Turkey – Turkish Journalists Association (1998)

Declaration of rights and responsibilities, approved and adopted by the Turkish Journalists Association, 18 November 1998.

Every journalist and media organization should defend the rights of journalists, observe professional principles and ensure that the principles defined below are followed.

Those who are not journalists but participate at journalistic activities in media organizations under different forms, and those who target audiences in Turkey from abroad or audiences abroad from Turkey also come under the responsibilities defined here.

The executive directors of media organizations, chief editors, managing editors, responsible editors and others are responsible for the compliance with professional principles by the journalists they employ and the media product they produce with professional principles.

Journalists’ rights constitute the basis of the public’s right to be informed and its freedom of expression. Professional principles, on the other hand, are the foundations of an accurate and reliable communication of information.

Professional principles presuppose the self-control of journalists and media organizations.

Their primary basis for judgment is their own conscience.

A. Human and Citizen Rights:
Every individual has the right to be informed, have access to news, freedom of thought, expression, and the right to criticize freely.
Freedom of press and publication, which is the main tool of freedom of thought and expression, is one of the basic human rights. It is a general rule that these rights should be guaranteed by the constitution in a democratic state.

B. Definition of A Journalist:
Any individual whose job is to gather, process, communicate news or express opinion, ideas and views regularly at a daily or periodical printed, video, audio, electronic or digital medium employed on a fulltime, contractual or copyright basis and whose main employment and means of livelihood consist of this job, and who is defined as such by the legislation that covers the functioning of the organization at which he or she is employed is a journalist.
All enterprises functioning in the field of press and publication are obliged to recognize the rights granted to journalists by law.

C. Responsibilities of Journalists:
The journalist uses press freedom conscientiously and honestly to further the public’s right to be informed and have access to accurate news. For this purpose, the journalist should fight all kinds of censorship and self-censorship and inform the public concerning this question.

The responsibility of the journalist to the public supersedes all other responsibilities, including to employer and public authorities.
Information, news and free thought are of a social nature that separates them from all other commercial commodities and services. The journalist carries all responsibility for the news and information he or she makes public.

The limits and contents of journalists’ freedom are primarily determined by their responsibility and professional principles.

D. Journalists’ Rights:
1. Journalists have the right of free access to all sources of information and the right to observe and research all phenomena that affect public life or are of interest to the public.

Obstacles, such as secrecy or classification, brought against journalists should be based on law in matters concerning public affairs and convincing reasons in private matters.

2. Journalists must take into account the basic policy line of the media organization that should be included among the terms of their employment contract.

3. Journalists have the right to reject all sorts of suggestions, proposals, requests and instructions that remain outside or conflict with or are not openly described in that basic policy.

4. Journalists cannot be compelled to defend an opinion that they do not share or perform any assignment that violates professional principles.

5. Journalists, particularly those who are employed at an editorial and managerial level, should be informed about important decisions that affect and determine the functioning of the media organization; whenever it is necessary they should take part in making these decisions.

6. Relevant to their function and responsibilities, journalists have the right to organize. They also have the right to sign contracts individually to safeguard their moral and material interests. The journalists should be paid a salary commensurate with their social role, their skill and the amount of work required. Their salaries should also guarantee their economic independence.

7. According to the principle of protection of sources, the journalists cannot be compelled to reveal his or her sources or testify about them. This principle may be waived with of the sources consent. The journalist may reveal the identity of his or her source in cases where he or she has been clearly misled by the source.

E. The Basic Duties and Principles of the Journalist:
1. Public has a right to know. The journalists has to respect facts and report accurately, whatever the consequences from his personal point of view.

2. The journalist defends, at whatever cost, the freedom of gathering information, news evaluation and making comments and criticism.

3. The journalist defends the universal values of humanity, chiefly peace, democracy and human rights, pluralism and display respect for differences. Without any discrimination against nations, races, ethnicities, classes, sexes, languages, religious and philosophical beliefs, the journalist recognizes the rights and respectability of all nations, peoples and individuals. The journalist refrains from publishing material that incites enmity and hatred among individuals, nations and human societies. The journalist should not make the target of direct attack the cultural values or beliefs (or lack of beliefs) of any human society or of an individual. The journalist should publish or broadcast material that justifies or incites violence of any kind.

