Code of Journalistic Ethics

The Institute of Maltese Journalists, as a member of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has adopted the Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists.

The Charter was adopted by hundreds of delegates from journalists unions around the world at a historic International Federation of Journalists congress.

Now the document, endorsed by representatives of more than 500,000 journalists and following months of consultations across the world, will form the core of strengthening ethical standards for journalists worldwide.

Meeting in Tunis for the 30th IFJ Congress the 300 delegates backed the new charter,  which builds on and reinforces the ethical standards laid down by the 1954 IFJ Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists, the most widely recognised text on journalistic ethics to date. That Declaration was drafted in Bordeaux, France, 65 years ago, and was last updated in 1986, hence the need for a new Charter adapted to current challenges facing the media.

The Charter is based on major texts of international law, in particular the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It contains 16 articles plus a preamble and defines journalists’ duties and rights regarding ethics.

The Charter’s preamble states: “The journalist’s responsibility towards the public takes precedence over any other responsibility, in particular towards their employers and the public authorities.” It recalls that journalism is a “profession” that “requires time, resources and the means to practice”. Other main provisions cover respect for truth, conflicts of interest, protection of sources and discrimination.

Drafted by a working group of 16 people, including representatives of the IFJ leadership, regions and ethics experts, work on the Charter was co-ordinated by IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger.

The document was validated by the IFJ Executive Committee in Ramallah, Palestine, in November 2018. It was then submitted for input to IFJ ‘s 187 affiliates before being endorsed by the Congress..

IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said: “The adoption of the Global Charter on the Ethics of Journalists is  a milestone in the IFJ’s history because ethics was one of the IFJ’s founding pillars when it was created in 1926 in Paris. This new document takes up the professional duties laid down in 1954, but it also includes rights, in a world where the profession is being abused. Tomorrow, all journalists around the world will be able to identify themselves with the IFJ’s Global Charter of Ethics and challenge it against unscrupulous employers.

Below please find the complete Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists:

Global Charter of Ethics for Journalists.

Code of Journalistic Ethics

(Kindly note that the Code of Journalists Ethics is currently being revised)

Self-Regulation and Competence

1. The Malta Press Club has deemed it essential that all those persons who are engaged in the dissemination of information through the various channels of communication should regulate their own behaviour and accordingly it is publishing this Code of Ethics for the guidance and discipline of all those who are engaged directly or indirectly in that activity and that profession.

2. In order to make as effective as possible that regulation, The Malta Press Club shall set up, and have at all times, a Press Ethics Commission, which shall be competent to consider any complaints made to it against any journalist for any alleged breach of ethical behaviour outlined in this Code.

3. The Commission shall draw up and publish an outline of its Rules of Procedure and shall in all cases follow the principles of Justice in its proceedings.
Unethical behaviour

4. The following cases shall be considered to be in breach of ethical behaviour:

a. Whenever the confidentiality of the source of information, as requested, is not respected.
b. Whenever a source of information is divulged without obtaining an explicit permission so to do.
c. Whenever any information supplied is published without verifying its veracity and accuracy, as far as it is possible.
d. Whenever it is established that a significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distorted report is published, no prompt and prominent correction is made.
e. Whenever direct quotations are made and these are inaccurate or unreasonably edited or incomplete.
f. Whenever undue advantage is taken of the ignorance or lack of judgement of the source of information, and this source of information is not made aware of the possible effects of what has been divulged.
g. Whenever commissions or requests are accepted to give undeserved publicity.
h. Whenever editorial favours are promised in return for advertisements.
i. Whenever in any publication no respect is shown for private and family life. Exceptions to this rule are possible if the information refers to a public figure and it is relevant to his public life or functions.
j. Whenever use is made of deceit, trickery, intimidation, harassment or persistent pursuit in order to obtain information on private matters or in deliberate abuse of the right to privacy.
k. Whenever use is made of hidden cameras and or microphones, false identity or other abnormal means of entrapment.
l. Whenever an interview is conceded, what the interviewee has expressed shall always be reproduced in good faith. Editing shall only occur when the interviewee gives his consent to the edited version.
m. Whenever false or misleading or distorted reports are published.
n. Whenever no clear distinction is made between fact on one hand, and conjecture and comment on the other.
o. Whenever material produced by others is set out as if it is one’s own and no acknowledgement is made that it is the work of others.

Reporting of crimes and court procedures

5. In reporting accident and crimes consideration should always be shown to the victims and the next-of-kin especially in filming or the taking of pictures and in the publication of certain details which disturb or hurt and which are not necessary for the exercise. The publication of certain names connected with the events should be avoided if they are potentially harmful to the victims and their relatives.

6. Any publication, which involves the naming of minors, is prohibited.

7. All reports of crimes and court proceedings are to be strictly factual and a clear distinction should at all times be made and explained between the facts and the expression of opinion.

8. Once it is decided to report on any matter connected with judicial proceedings, that reporting shall be complete in the sense that both the beginning and the conclusion of those proceedings shall be given and treated with the same prominence.

Character assassination

9. It is prohibited to indulge in any shape or form, in any media in an exercise of the ‘character assassination’ of any person.

Commands and Impositions.

10. It is prohibited for any person who is an editor or is a journalist placed in a managerial position over other journalists to order or impose any journalistic activity to which a conscientious objection is made.

Minors

11. Every journalist is obliged to respect minors under the age of eighteen. Except in matters connected with Sports, no minor is to be interviewed unless the preventive permission of one of his parents, guardian or tutor is obtained.

Sanctions

12. Whenever, after due process the Commission finds that a journalist has violated one or more of the rules of this Code of Ethics, it may impose any one or more of the following sanctions in accordance with the gravity of the offence:
a. disapproval
b. censure
c. grave censure

In appropriate cases, the decision may be given whatever publicity the Commission deems fit. In all cases, the Commission shall also communicate its decision to the Organizational Head of the journalist concerned

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