Code of Conduct of City Press, established in 1982.
Our freedom as journalists is indivisible from, and subject to, the same legal and moral restraints as that of any other South African citizen and primarily rests on the public’s fundamental right to know and be informed.
We believe that the advancement of justice, freedom of expression and the public’s right to know and be informed is the cornerstone of any democracy.
Believing that professional integrity is the cornerstone of a journalist’s credibility, we therefore commit ourselves to the following ethical behaviour and adopt this code as our guiding principle and standard practice.
REPORTING OF NEWS
– We shall at all times identify ourselves and the newspaper we represent.
– We shall strive to serve the public with thoroughness and honesty.
– We shall be obliged to report news truthfully, accurately and objectively. We must at all times be honest, fair and courageous in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
– We must present news in the correct context and in a balanced manner, without taking sides and without intentional or negligent departure from the facts, whether by:
– distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation of facts;
– material omissions; or
– We must make a clear distinction between advocacy and news reporting. Analysis and commentary should be clearly labelled so that it does not misrepresent facts or context. News must also be distinguished from advertising.
– We must test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise due care to avoid inadvertent error(s). We must therefore exercise diligence in seeking our subjects of news and we must always give them the opportunity to respond to allegations of any wrongdoing.
– Sources must always be identified and where anonymity is promised, sources’ motives must be questioned before being accepted. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources’ reliability and possible motive.
– Never reveal sources of information without their agreement. Clarify conditions attached to any promise in exchange for information. Where promises to newsmakers are mooted, they must first be checked with editorial superiors up to the editor. Once made such promises must be honoured.
– Support the open exchange of views even if you disagree with them. Give voice to the voiceless as official and unofficial sources of information can be equally valid.
– Only what may reasonably be true having regard to the source of the news, may be represented as facts. Such facts shall be published fairly with due regard to context and importance. Where a report is not based on facts or is founded on opinion, allegation, rumour or supposition, it must be clearly indicated and presented in such a manner.
– Where there is reason to doubt the correctness of a report and it is practicable to verify its correctness, it must be verified. Where it is not practical to verify the correctness of the report, it must be published.
– Where it subsequently appears that a published report was incorrect in a material respect, that material must be rectified spontaneously and without reservation or delay. The correction must be presented with a degree of prominence which is adequate and fair.
– Where the dignity and reputation of the subject could have been harmed by the inaccuracy, untruthful or unintentional omission of facts, a mistake must be admitted, correction made and an apology duly printed.
– We must make certain that headlines, news teases and promotional material, photos and quotations do not misrepresent the true facts of the story. The should not exaggerate, oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
– We must never distort the context of news photos. Image enhancement for technical clarity is permissible. Graphics and photo illustrations must be clearly labelled.
– Avoid undercover or other surreptitious methods of gathering information except when traditional open methods will not yield information vital to the public (interest). Use of such methods should be explained as part of the story upon publication.
– Never plagiarise. Plagiarism is not only unethical but it is unlawful.
– Reports, photographs or sketches relative to matters involving indecency and obscenity shall be presented with due sensitivity towards the prevailing moral climate. In particular, publication of obscene matter must be avoided at all costs.
– The identity of rape victims and other victims of sexual violence shall not be published without the consent of the victim.
– Juvenile criminal suspects or convicts may not be identified.
– Do not name criminal suspects or identify them through pictures before the formal filing of criminal charges.
– A criminal suspect’s fair trial must always be balanced with public’s right to know and be informed.
– Avoid stereotyping by race, gender, age, religion, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, disability and social status.
COMMENT/ OPINION/ ILLUSTRATIONS
– We shall be entitled to comment upon or criticise any actions or events (of public importance) provided such comments or criticisms are fairly and honestly expressed.
– Comment must be presented in such a manner that it appears clearly that it is a comment. It must be based on facts.
– Comment must be an honest expression of opinion, without any element of malice or dishonest motives, and must take into account all available facts which are material to the issue on which the comment is based.
– Headlines and captions to pictures must not be exaggerated. They must give reasonable reflection of contents of the report or picture in question. Posters must also in no way exaggerate. They must capture a reasonable reflection of the contents of the reports in question.
SPECIAL FAVOURS, POWER,
SENSITIVITY & RESPONSIBILITY
– Journalists must not accept payment for publishing articles and photographs. Equally so, we should never pay for articles – be they exclusive or scoops – to people in criminal activity or any other notorious acts. Gifts, favours, money, free travel and special treatment must be brought to the attention of editorial management or rejected.
– Reject favoured treatment from advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence news coverage.
– Be vigilant and courageous about holding accountable those with or in power.
