Code of Ethical Practice for news agency journalism published by the Media Council of Tanzania.
RATIONALE FOR MEDIA CODES OF ETHICS PRACTICE
1.0 Media practice is a profession with various trades that use skills, knowledge and orientation to serve society as expected, and hence the need for ethical practice. Ethics is based on the assumption that our society has morals. Morality is behavior and actions that are guided by generally accepted human values and responsibilities. Media content is determined by individuals, but guided by their perception of what is right or wrong given the circumstances. Social, political and economic forces that are operating at that material time heavily influence their decisions. The value and decisions of media workers are based on life experiences, education and interactions with others in various social groups. These factors generate the
guidelines we call codes of ethics. These codes do set the minimum standards that are acceptable in society in performing a certain task. It is against these standards that conduct can be measured and evaluated.
2.0 Standards are set internally. In a democracy and self-managing social sector, standards are not described by courts, executive decrees or the legislature (laws/acts). That is why in most countries there are bodies formed by the industry and independent of government that set-up the codes and administer them. In non-democratic states governments set up these bodies. In Tanzania, the media refused to have a body imposed on them and instead the industry established the Media Council of Tanzania in 1995 and mandated it to enforce the code(s) of ethics, with the following aims:
a) To protect the public which consumes the services and products of the media from any irresponsible, anti social or propaganda use of the media;
b) To enable the public enjoy their basic rights especially that of information;
c) To protect media practitioners from being forced to act in ways that are irresponsible, humiliating or in any manner contrary to the dictates of their consciences;
d) To keep open all channels of communication inside the industry and within the public sphere;
e) To ensure that the public gets information needed in self-governing society; and to ensure that ordinary people can always register their opinion through the media;
f) To help practitioners understand principles and values that give the profession credibility;
By definition, a News Agency is an organisation, which collects and distributes news and information material to be used by the media. Traditional models of news agency formats are those of an organisation that is national in scope, character and orientation. These would perform the following:
a) Collect and distribute news material from all over the country.
b) Present a package version of all events for consumption by subscribers.
c) Report on daily events, be they negative or positive
d) Project an accurate image by reporting on the positive and negative developments including crises.
e) Report from the national angle on events on the international scene that are of special interest to the country.
f) Serve as an instrument of national unity.
g) Send to interested parties news that will give a correct picture of major events, the problems, hopes, aspirations, plans and achievements of a country.
The news agency would operate through a network of zonal, regional or district correspondents who report on what is happening in their locations. They send their stories by telephone, fax, e-mail or any other quick means to the headquarters for compilation and distribution to clients.
News Agency subscribers, apart from the media, could be organisations, embassies and individuals.
Two aspects are of utmost importance to news agency work. One is speed, and the other is the use of language. The fact that news agencies have to file their stories to the media, calls for further speedy and accurate processing or information.
This is because the media do work under deadlines. For a news agency reporter, every minute is a deadline for a client some¬where and deadlines can not be expanded.
Language poses a significant problem to news agency reporters, most of who are forced to write in the second or third language. In most cases, they would conduct interviews in their vernacular, then translate the stories into a national, international or even foreign language. This calls for the highest degree, not only of speed, but also of accuracy. It would be advantageous for a news agency journalist to be proficient in more than one international language, to ensure accuracy, and saves time in writing and filling the news.
2.0 Ethical Practice
The News Agency journalist shall:
a) Report the truth
b) Give all the necessary and correct facts that make a news story complete.
c) Abide by the codes of ethical practices in the trades of photojournalism, managers/editors and broadcasters.
d) Act responsibly with speed in gathering, processing and filling the news.