Kenya – Kenyan Union of Journalists

Code of Conduct for Journalists and the Mass Media.
[Source: The Kenyan Union of Journalists, a member of the International Federation of Journalists]

RECOGNIZING that freedom of speech is a basic element of a democratic society and that a free and independent mass media is among the most important institutions in a democratic society;

EMPHASIZING the individual’s and community’s fundamental freedoms of expression and information;

ACCEPTING that as a social institution, the mass media discharges crucial duties by carrying information, debates and critical comments on society, and that the mass media is therefore particularly responsible for allowing different views to be expressed;

NOTING the duty of the mass media to protect the freedom of expression and of the media and not to yield to any pressure from any person or authority who might want to prevent the free flow of information, free access to sources of information and open debate on any matters of importance to society;

REALISING that it is the duty of the mass media to publish information on what goes on in society and to uncover and disclose matters which ought to be subjected to debate or criticism;

NOTING that all journalists and the mass media have a duty to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards;

EMPHASIZING the importance of maintaining accuracy in reporting and protection of privacy of individuals;

ACCEPTING the duty of the mass media to protect individuals against injustices or neglect committed by public authorities and institutions or private bodies or institutions and individuals;

REALISING the need to regulate the conduct of every person working for the mass media;

THEREFORE THIS CODE shall guide the conduct of journalists and the mass media.

Accuracy and Fairness
A journalist shall write, and the mass media shall publish, broadcast or report fair, accurate and unbiased stories. All sides of a story shall be reported, and comments from any person mentioned in an unfavorable context shall be obtained as appropriate.

Whenever it Is recognized that an inaccurate, misleading or distorted report has been published or broadcast, it shall be corrected promptly. In effecting corrections, the medium shall publish or broadcast the correct information and not restate the error except where clarity demands such restatement.

An apology shall be published (in the case of the print media) or broadcast (in the case of the electronic media) as appropriate.

Opportunity to Reply
(1) A fair opportunity to reply to inaccuracies shall be given to individuals or organizations when that is reasonably called for.

(2) If a request to correct inaccuracies in a story is made in the form of a letter, the editor shall have the discretion to publish or broadcast it in full; or the editor may publish or broadcast an abridged or edited version, particularly where the letter is inordinately long, provided that the edited or abridged version shall be an effective reply to the allegations.

(3) The editor shall not omit or refuse to publish or broadcast important portions of the reply or rejoinder which effectively deal with the accuracy of. the reply or rejoinder.

(4) Even if the editor doubts the truth or factual accuracy of the reply or rejoinder, he or she shall publish or broadcast it with liberty to append an editorial comment doubting its veracity. This shall be done only when this doubt is reasonably founded on unimpeachable evidence in the editor’s


(5) The editor shall not, in a cavalier fashion, or without due application of his or her mind, append such a note as: “We stand by our story.”

Letters to the Editor
(1) In the case of the print media, an editor who decides to open his or her columns on a controversial subject is not obliged to publish all the letters received on that subject.

(2) The editor may select and publish only some of the letters either In. their entirety or the gist thereof.

(3) In exercising this freedom, the editor shall make an honest attempt to ensure that what is published is not one-sided but presents a fair balance between the pros and cons of the principal issue.

(4) In the event of rejoinder upon rejoinder being sent by two or more parties on a controversial subject, the editor shall have discretion to decide at what point to end the debate.

(5) In the case of the electronic media, a broadcasting licensee who airs a program in which controversial issues of public interest are discussed, shall make reasonable efforts to present significant points of view in a fair manner. Such points of view may be presented either in the same program or in a subsequent one, forming part of the same series of programs, presented within a reasonable period of time in substantially the same time slot.

(6) Any person whose views are criticized in a broadcasting program on a controversial issue of public interest shall be given a reasonable opportunity to reply should such person so request.

Unnamed Sources
(1) Unnamed sources shall not be used unless the public interest or the pursuit of truth is best served, by not naming the source.

(2) When material is used in a report from sources other than the reporter’s, these sources shall be indicated in the story or the broadcast.

(1) Journalists shall have the obligation to protect confidential sources of information.

(2) In circumstances where complete confidentiality is requested as a condition of obtaining a story, the requirement shall be respected and considered in a manner consistent with the law.

(1) A journalist shall identify himself or herself and not obtain or seek to obtain information or picture through misrepresentation or subterfuge.

(2) Subterfuge shall, subject to paragraph (1) be justified only in the public interest and only where material cannot be obtained by any other means.

(3) Unless the public interest demands, documents or photographs shall be removed or taken only with the express consent of the owner.

(4) The Public interest shall include:
a) detecting or exposing crime or serious misdemeanor or anti-social conduct;
b) protecting public health, morality or security; or
c) preventing the public from being misled by some Statement or action.

Obscenity, Taste and Tone in Reporting
(1) The mass media shall not publish or broadcast anything which is obscene, vulgar or offensive to public good taste. A story, photograph or drawing of questionable taste shall be published or broadcast only if it has significant news value and where overriding public interest demands.

(2) Good taste shall be determined by the prevailing social norms, and the test shall be based on the standard whether the material is so vulgar that it is likely to deprave; or it is likely to be regarded as “filthy”, “dirty” or “lewd.”

(3) With regard to pictures, the following guidelines shall apply:
a) Is it vulgar and revolting?
b) Is it pornographic?
c) Is its publication meant merely to make money by titillating the sexual feelings of the adolescents or adults among whom it is intended to circulate? In other words, does it constitute “unwholesome exploitation of sex for the sake of money?”

