INTRODUCTION / CODE OF PRACTICE / CODE COMMITTEE
JOURNALISTS’ CODE OF PRACTICE
The Media and those working for them undertake the obligation to cooperate with the Commission in carrying out its investigations. Their non-cooperation constitutes a breach of the Code.
Respect for the truth and the citizen’s right to objective, full and reliable information in an obligation of all media and journalists.
The Commission has a duty to defend the Right of Expression and more specifically, the freedom of expression of journalists of print and electronic Mass Media.
The Commission, on its own initiative, or after the lodging of a complaint may deal with allegations that material either published or broadcast, or any act or omission by anyone constitutes a violation or a threat against the aforementioned liberties. In the case it decides to take up the complaint, the Commission gives the opportunity to the parties involved to present their views and positions, either in writing or verbally. It the case of the Commission ascertains that there is a case of violation of threat as above, it makes its findings public unless it decides otherwise.
The Commission has a duty to defend the independence of journalists.
Journalists have an obligation to defend their independence and not to allow interference with their work. Interference in the work of journalists and intimidation or attempted intimidation or influencing journalists with statements or otherwise is impermissible.
Journalists in carrying out their function:
The Media ensure that no inaccurate, misleading, imaginary or distorted news, information or comments are published. In case this has happened, they make an immediate correction and where appropriate, they publish an apology.
The Media have an obligation to present valid information to consumers.
The Media, while they have the right make news analysis and to support concrete positions, they should make a clear differentiation between fact and interpretation, comment or conjecture.
2. RIGHT OF REPLY
The Media give a fair opportunity of reply, in the appropriate case, to those affected and particularly when they have been attacked. This opportunity will be given not so long after the time of publication, that the right of reply shall have no meaning. The Media have the right to edit long letters in a way which will not affect the substance of the reply and to refuse publication of letters which may have legal repercussions on the Media or third parties.
3. PRIVATE LIFE
The reputation and private life of every individual is respected. Intrusions and investigations into the private life of individuals without their consent, including the taking of pictures of people without their knowledge or consent –unless they are involved in events which constitute news of general interest- or on private property and also the gathering of information through bugging devices or long lens photography, are generally unacceptable and their publication can only be justified in exceptional cases an solely in the public interest.
Investigations or the taking and publishing of pictures/images of persons in hospitals or in other similar institutions are carried out discreetly and after permission has been obtained where this is indicated and after the identity of functionaries of the Mass Communication Media has been duly stated.
In cases involving mourning, grief or shock, an approach characterised by discretion and sympathy to the utmost degree is necessary, as well as avoidance of any act that may increase human pain.
The media should refrain from publishing/broadcasting pictures of people in conditions of mourning, grief or shock and in those cases that publication or broadcasting of such pictures is justified, they should deal with such cases with special care.
No news about suicides is published. In those extraordinary cases that circumstances justify publication, sensitivity and special care should be shown so as to avoid details about the method, even if those details were obtained through a qualified procedure. This clause does not prevent the publication of information obtained from judicial proceedings, provided that all other relevant clauses of the Code of Practice are taken into account.
6. OBTAINING OF INFORMATION
Functionaries of the Media should not, as a general rule, try to secure information or images/photographs through false representation or any other fraudulent manner.
Functionaries do not obtain or try to obtain information or images/photographs through intimidation or blackmail.
The Media should not publish-broadcast pictures which had been mechanically or electronically modified without informing the public. When doing so they should explain the reasons for such modification. This obligation does not exist when the modification is manifest and the reason is obvious, e.g. for reasons of satire.
The Media and their functionaries respect and implement the legislation in force at any particular time and conventions concerning the protection of copyright. Where permitted, reproduction is done with due respect to the author/creator. The Media and journalist must give due credit to the source.
8. BRIBERY-RECEIVING GIFTS
Journalists do not accept gifts in connection with their function. Save in exceptional cases covered by public interest, functionaries do not pay out or bribe witnesses in criminal cases or persons involved in criminal cases, including members of their families, with the aim of obtaining information or images/photographs.
9. PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE
Functionaries of the Media fully respect the principle that a person suspected or accused of having committed a crime is innocent until the contrary is proven in accordance with the law, and consequently avoid publishing anything which may lead to conclusions regarding either the guilt or innocence of suspects or accused or tends to smear their reputation or publicly humiliate them.
10. SEXUAL CRIMES
The Media do not reveal, either directly or indirectly, the identity of victims of rape or other sexual offences and they do not publish or reproduce details, which are likely to cause or increase human pain.
Especially, in cases involving children the following apply:
As a general rule, functionaries of the Media do not interview and do not photograph children under 16 in connection with matters relating to their personal situation or welfare without parental consent or the consent of an adult being responsible for them.
The Media an their functionaries must comply with the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Media avoid any direct or other reference or action against a person which contains elements of prejudice on the basis of race, colour, language, religion, political or other conviction, national or social origin, property, extraction, gender, age, or other personal status, including physical or mental illness or disability. Scorn, ridicule and abuse of individuals and groups are not permissible.
13. ECONOMIC BENEFITS
Functionaries do not make use, and do not pass on, for their personal benefit, and before being made available to the general public, any information of an economic nature obtained by them.
Note: The Interpretative Directions on practicing economic journalism, with special reference to investing recommendations, based on the Directions by the European Union published in the ADDENDUM constitute an integral part of this Code of Practice.
14. JOURNALISTIC CONFIDENTIALITY
Functionaries of the Media have a moral obligation to observe professional privilege regarding the source of information obtained confidentially. A journalist is not obliged to reveal the source of his information. At the same time, it is the duty of a journalist to make sure that his sources and their information are reliable.
15. PUBLIC INTEREST
Under this Code, cases which justify deviation from the rule, by invoking public interest, are mainly the following:
(a) Helping to detect or expose crime.
* This Code of Practice was modified, mainly in order to be more clear and handy and to take care of changing conditions, by agreement of the founding organisations in June, 2008 and put into force of July 1, 2008.
On the basis of the relevant provision of the Journalists’ Code of Practice, the Ethics Committee has issued the following explanatory guidelines, cited here in chronological order of addition to the Code:
The Ethics Committee feels obliged to bring to the attention of Press and Electronic Media professionals that, on a number of occasions, the relatives of victims of fatal accidents, either traffic or other accidents and incidents, are put through needless suffering when learning of their loved ones’ death or injury on the radio or TV.
The Committee calls upon Media professionals to exercise great caution and responsibility applying the highest professional standards in situations like these, and exercise caution in reporting serious traffic or other accidents without identifying the victims.
The Ethics Committee cautions Press and Electronic Media professionals on the coverage of cases where people either suspected or accused of having committed a crime are brought to court, and recommends the following:
At the same time, the Committee feels obliged to bring to the attention of the Minister of Justice and Public Order, and also the Police, that the practice of transferring either suspects or the accused to court in handcuffs (barring exceptional cases or if essential reasons apply) has been abandoned long ago by most countries.
The Committee believes it is high time the competent authorities took this development into serious consideration as this particular practice does not comply with respect of human dignity in a contemporary society.
At the same time, it notes that there have been cases where even though the victim’s identity was not revealed, the publication of information and details relevant to the case either reproduced the sexual abuse or tended to create the impression of the victim’s shared responsibility or justify the perpetrator’s behaviour. This kind of media conduct is both unacceptable and condemnable.
The principle of non-disclosure of the identity of victims or other details that may reveal their identity applies generally when Cypriot citizens are involved, a fact noted with satisfaction.
It is also noted, however, that this praiseworthy attitude of the Mass Media does not apply in cases where the victims of sexual crimes are non-Cypriots.
There is obviously a false impression among media professionals that since the victims are foreigners and are not known in Cyprus, publicizing their names is not a reprehensible act.
