Charter of Duties and Rights of the Journalists in Rwanda.
Every human being has a right to information, to free expression and to criticism in conformity with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that : “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers”.
From this right of the public to information and to the expression of pluralist opinions, derive a series of rights for journalists but also of duties and rules. The responsibility of journalists towards the public takes precedence over any responsibility they may assume towards other parties, especially the authorities and their employers. To fulfil their mission of providing true and fair information, journalists give themselves rules the strict observation of which needs to be linked to working conditions that guarantee their independence and their dignity.
Journalists pledge to respect scrupulously the following ethical principles :
1. To seek the factual truth in all circumstances and all places in order to provide the public with it, whatever the consequences to themselves.
2. To defend freedom of information and the rights that derive from it, freedom to comment and to criticize, the independence and dignity of the profession.
3. To abstain from publishing any information and any document whose origin they do not know; to refrain from suppressing or setting aside essential information or items of news, from distorting a text or document; explicitly label, when needed, any unconfirmed news; to respect justified embargos.
Not to use disloyal methods to obtain information, pictures and documents ; to state his/her professional identity when seeking information ; to abstain from plagiarism and the reproduction of all or part of documents or quotations without indicating the source of them.
To be careful to correct any false or inaccurate information that has been published.
6. To observe professional secrecy and not to reveal sources of information that were accessed under condition of confidentiality.
7. To pledge to respect the privacy of people, their moral integrity, their honour and their dignity – to the extent that this principle is compatible with public interest; to abstain from anonymous and gratuitous accusations as well as from denunciations, from libel, slander, insult, offence, malicious insinuation ; to respect discretion and decency.
8. To refuse any advantage, promise or practice that might jeopardise their professional independence and the free expression of their own opinions.
9. To abstain from advertising activities and to accept no direct or indirect instruction from advertisers or potential sponsors.
10. To accept journalistic assignments only from the heads of their own newsroom – insofar as they conform to the rules and principles of a journalist’s ethics.
11. To assume their mission of informing honestly and fairly, all the while manifesting a high sense of responsibility and modesty.
12. To pledge to achieve their informative mission while respecting pluralism and the diversity of opinions and ideas.
13. Not to work for media that compete with their employer. However, a journalist can, under conditions defined by agreement with newsroom managers or his/her employer, contribute occasionally to other press organs.
14. To abstain from getting involved in a partisan, political, social cause, which might compromise their capacity to report on or deal with events fairly and impartially.
15. To abstain from any public or private behaviour that might bring the profession or the media outlet that employs him, into disrepute.
16. Rigorously to abstain from any act, any attitude or any production written, spoken or filmed, likely to incite ethnic, racial, regional or religious conflict ; to warmongering, xenophobia or any other kind of exclusion.
The duties listed above imply that journalists fully enjoy the following prerogatives :
1. Free access to all sources of information, public or private, and the right freely to pursue investigations into all facts and events of public interest. The need for secrecy in public affairs can be opposed to journalists only in exceptional, properly justified cases.
2. The right to be informed, before they are hired, about the policy and general orientation of the news outlet they will be working for. Any alteration or abandonment of that policy will have to be explicitly made known to them. The absence of such notification constitutes a unilateral breach of contract by the employer who will have to assume the possible consequences of it. Similarly, journalists will absolutely have to be consulted before any decision is made that will affect the activity of the firm which employs them.
3. The right for journalists to enjoy the working conditions and safety measures guaranteed by law or by any contractual clauses. Journalists are entitled to be active within professional organizations, within and without the company, without suffering any personal harm.
4. The right to refuse any assignment or instruction that is incompatible with their human dignity or with the honour or the ethics of the profession. Journalists cannot be forced to process or broadcast information contrary to reality, nor to express an opinion contrary to their deep convictions. Refusal to engage in such acts cannot in any way entail any material or moral loss for them. The employer is bound strictly to respect this clause of conscience.
5. The right to assume various professional jobs with no discrimination based on gender, social, racial, ethnic origins or their philosophical or religious convictions, or whether they belong, or not, to a union, professional association or political party. This right applies to hiring as well as the assignment of work, professional training and retraining, promotion, salary and the granting of social benefits.