(4) Publication of photographs showing mutilated bodies or other horrible scenes shall be prohibited unless the non publication of such photographs will compromise overriding public interest.

(5) Television stations especially shall exercise great care and responsibility when presenting programs where a large number of children is likely to be part of the audience or viewer ship.

(1) Using someone else’s work without attribution or acknowledgement, whether deliberately or thoughtlessly, is prohibited.

(2) Statements or words directly quoted from sources other than the reporting journalist shall be attributed.

(1) The mass media shall avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to a person’s race, ethnicity, clan, religion, political affiliation, sex or sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or handicap. Such references shall be eschewed unless they are germane to a story.

(2) Every person shall be accorded equal treatment as a news subject or source and no journalist shall deliberately deny the right of any group to exposure in the mass media.

Recording Interviews and Telephone Conversations
(1) Except in rare and justifiable cases, no journalist shall make a recording of any person without that person’s knowledge and consent.

(2) Exception may be made only if the recording is necessary to protect the journalist in a legal action, or for some other compelling reason, and if no other approach is appropriate.

(1) Intrusion and inquiries into an individual’s private life without the person’s consent is prohibited unless overriding public interest exists.

(2) Matters concerning a person’s home, family, religion, ethnicity, race, clan, sexuality, political affiliation, personal life and private affairs are covered by the concept of privacy, except where this impinges upon the public interest.

Intrusion into Grief or Shock
In cases involving personal grief or shock, inquiries shall be carried out and approaches made with sympathy and discretion.

Provision against Insider Dealing
(1) No journalist shall use information, received in the course of his or her duties in advance of its general publication, for monetary or other profit; nor shall he or she pass such information to third parties.

(2) No journalist shall write about shares or securities in whose performance that journalist or his or her associates or members of his or her family have a financial interest without disclosing the

interest to the editor.

(3) No journalist shall buy or sell, either directly or through nominees or agents, shares or securities about which he or she intends to write in the near future.

Conflict of Interest and Unfair Advantage
(1) Journalists and their employers shall conduct themselves in a manner that protects them from real or apparent conflicts of interest.

(2) Such conflicts of interest may arise through accepting gifts, bribes, favors, free travel, special treatment or any other form of inducement or privilege.

Comment, Conjecture and Fact
Journalists shall distinguish clearly in their reports between comment, conjecture and fact. They shall write in such a manner that the reader is able to distinguish among comment, conjecture and fact.

Protection of Children
(1) Children shall not be identified in cases concerning sexual offenses, whether as victims witnesses or defendants.

(2) Except in matters of public interest, like in cases of child abuse, neglect or abandonment, no journalist shall interview or photograph a child on subjects involving the child’s personal welfare in the absence of or without the consent of a parent or other adult responsible for the child.

(3) A child shall not be approached or photographed while at school without the permission of the school authorities.

(4) For the purposes of this code, a child is any person below the age of eighteen years.

Victims of Sex Crimes
The mass media shall not identify victims of sexual assault or publish material likely to contribute to such identification unless this is expressly provided under law.

Use of Pictures and Names
The mass media shall apply caution and discretion in the publication or other use of pictures and names to avoid the possibility of harming the person concerned.

Verification of Reports before Publication
(1) Where an editor receives a report, photograph, radio, television program or video, containing defamatory or derogatory imputations or comments touching on the public conduct or character of an individual or organization, he or she shall, before publishing the information, check with due care and attention, its factual accuracy, apart from other authentic sources, with the person or organization concerned to elicit comments or reactions.

(2) Where the person or organization so contacted refuses, despite sincere off orts by the editor, to comment, a footnote to the effect shall be published along with the report, article or broadcast.

Innocent Relatives and Friends
The mass media shall avoid identifying relatives or friends of persons convicted or accused of crime unless the reference to them is necessary for the full, fair and accurate reporting of the crime or legal proceedings.

Acts of Violence
(1) The mass media shall avoid presenting acts of violence, armed robbery, and banditry and terrorist aefiviti6s in a manner that glorifies such anti-social conduct.

(2) The mass media shall not allow their columns or air time to be used for writings or broadcasts which have a tendency to encourage or glorify social evils, war-like activities, or ethnic, racial, political or religious hostilities.

Covering Ethnic Disputes or Clashes
(1) News, views or comments relating to ethnic or religious disputes or clashes shall be published after proper verification of facts, and shall be presented with due caution and restraint and in a manner which is conducive to the creation of an atmosphere congenial to national harmony, amity and peace.

(2) Sensational, provocative and alarming headlines shall be avoided.

(3) News reports of commentaries shall not be written in a manner likely to inflame the passion, aggravate the tension or accentuate strained relations between the communities concerned.

(4) Articles with the potential to exacerbate communal trouble shall not be published.
Headlines not to be Sensational or Provocative
Provocative or sensational headlines shall not be published; headings shall reflect and justify the matter printed under them and headings containing allegations made in statements shall either identify the body or the source making it or at least carry quotation marks.

Judicial Acts
The mass media or journalists shall avoid unfair and unwarranted criticism which by innuendo attributes an oblique or extraneous motive to a judge for performing an act in the course of his or her official duties, whether or not such criticism amounts to contempt of court.

Editor’s Responsibility
(1) The editor shall assume responsibility under the terms of this Code for all matters, including advertisements, published in the print media or broadcast on radio or television.

(2) Where responsibility is disclaimed, this shall be explicitly stated before hand.

Broadcasters shall not broadcast advertisements intended for or related to the purposes of a political party unless other political parties are provided with opportunities which are no less favorable, to advertise.

Name of Producer
Broadcasters shall disclose the name of the producer of every program at the end of the transmission of that program.

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