Canon of Journalism, adopted by the Nihon Shinbun Kyokai, the association of newspaper publishers, in 1946 and revised in 1955.
The role to be played by newspapers in rebuilding Japan as a democratic and peace-loving nation is decidedly of great importance. In order to realize this mission in the fastest and most effective manner possible, it is necessary for every newspaper in the nation to adhere to a high ethical standard, elevate the prestige of its profession, and carry out its functions to the fullest.
Aware of the significance of their mission, democratic Japanese daily newspapers, large and small, have met in the most cordial spirit, organized the Nihon Shinbun Kyokai, formulated as its moral charter the Canon of Journalism and have pledged to endeavor with the utmost sincerity to realize these principles.
The Canon of Journalism, which stresses the spirit of freedom, responsibility, fairness and decency, constitutes a standard which should govern not only news and editorial writers but to an equal extent all persons connected with newspaper work.
I. Freedom of the Press
The press should enjoy complete freedom in reporting news and in making editorial comments, unless such activities interfere with public interests or are explicitly forbidden by law, including the freedom to comment on the wisdom of any restrictive statute. The right of the press should be defended as a vital right of mankind.
II. Sphere of News Reporting and Editorial Writing
The freedom of news reporting and editorial writing should be subject to the following voluntary restraints:
1. The fundamental rule of news reporting is to convey facts accurately and faithfully.
2. In reporting news, the personal opinion of the reporter should never be inserted.
3. In treating news, one should always remember and strictly guard against the possibility of such news being utilized for propaganda purposes.
4. Criticism of individuals should be limited to that which could be said directly to the individual involved.
5. Partisanship in editorial comments, which knowingly departs from the truth, undermines the true spirit of journalism.
III. The Principle of Editorial Comment
An editorial comment should be a bold expression of the writer’s belief and conviction and not a flattering speech. Furthermore, in writing an editorial comment, the writer should maintain the public spirit of being a speaker for those who otherwise have no means of voicing their opinions. The role of a newspaper as a public organ should be upheld most strongly in this regard.
The honor of an individual should be respected and protected as are his other fundamental human rights. Those who are to be criticized should be given the opportunity to defend themselves. Mistakes, if made, should be retracted immediately upon receipt of information that the article in question is false and should be rectified.
A fundamental principle of democracy recognizes the freedom of individual assertions and counter-assertions, and should be reflected clearly in the editing of newspapers. The tolerance to allot just as much news space introducing and reporting the policies which a newspaper opposes as it would allot to others which it supports is a fundamental character of democratic newspapers.
VI. Guidance, Responsibility and Pride
The principal difference between newspapers and other commercial enterprises is that newspapers in their reportorial and editorial activities exercise great influence over the public. The public depends on newspapers as their chief source of information and consequently newspapers affect their judgment of public events and problems. From this distinction arises the public character of journalistic enterprises and the special social status of journalists. The journalists’ realization of their responsibility and pride in their work are fundamental in ensuring their special status. These two points must be observed by each individual journalist.
A high sense of public decency is naturally required of newspapers because of their share of influence over public opinion. Such a standard of decency can be achieved by abiding with the above-mentioned principles. Newspapers and journalists, when they fail to observe these principles, will invite public condemnation and disapproval by other papers and journalists and in the end will be unable to operate or work. Therefore, all members of the Nihon Shinbun Kyokai should endeavor to cooperate and maintain a high ethical standard by promoting their moral unity, guaranteeing free access to news material and assisting each other in newspaper production.
Thus, the association of newspapers which strictly observes the Canon of Journalism shall be able to accelerate and ensure the democratization of Japan and simultaneously elevate Japanese newspapers to world standards.