– Due care and responsibility must be exercised with regard to reports that may cause enmity, or give offence in racial, ethnic, religious or cultural matters, or incite people to contravene the law.
– Sensitivity must be applied to matters that may detrimentally affect peace and stability, safety and defence of the country.
– Sensitivity and responsibility must always be considered in presentation of acts of brutality, violence and atrocities.
– We must show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by news coverage. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects of news stories.
– We must be sensitive when seeking interviews or using photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
– We must recognise that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort.
– As such, we must take into account that the pursuit of news is not a licence for arrogance or disrespect.
– Exceptional care and consideration in matters involving the private lives and concerns of individuals must be given.
– However, we must bear in mind that the right to privacy may be over-ridden by the legitimate public interest.
We must recognise that private citizens or people have a greater right to privacy than public officials and those who seek power, influence and public attention.
Intrusion into anyone’s right to privacy may be justified by the legitimate public interest.
– Clarify and explain news coverage and invite dialogue with the public over journalistic conduct.
– Encourage the public to voice grievances against the news media.
– Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
– Expose unethical practices of journalists and the news media in general.
– Abide by the high standards to which we hold others.
SOURCES: SANEF, SA PRESS OMBUDSMAN AND THE AMERICAN SOCIETY OF JOURNALISTS
Policy on Gifts and Freebies
The basic policy of the City Press is that WE DO NOT ACCEPT ANYTHING FOR FREE. We pay our own way, and we do not accept gifts, freebies, inducements, special offers, tickets, free trips, and so on that are not available to us as ordinary citizens.
The best option is not to accept a gift by courteously explaining our policy. However, where a small gift is given and the recipient feels it would be churlish to turn it down, it can be accepted, but it should be handed in to the Editor’s secretary. No gifts should be kept by staff members – all gifts are to be handed in. They will be logged in a register held by the Editor’s secretary and donated to a charity organisation or auctioned and the money donated to charity.
Staff members in bureaus should submit gifts to their bureau chiefs. Bureaus should ensure that these gifts are kept locked up and dispersed as per the Editor’s instruction.
In certain cases, perishable goods will be distributed to staff, but this can be done only by the Editor or the Deputy Editor. A gift must be seen to be appropriate to the relationship concerned and accepted norms inherent in the department / publication. A gift should be an acknowledgement of good business relations and, by its nature, it should not be perceived as a bribe. If you are offered a gift and feel embarrassed to return it, please advise whoever sent it to you that it is in no way an exchange for something favourable from the company, for example, placing an advertisement at no charge, an assurance that a story will be published or the unauthorised use of a company vehicle.
Where season tickets are given to sports reporters for coverage purposes only, the sports editor should be notified. These will be listed in the Editor’s register by the sports editor. All individual tickets to sports matches are to be paid for.
Movie reviewers can attend special press previews of movies, but all other tickets to cinemas will be paid for. Reviewers who have gold access cards issued by the cinemas groups but are not full-time staff, can use them in their personal capacities, but this should be noted in the register. No full-time staff member is entitled to hold or use a cinema gold card or accept free tickets. All tickets for pop concerts, shows, theatre performances, and so on will be paid for. Media invitations to these shows can be accepted, but the tickets should always be paid for. In cases where reviewers are full-time staff members of City Press, the newspaper will pay for their partners to attend performances, but the staff members will not be paid for the reviews.
Staff members may accept invitations to sporting events and concerts from third parties who have bought tickets to the events, for example, Boland Bank can invite a financial journalist to the bank’s private box at a cricket match or MTN can invite a journalist to attend a symphony concert. The journalist concerned must ensure that he/she is attending the event with his/her contact from the organisation to maintain these contacts. It is acceptable to take a partner along. This must be listed in the register (for example – April 27, 2002: Adam Smith and partner accepted an invitation from Boland Bank to attend SA vs Pakistan cricket match at the Wanderers).
When a reviewer is a freelance writer, a partner will not be paid for by City Press, but the review will be paid for.
A gift should be an acknowledgement of good business relations and, by its nature, it should not be perceived as a bribe.
CDs, Tapes and Books
Where a book is reviewed, it can be retained by the reviewer. All books not reviewed will be handed to the Editor’s secretary to be auctioned.
No freelance writer or contract worker is entitled to accept any gift or freebie that could in any way be seen as an inducement or likely to influence his/her work at City Press. Work by freelance writers or contract workers who accept gifts/freebies will not be used by City Press. Any media trip undertaken by a freelance or contract worker on behalf of City Press has to be cleared by the head of the department concerned. If a gift or free ticket is included, it will be noted in the register.
All freelance work has to be cleared by the head of department in writing. No staff member will be permitted to work for a rival publication.
