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The Press Ethical Rules

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Sound Press Ethics

The content and conduct of the media shall be in accordance with sound press ethics (Section 34(1) of the Media Liability Act).

The Press Council determines whether the conduct of the media is contrary to sound press ethics. Its decision is based on the 'Advisory rules of sound press ethics' which formed part of the Media Liability Bill of 1991, but the 'sound press ethics' standard keeps pace with developments in determination of what is unethical, and adopts standpoints on new situations that arise.

'The advisory rules of sound press ethics were revised on 22 May 2013'

(Adopted at the meeting of delegates of the Danish Union of Journalists on 23-24 April 2013 and at the annual general meeting of the Association of the Danish Media on 22 May 2013).

Fundamental views

Safeguarding the freedom of speech in Denmark is closely connected with the free access of the media to collect information and news and to publish it as correctly as possible. Free comment is part of the exercise of the freedom of speech. In attending to these tasks the media should recognise that the individual citizen is entitled to respect for his/her personal integrity as well as the sanctity of his/her private life and the need for protection against unjustified violation hereof. Visible and clear guidance on how to complain of media content and conduct shoud be made available by the media.

Breach of sound press ethics also includes the withholding of rightful publication of information of essential importance to the public and compliance with outsiders' demands for influence over the content of the media, if such compliance may raise doubt as to the freedom and independence of the media. Furthermore, a breach of sound press ethics exists if tasks that are in conflict with the present press ethical rules are imposed on a journalist.

Journalists should not have tasks imposed on them that are contrary to their conscience or convictions.

The rules cover the editorial materials published in the media. The rules also cover edited discussion contributions. If unedited discussion items are brought, visible and clear guidelines on such items should be published and an effective procedure for handling complaints of such items should be set up by the relevant medium.

The rules also cover advertisements and publicity in the printed periodical press and in the other media to the extent that specific rules governing these have not been laid down.

The rules apply to persons mentioned and depicted, including deceased persons, legal entities etc.

Content of the rules

A. Correct information

  1. It is the duty of the media to publish information correctly and promptly. As far as possible it should be verified whether the information given or reproduced is correct.
  2. The sources of news should be treated critically, in particular when their statements may be coloured by personal interest or tortious intent.
  3. Information which may be prejudicial or insulting or detract from the respect in which individuals should be held shall be very closely examined before publication, primarily by submission to the person concerned. Submission should be made so as to give the person concerned a reasonable time to reply.
  4. Attacks and replies should, where this is reasonable, be published together and in the same way. This particularly applies to insulting or prejudicial statements.
  5. A clear distinction shall be drawn between factual information and comments.
  6. The form and content of headlines and subheadlines shall be substantiated by the article or publication in question. The same rule shall apply to newspaper placards.
  7. Incorrect information shall be corrected on the editors' own initiative, if and as soon as knowledge of errors of importance in the published information is received. The correction shall be given in such a form that the readers, listeners or viewers may easily become aware of the correction.

B. Conduct contrary to sound press ethics

  1. Information which may violate the sanctity of private life shall be avoided unless an obvious public interest requires public coverage. The individual is entitled to protection of his/her personal reputation.
  2. Suicides or attempted suicides should not be mentioned unless an obvious public interest requires or justifies public coverage, and in that case the coverage should be as considerate as possible.
  3. Victims of crimes or accidents shall be paid the greatest possible regard. The same rule applies to witnesses and the relatives of the persons concerned. Consideration and tact shall be shown in the collection and communication of pictorial material, including amateur photos.
  4. A clear distinction shall be drawn between advertising and editorial content. Text, sound and images generated by direct or indirect commercial interests should be published only if a clear journalistic criterion calls for publication.
  5. Special regard should be paid to children and other persons who cannot be expected to realise the effects of their statements or other involvement. Parental consent should be obtained before the publication of interviews or the like when indicated by the nature of the subject and the minor's age.
  6. At the collection or publication of information, the confidence, feelings, ignorance, lack of experience or lack of self-control shoud not be abused.
  7. Clandestine recordings should only be published if the persons involved have given their consent, or if the interests of society clearly supersede the claim for protection of the individual and it is not possible, or only possible with great difficulty, to obtain the necessary journalistic evidence in any other way.
  8. Statements published in digital media will often be available long after their publication. Upon request to the medium, the availability of such previously published sensitive or private information may be hampered if possible and deemed reasonable.

C. Court reporting

  1. The general Press Ethical Rules mentioned under A and B shall also apply to court reporting.
  2. The rules for court reporting shall also apply to the preliminary steps of a lawsuit or a trial, including the consideration of criminal cases by the police and the prosecution.
  3. Court reporting should be objective. At any time during the preliminary stages and the hearing by the court, the journalist should aim at a qualitatively equal representation of the points of view of the parties (in criminal cases the points of view of the prosecution and the defence, respectively). Coverage of a criminal case should be followed up by an account of the conclusion of the case, whether this takes place in the form of a withdrawal of the charge, acquittal, or conviction.
  4. Family circumstances, race, ethnicity, nationality, creed, sexual orientation or membership of organisations should only be mentioned when relevant to the case.
  5. As long as a criminal case has not been finally decided or the charge withdrawn, no information may be published which may obstruct the clearing up of the case, nor may pronouncements to the effect that a suspect or accused is guilty be published. When reporting on a criminal case, it shall clearly appear whether a suspect or an accused has declared himself or herself guilty or not guilty.
  6. To the greatest possible extent, a clear objective line shall be followed in deciding which cases are to be covered, and in which instances the names of the persons involved are to be given. The name or any other identification of a suspect or an accused should be omitted if no public interest calls for the publication of the name.
  7. Caution should be exercised in publishing statements to the effect that information has been laid with the police against a person mentioned by name. Such information should as a rule not be published until the information laid has resulted in the intervention of the police or the prosecution. However, this rule shall not apply to statements referred to by the person informed against, or if the information laid is already widely known or is of considerable public interest, or if under the existing circumstances it must be assumed that the information laid was well-founded.
  8. A suspect, an accused, or a convicted person should be spared from having attention called to an earlier conviction if it is without importance in relation to the offence concerning which he/she is now suspected, charged, or convicted. Previous criminal charges against a named person should not, as a rule, be mentioned in connection with other news.