The Ethics Committee feels obliged to underline that the Mass Media ought to deal with incidents of this kind without discriminations and with the same sensibility and respect they demonstrate when Cypriots are involved.
The Mass Media undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping public opinion both generally and specifically regarding the use of addictive substances.
The manner in which this particular topic is represented in news reports, footage or articles, or the use of standardized phrases, the publication of photographic material that may cause fear or insecurity or not provide an accurate description of the problem, may have negative consequences and cause the opposite results than those pursued in the context of a policy of prevention.
Proper information and training of journalists on the topic of addictions can contribute to the promotion of the basic principles of prevention policy.
The Mass Media address a diversified pubic that includes groups who may have varied needs regarding prevention. Therefore, the messages conveyed have a different effect on different individuals.
For that reason, there cannot be one single recipe for presenting information through the Mass Media. There is, though, a set of basic principles that need to be taken into account.
The process of developing and manufacturing drug substances must not be described, as this may be construed as encouragement for the use or instructions for using drugs by individuals prone to the use of substances, or others wishing to experiment. Similarly, there cannot be any reference in a direct or indirect way, to easy or great profit that may be yielded by trading drugs.
Methods of taking addictive substances or instruments of manufacturing or using drug substances can neither be described nor presented.
Not all substances are collectively referred to as WHITE DEATH because not all substances are white and not all lead to death.
Portraying individuals arrested for producing or using drugs as heroes or idols must be avoided.
The use of argot or terms employed by individuals who either trade drugs or are addicted to using them must be avoided.
Explanatory guidelines regarding the practice of financial journalism with special reference to investment recommendations based on European Union Directives.
The Ethics Committee, having regard to –
-issues the following guidelines as regards the use of information of a financial nature:
1.1. The first and foremost concern of Media and journalists covering financial issues must be to protect retail investors regarding investments in financial instruments at the Stock Market.
3.1. In line with the provisions of the Journalists’ Code of Ethics, journalists must, where possible, cite the sources of their information.
3.4.1. Ought to distinguish between a fact and an interpretation, calculations, advices, projections and guidelines.
The Committee, by issuing these GUIDING PRINCIPLES shall take into account, in an indicative way, the interpretation of the First Annex to the Law on Insider Dealing and Manipulation (Market Abuse) of 2005, as regards the meaning of the terms referred to therein.
The Ethics Committee, considering that the issue of financial journalism is of crucial importance, intends to denounce publicly and without delay any cases where violation of the aforementioned guidelines has been noted.
The Journalists’ Code of Practice and the guidelines issued based on the Code apply both in letter and in spirit. Their intention is clear: No journalist or manager/editor-in-chief should take on any form of activity related to the exercise of financial journalism which leaves room for misinterpretation or may lead to calling into question the integrity of himself/herself or of the Media employing him/her.
No loophole should be sought to justify any action or act that does not comply with the letter and the spirit of the Code and the Guiding Principles.
The Code and Guiding Principles apply for all Mass Media, journalists and managers/editors-in-chief. It imposes upon journalists the obligation to disclose to their managers/editors-in-chief whether they own shares that are newsworthy.
The well-intentioned exercise of journalism requires managers/editors-in-chief to disclose their own interests in shares, as described above, to the Media Publisher/Director. Keeping an Internal Register is a practical manner in which this obligation may be fulfilled.
The basic criterion must be applying common sense. Therefore, the ultimate objective is to protect journalists and journalism from being exposed to accusations for dishonest or self-seeking practices.
News on suicides must not be published or broadcast uncritically, barring exceptional cases where the story is highly newsworthy due to special circumstances.
More specifically, in cases where the facts would justify deviation from the rule, the story must aim at information and not at sensationalism and should not contain details on the reasons or method, nor on the manner or means or process of the suicide.
All investigations have drawn the conclusion that media reporting on suicides can lead to imitative suicidal behaviours immediately after the reporting and within a period of three weeks after.
