Media Code of Practice.
Resolution 59 (I) of the Assembly General of the United Nations, adopted in 1946, states:
“Freedom of information requires as an indispensable element the willingness and capacity to employ its privileges without abuse. It requires as a basic discipline the moral obligation to seek the facts without prejudice and to spread knowledge without malicious intent [. . .]”
Efforts to establish universal ethical guidelines have led the 20th General Assembly of UNESCO to adopt the special declaration relative to the responsibilities of the media of mass communication, Article 8 of which states that:
“Professional organizations, and people who participate in the professional training of journalists and other agents of the mass media and who assist them in performing their functions in a responsible manner should attach special importance to the principles of this Declaration when drawing up and ensuring application of their codes of ethics.”
The journalist, in his or her position as professional intermediary, is an important factor in the informative process and his or her professional ethics will be manifest in the correct execution of their work, as well as contributing to eliminate or reduce distortion in the informative media. This is highly important because some people in the profession tarnish our name, calling themselves “journalists” and applying pseudo-ethics driven by the precepts of commercial benefit.
The ethical guidelines established in this document are based on principles contained within national codes, in declarations and resolutions of the UN and its affiliates, and also in the Declaration of Principles of the Latin-American Federation of Journalists (FELAP) which proclaims:
“The freedom of the press is understood as the right of our people to be properly and accurately informed and to express their opinions without any restrictions other than those imposed by the public interest. It declares that the journalist possesses political and ideological responsibility derived from the nature of his or her position, which influences the conscience of the masses, and that this responsibility is unavoidable and constitutes the essence of his or her social function.”
FELAP is conscious of the difficulties inherent in the application of an ethical rule system within the current information system ruled by private companies, which has converted news into a commodity.
FELAP is convinced of the existence of moral progress and that, through the succession of historical ages, humanity has achieved and imposed ethical points of view that express common interests and which are valid for the human race. In addition to the fact that moral individual freedom is only possible in light of a social context, FELAP takes the view that professional ethics must be conquered from within in order to establish an authentically free press.
In the certainty that professional morality will help to achieve this objective, FELAP proclaims the following:
1. Journalism must be a service of collective interest, with a socially important function directed at the integral development of the individual and the community. The journalist should actively participate in social transformation aimed at the democratic perfection of society. He or she should also esta¬blish their conscience and professional tasks by promoting respect for freedom and human rights.
2. Journalism must contribute to the strengthening of peace, co-existence, self-determination of towns and cities, disar¬ma¬ment, international détente and the mutual under¬standing between all places in the world; to fight for the equality of human beings without discrimination on the grounds of race, opinion, origins, language, religion or nationality. It is an ineluctable duty that the Latin American journalist must contri¬bute to economic, political and cultural independence for our people and towards the establishment of a new international economic order as well as freedom of information.
3. There are more essential duties of the journalist:
- To promote, consolidate and defend freedom of expression and the right to information. This is understood as the right all places have to inform and be informed.
- To promote conditions to enable the establishment of free and balanced global, national and regional commu¬nication.
- To fight for a new information order in accordance with the interests of our people which will take over from those which actually rule in the majority of South American countries, deforming the truth.
- To fight for the democratisation of information in order to allow the journalist to exercise his or her mission as professional mediator and agent of social change and in order to allow the people to have access to that same information.
- To repel propaganda of the inevitability of war, threats and the use of force in international conflicts.
4. In his or her professional work, the journalist will adopt the principles of truth and impartiality and will fail ethically when he silences, falsifies or distorts the facts. He will provide the public with contextual information regarding events, with wide-ranging viewpoints, so that the reader may understand the origin and perspective of the facts. In the diffusion of ideas and opinions, the journalist will advocate the conditions by which they can be expressed democratically and will not be cut short by commercial interests, advertising or anything else similar.
5. The journalist is responsible for his information and opinions and will accept the existence of the right to reply as well as the confidentiality of his sources.
6. The journalist should execute his tasks in a manner of integrity and dignity worthy of his profession, and will demand respect for his beliefs, ideas or opinions as well as respect for the nature of his work. He will also fight for access into the decision-making process in the media. Legally-speaking, he will procure the establishment of judicial statutes which establish rights and professional duties.
7. The following actions are in breach of professional ethics:
- Plagiarism and lack of respect for intellectual property
- Bribery and extortion
- The omission of information which is in the public interest
- Defamation and libel
8. Participation or complicity in the repression of the press or workers in the media by journalists is considered a breach of professional ethics of the highest magnitude.
9. The journalist must strengthen the organisation and unity of unions and trade unions where they exist and help to create them where they do not and must forge links with the working class of his country.
10. The journalist must promote and keep watch over the defence of national values, especially language as a form of cultural expression and as a general factor in new forms of culture.
11. It is a journalist’s duty to contribute towards the defence of nature and the denounce that which causes the contamination and destruction of the environment.