4. The journalist should refrain from publishing and broadcasting news and information, the source of which is unknown to him or her. In cases where the source is not known, he/she is obliged to warn the public.

5. The journalist cannot ignore or destroy relevant information, alter or falsify texts and documents. He or she must refrain from publishing material that is incorrect, falsified or misleading

6. The journalist cannot resort to misleading methods in order to obtain information, news, visual images, audio material or other documents.

7. Even if the person in question is a public figure, unless journalists obtain permission, they cannot violate privacy for purposes that are not directly related to the public’s right to information.

8. Journalists are committed to the rule that any inaccurate information published should be corrected in the shortest possible time. Every journalist respects the right to respond on condition that it is not misused or abused.

9. According to the rule of professional secrecy, journalists under no circumstances can reveal the sources of information and documents entrusted to them unless allowed by their sources.

10. Journalists should refrain from purloin, slander, insult, distortion, manipulation, rumour, gossip and groundless accusation.

11. Journalists cannot seek material gains or moral advantages from the publication or by withholding piece of information or news. Professional principles are the main guide of the journalists in forming and conducting their relations with people or institutions, sources of information, all from the head of state to the members of parliament or from businessmen to bureaucrats.

12. Journalists should not mix their profession with advertising public relations activities or propaganda. Journalists cannot accept suggestions advice or material benefits from sources of advertisement.

13. Whatever the subject matter is, journalists can not use information for personal interest before it is fully made public. They can not use their profession to obtain any form for personal privilege (outside the rights given by laws and regulations).

14. Journalists cannot resort to blackmail or any form of threat to obtain information. Journalists should resist all pressure to gather information by such means.

15. Journalists must reject all kinds of pressure and should not accept instructions regarding their job from anyone except the executives of the media organizations employing them.

16. Anyone entitled to be called a journalist is committed to abide by professional principles fully. While observing due respect to the laws of the country, journalists should rebuff all interference from the government and similar official institutions. Professionally, journalists take into account only the judgment of the public or other colleagues and verdicts of independent jurisdiction.

17. Journalists function according to public’s right to know, not to prejudices regarding domestic and international policy issues shaped by the people in the administration of country. Journalists are guided solely by basic professional principles and concerns for a free democracy.

Code of conduct
News Commentary:
The distinction between news and commentary or editorials should be made clear to enable the public to discern easily the difference between them.

Photography – Visual Images:
Any photography or visual image used should be clearly marked to show whether it is actual or enactment or simulation. The audience should be allowed to discern easily whether the image is actual or a representation.

News – Advertisement – Announcement:
The texts and visual elements of news and editorials should be clearly separated from the texts and visual elements of advertisements and commercial announcement to leave no room for confusion.

Judicial Reporting:
During the preparatory investigation of a legal case, news and commentaries that might influence and weaken the legal process should not be disseminated. News during the trial should be supplied free of any prejudice or inaccuracy. The journalist should not become a party in any legal process about which he or she is reporting. Nobody should be represented as guilty before the legal verdict is finalized. Nobody should be implied as guilty in news and commentaries unless found guilty at the end of the legal process.

Full identities and visual images of minors as defendants, witnesses or victims in criminal or sexual assault cases should not be printed or made public. In cases where the personality and behavior of minors could be affected, journalists should not interview or take the visual image of a minor unless given prior permission by the family or an adult responsible for the minor in question.

Sexual Assault:
The visual images and identities of the victims of sexual assault cases should not be printed or made public expect for instances where there is a clear public interest in such publication.

Identity and Special Cases:
An action or an offence committed by an individual should not be attributed to his or her race, nationality, religion, sex or sexual choice, any disease or physical or mental disorder unless there is relevance or evident public interest. These special character traits should never be the subject of ridicule insult or prejudice.

Sensationalism in health issues should be avoided, Dissemination of information that would incite desperation or create false hope should be prevented. Rudimentary findings of medical research should not be presented as final and definitive. Before suggesting the use of a particular drug, an expert scientist should be consulted. Any journalist, who is conducting research work at hospitals, should openly declare his or her identity and enter prohibited areas only with the permission of hospital authorities. Journalists should not take visual images or audio recordings at hospitals without the permission of hospital authorities, the patient or relatives in charge.

