with special care any information relative to small children and adolescents, […].
Art. 26. A journalist must observe and guarantee the spirit of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and all international legislation recognized by the Salvadoran State, in addition to the national laws on the subject.
Art. 27. A journalist will not publish the names or pictures of minors or of adults that have been the victims of ill-treatment or acts of violence. Neither will he/she publish the names of the parents and any information leading to the identification of the victim.
Art. 28. A journalist must abstain from making public the names or pictures of minors in conflict with the law, unless there exists legislation that authorises it.
The Journalist and Public Officials
Art. 29. In dealing with topics relative to public administrations, the right to information must always prevail over any restriction that erodes the principle of informative transparency which they are bound to respect.
Art. 30. A journalist must not accept bribes, junkets, freebies or any type of favours or privileges from public officials aiming at the publication, suppression, distortion, partial or total, of some news.
Art. 31. A journalist must denounce to the Ethics Commission of the Association of Journalists in El Salvador (APES) and place in the public knowledge, any attempt to bribe or fraudulent offer made to him/her by some public official or other individuals.
The Journalist and the Media Industry
Art. 32. A journalist must be loyal to the company in which he serves, within limits set by the essential principles that should govern his/her activity; insofar as it is compatible with his/her professional conscience, with the laws, free expression established by the Constitution and the present code of ethics.
Art. 33. A journalist must provide the opportunity to exercise the right of reply or make maximum efforts for it to be done by the medium for which he/she works. Independently of that right, and beyond his/her legal responsibilities, he/she must correct serious errors which him/herself has spotted.
Art. 34. A journalist must strive to obtain that the press company will provide economic, social and working conditions adequate for him/her to perform professionally.
The Journalist and the Profession
Art. 35. A journalist is under the obligation to act in ways that will dignify the profession.
Art. 36. A journalist must not combine journalistic work and other professional activities incompatible with the ethics of information, like advertising, public relations and propaganda.
Art. 37. A journalist must by all means make sure that no laws or other regulation abridge, hamper or annul the exercise of freedom of expression. In case such laws or regulations exist, he/she must strive to obtain their repeal.
Art. 38. A journalist will not accept advertising assignments that provide for the production of a news story or an interview to serve the interests of individuals, a company or an institution.
Art. 39. The present ethical norms are a matter of personal acceptance, but we recommend that the members of APES put them into practice; and all those who are professional or occasional journalists; and those other people who belong to the media industry and are in a position to decide how news and views will be obtained and made public.