MediaWise pioneers new Code for Bulgarian journalists

1 October 2004 – The Bulgarian Union of Publishers has signed up to a comprehensive Code of Practice against which their journalism should be judged. The Code, drafted with assistance from MediaWise, is set to be adopted by the country’s electronic media later this autumn.

It includes a conscience clause allowing journalists to refuse assignments that might break the spirit or letter of the Code, guarantees a right of reply to aggrieved members of the public, and offers ‘clear and appropriately prominent corrections’.

Journalists are expected to protect their sources, but also to base stories on identifiable sources ‘rather than anonymous sources whose honesty and reliability cannot be assessed by the public’.

The Code has 30 clauses divided into five sections dealing with:

Supplying the public with reliable information
The collection and presentation of information
Editorial independence
Relations between and within media, and
The public interest

It contains pledges to respect personal privacy and offers special protection to children and the bereaved. Crime and violence should not be glorified or sensationalised, says one clause; another promises that details of suicide methods will not be publicised to prevent the risk of imitation. Other clauses deal with all forms of discrimination, and unprofessional practices.

The Code will not have the force of law, but will be supervised by a 12-person independent commission with the power to adjudicate on complaints.

“The Code seeks to address the needs of journalists and the public as well as the publishers,”  says MediaWise Director Mike Jempson. “It was built around discussions about the problems faced by journalists and the public’s desire to receive reliable information, and to know that mistakes will be corrected and human dignity will be respected by the media. It would be interesting to hear what British media regulators and journalists make of it.”

Mr Jempson helped to draft the Code and initiate consultations among working journalists earlier this year, as part of a European Union project run by the BBC World Service Trust to enhance professional standards in the Bulgarian media.

(Bulletin No 105)

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