Newsroom charter of El Mundo.
Nature of the Newsroom Charter
The object of the present charter is to regulate the professional activity of the news staff of El Mundo del Siglo XXI in its relation with the management of the newspaper and with the company that publishes it.
Ideological Principles of the Newspaper
El Mundo aspires to be a progressive newspaper, engaged in the defence of the present democratic system, of public liberties and of the human rights listed in the Universal Declaration of the United Nations and in the European Convention of Human Rights.
El Mundo will be especially sensitive to the rights of the minorities. El Mundo will defend citizens against aggression by any kind of power; and will encourage free enterprise in all sectors of human activity.
El Mundo identifies with technical and scientific progress which contributes to improving the living conditions of human beings.
El Mundo will be involved in defending the quality of life of citizens and will denounce aggression against the ecological balance and our environment.
El Mundo will summarily reject the pressure of any person, institution or political, economic, ideological or religious group, that tries to make information serve its own interests.
Journalistic independence, objectivity, rigour and non-manipu¬lation of contents are the basic goals of the news staff at El Mundo – and its readers have a fundamental right to them.
El Mundo will be firm in defending its convictions and will be serene and circumspect in expressing its opinions.
The people who participate in the drafting
of the newspaper, the journalists
Independently from union and work-place problems, which do not belong in this Charter, all journalists stand protected by it, whatever diploma they possess, provided they execute journalistic tasks and are on the payroll of the company.
Contributors under contract can join and will have to respect the norms established in Articles 8 and 9, paragraphs a, e, and l.
Concept and Functions
The Editor-in-Chief is professionally responsible for the informative contents published by El Mundo, and for its editorial line. As such, he/she has a right of veto on all texts, including advertisements.
To the Editor-in-Chief also belong the organisation and coordination of all tasks accomplished in the news room, within the limits set in this charter.
The appointment and dismissal of the Editor-in-Chief are decided by the General Assembly of Stock-holders upon the proposition of the Board of Directors. Before it makes its call for appointment or dismissal, the Board of Directors will make it known to the Newsroom Council.
The Newsroom Council will consult the news staff who will vote on the proposition. If two thirds of the journalists are clearly opposed to it, it will convey that opinion, argumented in writing, to the Board, which must take it into account and respond to it, although it has no compulsory character for the company.
The Newsroom Council will be able to make its position public on the opinion pages of El Mundo within four days following the decision of the General Assembly. At the General Assembly whose agenda includes the appointment or dismissal of the Editor-in-Chief of the newspaper, a member of the Newsroom Council , selected according to its internal rules, will publicize the opinion of the Council – for which the chair will grant a certain amount of time. All this should be understood not to detract either from the general authority of the Assembly of share-holders which the chairman embodies – or from the rights which the members of the Newsroom Council might have in case they also happen to be share-holders.
The Managing Team.
When the appointment is being considered of other newsroom executives (deputies to the Editor-in-Chief, major editors), the Editor-in-Chief will make his propositions known to the Newsroom Council in advance. In such cases, the Council will consult the members of the news staff. The Editor-in-Chief will consider their collective reaction, although he is under no obligation to abide by it.
The Newsroom Council
Concept and Functions
The Newsroom Council will serve as a channel to convey to the management and to the company the position of the news staff on professional issues.
The Newsroom Council will always arbitrate disputes that may occur between the publishing company or the Editor-in-Chief and the journalists of El Mundo.
Provided the Editor-in-Chief, or whoever replaces him, has been notified and no such gathering seriously interferes with the normal operations of the newspaper – the Newsroom Council is entitled to call meetings in case disagreements occur in the professional sphere or because of its obligation to inform on its activities. Also, it will be received by the Editor-in-Chief whenever it requests such a meeting.
The Editor-in-Chief and/or the publishing company can summon the Newsroom Council when they judge proper to present a proposition to it or when they consider that issues of a professional character require it.
Composition and Election.
The Newsroom Council will consist of five members.
Any member of the news staff can be elected to the Council , except the Editor-in-Chief.
The members of the Council will be elected for a period of two years, at the end of which a new election will be called. Any journalist can be indefinitely re-elected as a member of the Newsroom Council. In that election, have the right to participate the persons defined in Article 3, paragraph 1, of this charter. Correspondents can mail in their votes. For the election to be valid, there will have to be participation of, at least, half the persons entitled to vote, plus one.
If, in the course of a mandate, any of the members of the Newsroom Council quits the newspaper or is assigned away from the central offices, his/her seat will immediately and automatically pass on to the unsuccessful candidate with the most votes. When the Council is reduced to only three members a special election will be called to fill the vacancies until the end of the mandate.
The revocation of the mandate of one of the members of the Council can only take place if it is voted by a majority of the news staff. The holding of a vote will be decided by an assembly, which itself will be called together by a petition of more than a third of the news staff.
The members of the Newsroom Council cannot be fired or punished because of their activity as representatives of the news staff.
