Code of Ethical Practice for public information and media advertisers 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;
Public information officers and advertisers are people who use the media to get their goods, ideas and services known, accepted and used. The purposes however differ. They could be social, economic or political reasons for indulging in public information or advertising.
Public Information / Public Relations
Credibility is the major spirit that gives life to public information. If public information is not believed, then the practice becomes a failure. It differs from propaganda because it advocates truth. The trust of the public can only be maintained, if they believe in the sanctity and truth of the information received.
The information practitioner therefore is more responsible to produce factual information; accurately and without comment. It is upon the receiver to decide what to do with the kind of information provided.
The Public Information and Public Relations Practitioner shall:
– Maintain personal integrity by upholding moral standards and sound reputation;
– Not disseminate false or misleading information;
– Conduct all activities with regard to the public interest;
– Give a balanced and faithful representation of the organisation served;
– Not engage in any practice that will compromise the integrity of clients;
– Not corrupt the media;
– Not have interest of any kind in two or more competing organisations;
– Respect the codes of conduct of clients;
– Honour confidences received and given in the course of duty
Advertising is the act of making known, ideas, services and goods so that they are accepted, acquired and used. This involves advertisers, message designers, producers, channel and the clients or the targeted people.
Advertisers cannot send out their advertisement massage without using media, and advertising agencies; and the media can not survive without adverts. In this way, the three depend on each other for survival.
Advertising is the most public of all activities. It is heard and seen; and the more the people see it, the more successful it becomes. It is therefore more prone to public scrutiny. The methods, approaches and content have to be of a standard society approves. That is why a professional code of practice is necessary to help media advertisers and the public to live in harmony.
The following code of conduct is applicable to media advertising only:
Media Advertising shall:
Reveal and state the truth, and any significant facts about the products and services advertised.
Use language, symbols and formats that are easily understood by the target group.
Provide evidence to substantiate claims if required by regulatory authorities.
Taste and Decency
Avoid statements and symbols that are offensive to any socially recognised group in society.
Avoid price claims that are misleading, or saving claims that are false.
Avoid adverts that undermine the national value of freedom, peace, unity and security.
Avoid any advert that promotes or suggests sexism, racism, ethnicism or colour.
Not use children exploitatively in advertisements that concern adults, and should not be exposed to products that are harmful.
Handle cautiously controversial issues like political propaganda and religious sect faith, to ensure the advertisement does not infringe upon the rights of others.
Accept sponsorship from socially acceptable practices and organisations.
Avoid advertisements that undermine the health and well-being of the people.
Codes of Ethics
Respect and promote adherence to the codes of ethical practice observed by the media.