Journalists should reject personal gifts and material benefits that would create doubt or prejudice in the public over the contents of a particular news item or information and the decision to make it public.

Company Interests:
The rights, responsibilities and duties of journalists described in “The Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities” determine how they function within a media organization. Within this professional framework, the journalist should not take part in activities not relevant to the policies of the media organization, either voluntarily or by compulsion, even though such activity maybe in the company’s interest.

Journalists and media organizations should correct their mistakes and engage in self-criticism beyond their legal obligation to respect the right of reply and denial.

Being a Part:
Journalist and media organizations should clearly announce their positions in cases where they are parties in a dispute or a contract. Any media organization or commentator can disseminate comments along the lines of their political, economic and social affiliations. In such cases, the nature of the affiliation should be clearly stated and clear distinction between commentary and news should be made.

The basic principle is the protection of public interest. Situations under which the privacy principle does not apply include:
a. Research and publication on major corruption or crime cases;
b. Research and publication on conducts that would have negative effects on the public;
c. Cases where public security or health is at stake;
d. Need to prevent the public being misled or deceived or from committing mistakes because of the actions or statements of the person in question.

Even in these situations, the private information made public should be directly related to the subject. It should be considered to what extent the private life of the person in question affects his or her public activity.

Information – Documents:
Journalists should not take documents, photography, audio recording or visual images without the consent of the person in possession of these expect in cases where public interest is at stake. This principle can only be waived in cases where there is clear public interest, and if the journalist has firm conviction that the material cannot be obtained otherwise.

Payment in Exchange for Information:
The journalist should not offer or give money in exchange for information, documents or visual images, to defendants of a criminal case or to witnesses or to their associates.

In Cases of Shock and Confusion:
When there are people in distress, sorrow, danger, disaster, destruction and shock, the journalist’s approach in research should be humane and respectful of privacy. He or she must refrain from exploiting feelings.

Relatives and Associates of Defendants:
Journalists should not expose the relatives and associates of defendants or convicted persons unless they are directly related to or essential for a correct perception of the events that transpired.

Suicide Cases:
In cases of suicide, publishing or broadcasting information in an exaggerated way that goes beyond normal dimensions of reporting with the purpose of influencing readers or spectators should not occur. Photography, pictures, visual images or film depicting such cases should not be made public.

Economic and Financial Information (Inside Information):
Even if the current law does not ban it, journalists should not use economic and financial information obtained for personal interests before making it fully public. Journalist should not disseminate information about securities, stocks, shares and other valuable papers they or their relatives or associates hold, without accurately informing their superiors at the media organization about such ownership. Journalists should not indulge in the dealership either directly or indirectly of real estate and other valuables that they choose as the subject matter of their news and commentaries.

Embargo, Preview, Off-the-Record:
Journalists should comply with the publication date set by the source of a piece of information or a document unless they have obtained such information independently. Journalists have no commitment to let anyone, including the source, preview the drafts of news stories, interviews, commentaries or visual images of material they are preparing to publish or broadcast, except responsible persons at the media organizations employing them. Journalists should not publish or broadcast off-the-record information or statements.

Journalists should refrain from deliberately causing professional harm to their colleagues even for reasons of competition. They should refrain from acts that would prevent their colleagues’ material from reaching the public.

Journalist should have credit to the sources of information, including material from agencies, other colleagues or other publications.

Non – journalists:
The actual titles and professions of those who perform journalistic activities at media organizations periodically or occasionally should be clearly announced so as to inform the public.

Questions of Identity:
Whatever the expertise of a journalist, his or her main job is journalism. Police reporters should not act or disseminate information as policemen or police spokespersons. Likewise sports reporters are not spokespersons for sports clubs not are reporters assigned to a political party members or spokespersons for that party.

Background Notes
The Turkish Journalists’ Association (TGC), of which I am newly elected chairman, is the oldest and largest professional organisation in Turkey. Founded on June 10th, 1946, TGC has more than 2.900 members, spread around the country, but mainly concentrated in Istanbul, “press center” of the country.

TGC functions as a democratic institution, with regularly held meetings, ballots and elections. Its leadership and working committees are all elected by the free vote of its members.

Given the apparent need to insert new dynamism into press ethics, TGC decided to amend its set of statutes and ethical rules, dated 1972 and consisting of nine articles, on November 19th, 1997.