The general conclusion of these reviews is that similarity between the stimulus and the person described in the story and the reader/viewer in terms of age, gender, financial or personal circumstances and other elements of identification, is an important factor of imitation.
According to the aforementioned study, instead of sensationalizing suicide, the mass media should rather have a deterrent effect by presenting the negative consequences of suicide. Such consequences is the devastating impact of suicide on family members and friends who mourn their loss and feel stigmatized and angry or even guilty, wondering whether there had been signs they may have missed.
As a general principle, everyone in Cyprus, independent of national, racial, religious, social or linguistic background, has exactly the same human rights based on the international human rights treaties ratified by the Republic of Cyprus.
Further, the Code forbids as unacceptable the mocking, pillorying and derision of individuals or groups. This particular provision covers individuals and groups or subgroups of people with different racial, national, linguistic and religious characteristics, as well as characteristics pertaining to personal status, including personal details and features.
The aforementioned properties refer to the individual’s right to be different, which must be recognized in practice and be respected by all.
Where issues of migration and asylum are presented by the Mass Media in a manner which contains prejudice regarding the aforementioned properties, the result is the creation of xenophobic feelings which goes on to exacerbate social phenomena rooted on the intolerance of diversity.
An example of the Mass Media creating prejudice is reference to national and racial origin when these characteristics do not form substantial elements of the story. This particular practice is mostly observed in stories concerning crimes or offences or for any other reason reflecting negatively on individuals or groups, where the national or racial origin or solely the fact that the perpetrator or victim is not a Cypriot is underlined in the report. Conversely, in similar cases regarding Cypriots, nationality is not considered part of the story and is almost never mentioned. This particular practice contributes to the creation of feelings of xenophobia, hostility, revulsion and intolerance against foreigners as a whole.
In the same manner, other rights of migrants are often violated, though respected for Cypriots. For instance, the violation of the presumption of innocence, the publication of photographs taken during their arrest or transfer to court, their right to privacy and non-disclosure of personal details.
Oftentimes, xenophobic statements are published and broadcasted because on several occasions they are made by well-known persons, as was repeatedly the case during live discussions or statements made on TV and radio stations; or allegations are put forward by members of the public, usually without allowing arguments to the contrary or the other perspective to be heard.
The current circumstances of economic crisis and increased unemployment favour a breeding ground for the creation and dissemination of feelings of xenophobia, racism and hostility against migrants. This requires media professionals to be especially cautious when handling stories about migrants, more particularly about asylum seekers, refugees, human trafficking victims and other groups residing in Cyprus or elsewhere.
Journalists who respect their profession and are fully aware of their mission owe to consciously make sure that no element of prejudice against migrants interferes with their work; at the same time they should point out the positive aspects of the migrants’ presence in Cyprus.
Therefore, journalists should always bear in mind that this is not a one-dimensional topic; it is in fact complex and should not be treated simplistically in a manner that may lead to xenophobia.
Lumping foreigners together – often under the term illegal immigrants – and putting forward largely uncritical allegations is the worst possible practice.
Always take into account the element of diversity, be it cultural, racial, national, religious, social or visual in order to promote mutual understanding amongst different groups of the population.
Do not declare national or racial origin in news reports when this is not a component of information. For example, if you would not mention that the party or parties involved in a story are Cypriots, opt not to mention it where they are migrants.
Neither write nor report news about events involving migrants, refugees, asylum seekers or human trafficking victims, where such events would not be newsworthy if they involved Cypriots.
Do not overpublicize news where either the victims or the perpetrators are migrants. Treat these stories as you would if the persons involved were Cypriots.
Especially in cases of crimes or offences, do not refer to the suspect’s or suspects’ national origin, if it is not a constitutive or necessary element of the story.
Do not violate the presumption of innocence or give information concerning the private life or personal status of the persons involved or members of their family.
Reference to the origin, religion and legal status of migrants must be avoided unless it contributes to the understanding of the events. (The title “Illegal migrant steals motorcycle” places major importance to the legal status of the individual as explanation for the theft, whereas the reason for the theft might have been irrelevant to the person’s legal status).