Journalists may accept invitations to conferences, seminars, annual general meetings and exhibitions where the aim is to report on proceedings at the event. In the case of a commercial conference (where an entrance charge is waived for the journalist), this should be noted in the register (for example: April 27, 2002: Adam Smith accepted free entrance to the Law and Human Rights Conference from Systems Organisers).
We pay for meals at restaurants and do not accept free meals for reviews.
Where City Press has prearranged “space” – an office in Parliament or a media box at FNB Stadium with our own telephone line, this must be declared in the register annually.
Drinks and lunches with contacts are accepted as part of daily news-gathering and need not be declared. However, staff members should not continually accept free meals and drinks from one contact. Staff should be inviting contacts out for meals and drinks, which can be claimed on expense accounts.
In the case of motoring journalists, it is acceptable for a staff member to accept a car for test-drive purposes. These cars should not be kept for longer than ten (10) days. They must be returned with a full tank of petrol, for which City Press will pay. It is unacceptable for a staff member to take a personal loan from an individual on whom that staff member may have to report or is involved with in a professional capacity.
Travel invitations should be directed to the publication department. It is up to the editor of LifeStyle to decide whether an invitation meets the criteria of this code of conduct. A trip is accepted on the clear understanding that there will be no exchange for something favourable for the company. No staff member may consistently accept an invitation from the same sponsor, client, business associate, and so on.
The gift may not take the form of a bribe. The trip must be appropriate to the objectives.
No staff member can accept any travel offer – free or reduced flights, accommodation or tours – on behalf of City Press. Travel offers will be considered only by the Editor or the editor of LifeStyle in consultation with the Editor for review purposes in the travel section. All trips accepted will be noted in the register. Where air tickets or special media flights have been arranged, these have to be authorised by the head of department and declared in the register (for example: Water Affairs has invited us to fly with the minister to the opening of a new scheme in a remote region on a Saturday, or: Department of Foreign Affairs arranges for journalists to accompany minister to Ghana for a state visit).
A trip is accepted on the clear understanding that there will be no exchange for something favourable for the company.
Stocks and shares
All staff members must inform the Editor of the names of any shares bought or investments made. Anyone trading in shares must declare the names of the shares in which they traded at the end of every month. The amount traded need not be disclosed. At the end of every year, all staff have to declare the names of the shares and unit trusts in which they have holdings. Staff members with interests in businesses or whose spouses have interests in businesses must declare these to the Editor. Journalists may not accept offers of shares and stock options of any company prior to their listing on the stock exchange. They may not purchase any such shares below the market price prior to the listing.
Journalists may own stocks and shares of firms listed on the stock exchange and may report on their activities as long as the reports are accurate, fair and balanced. Journalists must declare any interest or ownership of shares they may have with companies or businesses affiliated with their news sources, which may result in a conflict of interest with the newspaper.
Lucky draws, etc
Journalists may not accept cash, cheques, shares or any valuables from sources of information, either directly or indirectly. Journalists may not participate in lucky draws or sweepstakes and receive prizes organised by sources of information. Journalists shall not use their positions to demand special discounts for goods and services or personal favours from sources. Invitations to meals or drinks or other kinds of entertainment with sources may be accepted with extreme caution and only if they are part of the legitimate news-gathering process. Journalists may not invite themselves to free meals or drinks or any other forms of entertainment.
Journalists may not serve as advisers to politicians, political parties, business executives, private companies, non-government organisations, civic action pressure groups, state enterprises or government agencies. However, journalists have the individual right to be members of any public service or civic action group or organisation and may report on their activities as long as the reports remain accurate, fair and balanced. Journalists may, but only with prior approval from their section editor and the Editor, become members of committees or subcommittees determining national policies which serve the public interest. However, their participation must be temporary.
Journalists may not invite themselves to free meals or drinks or any other forms of entertainment.
Conflict of Interest
Journalists may not work for business concerns in direct competition with the company. Journalists may not hold another full-time job. Any outside, paying work must be approved by the section editor and the Editor or, in his absence, the deputy editor. Any approved part-time or temporary work must not infringe on the company’s resources or be disruptive to the journalist’s responsibility to the company.
Any approach to journalists by intelligence agencies, local or foreign, should be immediately reported to the Editor. Journalists are forbidden to disclose any information pertaining to their work, the work of their colleagues or the day-to-day operations of City Press to any intelligence agency, operative or intelligence source.
No information, other than that published in the paper, will be disclosed to any police officer without the permission of the Editor. No journalist will testify, or disclose the name of a source, without the permission of the Editor.
Ask if you are in doubt
The policy is intended to establish clear, ethical principles for City Press to ensure that our actions are always above reproach. If you have the slightest doubt, ask your head of department or the Editor. Any contravention of this City Press policy could result in disciplinary action.