Rights and Duties of Journalists
The Clause of Conscience
If the editorial line of El Mundo was to diverge significantly from the principles posited in this charter, the journalists could consider the fact as sufficient cause for the unilateral cancellation of their job contracts. In order to be entitled to use the “clause of conscience” , one of the following claims would have to be put forward:
a) That the freedom, dignity or professional independence of the staff member has been affected as a consequence of the modification of ideological principles.
b) That a modification has affected, through repeated events, the editorial contents of the newspaper and/or its ideological line, either as a consequence of a significant change in the ownership of the company or for some other reason.
In all cases when the Clause of conscience is invoked, the Newsroom Council will act as a mediator between the company and the affected journalist. If no agreement satisfactory to both parties can be reached, the conflict can be taken to the courts of justice.
Both in the case when the journalist invoking the clause of conscience and the publishing company reach an agreement – and when a court of justice judges the claim reasonable, the compensation paid will be the highest corresponding to “unjustified dismissal” in Labour Law.
Collective Evaluation of Changes
in Ideological Principles
The Newsroom Council will be empowered to call a meeting of the news staff when the editorials of the newspaper repeatedly move away from the fundamental ideological principles of El Mundo.
If two thirds of the news staff consider that the concepts listed in Article 6 have been violated, the Newsroom Council will be entitled to present its viewpoint on the opinion pages of the newspaper, in the most concise way as possible.
Before the publication of its statements, the Newsroom Council will have presented its divergent position to the top management of El Mundo and to the Board, so as to try and find some agreement.
None of the journalists involved in that controversy with the company can be punished or fired by it.
El Mundo considers professional secrecy as a right and an ethical duty of journalists. The protection of sources of information constitutes a guarantee of the right that readers have to receive free and accurate news.
No journalist of El Mundo can be forced to reveal his/her sources.
The members of the news staff are similarly expected to protect the professional secrets of their colleagues, and will abstain from revealing the identity of the sources used by others.
The company will protect, most firmly, by all means at its disposal, the exercise of professional secrecy, be it before courts of justice or before any other institution or entity.
Other Rights and Duties of the News Staff
a) No member of the news staff can be forced to accomplish professional work that violates the principles posited in paragraph 5 of Article 2.
b) A journalist can withdraw his by-line from articles whose contents have been modified or substantially altered in matter or shape, so as to cause him/her a problem of conscience. Every journalist is responsible, whatever the possible effect, for the information he/she obtains, writes and summarizes. That will always be the case, except when he/she has explicitly withdrawn his/her by-line, and formally made it known, with explanations, to the person in charge of the newspaper and to the Newsroom Council. Then will he/she be exempted of any responsibility.
c) As regards intellectual property and the rights of its exploitation, the relevant legislation existing at any given moment applies. The agreement on that point will have to be developed in the collective contracts signed by the company.
d) No journalist can be forced to do work of an advertising nature.
e) The journalist has the right to expect that the publishing company will ensure his/her juridical assistance and cover all the costs generated by his/her being taken to court as a result of professional activities for El Mundo, including the consequences of a possible condemnation, even if he/she no longer works for the company.
f) All the members of the news staff are entitled to receive, at the expense of the company, the technological training needed for the proper execution of their professional tasks at El Mundo.
g) Any journalist of El Mundo must exercise his/her profession according to the strictest rules of ethics and an appropriate sense of responsibility.
h) News will be published only once the accuracy of the facts reported has been checked with as many sources as possible. If any person, physical or juridical, happens to be mentioned in the news item, he/she will be contacted and his/her opinion or reaction will be included as an element of information.
y) The journalists cannot ignore or conceal relevant journalistic information on topics which they cover on assignment by and for the benefit of the newspaper. With exceptions, as when the information derives from a personal relationship, such as is protected by law, journalists are in the obligation of keeping their immediate superiors informed. Superiors must take into account the opinion of the journalist as regards the appropriateness of publishing, or not, the information.
j) The journalists are under the obligation to comply, when putting their informative work into shape, with the stylistic and lay-out norms of El Mundo.
k) No journalist will orient or distort information in order to promote, directly or indirectly, his/her economic or professional interests, or those of close friends.
i) No member of the newsroom will receive money from persons or institutions external to the El Mundo newspaper company as a fee or reward for journalistic tasks that he/she does on assignment by the newspaper. Similarly, no member of the newsroom can receive presents and gifts whose value exceeds that of common expressions of courtesy. The Newsroom Council will to intervene and decide in doubtful cases.
m) The acceptance of trips not initiated by the newsroom, which answer the interests of other firms, institutions or persons but are motivated by the fact that the journalist works for El Mundo or is linked to the newspaper, will have to be submitted to management, which will authorize or veto it. It will be considered irrelevant that the travelling days be part of the journalist’s vacation time.
n) No member of the news staff can simultaneously work for El Mundo and for other companies such as public relations concerns or consultancy firms or advertising agencies.