The journalists' Code of Ethics, established by the Convention of Media Organizations
This Code of Ethics has been established by member organisations in the Convention of Media Organisations. The provisions of the Code of Ethics are freely consented upon by the journalists and members of the professional, patronage, and trade union organisation signatories of the Journalist Statute adopted by the Convention of Media Organisations in Sinaia between the 9th and the 11th of July 2004. The enforcement of the provisions set forth by the Code of Ethics shall be ensured by the specialised bodies of each organisation signatory of the Journalist Statute. Under this Code, the notion of public interest will be understood as arising from the following premises:
- Any matter that affects the life of the community is of public interest. This is not limited to political matters but includes any other circumstances of interest to the community.
- The public interest does not refer only to the matters considered as such by the authorities.
- The manner in which the government, authorities, or public institutions function and act, as well as any other entity that uses public funds or that affects the interest of the community is of major public interest.
- All actions, omissions, gestures, and words of dignitaries, politicians, and all civil servants related to the exercise of their function as such are of major public interest. Their private lives are of public interest when they are relevant to the exercise of their respective function.
- Given the contribution of the authorities to the management of power and public services, any critique brought against them is of major public interest.
- When there is no clear public interest at stake, freedom of speech can only be limited for the protection of another fundamental right.
- Any information concerning human rights violations - as defined in the international documents ratified by Romania - is of major public interest.
THE ROLE OF THE JOURNALIST
- The journalist has the responsibility to exercise the uninfringeable right of free speech based on the public's right to be informed. The journalist enjoys enhanced protection while exercising that uninfringeable right, as the journalist is participating in the vital role of protector of democratic values, which the press holds within society.
- The journalist has the responsibility to look for, respect, and communicate the facts as they become known through reasonable research based on the public's right to be informed.
- The journalist has the responsibility to express opinions based on facts. In reporting the facts and opinions, the journalist shall act in good faith.
- The journalist has the responsibility of signalling negligence, injustice, and abuse of any kind.
- In the journalist's effort to inform the public, the journalist's job is to reflect society as a whole and to reflect its diversity by including minority and individual opinions. The public has the right to know not only the information and ideas that would be received favourably or indifferently or would be considered harmless, but also those that would offend, shock or disturb. These are the requirements of pluralism, tolerance, and open mindedness, without which no democratic society can exist.
- The journalist profession entails certain rights, obligations, freedoms, and responsibilities.
1. Respecting human rights
In exercising its role as guarantor of democracy, the primary duty of the press is to respect human rights. Thus:
- The journalist has the responsibility to respect the presumption of innocence.
- The journalist has the responsibility to respect the private life of the individual (including those aspects that regard family, residence, and correspondence). Interference in a person's private life to obtain information is permitted only when the public interest in learning that information prevails. In this context, it is irrelevant whether a public person wanted to acquire that status. An activity is not private merely on the grounds that it is not carried out in public.
- The journalist has the responsibility to bear in mind the legitimate interest of the minor. The journalist shall protect the identity of minors involved in crimes, whether as victims or perpetrators, unless the public interest requires that they be identified in order to protect the best interests of the minor, or at the express request of the parents or legal representatives.
- The identities of victims of accidents, disasters, crime, and especially sexual assault should not be disclosed unless the victims have given their consent, or when a major public interest prevails. This also applies to vulnerable persons such as the sick, disabled, refugees, etc.
- The journalist has the responsibility not to discriminate against any person on the grounds of race, ethnicity, religion, sex, age, sexual orientation, or disability, and should refrain from any instigation potentially leading to hatred and violence while attempting to state the facts or express opinions.
2. The rules of editing
- Factual or otherwise verified information must be clearly separated from opinions. The journalist shall make reasonable efforts in this regard.
- The journalist shall reasonably verify the information before publishing it and shall express opinions based on facts. Blatantly untrue information, or information that the journalist has good reason to believe is false, shall not be published.
- When reporting about a matter, the journalist must endeavour to present the views of all parties involved.
- While editing, the journalist shall respect the rules of quoting. If they partially quote someone, the journalist has the obligation not to alter that person's message.
3. The protection of sources
- The journalist has the responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of those sources who request to remain anonymous, or of those sources whose life, physical or mental integrity, or workplace could be in jeopardy if their identities were revealed.
4. Gathering of information
- The journalist shall obtain information in an open and transparent manner. The use of special investigative techniques is justified when obtaining that information would serve the public interest and when information cannot be obtained by any other means. It is recommended that the use of special investigation techniques be explicitly mentioned when publishing the respective information.
5. Abuse of status
- Using journalistic status for personal gain or in order to favour a third party constitutes a serious violation of ethical standards and is thus unacceptable.
- The journalist shall not accept gifts in cash or in any other form, or any other benefits offered to them regarding their professional status.
- The journalist shall avoid conflicts of interest. It is recommended that the journalist separate editorial activities from political and economic ones.
- The journalist shall exercise the journalist profession according to the journalist's own conscience and in accordance with the principles provided by the Journalist's Statute and this Code of Ethics.
7. Correcting errors; the right to reply
- The journalist will promptly correct any error that has appeared in the journalist's materials. Where the journalist deems necessary, the journalist may also publish an apology.
- The right to reply is granted when the request is considered justified and reasonable.
THE JOURNALIST'S RIGHTS
- The journalist is protected by the international treaties and conventions to which Romania is a party and which guarantee freedom of speech and free access to information as well as all sources of information.
- The journalist has the right to oppose censorship of any kind.
- The protection of professional secrecy and of confidential sources is both a right and an obligation of the journalist.
- The journalist has the right to invoke the conscience clause. The journalist has the right to refuse any journalistic action the journalist deems being against the principles of journalistic ethics or the journalist's own beliefs. This freedom derives from the journalist's obligation to inform the public in good faith.
- By virtue of the good practice of separating economic activities from editorial ones, the journalist has the right to refuse to obtain advertising or sponsorship contracts for the press institution the journalist works for.
- The journalist enjoys, according to the law, the protection of copyright privileges.
- The journalist affirms the right to be defended by the press institution where the journalist exercises the journalist profession, as well as by the professional or trade union association that represents the journalist's interests regarding any pressure exerted against the journalist, i.e., pressure that can lead to a breach of professional conduct as set forth by the Journalist's Statute and this Code of Ethics.
This Statute was adopted by the Convention of Media Organizations in Sinaia between the 9th and the 11th of July 2004.