Tanzania – Code of Ethical Practice for media photographers and video producers

Code of Ethical Practice for media photographers and video producers, published by the Media Council of Tanzania.


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;

1.0 Introduction

The photographer is first and foremost a journalist. He/she must know the basics of what makes news. Through training acquires skills for taking/shooting pictures and processing/editing on sight and in studios. Through formal education and advanced studies, he/she acquires the knowledge to determine the role and use of right pictures to communicate, in line with the objectives set by the publisher.

Through media education the photographer understands the laws that govern the profession.

The media photographer is like any other citizen doing a civic job. There are privileges extended to picture taking, like sitting inside the fenced area of sports fields or in front rows of VIP occasions. Sometimes the media photographer comes very close to the most powerful persons on earth who most people would never dream of being with. Media photographs are of public figures, public events and places or anything else of public interest.

2.0 Ethical Practice
The photo/video journalists should not:

2.1 Fake reality. The use of any devices like lenses, filters, polarizers and tricks like angling, superimposition, editing, touch-up , computer (electronic) and mechanical effects, do alter the reality of an image.

2.2 Use press-cards to access restricted places, like parties, dances, meetings and private functions. Likewise should not use the same to get favours of any kind.

2.3 Conceal identity as a representative of the press before obtaining permission to take pictures for publication.

2.4 Do anything while taking pictures, that will cause pain, or humiliation to innocent, bereaved or otherwise distressed person. Likewise disrupt an event or obstruct vision of spectators.

2.5 Highlight a minor incident out of context instead of giving an accurate and representative picture of the event.

2.6 Contravene laws or lawful orders prohibiting the taking for pictures in the precincts of courts. The law prohibits the taking of pictures of any person (Judges, jurors and witnesses) involved in a proceeding before the court, whether civil or criminal; or to publish any photograph taken in contravention of the order. It could be in the
courtroom, in the precincts of the building in which the court is held, or the persons leaving or entering the precincts. Likewise evidence introduced to the magistrate or jury must not be revealed beforehand. Permission to take such pictures must be sought from relevant authorities.

2.7 Take pictures of any other place prohibited by law.

2.8 Publish photographs provided by the police of unwanted persons without clearly captioning them that they are wanted by the police for questioning in connection with crime.

2.9 Take picture that will reveal the identity of the complainant in any sexual assault.

2.10 Take pictures of defendants who are under age in juvenile courts.

2.11 Damage property by walking on it in order to get a better view of a scene. It is polite to ask first for permission before trespassing; but leave promptly when required to do so.

2.12 Take pictures of nudity. In the event this cannot be avoided, then care must be taken not to focus on sexual organs, or features that dehumanized a person.

2.13 Marvel at human suffering. Pictures of such scenes must be taken with human feelings.

2.14 Take pictures of dead people without permission from relatives. Always take into consideration the culture, myths, beliefs and rituals of the people involved. If permission is not granted, pack up and go.

2.15 Take pictures, and leave victims suffering without rendering them help in the best way possible.

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