Then, the statutes were amended to allow the formation of a Committee for Overseeing Professional Principles. The work proceeded with the Committee drafting a new text, following a study of all relevant international, national and institutional texts.

Compared to the earlier texts, the draft based on certain premises.
a. A wider definition of the journalist was made with an accurate and detailed assessment of the present scope of media and the new conditions of journalism.

b. Basic rights and freedoms were taken into consideration.

c. Ties between freedoms, rights and responsibilities were underlined.

d. Instead of proposing a concept of ethics “from above”, the text envisaged the development of the concept in a democratic and participatory way.

e. Therefore it was crucial, that the final text to be a declaration drawn with the participation of all relevant parties.

f. Finally, it was accepted that the final text should be a document open to change through amendments in the future, with the participations of all interested parties.

The draft was discussed all through 1998. It was sent to a large number of journalists, members and non members of TGC, to universities and NGO’s.

The draft was rewritten to take into account the points raised by the members of the Press Senate of the TGC, journalists, academicians and NGO members. The final text was approved and adopted November 18th, 1998.

To this day, more then 3.500 journalists signed to support the Declaration of Rights and Responsibilities.

By this, we are hoping that journalists conduct their profession honestly, with a clear conscience and knowledge of their role, and help increase the credibility of the profession.

Almost 18 months after its being made public, TGC Declaration is now accepted as the national ethical code of conduct. References are being made to it, in the debates; media criticism is mainly based on it. Our next aim is to make the text a point of reference even in court cases.
Attached you will find the English version of the Declaration, of which we are quite proud, and I will be more than grateful hearing your opinion and views on its content. Please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.

I will be equally grateful if you could make appropriate changes on Turkey section in presswise.org.uk, as to display the text there.
TGC has recently launched its web site as well: www.tgc.org.tr
Yours sincerely,
Nail Güreli,
Turkish Journalists’ Association


Code of professional principles of the press, adopted by the Press Council of Turkey (Basin Konseyi) in April 1989.

Considering freedom of the press a precondition of human dignity and the democracy in our country;

Pledging upon our own free will to struggle until we have placed among the permanent articles of the Constitution the principle that no provisions restricting the freedom of the press can be enacted;

Viewing freedom of the press as an instrument of public’s right to learn the truth;

Believing that fighting against all restrictions, overt or covert, that aim to hinder people’s right to learn the truth is a natural requisite of protecting and honouring freedom of the press;

Keeping in mind that the main function of journalism is to find the facts and communicate them to the public without distortion or exaggeration;

Underlying the determination of the Press Council not to allow any interference over its activities;

We journalists declare to observe the following Code of Professional Principles of the Press as a corollary of our above-mentioned fundamental beliefs:

1. No person shall be denounced or ridiculed in publications on account of his/ her race, sex, social status or religious beliefs.

2. Nothing that restricts freedom of thought, conscience, and expression or is damaging or offensive to public morals, religious sentiments and the foundations of the family shall be published.

3. The profession of journalism which is a public institution shall not be used as vehicle of immoral pursuits and interests.

4. Nothing that humiliates, ridicules or defames private or public persons beyond the limits of fair criticism shall be published.

5. Private lives of individuals shall not be reported, except when made necessary by public interest.

6. Every effort shall be made to assure that news stories are verified and validated before publication.

7. Information given on condition of confidentiality shall not be published, except when made urgently necessary by public interest.

8. A media product generated by a medium of communication shall not be presented to the public by another medium of communication as its own, until it has completed its distribution process. Attention shall be paid to citing the source of media products received from news agencies.

9. No person shall be declared “guilty” until he/ she has been tried and convicted by judicial authorities.

10. Those actions deemed criminal by laws shall not be attributed to individuals without reasonable and persuasive evidence to that effect.

11. Journalists shall protect the confidentiality of their source, except in the circumstances where the source is deliberately trying to mislead the public for personal, political, economic etc. reasons.

12. Journalists shall avoid methods and manners that may be detrimental to the good name of the profession in gathering the news.

13. Publication of material that is conducive to violence and use of force shall be avoided.

14. Paid announcements and advertisements shall be presented in such a way that leaves no room for doubt regarding their true nature.

15. Embargoes upon publication dates shall be respected.

16. The press shall respect the right of reply and correction arising from inaccurate information.

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