Finland – Guidelines for Good Journalistic Practice (1992)

Guidelines for Good Journalistic Practice, adopted by the Union of Journalists in Finland in November 1991, entered into force on 1 January 1992.

The basis of good journalistic practice is a citizen’s right to correct and essential information by which he can form a realistic picture of the world and society around him.

The professional ethics of a journalist involves the respecting of basic human values, like human rights, democracy, peace and international understanding.

A journalist must recognize his responsibility for the environment and be aware of the environmental effects related to the questions he deals with.

Good journalistic practice does not limit either the journalist’s own or the public’s freedom of expression. It aims at promoting discussion and information flow, and involves responsibility for the principles and policies of communication.

The guidelines for journalists concern all journalistic work, regardless of the medium. Nevertheless, they do not cover all situations arising in practice. The decisions and statements on principle of the Council for Mass Media interpret and complement these guidelines.

Good practice also involves a journalist knowing the most important laws, regulations, international agreements and resolutions related to his work.

Professional Status
1. Decisions concerning the content of communications must be made on journalistic grounds. In no way must this authority be relinquished outside the editorial office.

2. A journalist is primarily responsible to his readers, listeners and viewers. He should not deal with subjects which might involve personal gain.

3. A journalist has the right and obligation to reject pressure or inducement with which someone might try to direct, prevent or limit communications.

4. A journalist must not misuse his own position or that of his medium nor accept benefits which might compromise his independence or his possibility to operate in accordance with the principles of his professional ethics.

5. A journalist must not act against his own convictions or good journalistic practice. He can refuse assignments which are inconsistent with this principle.

6. Good practice must be observed in using the work of another party. Although this might not involve material with copyright protection, it is good practice to mention the source when using information acquired and published largely by a second party.

7.Textual advertising in all its forms is to be avoided. Material which can be associated with commercial interests should be viewed critically. Such material can only be published if there are strong journalistic arguments for this. The line between advertising and editorial material must be kept clear.

Correct Information
8. In his work, a journalist must aim at truthful, essential and unbiased information.

9. Sources of information must be treated critically. This is particularly important in dealing with a controversial matter: the information source might have personal interests or the intention to cause damage.

10. Factual information must be checked as thoroughly as possible, including cases where the information has been published previously.

11. The public must be provided with the opportunity to distinguish facts from opinions and fictional material used to provide background. This principle does not restrict the choice of journalistic style or form.

12. Headlines, leads, cover and picture captions, sales-promotion posters for publications and other presentation material must be justified by the body of the story.

13. In addition, pictures and sound must be used truthfully. The recipient must be told whether the material is of a documentary or fictional nature.

Acquiring Information
14. Information must be acquired openly and by using honest means. Exceptional methods can only be resorted to if information of general public importance cannot be obtained by normal means.

15. A person being interviewed must have the right to know in which medium and in what connection his statements will be used. It is also good practice to tell whether the conversation is intended for publication or simply as background material.

16. If justified, a journalist should comply with an interviewee’s request to check his statement before publication to ensure questions of fact are correct. However, journalistic authority cannot relinquished outside the editorial office by such checking.

17. Sources of information must be protected. The identity of a person providing confidential information cannot be disclosed without permission. This is also the case concerning the identity of a person employing a pseudonym or pen name in the journalist’s own medium.

Corrections and Right to Reply
18. Incorrect information must be corrected without delay, either on a journalist’s own initiative or when the person concerned requests it.

19. Someone subjected to heavy criticism must be granted the right of reply if he has grounds for requesting this. Simply a difference of opinion does not necessarily give entitlement to the right of reply.

20. If the request for a right of reply is justified, the reply must be published in a form desired by the person making the reply without delay and in such a manner that those receiving the original information can notice the reply easily.

21. If the reply is not fit for publication as such, changes to it should be discussed with the writer. If he cannot be contacted within a reasonable time, it is advisable to publish the reply in amended form. However, its essential contents must not be changed.

22. If a certain person is strongly criticized in the medium, it is good journalistic practice to make his point of view known when possible in this connection.

Protection of the Individual
23. The human dignity and reputation of every individual must be protected. Skin colour, nationality, origins, religious or political convictions, sex or other personal characteristics must not be published if they are not related to the matter or in a derogatory way.

24. Detrimental facts related to the private life of a person or his family should not be published unless these are of considerable public interest.

25. Care must be observed in the publication of photographs. A picture cannot be used in a misleading way or in connection with something offensive to the party concerned. Particular care must be taken in publishing pictures of victims of accidents or crime.

26. The publication of a name or other identifying facts when dealing with crime can only be justified on the grounds that considerable public interest is served by this. The identity of a person should generally not be disclosed before court proceedings unless the nature of the crime or the position of the party concerned provide strong reasons for that.

27. No prior assumption of guilt should be made, nor should the decision of a court or an authority be anticipated.

28. If a news item on the report of an offence, arrest, imprisonment, charge or complaint has been published, it is good journalistic practice to follow the proceedings of the case right up to the final resolution.

29. The principles covering the protection of the individual also apply when information contained in public documents or other public sources is being used. The public availability of information does not necessarily imply that it can be freely published.

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