Do not use levelling expressions and terms and avoid using belittling expressions and characterizations.
Do not refer to all foreigners as illegal immigrants or in a derogatory manner.
When referring to migrants, specify whether they are economic migrants, refugees, asylum seekers, irregular migrants, trafficking victims or individuals under the protection of the state for any reason.
The term suggested by international human rights organizations for migrants arriving or residing in a country without legal documents is “irregular migrants” or “undocumented migrants”.
Journalism ethics requires the use of a legally correct terminology as cited herein below:
Asylum seeker is a person outside his or her country of origin who has applied for protection as a refugee or for international protection of some other kind. The asylum seeker, regardless of whether he or she has entered the country without documents or in any other irregular manner, has the right to remain in the country which has a responsibility to examine the application lodged by the asylum seeker, until a final decision is made.
Refugee is a person granted refugee status based on the 1951 Geneva Convention which has been ratified by 148 countries. Based on Article 1 of the Convention, the term ‘refugee’ applies to any person who “due to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”. The status of refugee may be granted to persons fulfilling the aforementioned criteria.
Subsidiary Protection Beneficiary is granted to asylum seekers who do not run a risk of individual persecution in their country of origin based on the Geneva Convention, but cannot return to their country because they run a real risk of suffering serious harm – torture, the death penalty, inhumane or humiliating treatment, serious threat against their life – due to conflict or generalized violence.
A human trafficking victim is a person who is the subject of exploitation, whether it be labour, sexual or physical exploitation, such as removal of body organs, by other individuals exercising complete control over him or her.
As opposed to irregular migrants who of their own accord trust smugglers in order to reach their destination, the human trafficking victim has either not consented to being transferred to another country or, even if he or she has consented to, their consent becomes nullified due to coercion and deception imposed on them as a result of the actions of human traffickers or the abusive treatment they had been subjected to or threatened to be subjected to.
A migrant is a person who on his or her own accord makes a choice to seek work with better economic conditions in another country. As opposed to a refugee, the migrant’s life and liberty are not at risk and he or she may, if they so wish return to their own country.
An irregular migrant or “undocumented migrant” is a person who enters a country without having undergone border checks or a person who remains in a country after his or her authorized stay has expired, or someone who remains in a country after a decree of expulsion has been issued against him or her.
Never reveal the identity of asylum seekers, refugees, victims of human trafficking, even migrants who choose to speak on camera because either they or their relatives may face retaliation by the authorities of their country of origin or by non-State, even criminal organizations.
Images of asylum seekers and human trafficking victims must not be shown. If special circumstances justify the publication/broadcast of images, care must be taken not to reveal faces in a manner that renders them identifiable.
Do not use standardized archival images (i.e. women wearing a headscarf or a veil, men in praying posture) for stories about migrants. Not all migrants are Muslims or practicing Muslims, whereas the use of stereotypes may conjure up negative associations.
When handling cases of women who have fallen victims to human trafficking, do not convey the impression that these women are prostituted on their own accord and make sure you point out the fact that they are subjected to inhumane exploitation.
If you are hosting a TV program or a radio program, be prepared to intervene immediately and effectively in order to separate your own position and the position of the Media employing you if your guests, regardless of who they may be, make statements that contain the element of hostility or prejudice against migrants. Strongly deprecate such statements when made by public figures, individuals in positions of authority and persons who owing to their capacity exert influence on the public opinion.
Avoid sensationalism and the creation of feelings of fear, panic or concern over the consequences of migration if the allegations put forward lack a serious and well-founded documentation.
Journalists employed by online news sites must be especially cautious, as the Internet leaves more room for a racist rhetoric.
When asking for statements by foreigners, make sure they understand your questions and that you have correctly perceived their answers.
Inform foreigners of the possible consequences of their statements: when agreeing to make a statement they may not be aware of the international dynamics of the Press and therefore may not predict the consequences of their appearance in the Mass Media.