Rhodes>JMS>Student Resources>Ethical guidelines for the practice of journalism – English

Ethical guidelines for the practice of journalism – English

  • Journalists should always be honest about their identity as media workers and the purposes for which they are collecting information.
  • They also should be contactable by their sources.
Public interest vs personal rights
  • It is in the public interest to have the most up-to-date and accurate information about the society we are part of.
  • The right to privacy is inalienable, except in circumstances that strongly promote the public interest or in which a person decides to make public their own private details.
  • Negotiating informed consent and the unintended outcomes of publication/broadcast must constitute part of the process of reporting.
  • Be accurate and comprehensive in the representation of subjects and issues, providing context and sensitivity.
  • Do not intentionally contribute to, alter, or seek to alter or influence events. This principle should not be confused with the right of journalists to take editorial or activist positions in their analysis of these events.
  • Do not manipulate language, images and documents or add to or alter sound in any way that can mislead the public or misrepresent subjects and issues.
  • Resist being manipulated by staged media opportunities.
  • Do not exploit your duties for the principal purpose of acquiring prestige or personal influence.
  • Ethnocentric bias in journalism, whether it is based on racial, ethnic, cultural, class, gender or religious grounds, needs to be transparent. It is recognised that a complete lack of bias, whilst valuable for accuracy and fairness, is unattainable in practice.
  • Be aware of, and transparent with, your own bias.
  • Journalists should publish correct ions of any information found to be harmfully and/or substantially inaccurate.
  • Plagiarism is not allowed. Declare the sources you have used as background and research material.
Sources and subjects
  1. Trust between journalists and the public, and between journalists and their sources is of paramount value.
  2. Treat all subjects with respect and dignity.
  3. Everyone has the right to reply.
  4. Minimise harm to your sources.
  5. Respect off-the-record (and similar) arrangements.
  6. Avoid the use of anonymous sources unless there is no other way to place very important information in the public domain. Corroborate such information.
  7. Avoid chequebook journalism where informants are paid.
  8. Give special consideration to vulnerable subjects (such as children and those unable to give informed consent) and be compassionate to victims of crime or tragedy. Intrude on private moments of grief only when it is strongly in the public interest.
  9. Do not identify children who have been victims of abuse or exploitation, or have been charged with or convicted of a crime. If there is any chance that coverage might cause harm of any kind to a child, he or she should not be interviewed, photographed or identified unless a parent or guardian consents or a public interest is overwhelmingly evident. We do however recognise that children also have the right to freedom of expression.
Criminal cases
  • The legal presumption of innocence, in particular in cases that are still sub judice, must be respected.
  • Information that prejudices the outcome of a court case must be withheld.
  • Exercise care and responsibility with regard to the presentation of brutality, violence and atrocities.
  • In situations of conflict consider the role news journalism can play in heightening tensions and seek ways of encouraging understanding, tolerance and trust between the various parties.
  • All these ethical principles and considerations apply to the online environment.
  • Journalists have a right to engage online as journalists and citizens.
  • Because the online social world is so pervasive it will touch and affect professional work, so private opinion needs to be ethical and take cognizance of the borderless nature of the internet.
  • Verify information and sources in the same way as you do for analogue media.
  • Assume the entire public can see everything you publish online.


Last Modified: Tue, 25 Feb 2020 11:26:43 SAST